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.
G. Potter King (GPK) again hosted its winter edition car show in the Atlantic City Convention Center during the last weekend of February. The event features an auction, a car corral, and a swap meet, all of which comfortably fit inside the cavernous hall. One of the main attractions of this show is that it is mostly impervious to the weather, and so gives us hobbyists a chance to relieve our cabin fever.
This year, similar to what we observed in 2015, the number of consignments seemed to continue to be on the decrease. The car corral in particular had enough empty space for an additional 20 or 25 cars. The auction side of the building was a bit more occupied, yet still could have held a few more cars.
For the third time in the last 5 years, GPK rearranged the auction stage and seating. This time, the flow of cars on and off the block seemed better integrated, and seating for non-bidders (like me) was more readily available. One downside to the new set-up was the lack of airflow. Non-catalyzed vehicles emitting exhaust fumes in an enclosed space eventually gets to you. There needs to be a way to move more fresh air through the grandstands.
Having attended auctions hosted by Mecum, RM, Bonhams, Auctions America, and Carlisle, it’s frustrating to see that GPK still could improve their auction block screen shots. This year, they took a step in the right direction by superimposing the lot number, vehicle year and make, and current bid onto the TV image. But the wording was not always easy to read, and often, the bidding on screen far lagged the real-time bidding. Mr. King, a suggestion: watch Mecum to see how it’s done.
The show was helped by a decent weekend of dry and sunny weather in southern New Jersey. There were 100 or more early birds who were waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m. Foot traffic was plenty strong, and the bidders area directly in front of the auction stand was almost filled to capacity. Nevertheless, the sell-through rate, or, the percentage of cars actually meeting reserve and moving to new owners, appeared to hover around 50-60%. This is due to some combination of unrealistic reserves, poor quality offerings, or not the right bidders in the room.
It says a lot about an auction company which can attract quality consignments, get sellers to agree to reasonable reserves, and then draw hungry bidders into the process. It may look easy from the outside, but it’s not. The Arizona auctions in January indicated some slight softening of the market, which didn’t help here. But we did see some cars change hands. Below are details on a random sampling of cars which caught our interest from both the auction and the car corral. (“CPI” values are from the author’s copy of the Jan.-Feb. 2016 edition of the classic car price guide Cars of Particular Interest.)
Lot #1542, 1995 Jaguar XJS convertible, champagne, brown cloth top, glass rear window, tan interior, 86,900 miles. Car looks very nice from the outside. Some driver’s seat bolster wear, otherwise clean interior. 6 cylinder, automatic, nice alloy wheels, paint looks great except for repainted passenger door (but it’s hardly noticeable). Sign on the dash said “not sold on Friday, but for sale at asking price of $9,500”. Online, the car was reported sold for $8,000. CPI values the car between $10,250 (#3) and $17,425 (#2). We would rate is at 3+ and call it very well bought.
Lot #1712, 1986 Corvette coupe, silver/dark grey, red interior, automatic. Mileage is 109,073. Looks just OK on outside, red interior is very worn. Car offered at no reserve, hammer price was $3,400. We rate it a #4 car, and CPI rates a #4 car at $4,475. If it runs, passes state emissions, and doesn’t leak copious amounts of fluid, someone who just wants to have fun may have gotten a very good deal. As one buddy put it, “drive it for 10 years, then throw it away”.
Lot #1782, 1974 Jaguar E-type convertible, Series III with V12 engine, manual transmission, A/C, dark red with biscuit top and interior. Last year for the E-type. Owner claims 16,000 original miles, and also claims it was thoroughly restored. We didn’t see this one up close, but it did appear to be near a #2 condition car. CPI values a #2 car at $87,750, and this hammered sold at $85,000, so someone was willing to pay full boat for it.
Lot #1716, 1990 Suzuki “Every” mini-mini van. Right hand drive, 3-cylinder, 5-speed, factory air, 2,800 original miles. Sliding doors, 2 rows of seats, roomy looking interior. Tall, narrow box on 4 wheels. Everyone was all over this little thing, but it was declared no-sale at a reported high bid of $8,250. We hope it sells just so you can claim to be the only person in your state with one.
