- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

In the autumn of 2002, Nick Marinaccio decided to correct an intolerable situation. After years of antique automobile ownership, he found himself with only a modern car for transportation.

“I counted my play money,” he says. That is, the money he had for what some consider frivolous expenditures, and discovered that with some minor rearranging of personal finances he could be back in the old-car game.

He wanted a car that would remind him of great times and carefree days. “I wanted to relive my disco years,” he says. After much reflection and contemplation he came to a conclusion. “The 1972 to 1978 period would be my target,” he says.

With a fistful of money he set off in April 2003 for Carlisle, Pa., and the annual spring gathering of antique auto enthusiasts, many with cars for sale. “I was on a mission,” Mr. Marinaccio recalls.

He wasn’t focused on one particular make or model. He just wanted something flashy with lots of chrome that was over-the-top in excess.

Several cars on display were appealing but were a little bit more worn than he wanted. Then he came across a car that still possessed that new-car sparkle after 27 years — a 1976 Ford Elite. The dark red car showed only 18, 753 miles on the odometer and was everything he was looking for in an antique car. “A standup hood ornament is utilitarian for me,” Mr. Marinaccio says.

The beautifully preserved five-passenger car was in original condition and was excessive in every way that appealed to him. “The interior has the finest burl plastic,” he explains with almost a straight face.

Cloverdale Ford of Winston-Salem, N.C., was the dealership where the Ford was first sold. The final assembly point was Chicago, where it was built in May 1976.

After a thorough inspection Mr. Marinaccio purchased the 18-foot-long Ford from the seller who had brought the car to Carlisle from New York.

He expresses delight that his car has only a half roof covered by vinyl and not a sun roof. The proportions are better, he says.

“It sailed right through to home,” Mr. Marinaccio says of the 115-mile journey to Silver Spring on P225/75R15 white sidewall tires. The heavy (4,360-pound) car is more than 2 feet wider than it is tall and comfortably rides on a 114-inch wheelbase.


Despite the gasoline shortages of the 1970s, the Ford earned an Environmental Protection Agency estimated fuel economy rating of 13 miles per gallon city, 19 highway. Ford compensated for the low numbers by installing a 26.5-gallon gasoline tank.

Mr. Marinaccio found that the original window sticker showed the well-appointed Ford Elite had a base price of $4,879 and included as some of the standard equipment:

• Half vinyl roof.

• Power steering.

• 351-cubic-inch V-8.

• Wheel lip moldings.

• Twin opera windows.

• Wraparound taillights .

• Power front disc brakes.

• Selectshift transmission.

With all the government-mandated emission equipment choking engine output, the horsepower rating is 153. “It’s a slug off the line,” Mr. Marinaccio says. Still the speedometer tops out at 120 mph with a tachometer that redlines at 6,000 rpm.

The only mechanical parts of the car that have required attention are the brake system master cylinder and the two-barrel carburetor.

Mr. Marinaccio, who works at Grand Touring Inc. in Laurel restoring antique and exotic automobiles, took care of any cosmetic needs his Ford might have required.

Extra-cost accessories on the car include:

• Air conditioner…….$478.

• Interior decor group….384.

• AM/FM stereo 8-track..326.

• Deluxe wheel covers…..99.

• Tinted glass………….53.

• Deluxe bumper group…50.

• Color keyed mirrors…..46.

• Courtesy light group…..41.

• White sidewall tires……39.

• Protection group……..34.

• Bodyside paint stripes…29.

• Rocker moldings……..26.

The interior decor group package includes split bench seats with supersoft vinyl trim, 18-ounce cut pile shag carpet, tachometer-ammeter, oil pressure and temperature gauges, visor vanity mirror, automatic seatback release, deluxe color-keyed safety belts, dual-note horn and woodgrain instrument panel appliques.

All of the options plus $208 in transportation charges pushed the total sticker price to $6,692.

The pristine condition of the Ford continues to amaze Mr. Marinaccio. “The ashtray has never been used,” he says. He reports that the air conditioner produces an ice-cold product. Seated behind the two-spoke steering wheel, the driver notices that all of the gauges are angled toward him for easy readability.

Like the rest of the car, the 16.5-cubic-foot trunk shows no signs of wear or even use. Of the 146,475 Ford Elites manufactured in 1976, Mr. Marinaccio’s has the be one of, if not the, most remarkably original ones to have survived.

He considers himself fortunate to have such a car and with both literal and figurative meaning says, “It gets me where I want to go.”

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