In the 1980s, when I began to attend the AACA Hershey events, Saturday was the day to go. First, as a full-time working guy, I didn’t always have the luxury of taking time off, so it was the only day available to make the trek. Second, the best part of Hershey, “the car show”, was on Saturday.
About 20 years ago, I decided that my Hershey visit deserved to encompass multiple days. So I headed out on Thursday, and spent several days roaming among the flea market stalls and vehicles for sale. Saturday morning, wanting an early start, I found myself at the entrance to the show field by 8 a.m., when a funny thing happened.
I discovered the Hershey parade.
AACA rules require that all show cars be driven onto the field under their own power. So, starting very early on Saturday, all the cars line up and serenely motor their way along a predetermined route. What a delight it was to realize that much better than the static show was to witness these glorious automobiles, from early-20th century brass cars to vehicles “just” 25 years old, making their way, and allowing us the joy to see and hear them.
Since then, the Saturday routine has been the same:
Spend Friday night in a hotel close to Hershey;
Arise by 6 a.m. Saturday morning;
Grab some coffee;
Park by 7:30 a.m., and find a good spot along the parade route;
Stand for the next two hours and take it all in.
This routine was followed again in 2017. The photos which follow were for the most part taken along the parade route. The early morning sun only helped further glamorize what are already impeccably restored automotive gems.
This third report concludes our posts covering the 2017 Hershey events. It bears repeating: if you have not visited this fall classic, held every October in Hersheypark PA, it is worth the trip.
Fall Hershey (formally entitled the Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Division National Fall Meet, which is why we call it Fall Hershey) is an automotive smörgåsbord: collector-car flea market, car corral, judged car show, and auction, encompassing such a voluminous spread of acreage that one needs at least three days to take it all in.
We’ve covered Fall Hershey on this blog in the past; this year, as a tie-in with the report on the previous week’s Carlisle visit, the focus shall be on the car corral. Unlike Carlisle, where one can offer for sale a fat-tired 2003 Toyota pickup truck if one desires, AACA’s rules apply. Vehicles placed in the car corral must be a minimum of 25 years old, and must essentially be in “stock” condition. Beyond that, asking prices are determined by the sellers, and negotiations are strictly between seller and buyer. A car corral office and public notary are on hand to facilitate exchanges.
Overall, the quality and variety of cars were on par with previous years. Unlike the recent past, and eerily similar to Carlisle, were the long stretches of empty spots. It was not a ghost town, however, I’d estimate that 25% of available spots remained so.
The corral has changed in other ways. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, most cars for sale were privately owned. Deals were often made among hobbyists who knew each other, or at least had a mutual friend. If buyer and seller were meeting for the first time, the sale would many times be the start of a new friendship.
Today, classic car dealers buy up an entire row in the corral, and place their half-dozen or dozen cars together. (You can always tell: the signage and lettering styles are identical.) Dealers are as likely to be buyers as they are sellers. Asking prices are set by picking numbers out of a hat (I kid, but you do sometimes wonder about the relationship between that number on the windshield and reality).
Dealers spew the same lines: “it’s a good car, runs good, real solid, real nice condition, all restored, very rare with these options”. The lack of specificity is jarring. Not to disparage dealers, but if you do find an individual owner who is selling, you are more likely to learn more about a vehicle’s true recent history.
A private owner will talk specifics: “I bought it 10 years ago, put 5,000 miles on it, drove it in an AACA tour five years ago, re-did the brakes two winters ago, and drove it here from Maryland”. Comments like these were actually overheard this year.
This lengthy preamble is to set the stage for my eclectic selection from the car corral. The thirty cars below are arranged in order of asking price. No attempt was made to ascertain if the seller was a private owner or dealer. While all these cars “looked good”, condition was not analyzed, and mileage was not recorded. You can presume that none was modified to be non-original. In the case of American cars, the level of optional equipment was not noted. The vast majority of signage indicated “or best offer”, so think of these prices as a negotiable starting point.
Organizing them in price ranges allows the reader to make comparative estimates regarding what your collector-car piggy bank can get you. Have fun on your imaginary shopping trip.
