Hooniverse Asks- Do You Ever go to Automotive Swap Meets?


When you enter into the world of classic or just interesting old cars and trucks – and especially that of specific marques – one of the best ways to not only find parts but also meet new friends is to habituate swap meets. Perhaps not as common today as they were a few decades back, the automotive swap meet is still, in my book, one of the most pleasant ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Of course should you happen to live within reasonable distance of Southern California’s Pomona Fair Grounds then once a month a few times a year it’s a good way to spend the pre-dawn hours because that’s the only way you can get a parking spot for the Pomona Swap Meet and Classic Car Show – the largest on the West Coast.

Perhaps however you are not quite an early riser and hence would pass on that event. But what about cruising parts piles after the sun has risen, does that pique your interest? Are there any swap meets still going strong in your area, or have they all dried up? If there are meets where you can swap, do you ever attend?

Image source: ©2013 Robert Emslie, All Rights Reserved


  1. I have not been to a swap meet in a really long time, and I got curious if there were any in Austin and happened across this:
    <img src="http://www.motortexas.com//images-events/top-notch-12.jpg"&gt;
    "That old car or truck got ya down? Brakes not working so great? Oil dripping off your block?
    Bring your pre-1964 ride out for our 2nd annual "Blessing of the Rides" and Drive-In at Top Notch Hamburgers on Burnet Rd.-Saturday March 30th."
    Totally going to this.

  2. When I was a kid I used to go to the swap meets with my dad. I'd often find something cool for my room, like an old steel sign or a single '66 Mustang hubcap ("Yes, I only want one, I'll pay the price for the set but only want one"). Other times I'd find like-minded kids there who would sell me their Hot Wheels and Micro Machines cars. At one meet I purchased a "Pocket Guard" for 50 cents. It was an incredibly cheap Chinese stun gun that used a 9v battery and I thought the arc it made was too cool. So I took it home and showed my dad, who promptly zapped himself in the leg ("Ow! Hey, don't take that to school"). Of course I didn't listen and took it to school to show my friends. Any Cool Thing draws a crowd and soon more people than intended saw that I had a Cool Thing in my posession. Evidently someone got jealous; after lunch I noticed my backpack missing from my locker.

    1. At my next class the security guard was present chatting with the teacher, and I said "Hey, great you're here, someone stole my pack!". He dismissed me ("shutup kid I'm trying to talk to this pretty teacher") and class soon started. Midway through the security guard pulled me out of class, then led me to the principal's office where I was handcuffed before I even knew what was going on.
      The outcome was Youth Court, 40 hours of community service, an essay on what I'd learned, and a Gun Safety class where I sat next to a kid who had been taking potshots at a freeway ("Are you sure you're supposed to be here?"). Fun times!

      1. Forgot to mention what ties it back to swap meets.
        When the principal asked me where I got the "STUN GUN TASER OF MASS DESTRUCTION" I replied that it was at a swap meet. "Where?" she asked. I replied "The parking lot of the school district main offices".

        1. "I hope you know that this will go down on your Permanent Record..
          Oh yeah? Well, don't get so distressed
          Did I happen to mention that I'm impressed?"

  3. Have not been to a swap meet since I was a kid, if ever.
    That said, my Hemmings calendar tells me the Chickasha Pre-War swap meet runs today and tomorrow in Chickasha, OK. Any Okies here?

  4. I've been to quite a few swap meets, the best being Hershey's Fall Meet. It was huge, and I had a blast.

  5. We used to hit GoodGuys, Pate used to run one here locally.
    Since I didn't have anything to bolt swap-parts to.. we usually ended up with wall decorations.
    But it has been a while. Hobby Lobby carries vintage style garage deco and it's usually half price. Spotted a Shelby Cobra lamp for $50.
    I did get a Hurst stick and t-handle from 2 different people on ebay. Both said they found them at swap meets.
    The 40+ yr old T-handle is superior to the ones being made today.

      1. I've not been at TMS. I can't remember when they were at the ballpark, but that was the last time we went.

  6. I love going to them, but I haven't in quite a while. Once a year in February there's a big one at the stadium here in San Diego, but somehow I'm usually busy that weekend nearly every year. This year is no exception.
    I've only been to Pomona and Long Beach once. The thought of driving 2 hours to get there at dawn on a weekend is hard to swallow. Alas, I do actually need some parts for the re-theme of my LeMons that would be best found at a swap meet like this, so I may hit one of those two up next month.

  7. I haven't been to one in a while. Our Corvair club (NTCA) used to help prepare the grounds for the old Pate Swap Meet, when it was at the Pate Museum of Transportation, southwest of Fort Worth. We used metal detectors, and cables with sleeves swaged on every 12 feet, trying to locate the metal discs that marked out the rows of spaces in a horse pasture (and replaced missing discs) – it was our big fundraiser every year. I've been to the Pate meet a few times, along with a couple of others I can't remember.
    Pate was one of the larger swap meets in the country, with as many as 6,500 vendor spaces. It's now held at Texas Motor Speedway (the Pate museum closed down, and the swap meet land was turned into acreage lots for expensive homes), and happens the last weekend in April.

  8. I used to go to them a lot when I was more into domestics and could actually find parts for my cars. When I had Mustangs it was a wonderful place to be. But being the Midwest, it's very, very rare to see parts for the imports I now have. I still go to the bigger shows, because occasionally they'll have something useful or interesting and it's been a bonding experience with my Dad for 2 decades now. And because it's a great place to find How Wheels to add to the collection. But I go a lot less now.

