Every gearhead has a love story.
Howie Itkin’s began when he spotted the rusty heap of a ’64 Mustang on the side of a Pennsylvania road 20 years ago.
The hardware salesman spent seven years coaxing the Ford back to life in his Bellmore garage, with parts he hunted down at car shows and with tips from other Mustang enthusiasts.
And Saturday, the silver-blue beauty glistened alongside more than 500 other pampered automobiles at Newsday’s sixth annual Field of Wheels exposition.
“Everyone who sees it has got a Mustang story,” said Itkin, 60. “Even if it wasn’t a Mustang, it’s, ‘Oh, I had a car just like that!’ ”
Car nuts stalked the Melville show, snapping pictures of vehicles from every era.
Few stood out more than a 1929 REO Flying Cloud, owned by Bill Murray of Farmingdale.
The retired Grumman Corp. engineer, 70, bought the classic car eight years ago from a buddy in Merrick. Between them, the friends have maintained the vehicle for 20 years.
Murray said he’s scavenged enough spare parts to keep the car running into the future. But he’s spent a decade looking for another one of its elaborate wooden wheels.
“The only way to get one today is to go to Amish country in Pennsylvania,” he said. “They’ll make you one. The only thing is, you need to give them one as a template — and I can’t drive with three wheels.”
More than 1,000 people voted for champions in eight categories, including Best Paint and Best Engine. Best in Show went to a ’54 Buick Special owned by Richard Falciano of Massapequa.
The expo attracted more than a few oddities. Tucked between a mahogany ’63 Mustang and a turquoise ’58 Corvette was a teardrop-shaped electric race car built in a Port Jefferson garage, modeled after a vehicle that raced in Ohio in 1903.
Bob Laravie, 62, recreated the “Torpedo Kid” using photographs and newspaper accounts from the turn of the 20th century. “I said, ‘Man, that thing looks like it was dropped out of outer space,’ ” the retired landscape architect recalled thinking when he first saw the race car.
Across the lot, Doug Hurst was passing out magnets promoting his 3-month-old business, the “Hot Rod to Heaven.” The Lake Grove resident offers a stylish ride for the deceased in his distinctive hearse, a modified Suburban. Inside was a coffin decked out with flame decals.
“I put a smile on some people’s faces in a time of grief,” said Hurst, 51. “I play music, whatever music the person liked. It’s playing when I pull up to the church. It’s loud.”