Part 2 will be my report on the 2017 RM Sotheby’s Hershey Auction.
Fall Carlisle 2017, a combination automotive flea market, car corral, and auction, was held at the Carlisle Fairgrounds from September 27 through October 1.
As I strolled through the grounds, the same two questions repeated in my head: “Should someone get in while the getting is good?” Or, “Should we get out while there’s still a way out?”
These questions came up because many of us in the hobby are concerned about its future. It always comes back to “what will my old car be worth down the road?” The Carlisle events, principally Spring and Fall Carlisle, have been a wonderful barometer of the hobby for over 40 years. The car corral this year told a markedly different story: corral spaces were perhaps 60% taken (in the past, one usually had to wait for a car to sell for a spot to become available); yet among the cars on the premises, many seemed to have reasonable asking prices.
The flea market, on the other hand, was filled to capacity, with nary an open space to be found. Vendors were out in force, even if the crowd on the picture-perfect Friday when I attended was a bit lighter than I would have expected.
I began my morning in the car corral, then after a gourmet lunch under the grandstand, walked a few of the flea market aisles. By 3pm, I was headed across the street to the Expo Center where the Fall 2017 version of Carlisle Auctions was underway. Here we saw the hobby flexing its muscles. The auction has expanded to three days from its previous two; most of the bidders’ seats were taken; and the bidding, while not exceptional, seemed to hold to about a 60-70% sell-through rate. Perhaps, rather than deal with tire kickers in the corral, sellers are rolling the dice on the auction block.
The photo coverage below is divided into two sections. First, we feature car corral choices with asking prices below 10 grand. If you’ve got some bucks burning a hole in your pocket, or are open-minded enough to be flexible about a first (or additional) collector car, there were plenty to choose from.
Our second section is entitled “Carlisle Auction re-runs”. This is an arbitrary list of vehicles which did not meet reserve. To the credit of the folks who run the show, the high bids are posted on the windshields in plain sight. I sometimes think that going back and trying to negotiate a price AFTER the car has crossed the block might be a better strategy, as it removes the pressure of bidding while the auctioneer is yammering in your ear at 110 decibels.
In both cases, no editorial comment about vehicle condition or value relative to the asking/bid price is supplied. As always, caveat emptor(which is Latin for “collector cars may be worth more or less than what you pay for them”).
CAR CORRAL: UNDER $10,000 EDITION
1988 Mercedes Benz 560 SL roadster, asking $7,000:
1976 Triumph Spitfire, asking $5,500:
1995 Pontiac Trans Am, asking $8,900:
2003 Toyota Tacoma pickup, asking $9,500:
1987 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, asking $5,400:
1976 Olds Cutlass coupe, asking $9,000:
1985 Nissan 300ZX 2+2 coupe, asking $7,950:
1977 MGB, asking $8,500:
1995 Pontiac Firebird convertible, asking $5,800:
1995 Chevrolet Camaro, asking $6,500:
1978 Ford Thunderbird, asking $9,500:
2002 BMW 330Ci convertible, asking $5,995:
1996 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, asking $6,995:
The most attractive and unusual car in the corral (to me) was this 1974 Fiat 128, claimed to have 12,000 original miles (and it looked it):
CARLISLE AUCTION RE-RUNS
1969 MGB-GT, no sale at high bid of $6,750:
1939 La Salle, no sale at high bid of $14,000:
1964 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, no sale at high bid of $5,700:
1988 BMW M3, no sale at high bid of $41,000:
1961 Sunbeam Alpine (Tiger ‘conversion’), no sale at high bid of $4,500:
Who needs a cell phone to double as a key? Just carry a screwdriver…
1991 Ford Mustang convertible, no sale at high bid of $7,250:
1979 Chevrolet Corvette, no sale at high bid of $10,000:
1969 Chevrolet El Camino, no sale at high bid of $12,000:
1966 Ford Mustang coupe, no sale at high bid of $11,000:
1964 Chevrolet El Camino, no sale at high bid of $16,000:
There is no new material to add to the blog this week. On Friday, I intend to make a one-day visit to Fall Carlisle, and next week is automotive Mecca: 3 days at Fall Hershey. Expect to see full reports here.
