Back in the day, teenagers didn't spend their free time texting, friending or tweeting. They just hung out. And they usually did so with, in and around cars.
"Growing up then was a simpler time," says lifelong Stamford resident Sam Melchionne, a teenager during the1950s. "We were all very enthusiastic about cars. All of us. It's how we got together," he says.
If images from the movie, "American Graffiti" abound, they're just about on the mark. All of that film's central action takes place during the span of one night, when a group of friends "cruise" in cars through their town's streets. Back then, Stamford, says Melchionne, wasn't that different. "We liked to meet and hang out, and to go places, like Tony's Drive-in."
And though his days of cruising to the local drive-in might be over, Melchionne -- now retired from a varied career including owning a pizzeria -- his love for cars hasn't diminished. He's a longstanding member of the BlackRoad Auto Club, a Stamford-based group of classic car enthusiasts. They've all known each other for decades and they meet weekly from spring through fall in the parking lot of the Burger King on High Ridge Road. What do they do? Melchionne laughs. "The same thing we always did," he says. "Hang out." But they do so in classic cars, all of which are, he says, "street-rods," what is known in classic car parlance as street-legal. They also meet Connecticut safety and emissions requirements. But that doesn't mean they're not cool.
Melchionne himself owns a 1935 Ford Tudor sedan, which he purchased about nine years ago in Florida. While he didn't tackle the vehicle's main restoration, he and his nephew did some mechanical work, as well as installing "wiring, linkage, lights and shifting."
Melchionne, who has two daughters and four grandchildren, enjoys driving his impeccably kept ride to car shows when the weather, as he puts it, "gets decent."
"It's his baby," says his daughter, Danette. He chuckles at her assessment. "I guess it pretty much is," he says.
Asked whether or not he shares the wheel with anyone, he sheepishly admits to being the only driver. Which is okay, because there's no chance he'll be texting, friending or even tweeting en route to his next car show.
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