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09.07 PulseWHEELS – New England Rod and Custom


Hot Rod Heaven Right Here on Earth
By Lauren Koblara

Gearheads and car enthusiasts of MA start your engines and motor on over to Broad Street in Fitchburg, home of New England Rod and Custom. Something tells me that by the time you leave this unique auto super-center and hot rod haven you’ll be wishing that your car would sprout fins and whitewall tires.

New England Rod and Custom is a 100,000 square foot facility and home to a number of custom auto and motorcycle shops. Owner Richard Gonzales, Jr. is in the process of converting an old Fitchburg textile mill into what he calls “…the hot rod version of Jordan’s furniture.” NRC not only offers a full mechanical menu of services ~ from restoration to sales to storage ~ but does it all in a family-friendly atmosphere that makes you want to hang around for a while. Three beauties that’ll catch your eye the minute you walk in the door? A 1969 Chevelle Yenko Clone, a ‘55 Chevy Pro Street (this one is really sweet), and a 1937-1939 Coast to Coast Ford Coupe/Roadster.

In addition to the shops, there is a large function room decked out with a pool table, sound system, stage and seating, all with a contagious 1950s vibe. The white painted walls are decorated with photographs of various celebrities who’ve come to town to pose with NRC custom cars and autographs. Among the famous names are George Barris, “King of the Kustomizers” and designer of the famous 1966 Batmobile, and John Fiore (pictured above), perhaps best known for his portrayal of Sopranos character Gigi Cestone. And how’s this for cool, Fiore will be filming his upcoming movie on the NRC premises beginning in March and will be using several of their custom cars in the film.

Whether you’re a hot rod owner, enthusiast, or just looking for some nostalgia, New England Rod and Custom has plenty to offer. Friday Cruise Nights have the streets lined with custom and rebuilt cars and give the public a taste of what NRC is all about. If you really want the full experience though, you should stop in at NRC’s Crocker Field Sunset Concert on September 9th. A pre-concert car show with entertainment will be held in the NRC function room between 3:00 and 5:30 pm, after which the musical guests will perform at Crocker Field just across the street. The concert is bound to be memorable as it will feature a performance by 7 time Grammy nominees Bellevue Cadillac, whose music has been featured in television shows like The Sopranos, Las Vegas, and Brotherhood. American Idol season 5 finalist Ayla Brown will also take the stage as a special musical guest.

The Sunset Concert will benefit the Crocker Field Restoration Fund. Crocker Field was built in 1917, but the history of the field is alive and well even 90 years later. Owner Gonzales has an obvious passion in preserving the historic field, drawing the connection between the restoration of vintage cars and what needs to be done to bring Crocker Field back to its original glory. “It’s vintage, we’re vintage. It just makes sense,” says Gonzales. The Fitchburg ballpark was designed by the Olmsted Brothers who also designed such historic places as Central Park in New York and Boston Common. And as if that weren’t enough… Babe Ruth visited the field in 1920. That’s right, the Sultan of Swat made a stop at Crocker Field the same year he broke his own homerun record.

The plans for NERC are impressive to say the least, making it the perfect blend of Hard Rock Café and auto parts store. For starters, Gonzales (whose current pet project is replicating his father’s 1955 Custom Studebaker Speedster) and his team are mounting a cross-sectioned vintage car above the main entrance, which will definitely show that you aren’t entering just your average auto shop. Also under construction is “Memory Lane,” the central hall turned museum, that leads to all the shops, the showroom, and what will eventually be Hot Rod Café.

For more info ~ including a list of services available for foreign, domestic and specialty autos ~ check out For tickets to the Crocker Field Sunset Concert, call 978-343-0646.

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