Lot #1783, 1965 Austin-Healey Mark III, inline 6, light blue over white paint, with dark blue leather interior. Chrome wire wheels, blackwall tires. Odometer reads 77,000. Car looks very clean overall, no blemishes outside or inside, but appears that restoration may have been done a few years ago. CPI rates a #3 car at $52,500 and a #2 car at $100,000, so that’s a huge spread, mostly defined by condition as there were few options. This one sold for $58,000 which was fair to buyer and seller.
Lot #1784, 1939 Packard, 4 door convertible sedan, black, off-white convertible top, dark red interior. Odometer reads 50,166. Whitewall tires, Packard hub caps, everything looks stock. The car gives off the vibe of a vehicle that was restored 20-30 years ago. It’s all there, and may run out well, but everything has the look and feel of a 20-year-old used car. Rare and unusual body style not seen much, where the B-pillar is removable for a full-open look when the top is down. Car hammered sold for $38,000, which may seem rich, but A) it’s a Packard, and B) try to find another convertible sedan in that price range. Join AACA and go on a tour.
Lot #1755, 1956 BMW Isetta, bubble-window coupe, red/white, white sunroof, white vinyl interior. Restored to an acceptable cosmetic standard. Like most Isettas, interior not done to original style. Car has original ISO-designed side windows, as well as coveted “Z-molding” on the side. Every auction seems to have at least one Isetta. This one had shiny paint but little else to rave about. In the opinion of this former Isetta owner, if you plan to drive the thing, get the sliding-window model, as airflow through these tiny pivoting triangular windows is next to non-existent. CPI rates a #3 Isetta (which this one barely was) as worth $30,000. The car was sold for $33,500, so someone paid a slight premium for 13-horsepower worth of cute.
CAR CORRAL ENTRIES
1986 Corvette coupe, red, tan interior, automatic, claimed to have 23,000 original miles. Asking $13,900. Car was fairly clean yet obviously used. Rear panel has been resprayed, and that red does not match rest of car. Lots of swirl marks in paint. Car is in CPI between $8,000 (#3) and $14,700 (#2), and this car just didn’t look like a 23,000 mile car. $10,000 would be all the money, however, there are lots of C4 Corvettes for sale all the time, many of them under $10k .
1958 Edsel Pacer convertible, unusual off-white/pale yellow exterior, black interior. Sign claims 35,000 miles, yet car looks restored, not preserved. Very straight overall, interior very nice, engine compartment especially well-done. The entire car does pop, but so does the asking price of $100,000. That is not a typo. CPI values a #2 car (which this is) at $66,000. Even if you pay a premium for the low miles, what do you do with it? Every mile you drive it will depreciate it.
1963 Mercedes Benz 190 SL, dark silver, black convertible top, red interior, narrow whitewall tires, MB hub caps in red, cosmetically very pretty car. No asking price displayed. (Why would you put a car in the car corral and not show a price?) All 190s have 4-cylinder engines and manual gearboxes. Having never driven one, I’ve read that the driving experience is nothing special. Up until about 2 years ago, these languished in the $30k-40k range. Suddenly, as 300SL Gullwings and Roadsters regularly broke through a million, the baby brother 190 came along for the ride. Prices broke $100,000 and seemed headed to $200,000. Now that there’s been a slight cooling, more level-headed thinking has pushed these values back into the high-fives. Whatever he’s asking, I wish him luck.
1980 MGB convertible, odometer reads 45,822 miles, odometer may have turned over once. White with black interior, stick shift with overdrive switch in shift knob, MG-style mag wheels, trunk-mounted luggage rack. Engine compartment a bit of a mess. Last year for the MGB in this market. This car might be unrestored, as it’s all there but nothing is tidy. We would rate this car as a #3- or even a #4. CPI puts a #4 car at $4,150 and a #3 car at $8,000. The ask here is $8,995. Offer $6,000 if a rubber-bumper MGB is on your bucket list and you’re feeling generous.
