“The Greatest Show on Earth”; “Automotive Mecca”; “The High Holy Days of Hershey”. The repetitive use of all these terms describes what is formally known as the AACA Eastern Fall Meet, a car show extravaganza that has been held in the quaint town of Hershey PA (“Chocolate Town USA”) since the early 1950s. This blog previously reported on Hershey in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
The Hershey Show has evolved and expanded through the decades into its current three-part form: a weekday flea market/car corral, now exclusively held on paved ground (the infamous Hershey mud is no more); a Saturday judged car show, currently held on a mostly-smooth grassy lawn; and a two-day auction conducted by RM Sotheby’s (“the official auction of AACA Hershey”).
Here we present Act I, The Car Corral.
If the RM Auction represents the higher end of the automotive hobby here in eastern PA, the Car Corral is the everyperson’s version. By AACA’s requirements, cars for sale must be 25 years old or older, and essentially stock. (Minor mods like wheels and custom paint seem to be conveniently overlooked.)
If you still think you need a small fortune to enter the hobby, then you haven’t cruised the Car Corral. Asking prices of under $15,000 are the rule rather than the exception. (A dozen cars below make that cut, and there were many more not documented here.) Better if you’re open to some off-beat choices in the way of makes or body styles.
Below are my selections of Car Corral vehicles which piqued my interest. Sellers are a mix of dealers who bring a dozen cars at a time, and individuals who present an air of credibility as they attempt to gauge your desire for their prized set of wheels. Note that asking prices are just that, asking. Serious shoppers are encouraged to banter, barter, and bring cash.
$1,400 TO $5,900:
1989 AUDI 200 QUATTRO WAGON, 5-SPEED
By far, the cheapest car I found in the corral. For the true Audi enthusiast. Manual gearbox obviates concerns over unintended acceleration.
1972 VW BEETLE, LIGHT BLUE, CLAIMED 65,000 MILES
Parts availability and technical support make this a great starter collector car, as long as you’re not racing against Hemis.
1985 MERCEDES-BENZ 280SE 4-DOOR, CLAIMED 65,000 ORIGINAL MILES
When it stops running, it still looks impressive sitting in your driveway.
$7,500 TO $9,900:
1975 BUICK ESTATE WAGON, 6-PASSENGER, CLAIMED 87,000 MILES
So-called “long roofs” are on the upswing in the hobby. This seemed like a deal for a full-size GM wagon.
1988 PORSCHE 924SE, BLACK/BLACK, CLAIMED 76,000 MILES
Long the poster-child for deferred maintenance Porsches, this 924 looked reasonably well-kept on the outside, which is not a small feat for a car with black paint.
1986 PORSCHE 944, RED/BLACK, 5-SPEED
For a few dollars more than the 924, you could move up to this 944. I peeked inside and was pleasantly surprised to see an uncracked dash, a known issue with these.
1956 DeSOTO FIREDOME 2-DOOR HARDTOP, HEMI ENGINE
Who said that you’ve been priced out of the Hemi collector market? The paint on this was a bit shoddy in places. However, the entrance fee got you a genuine hardtop.
OPEL GT, YELLOW/BLACK
The whitewall tires did this no favors. Seems like an affordable way to get a baby ‘vette, unless you can spend a few more dollars for a real one….
$12,000 TO $14,500:
1993 CHEVY CORVETTE COUPE, 40th ANNIV., 6-SPEED, CLAIMED 32,000 MILES
Clean car and lots of performance for the dollar. C4 Corvettes continue to be a bargain.
1963 CHRYSLER 300 (NON-LETTER CAR), DARK RED/DARK RED, CLAIMED 71,000 MILES
The mags and oversize tires detracted from what was otherwise an unusual MoPar. The style was polarizing in 1963 when they downsized, but it has mellowed with age.
1982 ALFA ROMEO SPIDER, LIGHT BEIGE/TAN, CLAIMED 34,000 MILES
This S2 spider had a surprisingly clean interior; most of them show significantly more wear. If the Italian tin worm has been kept at bay, this represents some affordable top-down fun.
1957 VOLVO PV444, BLUE, CLAIMED 97,000 MILES
Not sure if this blue was an original Volvo color, but other than the repaint, the car looked stock. A PV for the Volvo aficionado.
$18,000 TO $25,000:
1965 FIAT 600D, RED, CLAIMED 61,000 MILES
What does the Fiat 600 have over the Fiat 500? Two more cylinders. These Italian cuties continue to be popular, in spite of asking prices twice that of the more usable 124 spiders.
1972 VOLVO 1800ES, ORANGE/BLACK
The broken side marker light and painted rockers did not instill confidence. Still, if you must have an ES, the 1972 model offers the advantage of a smaller front bumper compared to the ’73 model.
1969 BUICK RIVIERA GS, CLAIMED 20,000 MILES
I’m on a Riviera fixation lately. This is a big car, with a big engine, big doors, and big style. If the mileage and GS status check out, you could turn this into a nice cruiser. Bring a gas card.
1980 PORSCHE 928, SILVER/BLACK, 5-SPEED
This is included only because I’ve been following the 928 market for years. There was nothing special here, and the ask was at least 50% higher than recent real-world transactions. Ironically, this car was spotted on Saturday in the Driver’s Participation Class (DPC). Ignore the hearse next door.
1957 IMPERIAL 4-DOOR SEDAN, 392 HEMI V8
A rare car when new, even rarer 60 years later. Guaranteed to impress at the next Chryslers at Carlisle event. Clean out your garage; you’re going to need every inch.
$32,000 TO $35,900:
1958 PACKARD STARLIGHT HARDTOP
A “Packard-baker”; Not attractive at all, but certainly unique. An orphan’s orphan.
1957 BMW ISETTA, RECENTLY RESTORED
The non-original green metallic was the only glaring fault in what otherwise appeared to be a very nice restoration. Every time I walked past it a crowd had gathered ‘round.
1986 FERRARI MONDIAL SPYDER, RED/TAN
The cheapest Ferrari you’ll find for sale, for a reason, as most don’t want a four-seater. Still, online comments from Mondial owners claim that it’s a great driving car.
1963 BUICK RIVIERA, DARK RED/DARK TAN
The first year for the Riv, Bill Mitchell’s design hit it out of the park new, and hasn’t lost a beat since. The colors on this one were gorgeous, but the raised white-letter tires gotta go.
$39,000 TO $49,000:
1989 BMW M3, RED/BLACK
These first-generation M3s routinely sell on Bring-a-Trailer for over $40,000, so this price seemed within reason.
1967 PORSCHE 912, 4-CYLINDER, SAND/BLACK, 5-SPEED
Porsche 912s used to sell for 4 figures. Then, 911 values skyrocketed, and as the cliché goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, ergo, 912s are now priced above where even 911s were a few years ago.
All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.