Hershey Report, 2015

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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.

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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.

1990 Pontiac Firebird
1990 Pontiac Firebird

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?

 

1965 Jeep J-10 pickup
1965 Jeep J-10 pickup

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.

 

1981 Honda Civic
1981 Honda Civic

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?

 

1979 Triumph TR7
1979 Triumph TR7

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.

 

1984 Datsun 280ZX
1984 Datsun 280ZX

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).

 

1978 Cadillac Seville
1978 Cadillac Seville

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.

1980 Mazda RX-7
1980 Mazda RX-7

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 $”.

 

1987 Corvette
1987 Corvette

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

 

Volvo 122S wagon
Volvo 122S wagon

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.)

 

1979 Volvo 242DL
1979 Volvo 242DL

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.

 

1963 Studebaker Avanti
1963 Studebaker Avanti

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.

 

1967 Porsche 912
1967 Porsche 912

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.)

 

1954 Ford
1954 Ford

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).

 

 

FINAL COMMENTS

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.

 

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Alfa Romeos at the 2015 New Hope Auto Show

View of the show field from a participant's chair
View of the show field from a participant’s chair

The storied Italian car maker Alfa Romeo was heavily featured at this year’s New Hope Auto Show, held on the grounds of this Pennsylvania town’s high school. The Alfas, assigned their own class, were all parked next to each other, although there was no particular order to their arrangement. The casual observer would be forgiven if s/he thought that Alfa only made convertibles. Of the 15 cars present, 10 were soft tops (“spiders” in Alfa-speak). Of those 10, 9 were of the same basic body style, a design which debuted as the Duetto in 1966 and concluded its run as the Spider Veloce in 1994. That is a very long time in car-years.

Alfas proudly on display
Alfas in a row
The only Giulia coupe at this year's show, and a step-nose to boot
The only Giulia coupe at this year’s show, and a step-nose to boot

Your author’s car, a 1967 GT 1300 Junior, was proudly on display, and was one of the few tin-tops in attendance. The field was rounded out with an early ‘60s 2000 Spider (the so-called Large Alfa), an Alfetta GT, a GTV-6, and a 164 sedan (the only front-wheel-drive Alfa present among all the rear-wheel-drive vehicles).

It was a rare treat for me to see so many Alfa Romeos in one place at the same time. But the real treat was provided by the gang which brought in these beautiful cars. Alfa owners are a passionate lot; they like to drive their cars; they like to show off and talk about their cars; and they like to meet and chat with fellow Alfa owners and wanna-be owners. Most of the day was consumed by conversation about our Milanese machines.

The first couple I met had arrived in their 1979 Alfetta GT 2-door coupe. “Quinn” and I happily traded stories about each other’s cars. One story I shared occurred last week. While driving to work, I spotted a car just like theirs on the road with me. It had been ages since I had seen an Alfetta moving under its own power. This particular one was mostly in grey primer, with its passenger door still red (and still wearing a large “ALFA ROMEO” decal). It was bumperless, and obviously a work-in-progress. But by the sounds it was making, I knew the driver was having a blast.

An Alfetta GT reflected in the mirror of a Bentley Continental GT
An Alfetta GT reflected in the mirror of a Bentley Continental GT

What made our roadway rendezvous rather unique that morning is that I was piloting my boss’ 2012 Bentley Continental GT Coupe, all W-12 twin-turbo 500+ horsepower of it. I’m always a bit self-conscious driving that car, and tend to stay to the right, moving at the speed limit, in order to avoid undue attention. As the Alfetta drew closer, I wanted to drop my window and give the driver a big thumbs-up. Dismissing any concern about what he might think of me, I did just that. His ear-to-ear grin told me all I needed to know.

The owner of the ’79 Alfetta GT told me that he has owned his car in excess of 20 years, and although he has done scores of maintenance and repair work on it, he considers it a mostly original car. Looking the car over, I agreed with him, as much of the black lacquer as well as the beige cloth upholstery remained as it was in 1979. These early Alfettas had a controversial dash design: the tachometer was centered in front of the driver, with all the other gauges in the center. I’ve driven these cars, and it takes some time to get used to the arrangement.