The annual car show formally called the “Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Division National Fall Meet”, but known the world over simply as “Hershey,” was held for the 60th time on October 7-10, 2015. The event takes over most of the 121-acre grounds which are Hersheypark, plus some adjoining property. The town of Hershey PA, which not coincidentally is also home to national AACA headquarters, gives itself completely to “Hershey Week”. If you want a nearby hotel room next year, book it 4-6 months in advance.
For those who have never been to Hershey, describing it as the biggest car show on the East Coast and one of the biggest car shows in the world does not do it justice. Most of Hersheypark’s paved lots are blanketed with flea market vendors. Hundreds of antique and classic cars are offered for sale in the Car Corral. Saturday is the show’s raison d’être, as the finest restored cars and trucks in the country compete at a judged car show. Hershey attracts participants and spectators from around the world, many of whom have been making the annual trek for decades.
These die-hards renew old acquaintances, seek out valuable parts needed for their restorations, and buy and/or sell cars with regularity. Your scribe first attended Hershey in the late 1970s, and has not missed a meet since the late 1990s. If your interest is in stock (meaning unmodified) cars that are 25 years old and older, as required by AACA guidelines, this is the place to be. Newer and heavily modified vehicles (and parts for them) need not apply.
Hershey is endemic of, but not responsible for, many of the changes we’ve witnessed as the hobby has grown, changed, and matured. In years past, an automotive flea market consisted of vendors with rusty old junkyard parts, or obsolete dealer parts stock. Either way, the parts were in milk crates, scattered on folding tables, or spread out on tarps on the ground. You had better well know your needs, because you were going to spend hours looking through those piles to find that gem in the rough.
At many flea markets today, you can seek out a vendor who specializes in your make and model vehicle. Once you inform the vendor of your vehicle particulars, the part, remanufactured as an aftermarket component, probably “offshore” (a nice euphemism which allows you to avoid saying “China”), is handed over, neatly packaged in hard plastic. This is if you even bother to attend the flea market. Much of this stuff is available online with a few clicks of the mouse button.
Given two facts, one, that AACA is strict about its 25-year-old-and-older rule, and two, that many of the Hershey veterans still have a huge interest in pre-war (WWII) cars, the flea market has fewer of the reproduction vendors that you would likely see at Carlisle, for instance. The thrill of the hunt still applies. The photos below affirm that Hershey still does the flea market the old-fashioned (some would say the more fun) way:
THE CAR CORRAL, SUB-$10,000 EDITION
The Hershey Car Corral always has a nice variety of cars for sale. This year, the variety of domestic and imported vehicles seemed greater than usual. That is not to say that every car in the corral is an instant classic. There are those run-what-you-brung cars that look like they were someone’s daily driver as recently as last week. Part of my reaction to these cars is because I was of driving age when they were new. Heck, I saw cars for sale that were new at the car dealerships where I worked in the 1980s.
The good news is that many of these types of cars have low asking prices, and can serve as excellent starter vehicles for someone new to the hobby. (My friends and I enjoy pointing these out to those who say the hobby has become too expensive to enter.) Here are some random choices for those with limited means who still want an AACA-eligible car.
One of the few car corral vehicles from the newest-allowable model year, the sign on this 1990 Firebird claimed it to be a one-owner car with 52,000 miles. The asking price was $6,000, likely held back because of the V6 under the hood. But moving down the road, who would know?
With an asking price of $4,800, this 1965 Jeep J-10 pickup truck is rare. Many were used as work trucks and long ago met their fate at the crusher. Four-wheel-drive and V8 power meant that little was going to stop your forward motivation. The Colorado license plate helped assure that there was little to no body rust (none that could be seen with a cursory look). Buy this and you’re practically guaranteed to have the only one at the next Cars & Coffee.
Squeaking in under the wire of our self-imposed $10,000 limit with an ask of $9,900, this 1981 Honda Civic had many scratching their heads. Sure, by year and unmodified condition, it’s eligible. My personal reaction is that I remember doing new-car prep at the dealership on them, and my then-best friend bought one of these new. They CAN’T be allowed here, can they?
By my account, the least expensive operational vehicle in the car corral, this Triumph appeared to have arrived under its own power. The sign on it said “new transmission, new clutch, new interior, runs great, fun car!” Asking price? $2,800. Make ‘em an offer.