    1. Same thing, midwest and '67 Volvo in my case. I even drove from Chicago to St. Louis and was really disappointed. Plenty of stuff for newer Volvos, but very little for mine, and only the stuff that nobody else ever wanted for many years was left. This isn't CA (or Washington/Oregon in Volvo case) out here. They're still cool to go to and look at everything.

  9. I've been to two in the last 12 months. Both were pretty disappointing on the interesting parts for my car front, but still a good time. Honestly I only expected to find things at the first one I wanted, but there was nothing. It's like all the hard to get things were spoken for. In the second one there were interesting things like for Packards and DeSotos. Also they were part of meets. In the second one my son got some random stuff like a poster and this metal flaming skull. One day he brought the skull to school to hang in his locker and same day brought it back. An adult said it was too sharp, sigh…

  10. I think I have been to one or two in Michigan and Conecticut, it was close to 20 years ago, back when I was in college and on co-op assignments. I do remember being totally unprepared to drag home about 10 years worth of mid-1970s to early 1980s Car & Driver magazines. I have been fortunate enough to have cars with readily available parts and good support (C3 Corvette and Chevy C/K-10 trucks) or gotten odd ball cars (1967 Imperial) in the age of the internet where you could usually find a part on ebay or from an online supplier.
    I think they have a few in the Atlanta area, but I haven't made the effort to get out to one. I know there is a huge one in Charlotte, NC.

    1. But… it's way out in Pennsyltucky….
      I know a couple GTO owners, maybe talk them into going to the GM Nationals.

      1. While my concerns about Pennsyltucky are many, including the feeling that no matter where you stand in the state you run the risk of being shot, I find the meets in Carlisle are well attended by "Outsiders" and thus bring an impossible level of intelligence otherwise unachievable in that portion of the state.
        It seriously is a good time. There are a few WTF moments, but that's expected at any car event.
        And when I do find myself in Pennsylvania, drinking beer is a productive waste of time.
        I go here: http://www.marketcrosspub.com/

        1. Nope, I live in one of the few parts of the state where there is virtually no risk of being shot. Just inside the border of Philavania, where it begins to meet Pennsyltucky in Bucks. You go up to Quakertown and your risk of being shot begins to increase though the further north you go. Needless to say the further south the better the chance as well.

      2. Carlisle isn't Pennsyltucky, but you can almost see it from there…I haven't been to Carlisle in a few years. It is gigantic, if you need parts bring a truck.

        1. I drew a map up once, the five counties to the southeast are Philavania, anything outside of that is Pennsyltucky until you get out to Northern West Virginia where people say weird things like "Yinz", "Dahwntahwn" and "Sahr Cream".

  11. I go to the Carlisle Import & Kit Car show & Swap meet (May), and the big Hershey AACA meet (October), every year. I see old friends and get out from under the beauteous Mrs. Troon's feet for a few days. It's great fun. Sometimes I even buy a car part. The prices at Hershey are kinda silly high, but it's often the only place to find obscure bits. It's like a museum with price tags on all the stuff.

  12. I used to go a lot, but not so much any more.
    1. There used to be a good one, 15 minutes from home, that held events at least 4 times per year. Now there is an office building on that property, and the nearest one of comparable quality is about an hour from home. 20 minutes in the opposite direction, there used to be 2 or 3 mediocre ones, but they shut down.
    2. The quality of vendor offerings has gone down. Swapmeets used to be a place for cleaning out your garage, especially when it came time to getting rid of all the leftovers from when you parted out your parts car. These days, most pople find it faster and easier to list them on ebay, where you don't have to wake up before the buttcrack of dawn and cram 2000 pounds of grease and rust into your half-ton truck, only to drag most of it back home later in the day. Meanwhile, the vendor spaces at the swap meet fill with sellers who sell Hot Wheels cars for $3 that are exactly the same ones you can get at Target for a buck.
    3. I seem to have misplaced all my free time and spare money.

  13. I have never been to a swap meet. when I was A kid I used to go to the flea markets every sunday with my grandfather, It was a great way to spend an entire sunday but not much in the way of car stuff. If I lived in a less rust prone provence I think It would lend itself to a swap meet. Also If I lived in a place where there was swap meets Id attend every single one.

  14. I've definitely never been, but Craiglist and eBay combine to serve the same purpose nowadays. I've met some good people by buying parts from them, and gotten offers like, "Hey man, if you ever need any help with your car, give me a call."

  15. Swap meets are one of those things on in my intend-to-do list that I never seem to actually get around to very often.

  16. Amherst New Hampshire..the last Sunday of the month…April thru October. But you better get there early….the vendors are packing up by 11:00 AM.
    Great mix of stuff from antique to muscle car.

  17. I go to swap meets all the time. Just like American Pickers but they bring the stuff to one spot. The last one I went to I scored a bunch of vintage model kits, a Honda Z50 and absolutely nothing for a 2cv. Guess I'll have to try one of them furin meets in Hershey.

  18. I live in SoCal. i'm reasonably close to Pomona, and I'm right next door to the Long Beach Show. Whenever I need something I think I might find, I convince myself to go, but I am almost always disappointed. The cars for sale at both shows always seem overpriced. The swap meets seem to be holdovers from the time before the internet..they are always crowded to the point where it's difficult to walk around. They aren't really enjoyable, so I am not that excited about going again. it's cool to look at the cars for sale, but usually they are overpriced

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