Updated: Dec 27, 2019
"Return to the Fall Carlisle Swap Meet!"
"What is going on here? I thought the Hot Rod Reverend was a FoMoCo man?" you may be asking yourself when you look at the box of bow ties. Nope, I have not changed brands, and no, I have not been hitting the bottle (the HRR is a tee-totaler anyway). This box of Chevrolet bow ties sums up what I saw most of the day at the recent Carlisle, Pennsylvania, swap meet held this time of year at the local fairgrounds. If you are into vehicles and you perform at least a little work yourself, you most probably have been to a swap meet. If not, I highly recommend the experience. However, if you are planning to go to Fall Carlisle, you may want to read this blog post. Since Fall Carlisle was my first introduction into the grass roots efforts in automobile restoration (back in the early 90s), I certainly had high expectations. I have decided to give a report on the good, the bad, and the ugly concerning my experience at Fall Carlisle just in case you had any inkling of going yourself. (What is it that people say these days? "Your mileage may vary...")
Just a short while ago I discovered that my schedule would work so that I could go to Fall Carlisle. I had been to the Spring Swap Meet and the Ford Show and Swap at Carlisle a few times within the past decade and always had good results. I assumed that the Fall Carlisle Swap Meet would be what I had remembered from over two decades ago. A buddy of mine, Chad Robinson, who is into Broncos and Falcons, went with me as well.
First the good...
The weather forecast was excellent, and on the Friday that we walked the vendor spaces it surely was a treat to be in such wonderful weather! Crisp, low humidity, sunlight, and a slight breeze were nature's gifts and we relished every bit of it. The summer for us has been very hot and very dry - no rain for over 6 weeks!
Before we entered the fairgrounds I had to grab one of my all-time favorite breakfast fast food goodies - a bacon biscuit from Hardee's. Chad, (on the left above) is not too familiar with biscuits but I introduced him to made-from-scratch biscuits a short while back and he is just as hooked as I am.
I am not sure what it is, but there is just something about a cool morning, a hot coffee and a biscuit, the view of the vendor spaces as you walk through the turn style, and the opportunity to see what so many vendors have up for sale. Who knows what you'll find?
By now you know that my trip did not go as expected since the attendance was very low and there were very few vendors (among hundreds) that had any Y block or 1955 Ford parts for sale. Trying to dwell on the good in my report, I will let you know that I was able to re-connect with an old friend of mine, Wayne Haines, who was selling a few odds and ends that day next to the dreaded "hill" at the fairgrounds.
Wayne is a Christian, a Vietnam Veteran, and a dear friend. Over the years, he has been a big help to me in many ways. I was glad to see him and talk about old Fords for a little while. He did have a Crown Victoria tiara stainless for sale that weekend (see left in the photo). We chuckled because Wayne was still carting around a 4 barrel Y block intake he had purchased from me years ago!
We did see some beautiful cars and trucks although we were not technically at a car show.
In my opinion, most seemed to be overpriced but the 1955 Crown Victoria carried an asking price of $26K or so and it certainly seemed like a good deal. Although the mid-50s Ford and Y block parts were difficult to find, I did purchase two wheels (planning to get a set ready for next summer so I can run wide whitewalls in those months, switching back to radials later), some Y block sheet metal, and what looked to be a decent 3 speed OD transmission to match the one I currently have installed in the car (just in case!). Here was my cart load at the end of the day. I never had to make a return trip to the van - a "good" or "bad" thing depending on how you look at it.
Chad picked up a vintage Coleman cooler, and I also purchased a few small tools, two speaker stands (for the children's ministry), and a vintage fan to restore.
The plan for the fan is to disassemble, clean, paint the same red color as the 55 Fairlane, and place this on a shelf in my office. (It does work - checked it again when I got home with it.) I did not see any markings on it as to who made it or how old it might be (probably not that old but it is obviously all metal). If you happen to know, drop me a line would you?
The last good thing to mention would be this... while walking down one of the aisles, Chad and I happened to spot one of these booklets (red, white, and black - "Remember the Y Block" in photo above) sitting on the top of a bin of FoMoCo inventory. On this website I reference copies of this booklet that I have put into print. It is a copy of the Gospel of John and the book of Romans. I would be more than happy to send you a copy if you would like, just send me your mailing address. We don't know how it got there and could not speak with the vendor who was renting the space.
And now, the bad...
I had set aside time, the finances, travel arrangements, etc, to specifically attend this swap meet. The expectations were to find 55-56 Ford parts that could be used to finish up the 55 Fairlane. Particularly, I went to Fall Carlisle to purchase rocker moldings, a set of used wheels, a steering wheel, a 56 Ford dash (and wings), a Y Block 2-4 air cleaner, and some other odds and ends.
From the beginning row of swap spaces I kept meeting up with guys selling GM parts from the 50s and 60s. That brand seemed to dominate the swap. There were some Mustang parts and restoration companies here and there so the 60s Ford products had a decent showing. The only other type of space that proliferated were the fellas selling chinesium tools! Noticeably absent were parts for orphan cars like Studebaker, Desoto, Nash, etc. The car corral seemed to be less than half of what it would normally be, and there were very few "project" vehicles for sale among the swap spaces or the car corral itself. I found this rather odd. Usually at Carlisle there are quite a few "cars in need of restoration" up for sale. Fall Carlisle had a few, but again there were not near as many as I could remember.
I failed to find, much less have the chance to purchase, anything I needed.
I guess the sellers who happened to have some parts for mid 50s Fords knew there was not much available that weekend, so they tried to use the law of supply and demand to jack up prices. Take this steering wheel for instance:
An item that normally brings somewhere around $75... at this swap meet it was on special! Only $200! Albeit complete, there were a lot of hairline cracks beyond the obvious large chunks missing, representing hours of work to fill and sand and paint. The chrome was pretty well pitted like most of these you find at swap meets. Yep, $200...
Three rows over I finally spotted a 56 Ford dash! As I got closer I noticed that the ash tray was missing (I actually saw one late in the afternoon for $85!) and so was the glove box door. Examining the dash close up, anyone could tell that more than half the knobs were broken off their respective switches, and the radio, while a town and country, was missing pieces and had some of its knobs broken as well. I looked it over and said to myself, "I dunno, I reckon I would give between $75 and $100 for this one." (The speedometer and clock were still intact but could not be tested.) So I asked the owner.
"Oh, that's a rare piece there," he quipped. "I gotta have $175 for that dash."
I shook my head and walked on.
Along each row of spaces (about 1/4 mile each row) there were times when someone may have had a 55/56 Ford part or two but most of the time they were very expensive. At times I did see some Y Block Ford parts, but... A two-four barrel intake with mismatched Holley teapots needing a rebuild (NO LINKAGE) was $1600. A three-deuce Offenhauser intake with carbs that needed to be rebuilt was $450. A three-deuce Fenton intake (no carbs or anything else) was $400. A FoMoCo four barrel intake for the late model Holley's/Edelbrock's was $275.
I asked for 55/56 rocker moldings anytime I was at a space that remotely looked as if it had any stainless steel pieces. No luck there either.
Some friends have told me that I need to take a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, in the fall (this is the large AACA meet) and skip Carlisle altogether. I just may do so if the opportunity presents itself. I guess the irony in all of this is that if you read through some of my earlier posts you will find that I have scored better at much smaller swap meets here close to home.
Maybe I just need to sell the old Ford and get into collecting tricycles like these?
the Hot Rod Reverend