Drive In the Fifties
Berlin's Annual Car Show
by Dan Crawford
There it is: A cream and sea foam green 1954 Pontiac Chieftain Coupe. A pristine dinosaur that still cruises
the highway. That's what Berlin's Cruise into the Fifties annual car show seems to be all about.
Classic cars from various eras a represented from 1916 through the 1980s.
To say that the Drive In the Fifties is "a family event" takes on several meanings. Jim Reichert of Gorham
pulls into a parking space in a long, elegant black car. It would be perfect on the set of The Godfather. It
is a 1938 Packard Super Eight, and it actually belongs to his father, Edward Age 94. "This thing is a bit
hard to park," Reichert says, "and I should know, I drive trucks on the Mount Washington Auto Road." When
asked how it runs, he says "Great, my son Toby is a mechanic, and he just rebuilt the engine."
The event has everything you might expect: hot dogs, cotton candy and music from the era. A few surprises a
thrown in, too. A group of about a dozen line dancers are swaying to the strains of Toby's Keith's song
Beers Ago. There is an exhibit of a "work in progress" by the Groveton High School shop class that they
are completing with the help of Bog Hollow Customs-a 1926 Chrysler hot rod with a 383 Magnum engine and
a Torqueflight transmission.
Raymond Bergeron dressed in a top hat and tails, answers question about his 1916 Studebaker. It is a
seven passenger touring convertible, painted cadet blue. Attached to the front grill is a plaster
moose head. "You might have to be hunter to understand the moose" he says, "but maybe not. I took a
plaster horse head, and modified it." The ingenuity and perseverance that it takes to rebuild and
maintain classic car is obvious…the wheel hubs on a vehicle this old are made of wood, not steel,
so replacing them is labor intensive.
Errol Decker pulls in silently into his space in a 1939 Nash Lafayette. The engine sounds like a
brand new; however the appearance needs a bit of help. "It was last registered in 1951," Decker
says, producing the registration from the huge glove box. "I bought it at a yard sale, as part
of a package deal. I wanted the Porsche 944, but I had to take the complete, but unassembled
Nash as part of the bargain." Decker runs Deckers Garage in Berlin. "I had to put it together,
but it is all there."
Representing the Sixties, there is a silver blue 1964 Plymouth Savoy in perfect shape. The
vehicle is equipped with Chrysler's quirky "push-button" automatic transmission. An aqua
1964 Chevrolet Nova with 38,000 original miles sits at a jaunty angle on Main Street. A
1963 Cadillac with an unbelievably shiny black paint job gleams in the sun.
The Brady Bunch era is represented by some bread and butter models, such as a 1972 Plymouth
Valiant Scamp in olive green, and Rochelle and Richard Payeur's flashier "Big Green Machine,"
an enormous 1975 Buick Lasabre in a dark spruce color. It dwarfs the neighboring Model A.
A champagne gold 1968 Mercury Park Lane convertible is on display, and offered for sale
Derek Palmieri of the Gorham Fire Department demonstrates a 1916 Federal Fire engine to two
mesmerized boys in painted faces. The truck is a time capsule, and is refinished beautifully.
"It's a twenty year-old restoration, but it still looks good," says Palmieri, as his voiced
is drowned out by the kids using the hand-crank siren. "If you look at the warranty plate
on the dashboard, it reminds you that your warranty is null and void if you exceed fifteen
miles per hour. It certainly was another time."