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For a Connoisseur of Fine Cars

For connoisseur of beautiful cars, passion for Jaguars is also his business

By Doug Maine

For Dean Cusano of Motorcars Inc, a restored classic Jaguar automobile is as pretty as a picture hanging in a museum. 

"That's a work of art," he said, pointing to a photo of a 1960s vintage roadster. Like a work of the great masters, a Jaguar is something that will only increase in value over time. 

"Some people will spend $20,000.00 for an Oriental rug, and for me a car is just as pretty," he said. 

"To me it's something that you cherish." 

Not only does Mr. Cusano buy, restore, sell and maintain the British-made Jaguars at Motorcars Inc., He has been a licensed judge for Jaguar Cars of North America for over fifteen years. A Concour's D'Elegance is a sanctioned show, licensed through Jaguar, in which car owners from all over the Nation seek to earn points in national competition. This years show was held at the Hawthorne Inn in Berlin CT in June. 

Dean Cusano, who served as club president for seven years, has also been a judge for the northeast event for about A dozen years. Mr. Cusano said he is expecting 300 to 400 spectators and participants and 50 to 100 cars at this years Concour's. Also being held in June on the 9th. At The Hawthorne Inn as well. 

Cars are judged on the basis of cleanliness, which goes well beyond the normal wash, wax, and vacuum and includes the interior, exterior, engine and wheels. Generally it does not include the car's underside. "It's whatever a gentleman can see crouching down," said Mr. Cusano, quoting the British rules for judging. The other important criteria is originality, meaning the car has the wheels, trim, and all the other parts and details that would have been on it when it was manufactured. 

"Its all about preserving the car," Mr. Cusano said Without the incentive of the Concours competition that originality might be lost, with car owners using American parts and applying colors and details that were never intended to be on a Jaguar. Many of those who bring their cars start cleaning them about three months before the competition, he said. Then, at the show they spend all day detailing until the judging begins. It is not just another car show, he said. 

Mr. Cusano was practically born with his passion for cars. Without exaggerating, he said," I've been involved with Jaguars since I could walk." His father the late Joseph "Ozzie" Cusano, owned and operated an auto repair and electrical shop on Franklin Avenue in Hartford's South End. 

Motorcars Inc. began in the 1970's as an offshoot of that business at a time when foreign cars were becoming increasingly popular, but few American mechanics knew how to fix them. Those at Ozzie's did, so other garages started bringing them Datsuns, Saabs, And Volkswagens to fix. 

The day after he graduated from Bentley College with a degree in Business and Accounting, Dean Cusano went to work with his older brother Joe, Originally in Hartford Connecticut at the Franklin Avenue location and later years in Plainville CT. 

"Why we got into Jaguars?… to us it was such a beautiful car." Mr. Cusano said "It really is a good product." 

The mechanics at Motorcars, Inc. are all certified to work on a variety of foreign cars, but Mr. Cusano said they have been fortunate to have enough business so that most of their work is on Jaguars. Besides restoring cars, Mr. Cusano used to race with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and plans to return to racing in the future. He also enjoys participating in Autocross competitions, also known as slaloming, in which drivers must complete a course around traffic cones set up in a parking lot. He has held national Slalom records in numerous classes for the past three years with cars prepared by his company's staff. 

By completing the course in Connecticut, a driver can compete against another driver hundreds of miles away who drives the same prescribed course. For example in 1999 driving a 1986 Jaguar stock class G XJS coupe, Dean Cusano had the fastest time in the nation for the Jaguar Clubs of North America sponsored event. So within North America, someone in California could have run the same prescribed course and fairly compete even 3000 miles away! 

Strangely enough, given his love of Jaguars, the car at the top of his list is not a Jaguar or even a European car. "I own my all-time favorite car, which is a '67 Corvette coupe," he said. "When you drive it, it just does something to you. Some people can't understand." He drives that car about 2,000 miles a year. 

Another prized car in Mr. Cusano's collection is a 1934 Austin Seven Saloon sedan, a predecessor to the Jaguar, which still has the original English tags and paperwork. The history of Jaguar particularly fascinates Mr. Cusano. 

"Jaguars are really interesting cars," he said, noting the roots of the company go back to 1922, when Sir William Lyons and William Walmsley started the Swallow Sidecar Co., building sleek sidecars for motorcycles. 

Starting in 1927 Sir William designed and built the body for the Austin Seven Swallow, which went on the chassis of an Austin, quickly earning a reputation for aesthetically pleasing design and affordability. The Jaguar name, chosen because it suggested feline grace, elegance, power and agility, first appeared in 1935. 

The Ford Motor Co. Now owns Jaguar and Mr. Cusano said the new American owners are maintaining the company's heritage and special cachet by continuing to sponsor the Concours and other activities. "I think Ford taking Jaguar over is a good thing. Jaguar was always a great car company with little capitol " Dean said. 

Mr. Cusano disputes the Jaguar's reputation for being high-maintenance cars. Into the 1980's, he said a Jaguar could be purchased for as little as $6,500.00, and could go just as fast and handle just as well as a $35,000. Ferrari. The problem in the United States, he said, was that, "there was a lack of trained people to repair them." Since the mid-1980's he said, "they're just awesome cars" that just keep getting better. 

"There's no other car that performs as well in the history of cars for such little money" he said… Trying to define the idea of performance, he said, " it's almost a measure of the invigoration you get, not just normal driving. Performance is definitely a feeling, You know it when you feel it." 

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