In the interim, here’s a blast from the past: one of my very first auction reports. It is interesting to look back at what has changed (and what hasn’t) in the hobby from just two and a half years ago.
Also, for those readers who are relatively new to the blog, this is something you may have missed.
The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) hosted a casual car show at the Spring Hills Senior Community facility in Morristown, NJ, on Monday September 11, 2017. For a number of years, the NJ AACA has been welcomed at numerous assisted living operations throughout the state.
The elderly residents are given the chance to peruse the classic cars, and club members are provided the opportunity to show off their four-wheeled beauties. The car owners and residents have lots of time to reminisce, and everyone wins. We saw that effect in full swing on this beautiful late summer day, with sunny skies, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70’s.
Event chairperson Abe Platt was pleasantly surprised with a turnout of 11 cars, a copious number for a Monday. Vehicles ranged in age from a 1923 Ford Model T to a 2001 Chevrolet Corvette. The decade with the largest representation was the 1960s. Your author was thrilled to see how many Spring Hills residents could eloquently recall the cars they owned 40, 50, even 60 years ago.
The first gentleman I met approached me as I stood by my Alfa. He told me that in the 1960s, his daily driver was an Austin Healey 3000. He related that the exhaust note on the Healey was so distinctive that his then-three-year-old daughter knew when daddy’s car was about a half block away, and she would get excited knowing her father was almost home. I asked him what his wife drove, and he said “always Volvo wagons. We had them all, from a 122 wagon, to the 140 wagon, then a succession of 240 wagons.” When I admitted that I had spent much of my career with the brand, he said “at Smythe?” In what was the coincidence of the week (nay, the month), it turned out that he knew the owners of the dealership where I was employed in the 1980s. He still regularly communicates with one of the senior partners.
Another man eyeballed my Alfa and told me that he had purchased a new BMW 2002 tii in the seventies. The BMW replaced a Jaguar E-Type 2+2, which had replaced a Jag 3.8 sedan. With a wink, he said he loved his sports cars, but needed the back seats to carry the family. The last car he owned was a 1999 BMW 7-series, which he would pilot back and forth to Florida at “extra legal” speeds.
The facility generously provided lunch to the car owners, and bottles of wine were presented as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place “People’s Choice” awards. The event started at 12:30pm, and was over by 3:15pm. This was the first time I had been able to join the NJ Region in a Senior Living facility visit. I was touched by the opportunity to share stories with the facility residents. Frankly, it was the best way I could have spent my Monday afternoon.
The wonderful people who host various racing events throughout the year at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut have featured vintage racing on Labor Day weekend for the past 35 years. Since, by local ordinance, racing is banned on Sundays, the Lime Rock staff has taken advantage of that restriction by turning Sunday into one of the largest and most enjoyable special-interest car shows in the Northeast.
According to their website, the 2017 edition of this event, Historic Festival 35, included a Friday parade, three days of racing, the Sunday in the Park Concours & Gathering of the Marques, plus their newest feature, an on-site classic car auction. In years past, my interest has centered on the Sunday Concours, and so it was again this year. To my detriment, in spite of near-perfect weather on Saturday and Monday (great for the racers), Sunday’s weather bordered on a wash-out (bad for the concours).
Nevertheless, the trek was made. The drive from my central New Jersey home includes some terrific scenery through parts of NY and CT, and the Lime Rock track itself is set in a valley in the Berkshire Mountains, making for a truly park-like setting.
My buddy Enzo tagged along, as he had not had the pleasure of visiting Lime Rock before. We arrived around 9:30 a.m., and at first, we were pleasantly surprised at how relatively crowded the parking lots were. Venturing down to the track, which is where the show cars are arrayed (walking the track itself is a treat), it looked like the assigned spots were about 50% filled.
The rain held off for about an hour, giving us a chance to take in as much of the field as possible. But as we circled around and came near our starting point, the skies opened up. The soaking was not helped by the temperature which stubbornly held at 52 degrees F. After about 2 ½ hours, we had had enough. We saw everything on the track, but were unable to take advantage of any viewing of the Dragone Auctions cars.
