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Hassett Automotive

The Car Guy

by , on
April 26, 2010

John Fanuzzi does not play golf.

He doesn’t collect stamps, or dress up to reenact Civil War battles, or do much fishing.

Hassett of Wantagh’s Subaru sales manager, in fact, claims only one hobby – one you might expect from a dude who’s been in the auto business since 1972.

“I’m car crazy,” John says, and it shows, whether he’s at Hassett discussing the Outback’s Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year Award or at home fiddling with his classic car collection.

John’s award-winning stash includes a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible and a 1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7, each restored to its original glory. While the ’Stang has been “retired” by the Mustang Club of America – it’s won so many awards in the six years he’s owned it, the MCA bestowed this highest honor – it’s still a prominent part of John’s beloved pastime, right there with the Cougar he’s perfected over 20 years.

“It was my first classic car,” he says of the XR-7. “I’ve loved automobiles all my life. I remember driving around with my dad, sitting in the backseat naming all the different makes and models we saw on the road. I decided when I got out of college that I should pursue an automotive career.”

And he did, selling his first car in 1972 and fanning the flames in his spare time as well. “This is my golf game,” John notes, though it’s not like he stepped up to the first tee and ripped a 300-yard drive down the fairway.

At first, he admits, he was a clueless car collector: “I really didn’t know what I was doing. For instance, I had the Cougar painted but I didn’t do the engine compartment.”

John quickly shifted gears. He learned his game well, and eventually the Cougar enjoyed a “ground-up restoration” – everything was rebuilt and restored according to factory specifications, making the car “as close to new as possible,” he says. “To take a car that’s over 40 years old,” he says, “and have it look better than a brand-new car … that’s really saying something.”

For competition purposes, exterior aesthetics rule, so “having the original tires and wheels and the original mirror and things like that is critical,” John notes. “On my Cougar, even the original grill was restored.”

The result was a precision instrument in pristine condition, worthy of first-place awards at “concours shows” around the Northeast. The XR-7 has taken first place at the Rhinebeck (NY) Car Show, the Old Westbury Gardens Concours Show and Long Island’s Vanderbilt Invitational Concours, among other prestigious showcases.

Nothing to sneeze at, but not quite as impressive as John’s Mustang, a crown jewel worthy of any collection. The ’Stang was restored to what John calls “gold-trailered standards,” indicating it’s as close to assembly-line perfect as possible. “Everything has to be factory correct,” John notes, “from the spark plugs to the tires.”

This advanced TLC has resulted in six national and three grand-national awards from the MCA, atop a heap of other first-place nods. These are ultimate honors for an enthusiast like John, especially since maintaining classic cars to this degree is never easy.

“Getting the right parts is tough,” he says. “Original polyglass tires, for instance … they are not made anymore, so you have to really pursue it to find places that have them.”

John’s obviously serious about his hobby, as serious as he is about his work at Hassett. While Hassett is Long Island’s No. 1 Ford, Lincoln, Mercury dealer and John obviously has a history with Fords and Mercury’s, his professional focus is on Subarus – and he tackles this task with the same enthusiasm and knowledge.

“Subarus are great cars,” he says. “The International Institute for Highway Safety awarded Subaru the only manufacturer with 2010 Top Safety Picks for all models. The Outback was recently named Motor Trend’s 2010 Sport/Utility of the year, making Subaru the first car company to take home Motor Trend’s Sport/Utility twice in a row.”

There’s no questioning the reliability, safety and fun of a new Subaru. For John, one of the many keen and dedicated enthusiasts on Hassett’s staff, Subarus are the perfect match to those classic beauties filling the garage in his heart.