Hawthorne resident Rich Gagliardi shifted into high gear as soon as he was asked about his date most Saturdays from now through September. Not Joan, his wife, but the gleaming yellow "1964-and-a-half" Mustang he is bringing to the weekly Hawthorne Fire Company car show at the Rose Hill Shopping Center.
"Wait, I'll show you pictures of what it looked like when I got it," he said, grabbing a white binder of photographs illustrating transformation of the dirt-covered heap that he bought last year in Colorado and shipped east. Officially, it's a 1965 Mustang. Enthusiasts refer to it as a "1964-and-a-half" because Ford was in such a hurry to compete with Chevrolet's newly redesigned Corvette that the company released the first Mustangs in April 1964, rather than as usual in the fall, according to the enthusiast website ClassicPonyCars.com. The car was an immediate smash hit, hence its' value even today among collectors.
Gagliardi declined to say how much he paid for it. "Let's just say this is a $50,000 car," he said. When it was manufactured, the car would have retailed for about $2,300.
As he spoke, dozens of other vintage and new American cars filtered into the north end of the otherwise tidy but non descript shopping center parking lot to kick off the fourth season of the show, which benefits the all-volunteer Hawthorne Fire Company. Sal Pennelle, department president, said the rally often attracts car owners and enthusiasts from all over the area. "We'll get up to 200 cars here tonight," Pennelle said. "Sometimes we get more."
One of the older cars at the event was a 1930 Model A Sport Coupe owned by Evan Delman, a resident of Greenwich, CT. Sitting in the car with his friend's son, Daniel Russy, 15, from the Bronx, Delman explained that he was a new convert to Model A boosters. "I saw one drive past my house and I said, 'I have to have one,' " he said. Within a week he had found a Model A on Craigslist. It was in a barn in Pennsylvania. "We had to move a tree to get it out," he said.