By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Arnold Dunn has spent close to 50 years working on cars and has lost none of the fascination with all things automotive that he brought to his first job at Arthur Lessard and Sons auto dealership after he graduated from Laconia High School in 1963.
Dunn, who will turn 71 next month, said he enjoys building his own cars these days and is currently working on a real nostalgia project, rebuilding a 1968 Ford Fairlane Fastback which is a dead ringer for the car he bought for himself in 1968.
"It was brand new and cost me $3,300. The car that I bought in Arizona last year had the same red paint job as mine and still had the original paint," said Dunn, adding that he was in Arizona looking for rust-free Fairlane when he came across the car.
"It was a little beat up, but I was able to drive it back here from Arizona. I took it apart and will be putting it back together with a new engine, a 390 cubic inch big block with a four-speed transmission. It's not really a restoration. I'm not looking to make it identical to what it looked like in 1968. I've had those hangar cars that are good for shows, but sit around and are never used. I like having a car I can drive every day. And I intend to drive this, because for me it's a real nostalgia car."
"They don't make cars like this any more." he says, tapping the metal frame with his hand to show the difference between modern cars with plastic frames.
In November, he and his wife, Tootie, will be heading to Florida for the winter but he'll be taking along some of the Fairlane's parts to work on while there and expects to have the car on the road again by late next spring.
He still has a 1964 license plate "Junur" which he intends to use on his car. "Back then you couldn't get more than five letters on a vanity plate. The guys I worked with at the Lessard dealership called me Junior, but it sounded like Junur, so that's why I decided on that plate," said Dunn.
A hot rod that he built about eight years ago can still be seen making its way around Laconia and surrounding communities, a 1930 Model A hot rod that is now owned by his stepson, Keenan Martin. Dunn bought the car for $1,000 in Maryland in 1992 and over time transformed it into a nifty looking hot rod with a Ford Mustang 302 engine.
"People don't realize how easy it is to do the work yourself and build your own car. There are a lot of parts that you can get on e-Bay and Craig's List or other web sites," said Dunn.
He said he's had experience in working on cars in many parts of the state after moving to the Lebanon area in the late 1960s and taking over a service station in Canaan before moving back to Laconia in 1973 to run a service station at McIntyre Circle. He ran it for five years, but after his first wife died gave up the station to concentrate on repair work at Woodward's Chrysler-GMC. He was the head mechanic for the Nissen Bakery fleet that worked out of Franklin and later worked for six years at Manter Oldsmobile-Pontiac.
One of his favorite cars was a Studebaker Hawk and another car that he thought was really an innovative classic, the Studebaker Avanti, which he said was the first car to pioneer the long hood, short trunk style and offered innovative features which over the years would become commonplace.
He said he has an antique 1987 Volkswagen Cabriolet which his wife enjoys driving and will be her car of choice when they arrive in Florida in November. The car's license plate reads Tootie, which is his wife's nickname.
Arnold Dunn and the 1968 Ford Fairlane Fastback that he is rebuilding at his home on Hillcrest Drive. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Keenan Martin and Arnold Dunn with the 1930 Model A Ford that Dunn turned into a hot rod. It is powered by a Ford Mustang 302 engine. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
A Ford Mustang 302 engine powers the 1930 Model A Ford that Arnold Dunn turned into a hot rod. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
A 1968 Ford Fairlane Fastback that Arnold Dunn is rebuilding at his home on Hillcrest Drive. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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