Swap meets provide automotive treasures

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It's not only spare parts for your vehicle that you can buy at a swap meet, automotive and petroleum signs are popular for decorating your garage or man cave | Andy Reid photos

Some car collectors may tell you that swap meets are about to become a thing of the past, that the next generations buy their parts, new and old, online. But after attending the swap meet at the AACA Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania, it is obvious to me that the naysayers are wrong. 

It appears the swap meet business is booming.

Need an engine for a Model T?

At Hershey, there were miles and miles of vendors selling everything from new, used and rare classic car parts to books, antique automotive signs, vintage automotive toys, classic motorcycles… Basically, you name it and you’re likely to find it at Hershey. 

The swap meet is so big that it is practically impossible to see the entire thing over the three days it is held. I made it through probably only three-fourths of the vendors.

Vintage gauges for sale

And Hershey isn’t the only swap meet. They take place across the country, ranging from small to large, and each of them holds treasures for you to discover.

In my experience, however, it is better and more fun not to go to the swap meet with a specific plan but instead see what surprises await at the various booths and tables.

An immaculate vintage toy garage

Among these many surprises I saw at Hershey were more automotive signs than I have seen at any other automotive event. Even more surprising, the signs were not all from American automotive car and petroleum manufacturers. I saw a fantastic vintage Alfa Romeo dealer service sign among the many Ford, Chevy and Sinclair offerings. 

Another fun pair of items was the pair of vintage Matchbox miniature automotive service centers, both in mint condition with all their parts in working order. I am amazed that these withstood the test of time and years of playtime abuse. I know that I broke all my Hot Wheels garages when I was a kid, so this was either the most careful kid ever or these were never used.

This Pierce motorcycle is more than 100 years old, but is in running condition

Of all the items I saw, the most impressive was the Pierce motorcycle (yes the Pierce car company made a 4-cylinder motorcycle). This bike was in fantastic condition with excellent nickel plating and in running and riding condition. Sadly, the price at $80,000 made it hard to justify it as an impulse purchase.

So what did I buy? I bought a jack for my MGB GT, several books and I also joined two new car clubs that had set up stands at the swap meet.

And if you think the classic car swap meet is a thing of the past, visit Hershey next fall and your mind will be changed.

Make an offer because the vendor isn’t taking this one back home
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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

1 COMMENT

  1. One show isn’t conclusive. Perhaps if you’d been at Carlisle a week earlier, you would have seen the empty vendor stalls. Yes weather was a factor. We have been going to Carlisle twice a year for many years, and the decline in number of vendors and foot traffic is very noticeable. The internet is definitely having a negative impact.

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