The 1990 Carlisle Import Car Show

It was shortly after entering the automobile industry in 1978 that I learned about “Carlisle”. It’s the name of a town in Pennsylvania, but to car buffs, “Carlisle” more specifically refers to the hobbyist flea market/car corral events which have been conducted at the Carlisle Fairgrounds since 1974.

At first there was Fall Carlisle in October, followed shortly by Spring Carlisle in April. Then came the additions: GM, Ford, Chrysler, Corvette, Import/Tuner, Truck. Auctions were added, as were winter shows held in Florida but still under the Carlisle name. You can read about Carlisle’s beginnings at this link here.

I attended my first Carlisle event in 1979, observing that the flea market offerings were about 90% in support of domestic cars, understandably so. When the Import Show was added sometime in the late 1980s, I was excited at the prospect of what might be there. Some photos from the 1990 Carlisle Import Show were included in my blog post about attending the 2008 Carlisle Import Show with my Isetta, the one and only time I brought the Isetta there. Going through my pictures, I decided that the 1990 show deserved a post of its own.

These snaps are of a decidedly different quality, and my faint recollection is that they were taken with a Kodak disposable camera, which were in vogue at that time. A deluxe version had a switch allowing panoramic photos, which was put to good use here as a way to capture a vehicular lineup. Note how spread out the cars are parked, and how much empty space is behind them. Compared to Spring or Fall Carlisle, this Import show was a much more lightly-attended event.

 

Those of you who think that my Alfa obsession is a recent phenomenon would be mistaken; here is a photo of a late ‘50s/early ‘60s Alfa Giulietta Spider, taken as it sat in a row of Italian cars. Note the Fiat 124 Spider on the right, and note all the empty rows in the background! I believe that hill is the beginning of what is known as the North Field.

What have we here, an Isetta?? In 1990, I had not yet begun my restoration in earnest, so I’m sure that I was thrilled to stumble across this. From this photo the car appears to be all there, although the red engine paint is incorrect. The sign in the window reads “Warning Health Hazard”.

A large part of the success of these early Import shows must be credited to club support, as this photo of Volvo P1800/1800S models makes clear. I count 8 of them here, but am unsure if Irv Gordon’s car was among them.

A potpourri of German and British cars, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Morris, and Jaguar.

Qu’avons-nous ici, des voitures françaises, toutes des Citroën

More Volvos, this time, mostly 122s.

This is the only known photo in my collection of a Volvo 1800 convertible. It’s a bit ungainly with the top up. As you may know, this is not a factory convertible. Most, perhaps all, such conversions were done by a Long Island dealer, Volvoville. They ran ads for the cars in the back of many of the car magazines of the day. It is also interesting to note the 700-series wagons in the back, which in 1990 would have been no more than about 5 years old.

Three very different Triumph sports cars, from left to right: TR4, TR3, and Spitfire.

Jaguar E-Types (also known as XKEs) have always been desirable and worth preserving, going back to their launch in 1961. This is a Series I model (1961-1967), as evidenced by its covered headlights and above-bumper front turn signals. Note the VW bus lacking side windows behind it, most likely originally intended for commercial use.

It looks like a downsized two-seat Thunderbird, but its official name is DKW Auto Union 1000 Special Coupe. My copy of the Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-1990 states that this model DKW (Das Kleine Wagen, German for The Little Car) was introduced on our shores in 1958, with a 2-stroke 3-cylinder engine, displacing 980 cc and producing 50 HP. List price was $2,495, which may sound pricey when many full-size American cars were starting around the $2,000 mark. However, if one wanted something with sporting pretensions, T-Birds and Corvettes were $1,000 more. Perhaps the closest competitor to this car would have been the VW Karmann Ghia coupe, priced at $2,445. DKW and Auto Union eventually became Audi.

All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

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