I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not a fan of concours events. “So,” you might ask, “if you don’t like concours season, what exactly DO you like?” Plenty. Along with many other events, early fall means some of the best vintage car swap meets in the country, with thousands of people clearing out their garages before winter sets in. Swap meets are my Pebble Beach. BoldRide presents a glimpse at some of the best automotive swaps in the country this October and early November:
Amherst N.H. Antique Auto Show
You missed September’s edition of this great swap this past Sunday, but there’s one more left to attend before Old Man Winter wraps his icy mitts around the Granite State. It’s called the “Amherst NH Antique Auto Show,” but you talk to anyone in and around the Merrimack Valley, mention “Amherst” and they know you’re digging around the greatest swap meet in New England.
This isn’t about Beanie Babies or Pokemon cards: Amherst is a hard-core vintage car swap. It’s not the biggest, nor is it the oldest (although it’s been running continuously now for 53 years), but it’s jam-packed full of parts, along with a great car corral with all kinds of cool vehicles for sale. Just this past Sunday, we found a ’68 F-150 in great shape for sale for $2,500, and came home with a clean passenger door and a steering wheel for our project ’79 Chevy Blazer, for the princely sum of $35, total.
TIP: Get there by 6:30 a.m. You can run through the whole thing in a few hours. By noon, everyone’s headed home.
Hershey Region AACA Fall Meet
When I worked for Hemmings, I would’ve rather signed up for dental surgery than gone to Barrett-Jackson one more time, but I absolutely loved making the pilgrimage to Hershey. Located on the grounds of Hersheypark, the AACA Fall Meet is the biggest event of its kind, with thousands of vendors hocking their wares. If you can’t find it here, you probably need to become some kind of a fabrication genius, because the part you’re looking for probably doesn’t exist.
The Hershey Region of the AACA began hosting this event back in 1955, and in the years since, it’s taken on legendary status. Unlike most events, it lives up to every bit of the hype. The main attraction is the vendor spaces, with both mom-and-pop vendors hoping to clean out the garage, to some of the biggest vintage reproduction vendors in the country. That’s what’s so great about it: you see it all in one place.
The car corral is the biggest you’ve ever seen. Every time I attend, I kick myself for not buying something. Once it was an AMC Matador station wagon for $3,500. I still wish I got it.
TIP: Now that most of the fields are paved, it’s less of an issue, but it’s always good advice to wear waterproof footwear, since rain is always a threat. Also, the roast beef sandwich with horseradish sauce is worth the extra six miles on the treadmill.
Coming up this week is Fall Carlisle, a fantastic event set between I-76 and I-81 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The entire town of Carlisle is centered around this event, and the many other automotive swaps and shows held at the fairgrounds. The Fall and Spring events are the biggest, and bring enthusiasts out by the thousands, all looking for great deals on cars and parts.
Carlisle is smaller in scale than the gigantic event held a week later in Hershey, but it’s still well worth visiting from anywhere in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. In the late 2000s, I noticed more gewgaw and “10 Pairs of Socks for $5” vendors creeping in, but as the economy has improved, I’m willing to bet that more hardcore parts vendors are spending the gas money to attend.
My notable major purchase from Carlisle was a 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass back in about 1999, which I bought for my wife, Lisa. I bought it on the spur of the moment with a cash advance from my Visa card, and Pennsylvania’s DMV – conveniently on site – sold me a seven-day temporary license plate for something like $15 at the time. Still one of the best car purchases I ever made.
TIP: Bring a GPS and make a few excursions out into the country roads around Carlisle. I’ve always found interesting cars for sale in the region during the big fall event.
Pomona Swap Meet
I have to admit that I’ve never been to the Pomona Swap Meet, which takes place 3,000 miles from where I sit right now. But Pomona kind of invented the west coast version of the American vintage car swap, providing car nerds a place to find all kinds of parts and automobilia since 1975.
The event takes place seven times a year, so if you miss the next one in October, don’t fret. You’re only a couple of months from visiting it again. In Southern California style, it’s massive, and it’s cut up into six distinct sections, making it a little easier to find the parts you want. The biggest area is for pre-1985 American classic cars, and the five other sections include pre-1985 imported cars, any year Porsche, any year Corvette, pre-1985 Volkswagen, and pre-1959 Street Rods.
TIP: this is a one-day event every few months, and it kicks off bright and early at 5:00 am. Bring a flashlight.
Don Hoenig’s Swap Meet and Flea Market
Thompson Speedway in Connecticut is to racing like a glass-strewn dirt lot is to baseball. It might not have all the amenities, but people are there for the love of the sport. The first weekend in November, the Speedway plays host to an awesome automotive swap meet. Since it’s held at the track, a lot of the parts you’re likely to find are racing buckets, fuel cells and Simpson helmets, but there are acres of parts aimed at vintage car restorers, too.
This is a real DIY event. Alongside guys selling Camaro parts, I once saw a dude with PVC cannon that could launch a Russet potato a half-mile with a shot of starting fluid touched off by a barbecue ignitor. It’s wild, man.
Last year’s great find was a super-clean 1984 Chevrolet Caprice wagon with just 60,000 miles, selling in the $2,000 range. I’ll keep you posted about what I find this year, because I’m already making plans to go.
TIP: Dress warm. I’ve nearly frozen my ass off every single year. I swear I’ll heed my own advice this time and opt for the ever-so-stylish Carhaart insulated coveralls.
Image Source: California Car Cover, Carlisle Events, Hemmings.com