SEABROOK — Margaret Dunning has seen horsepower evolve from draft animal to machine.
At the Keels and Wheels car and boat show at the Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook on Saturday, the 103-year-old stood next to her 1930 Packard and answered questions as people passed by and took photos.
The car, which Dunning affectionately calls “My Baby,” was the make and model she wanted her mother to buy her when she was younger. Her mother, however, didn’t want her daughter driving a roadster, so she settled on another car. Years later, when a 1930 Packard became available in New Jersey, Dunning bought it. She’s had it for more than 50 years.
”It’s trying to catch up to me,” she said, laughing.
Her parents were farmers, and when her father died at 12, Dunning took over driving the machinery.
“I was just crazy over motors,” she said. “My mother used to say she was very thankful I was not too interested in flying.”
But her 1930 Packard is her pride and joy. She said it still drives great on the highway, even without power steering and power brakes.
“It sings to me in third gear,” she said.
Dunning has lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., and cars have been a part of her life since she was born. Dunning’s father was friends with Henry Ford.
“He rocked my baby buggy, Henry Ford. No kidding,” she said.
Dunning, who doesn’t have children and who’s never been married, traveled to Seabrook with family friends from their home in Michigan.
“She loves to come down here,” said neighbor and classic car owner Dan Clements. “It’s a nice thing to get out of the house” after the winter.
Clements is a distant relative of John Gleason, the man who owned the steam engine that gave Henry Ford his inspiration for creating his own line of automobiles.
Clements thinks of Dunning as family.
“I don’t have parents, so it’s nice to go over and see her,” he said. “She’s one in a million.”