Not many people use a 1974 Challenger as a daily driver, but when your other car is a 1968 Mustang like Mark Zeliadt’s is, it makes a little more sense.
“The Challenger gets a lot of attention, but if it was in a car show it would only be an honorable mention,” Zeliadt says. “The Mustang is more of a show car.”
Zeliadt has had a lifelong love for cars, though he and his wife, Sherri, got more passionate about the hobby when Zeliadt purchased and fixed up a 1968 Cougar for her. They showed the car in the Madrid Car Show, where it won the Mayor’s Choice award.
“My wife got a trophy that’s about as tall as she is,” Zeliadt says. “She was hooked after that, so we sold the Cougar and bought the Mustang.”
The Mustang was in rough shape when they got it home in 2009; its undercarriage was rusted and dirty, and its paint had long since faded. Zeliadt asked some of his friends to help him restore it, though a few were skeptical.
“Everybody thought, boy, that’s a pile of junk,” Zeliadt says. “It didn’t look like much.”
Zeliadt built a giant rotisserie unit to mount the car and spin it, allowing him to work on every inch of the frame. He set to work blasting, cleaning and repainting it, scrubbing it down to bare metal and treating it with epoxy primer. He then painstakingly painted every part of the car he could without the help of a professional shop, even coloring the undercarriage so it matched the rest of the frame.
“I’m not a rat rod kind of guy,” Zeliadt says. “I like my cars to look polished and finished.”
Zeliadt and his wife have since entered the Mustang into many different car competitions, winning the Mustang class at the Fareway Auto Show in Norwalk and winning the City of Norwalk Official’s Choice prize. In addition to the Mustang, Zeliadt is also busy restoring a 1970 Challenger and hopes to one day fix up an old pickup truck and a 1966 Dodge Dart that he drove in high school and still owns.
Even though he’s retired from a career in fire sprinkler maintenance, his lifelong passion for mechanics, which began on his father’s farm when he was a child, has only gotten stronger.
“Back in those days, there were no computer games or iPads to play with,” Zeliadt says. “All we had to play with were our cars. And I still love playing with them.”
Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”