Our North American correspondent Huw Evans says autumn swap meets are often a great place to find classic parts and cars for sale stateside…
In the Great Lakes, seasons are a fact of life. Summers can be very hot and humid (this one was a scorcher), while winters can be cold, snowy and long. And with the warm weather now finally dissipating, car guys and girls have to think about what to do during the off season.
I love the ‘fall’, as they call autumn over here. The trees turn spectacular colours and while the days are still warm, the nights are cool and crisp. One of best things I like about the fall are the plethora of automotive flea markets and swap meets. Two of the biggest happening stateside this time of year are the annual fall Hershey and Carlisle events in Pennsylvania.
For many enthusiasts, these events are institutions. Hershey, officially called the Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Region Fall Meet, takes place during the first week in October. To really understand the scale of this event, you simply have to go there. Located on the grounds of Hersheypark and The Giant Center, Hershey boasts more than 9000 flea market stalls and a car corral with parking for more than 1000 vehicles as well as a car show on the Saturday that attracts around 1500 classic and special interest cars and trucks.
Although additional attractions such as an auction hosted by R-M as well as a movie night and talent show at the Music Box Theatre are on offer, the big draw for many is the cars and parts. People come from all over the world to attend Hershey and if there is a particular part or perhaps a car you’re looking to take home, this is the place to find it.
In keeping with the event’s antique status, the cars and parts found here date from before the Eighties, but what’s amazing is that provided you have the time (Hershey runs from Tuesday to Saturday) you can find almost anything. Whether it’s a chrome sweep spear for a 1956 DeSoto or a radiator for a 1929 Hupmobile, chances are somebody will be flogging it at Hershey.
The corral can also be a great opportunity to find your next project. In the northern half of the US and Canada, the changing seasons mean that many car enthusiasts have to store their pride and joy during the winter months; which in some cases isn’t easy. As a result, there can be some good deals to be had on cars being sold at flea markets like Hershey, since sellers often want to make sure the vehicle is gone before winter sets in.
For many, a great idea is to bring a pick-up truck and/or trailer along, load it up with stuff and head home, thereby ensuring A) that you have enough cargo space to take home the treasures you find at Hershey and B) that should you purchase a car from the corral, the odds of making it home without a breakdown are more favourable.
Another great meet is the Fall Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet, Corral and Auction, which happens around the same time. This one is part of a series of car-related activities hosted throughout the year by Carlisle Events at the 150-acre Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Similar in concept to Hershey, Carlisle differs in that you’ll tend to find more modified and later-model vehicles and parts for sale (Carlisle has even introduced a Daily Driver Blowout – DBB – where later-model, regular driver vehicles can be bought and sold, adjacent to the main corral).
Yet, like Hershey, Carlisle is a great place to search and acquire hard-to-find antique vehicle parts and classic cars, with the opportunity to really sample what’s on offer and negotiate a fair price (something that tends to be hard to do at classic car auctions). I’ve been fortunate to attend Carlisle swap meets a few times over the years and managed to bring back a number of hard-to-find parts and often at very good prices.
As they say, one person’s junk is another’s treasure and if you’re into old cars, part of the fun is often the hunt for that next part or project.
And as the nights close in and the mercury drops, many of us over here will take solace in the fact that while we might not be able to drive our cars for another five months, the treasures we’ve found at those fall swap meets will be plenty to keep us occupied during those dark winter nights. Then, once spring hits again, we’ll be able to roll out our new (and/or improved) pride and joy, hit the highway and once again, make new friends and explore new places and make yet more memories in our classic American iron.