This past weekend I attended the Carlisle Import and Performance Car Nationals, the first car show for me since the 2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and the ensuing coronavirus shutdown of such things.
I was so excited to attend the show after such a long time away from the show world that you’d have thought I’d been invited to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to The Goodwood Revival.
I’m not the only one who has been aching to get back to such events as the number of entrants at Carlisle was easily the largest I’ve seen in the more than 10 years I’ve been attending the Import event.
The fun part of Carlisle Import is the broad variety of cars. If you collect any type of imported car, from Audi to Wosleley (or, if you like, from Audi to Z car), you have a place at this event. Typically, the biggest turn out of is from Saab and Volvo owners, typically with 300 or more each year.
This year, there were around 100 Nissan and Datsun vehicles, thanks in part to the Z car club. Other standouts were the Audi Club, with just under 100 cars on the field. There also were wonderful displays by the Citroen and Renault clubs, as well as the typical collection of British cars including a strong showing of Triumph Spitfires from the Spitfire Squadron club, and a fantastic display of rare Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars from the Rolls Royce Owners Club Foundation.
BMW had a nice showing of cars and in two areas, one for regular BMW cars and a separate one for the BMW Z roadster club.
Porsche doesn’t always have a great turnout, but that changed this year with a number of rare 911 variants, everything from a 1967 911S to a number of newer 911 GT2 and GT3 cars. And that was in addition to the Boxsters, 914s, 944s and even a lone 968 coupe.
The primary thing that sets Import Carlisle apart from other and larger import shows is the sense of community around this event. The great cars are simply the catalyst for getting the people together. This is true at many shows, but Carlisle takes this idea to 11 like the Amps in Spinal Tap.
Everywhere you look you see people just hanging out together, chatting, eating food at impromptu picnics, and having fun.
Another great part of Carlisle is that the on-site food is both varied and delicious. My favorites are the ham sandwiches and chicken corn soup from Stoltzfus Dutch Foods. The ham and Wwiss are sliced paper think and stacked high. I usually end up eating them from breakfast and lunch both days of the event.
But that’s not the end of the offerings as there are vendors in the food court selling BBQ, pizza, burgers, and even an ice cream shop.
Also not to me missed is the legendary Cookie Hut which bakes homemade cookies continuously over the weekend.
There are many activities at the import show, including a dune buggy parade, SCCA sanctioned autocross, a low-car limbo contest that is almost always won by a Fiat X1/9 or Triumph Spitfire, an exhaust contest, and dozens of judged shows held by each club in attendance.
A few clubs take it to the next level. The Saab, Volvo and Audi clubs serves Breakfast, lunch and Dinner for their members.
Even after the sun sets there are things going on. The Saab club hosts a drive-in movie after its Saturday sit down diner and several other clubs hold parties on site.
Another thing we noticed this year was an unusually small swap meet. The Carlisle Swap Meet was the stuff of legend for import car collectors but has shrunk quite a bit. This is likely due to the ease of buying and selling online.
Still, there were a few sellers in attendance and some interesting things on offer, though all I acquired were a pair of Hot Wheels BMW cars, some Griots Garage leather conditioner, and two Nissan 350Z sales brochures. Total cost: $40.
Now that we can get out and about again, be sure to go to car shows in your area, and even do a couple of road trips while you’re at it. If you have not attended the Carlisle Import and Performance Nationals, put it on your calendar for 2022. You’ll be sure to have fun, and to make some new friends.