Not all Alfas are red; just most of them
Not all Alfas are red; just most of them

Immediately to one side of me was a Spider owner who is also a very active member of his Alfa Romeo Owners Club local chapter. He, among many other owners, encouraged me to join the club in order to become more involved in their driving events. “Bill” is a marque expert who delighted in telling me about the nuances among the display cars, including which cars were factory-correct and which were not. The truth is that he was a tremendous knowledge source about all things Alfa.

1982 Alfa Spider
1982 Alfa Spider

On the other side of me was another spider. “Jim” had bought this car just a few months ago (sight unseen off eBay!). It was a Texas car, in very nice shape. This was his 4th Alfa, and he told me that the drive to the show that morning was the longest he had driven the car since obtaining it earlier this year.

1976 Alfa Spider
1976 Alfa Spider

An hour or so after arriving, the couple with the ’79 Alfetta returned to my car to make an announcement: they had shared my story about “The Alfetta and the Bentley” with the folks in the car next to theirs, and he was the driver of that primered Alfa! “Tom” and I met and screamed over and over at each other “I can’t believe it!” After I told him that I had arrived at work and shared my photo with several fellow enthusiasts, he told me that he got to work and called his wife to tell her “hey honey, some guy in a BENTLEY gave me a thumbs-up”. (His wife chimed in that he never called her from work, and she had at first assumed that something was wrong). Of course, I clarified for him that my daily-driver Jetta was home while I put some miles on the boss’ car. He told me that I had made his day, which made me feel wonderful about the entire encounter.

The number of spiders at the show gave me the chance to document something which I knew about, but for which I was lacking empirical data: the evolutionary design changes of the spider’s back end through 4 generations, known among the faithful as S1, S2, S3, and S4. (The front end also evolved, but to a lesser degree.) Photographing each version and displaying them side-to-side clarifies the differences. It also makes it plain to this set of eyes which of these wins the beauty contest. Your opinion may vary.

Kudos to the organizers of the New Hope show. With close to 250 cars on display, the difficult logistics of successfully running such an event become clear once you spend most of the day observing it. As the cars paraded off the field, my Alfa eventually became the sole representative of the marque. Lovely cars were seen, photographed, dissected, and discussed. Most importantly, new friendships were begun, with the promise of future automotive adventures to come.

The last Alfa standing waits to go home
The last Alfa standing waits to go home

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

NEW HOPE AUTO SHOW, AUGUST 2015

Entrance queue at the start of Sunday's New Hope Auto Show
Entrance queue at the start of Sunday’s New Hope Auto Show

The New Hope (PA) Automobile Show was held on the grounds of the New Hope-Solebury High School on Saturday August 8 and Sunday August 9, 2015. This event, which held its first show in 1957, celebrated its 58th anniversary this year. Vehicles are displayed according to predetermined classes, which are different on each day. In general, domestic vehicles are shown on Saturday, while European imports are featured on Sunday. These divisions are not completely strict, as we shall see. Your faithful scribe registered and showed his 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior on Sunday, so this report will focus only on that day’s cars.

Arriving at 8:15 a.m. and assigned to park with several Alfas already in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised to see our row quickly fill up. In all, 15 Alfas eventually arrived and parked together. While spiders (convertibles in Alfa-speak) were the dominant body style, there was enough variety to keep the Alfisti happy. And Alfas were far from the only well-represented marque. Car classes included Austin-Healey, BMW, Jaguar, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Porsche, Rolls-Royce/Bentley, and Triumph. Some of these classes had total entries in the dozens. All the usual suspects were present, yet the Sunday show distinguished itself by drawing out some truly unusual and rarely-seen exotics.

The Alfa segment of our program will be covered in a separate blog entry. For now, let’s take a tour of some of the other beautiful, sporty, exotic, and downright eye-opening cars on the field. (Photos can be enlarged for viewing by simply clicking on them.)

BRITISH

The MG menagerie
The MG menagerie

Any classic car show which bills itself as featuring “MGs and Triumphs” will cause you to expect to find MGBs and TR6s. We had MGBs and TR6s in New Hope. We also had Triumph Italias. The Italia had Triumph TR3 mechanicals under a Michelotti-designed body, built by Vignale in Italy. According to Wikipedia, only 329 were made. To say that they are rare is an understatement. To see one at a car show is completely unexpected. There were two on display today (the earlier use of the plural “Italias” was not a typo).

