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Local fixture Cliff Buswell reflects on lifelong love of cars

Cliff Buswell of Tilton stands before a sampling of the hundreds of old model cars and newer racing collectibles he has acquired over the years through his deep love for all things automotive. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
July 18, 2012
TILTON — Race Fever hit the region last week as NASCAR rolled into Loudon, and 73-year old Cliff Buswell of Tilton was a bit nostalgic as he sat outside his home and business on Route 3 to talk about his love of automobiles, God and family.

Buswell readily shared his many memories and vast knowledge of the automotive industry, and showed off the vast array of collectibles he's acquired along the way. His office is a virtual museum of automobile collectibles, from older models of vehicles built in the mid-1900's that he purchased years ago, as well as other automotive and racing collectibles he's picked up along the way. Buswell knows the significance of each, and as one who has owned and worked with many makes and models of cars in his lifetime, has been compiling a book he calls "Car Facts," detailing unique differences of the Ford and Chrysler products through the years.

"I was told I once I was a walking encyclopedia of cars. It's just in my blood," Buswell said.

Perhaps it all started, he joked, because he was born in Plymouth, which just happens to also be the name of a Chrysler product. And, Buswell also has the middle name of Henry, making him feel it may be no coincidence he is a big fan of Ford automobiles, in particular, as well as Chrysler.

At the age of 16, while working for Heal and Sons dealership, he so loved Chrysler cars that the young Buswell wrote to Chrysler to see if he could get a special deal to own a new Dodge. The response from Chrysler Corporation's president, W.C. Newberg, was sympathetic but encouraging.

"Unfortunately, Clifton, we do not know of any shortcut in the matter of obtaining a new car," wrote Newberg. "There is one thing we are sure of and that is that, with your enthusiasm, you should make a successful career of selling."

Through a lot of hard work, it wasn't long before Buswell could afford that new car, and he enjoyed a successful career owning and buying vehicles in the years to come. In 1959, Buswell went to work with his father Harold at Moody Motors in Laconia from 1959 until 1962. He and his father then started a company of their own, H.W. Buswell and Sons, where they sold Dodge, Jeeps and Saabs for many years.

In 1987, his love for automobiles then took him from selling to caring for cars, with Buswell's Auto Cleaning. Meticulously cleaning, detailing and buffing a car until it looked like it was new again, his scrapbook chronicles the gratitude of many well known local residents. They all wrote to thank him for the pride he had in his work, pride that showed in his handling of Mercedes, Jaguars and many other treasured vehicles.

"I worked hard at what I did, but I would also stop what I was doing and make sure I was there for a baseball game or anything else the family was doing. Family, after God, always comes first," said Buswell.

As his two daughters, Tammie and Cheryl, grew, they also became involved in the automotive industry in unique ways. One dated a famed NASCAR driver for a time. His other daughter eventually married a man who worked for Jack Rousch of Ford racing fame, and the daughter of another well known Ford NASCAR driver was in her wedding party. Buswell's grandson now races in the south, and Buswell's office in Lochmere is also filled with proud photos of his family, shown with drivers they have met or known through the years.

Buswell himself had a brush with NASCAR once when he got to work on the pace car from the 1996 Coca-Cola World 600 race in Charlotte, N.C.

"They were holding a raffle for the car, and (while it was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon) they brought it to me to detail it," he said, displaying a photo of the Monte Carlo parked outside his shop.

He was honored to be so well thought of in the industry.

In 2008, Buswell cut back on his work schedule, and now refers customers to his "adopted daughter," Hollie Ottman, who operates Hollie's Auto Shine on Union Avenue in Laconia.

"She's been like a daughter to me, and does an awesome job, so I send people to her now for the most part," he said.

But don't ever call Buswell retired.

"Who, me? I'll never retire!" he exclaims.

Instead, he has kept busy with the occasional job of pulling a dent from a vehicle and selling cars upon request. He said he also works with AutoServ of Tilton, locating vehicles for people who contact him for help in finding something in particular.

"I don't have any sales quotas or anything to fill each month, but if someone wants a certain car, then I go over there and find it for them," said Buswell.

As a God-fearing man, he also gives back whenever he can and has been known to donate his services to many local organizations for fundraising. Buswell has contributed to local churches, schools, the New Hampshire Humane Society, 4-H groups and other civic organizations.

"I'm a humble, old school Christian who does what he can for people. In the meantime, I just love cars and anything to do with them," Buswell said.

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