KEEP ON ROCKIN’
WHEN A CHRISTCHURCH COUPLE PUT ON THEIR DANCING SHOES 20 YEARS AGO, IT PROMPTED A LIFELONG PASSION FOR THE 60S AND A PAIR OF ICONIC CARS TO PROVE IT
His- and- hers Mustangs complete the picture for a Christchurch couple who love to kick up their heels
WHEN DAVE AND SHARYN BUSCH renewed their marriage vows in Las Vegas, they merged everything that makes their world spin – family, adventure, rock and roll, and American cars.
“We drove a big four-wheel drive from Los Angeles up to Vegas and were remarried in the Little White Chapel by an Elvis impersonator. It was our 30th wedding anniversary and we had the kids and our granddaughter with us too,” says Dave.
Sharyn wore a full-length pale-pink gown, the Elvis impersonator serenaded the bridal party with Love Me Tender and a pink Cadillac transported them back to their hotel. “It was such a lot of fun.”
While renewing their vows in 2010 was a first, Sharyn and Dave have visited the States many times. On each trip they average 7000 kilometres, stopping off at car shows, quirky 60s-style diners and national parks.
“We are freedom travelers. We hire a late-model car like a Corvette or Dodge Challenge and keep off the freeways. We love the 60s car scene over there. If we find a car event, we’ll stay for a few days.”
In the past they have relished the mega-sized Hot August Nights car show in Reno and last year attended the Spirit of Munro event at Bonneville saluting the 50th anniversary of New Zealander Burt Munro’s record-breaking land-speed laps. “Not every lady wants to watch motorbike and car racing on the salt flats so it’s quite good,” says Dave.
For Sharyn ( who enjoyed mucking about alongside her mechanically-minded father as a child), Bonneville was no chore. “I absolutely loved it. I was in my element.” While traveling America is a favourite holiday pastime for Dave and Sharyn, back home in Christchurch two quintessential Yankee coupes are their high-voltage passion.
Life is chock-full operating their building company and enjoying the proximity of Canterbury-based son, Luke, and daughter, Krystle, their partners and young families.
Weekend outings with Dave driving his 1969 Mach 1 Ford Mustang powered by a 351 Cleveland V8 engine, and Sharyn in her 1968 convertible Ford Mustang with a 289 Windsor under the hood, are the icing on the cake.
Cruising the Port Hills in two muscle cars is a world away from the motorbikes they rode around the Waimakariri District during their teenage courtship. “Our mothers worked together at Hannahs shoe store and both sets of parents loved dancing. They enjoyed oldfashioned Saturday night dances together at the Clarkville Hall,” says Sharyn.
“We each had wonderful outdoorsy upbringings. It was tough going at times but our parents were marvellous and taught us the importance of honesty and working hard,” she says.
When Dave, an apprentice carpenter, was seriously hurt when a car ploughed into his motorbike in Merivale at the age of 17, it firmed up the young couple’s commitment to one another. Several years later they bought a house, married, had a family and in their early 40s they too started to dance.
“We took up rock-and-roll classes. It was like putting together a puzzle: we fell for the dancing then we fell for the 60s era, and that brought on the American cars.”
Twenty years ago Dave’s performance-orientated Mustang was their first acquisition.
“It’s a top-end model and I’m only its second New Zealand owner. It was built in San Jose, shipped here in the early 70s and it seems its owner lost interest once he decided to give it a refurb. It was a shell with piles of bits in boxes. We trailered it home.”
It was a father-and-son project – Luke is an automotive technician – and over the following year, the pair rebuilt the car. “Krystle and I had the remote to ourselves,” says Sharyn.
Dave’s machine has all the model’s high-spec accoutrements: tinted windows, high-back bucket seats, a hood scoop, low-gloss black hood and cowl, dual colour-keyed racing mirrors, dual exhaust with chrome quad outlets and racing-type hood pins.
He’s also lowered the saloon and added extra motor modifications to deliver its bold, lumpy sound. “It’s big, heavy and thirsty. No way are you in a modern car – there’s a bit of slack in the wheel, you have to concentrate and point it around the corners. If you travel to Invercargill and back, you’ll know you’ve been driving.”
With Dave and his Mustang out on the road, Sharyn coveted her own set of American-made wheels.
“I elbowed in and said, ‘I think it’s my turn.’ I didn’t want to be left sorting the picnic.”
But wanting a car with a detachable roof wasn’t a whim. “Ever since I was small I’ve imagined driving a pink-coloured convertible so my hair would blow in the wind. I used to love that feeling on my motorbike.”
Sourced via a New Zealand-born agent on the ground in California, Sharyn’s soft-top Mustang had been driven daily for 20 years by its American vendor.
It was shipped from the States to the port in Lyttelton. A nervous wait ensued.
When the car emerged from its container it was “all original, tidy with a sound body, no rust and painted red and black.”
Three months later Sharyn’s Mustang makeover began. The “lady-sized” convertible was stripped out and soda-blasted to bare metal. The new-look interior upholstery was confirmed as motherof-pearl vinyl with pink piping. Then the exterior paint charts came into play.
“I wanted a real pop of colour. When I was researching I learned that Ford brought out the Mustang in Passionate Pink for Valentine’s Day in 1968 and a year earlier Hugh Hefner ordered 12 Mustangs in Playboy Pink.” Sharyn says there were jitters from the car painters. “We settled on a custom-mix colour. Then they said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Just paint the thing.’”
Her first port of call in the newly refurbished car was to her much-loved late mother, Dawn. “I was so excited to show Mum. She hopped in and was delighted. Sadly we knew at that point she was very unwell. I love thinking Mum loved the car too and our wee drive together was very special.”
Both Dave and Sharyn’s Mustangs boast highly-prized factory numbers, they are regularly serviced, meticulously maintained, driven and adored. Membership of the local American Classic Car Club and the Canterbury Mustang Owners Club adds to the fun.
The boot space in Sharyn’s convertible is hampered by the subwoofer in the boot – “I’ve learned to cut down on bags” – but singing along to Elvis on a road trip to Lake Tekapo or Lake Brunner is heaven and nothing beats leaning against the car and enjoying the landscape.
“A pink convertible isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but for me it’s a dream come true and from the moment I slid into the driver’s seat I felt it was meant to be.”
Sharyn says often men will glance at her convertible, shake their heads and smile or look at Dave as if to say, ‘You’re mad…how could you let her ruin a good car.’
But she is not remotely fussed. “They freak out at the pink colour, walk off and then I will notice they are taking a photo.”
Dave and Sharyn’s two children, Krystle and Luke, both used the two mustangs as their wedding cars. Driving them, rather than preening and polishing, is the couple’s philosophy. They take the cars out to cafés, on the ferry, through the takeaway drivethrough with their grandchildren and on family visits.