This car’s cleanliness belied its reported 123,000 miles. The paint and interior were unblemished. It was a stick to boot. Thursday’s price was $7,400, Friday’s was $6,500. Don’t know if he sold it, but this was a later “Z” that wouldn’t require the gold chains to be worn (by you, not the car).
My Caddy friends assure me that these first-generation Sevilles are future collectibles. We’ll see. However, if you wanted a sharp driver in a very appealing black over red, this car could do it. The windshield write-up claimed it to be a one-owner, 80k car. Another one going through a fire sale, Friday’s price was $5,600, down from an earlier $5,900.
First generation Mazda RX-7s are another model which pundits claim will double in value “soon”. Hasn’t happened yet. In the meantime, good clean cars sell for credit card money, and someone is having fun. This 1980 rotary rocket with 82,000 miles could be yours for $7,850. Handwritten next to the price was “let’s talk $”.
Sure, SS 396 Camaros and Shelby Mustangs are never going to make mention in a chapter called “sub-$10,000 cars”. But that’s not to say that good ol’ American performance can’t be had at that number. How about a Corvette? Seriously. The C4 Corvettes (1984-1996) are quite affordable right now. Here’s proof, in the form of a 1987 coupe. Yes, it’s a 350/auto with incorrect wheels, but at $7,750, it’s something you could drive every day and display at cruise nights. THE CAR CORRAL, VOLVO EDITION
Two Volvos in particular stood out for me. A 122 wagon, in white over red, stick shift of course, was fresh from the Pacific Northwest, and looked it, as there were no signs of visible rust in the body. The ask of $14,500 may have seemed high, but try to find another one this solid on the East Coast. (Recent Bring A Trailer sales of 122s have approached $20,000.)
By contrast, this 1979 242DL, with automatic and (dealer installed) a/c, was super clean, and in that requisite 1970s brown. But $12,500? See sub-$10,000 cars above. This Volvo was for someone who HAS to have this particular configuration. THE CAR CORRAL, NOT IN THE CORRAL EDITION
Not every car for sale at Hershey is in the designated car corral. There were some interesting finds in the flea market area. There are also cars for sale in the parking lot, possibly as a way to avoid paying the AACA car corral fee.
This Studebaker Avanti from the first year of production is distinguishable by its round headlight bezels. This car also has the desirable 4-speed with factory air. At $26,995, the asking price fell in between CPI’s “good” $14,000 and “excellent” $29,000 values.
Porsche 911s of all years, body styles, and performance levels are hot right now. The joke is that 911 pricing is like the fish at your favorite seafood restaurant: “market pricing”, which is X today and will likely change upward tomorrow. But the 912, the 4-cylinder variant, remains relatively affordable. This car was in the parking lot across the street. The sign said its engine had been swapped out for a 1969 version. The owner was asking $29,000. Going down the road, no one will know you’re not packing a flat-6. (By way of reference, nice 1967 911s are approaching six figures.)
This 1954 Ford convertible was hanging out in the flea market. The asking price, if it had been displayed, was now gone, and the car was marked “sold”. Given its overall dreadful condition, I took it as a healthy sign for the hobby that someone out there was willing to take it on. No word whether the Fire Chief pedal car was included (might be worth more than the Ford). SATURDAY’S CAR SHOW
My great friend and fellow rally driver Steve H and I have made the trip to Hershey together numerous times. It was one trip in the 1990s when we discovered that if we arrived early enough on Saturday morning, we could have the pleasure of watching the parade of cars as they entered the show field (AACA rules require that show cars be driven onto the field under their own power).
As has become my custom, I was on the grounds before 8 a.m., and found a good viewing spot. It is endlessly entertaining to see the cars. If you’re close enough, you can also capture the drivers’ faces, almost every one of them grinning as they proudly pilot their machines. Below is an assortment of vehicles moving under their own power before finding their designated show field spots (click on these, or any photos in the post, to enlarge them).
Sometimes, the “business” of the hobby causes us to forget that this IS a hobby, which means we’re doing this for fun. And looking around at the sights and sounds, plenty of people at Hershey are having fun. We’ll leave you with a few photos as reminders.