The short, wet visit did not dampen my enthusiasm for the overall ambiance of the Sunday show. Here, in no particular order, are the reasons why I’m willing to drive six hours round-trip to Lime Rock almost every Labor Day weekend:
The caliber of the show cars is among the best of any show I’ve attended. In the past, I’ve seen pre-war Alfa Romeos and Bugattis, rare European-spec vehicles, famous race cars, and one-off show cars. The quality of the more traditional entries is always top-notch.
The parking lot is a show within a show. This year, even in the deluge, we saw a Triumph TR-6 and an Alfa GTV-6 coupe in the lot. In previous years, it has been typical to see late-model Ferraris and other high-end delights parked like they’re nothing more than daily transportation.
True superstars have been known to make guest appearances. Several years ago, I had the honor of shaking hands with Sir Stirling Moss.
The Concours “classes” are like nowhere else. Each year, the Lime Rock organization gets creative with class names. You will NOT see cars arranged based on such traditional fare as “Mustangs 1965-1973” or “Front-engine V12 Ferraris”. Here’s a sampling of this year’s classes:
“Theoretical Efficiency: Microcars and Minicars”;
“Tifosi Fantasy: The Magic of Ferrari”;
“A Businessman’s Express: GT cars, ’62-‘67”.
In my opinion, this provides greater potential variety of show cars, and also allows for some inventiveness and ingenuity regarding which vehicles may best fit into a particular class.
The Gathering of the Marques deserves explanation. While the judged Concours entries are situated along the straightaway, the remainder of the track is turned over to attendees, giving them the chance to park their (non-judged) vehicles in groups with similar marques or countries of origin. We saw turnout from owners of classic BMWs, Mazda Miatas, FoMoCo brands, and cars of Italy, Sweden, France, and Japan. A vehicle owner just needs to pay the standard entrance fee, and ask to be admitted onto the track. It’s neat that “regular car” owners can be made to feel like they’re part of the show (which they are!).
In addition to all this, there is an on-site flea market, various vendor booths, and the freedom to walk the paddocks, taking in the race car prep in all its bloody-knuckled glory. (One year, we watched a race team pull an engine; in another paddock, a head gasket was being replaced.)
My calendar is already marked for Labor Day weekend 2018. If you have not made the effort to attend Lime Rock’s Fall Vintage weekend, I highly encourage you to do so.
Here is a very famous concept car: the 1963 Corvette “Rondine”. Designed by Tom Tjaarda, the full custom body was assembled upon a mostly-stock Corvette chassis and interior. A Google search shows that this car, the only one of its kind in the world, was sold at auction by Barrett-Jackson in 2008 for $1.76 million. Enzo explained to me that “Rondine” (pronounced in Italian as RON-di-nay) is the Italian word for swallow (the bird). Some of the rear quarter and tail light treatment would show up later in Tjaarda’s Fiat 124 Spider design. It was a thrill to see this car in person.
On the first weekend of August 2017, the town of Macungie PA hosted Das Awkscht Fescht (“The August Festival”) for the 54th consecutive year. This 3-day car show has grown into one of the largest collector car gatherings in the Northeast, and given what else is held in the area, that is quite the feat.
“Macungie” (most people call it this as it’s easier to say) is set in Memorial Park. As such, all the display vehicles are situated on grass in a park-like setting. The show further sets itself apart by featuring non-automotive attractions for family members who want to do more than hang around gramp’s 1959 Borgward all day. Arts & Crafts booths, kid’s games, and even a bandshell with live musical entertainment provide lots of distractions. Pennsylvania Dutch edibles are available, along with the usual car show fast food. Admission is a reasonable $8.
Macungie was a quick stop for me on my way back from Mecum Harrisburg. There was just enough time to park, briskly walk the showfield, and head back to my car so I could be fashionably late for a friend’s BBQ.
The photos capture but a small slice of the wonderful display vehicles. For full effect, one really needs to attend all three days, as there are different cars on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. A big part of Macungie’s success is the support from local car clubs, which have historically provided tremendous impetus in getting members’ cars out for the public’s enjoyment.