Not as rare as an Italia, but still infrequently spotted, were several MGCs. To those unaware of its existence, the “C” externally appears no different than an MGB. Careful scrutiny will reveal a hood bulge, necessary to accommodate the inline-six cylinder engine shoe-horned into the front. While contemporaneous road tests derided the extra weight over the front wheels and the accompanying poor handling, a kinder and gentler revisiting of the model has critics responding favorably to the extra oomph brought on by two extra cylinders.

The Jaguar E-Type (more commonly known as the XKE on this side of the pond) is arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever designed, and among the Series I, II, and III cars, the Series I is considered the purest version of the form. It was our luck to have four Series I E-Types at the show. With three of them parked adjacent to each other, the photo ops were aplenty.

The Rolls-Royce and Bentley contingent was huge, no doubt sparked into action through the nudging of the local RR-Bentley club to get its members out and onto the field. We know from past experience that said owners are not afraid to drive these British beauties, so seeing 25-30 of them was not a surprise. The distinctive front-end styling is a photographer’s delight.

Rounding out our review of British iron were these more commonly seen models, still enjoyable to admire.

PORSCHE
What’s a car show without Porsches? In this case, it would be a car show with many fewer vehicles on the show field. While no count was taken, it’s safe to presume that Porsche was the single best-represented marque at the event. Whether this was due to club participation or a wide and adoring audience for these sports cars, it was fun to see the variety extending from the 356, through the air-cooled 911s, to the water-cooled 924/944/928 series. If you were so inclined, new Panameras and Cayennes were also on display courtesy of a local Porsche dealer.

Throughout the generations, a Porsche front end is instantly recognizable
Throughout the generations, a Porsche front end is instantly recognizable

The rarest Porsche spotted today was this 959. According to my sources, a total of 200 were made. Originally not legal for sale in the U.S., these cars from the late 1980s are now old enough that they can legally be imported and driven. At the time of its release, it was considered the most far-flung supercar of its day. Its specifications may seem the stuff of normalcy now, however, it did lay the foundation for what would be expected among the world’s highest-performing machines.

A Porsche 959

A Porsche 959

DOMESITC

The New Hope Auto Show’s website states that Sunday’s car show includes classes for production GM, FoMoCo, and Chrysler Corp cars through 1990. The American cars on site were not a large group, but several MoPar models were standouts, and are worth highlighting for their styling and engineering features.

 

ITALIAN
Two different model Fiats were in attendance, sharing a unique attribute: neither car was badged “Fiat”.

After Fiat left the U.S. market in 1982, production of two of its popular sports cars, the X1/9 and the Spider 2000, was continued by Bertone and Pininfarina respectively, and these firms imported and sold the cars in the States under their own brands. (Malcolm Bricklin was somehow involved, but that’s too dark a story to include here.)

This 1987 Bertone X1/9 was an all-original car in pristine condition. Its current owner stated to me that he has owned the car for over 20 years, and drives it year-round (making sure that his winter driving is on dry roads).

This 1985 Pininfarina Spider looked brand new. While the owner was not available to answer questions, the condition of the car (flawless) spoke for him.

 

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

NJ Region AACA Meet, May 3, 2015

The New Jersey Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) held its 64th annual Spring Meet on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Florham Park NJ. The location was the immense parking lot of the Automatic Switch Company, the same spot it’s been for the past 50 years. We had tremendous spring weather for a car show: temps in the low 80s, with lots of sunshine and low humidity.

Vehicle registration into the show is not limited to club members; the general public is invited, and they do turn out in force. While adherence to AACA rules (25-years-old and older vehicles in “stock” condition) is encouraged, there is a special custom class, and no one turns away vehicles that have mild modifications. This approach helps bring in the traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian.

Flea market vendors lined the perimeter of the show field.
Flea market vendors lined the perimeter of the show field.

In addition to the judged field, the NJ Region has a car corral, flea market, and food vendors on site. While small compared to Hershey (what am I saying? We could fill this lot with vendors and it would be small compared to Hershey), it provides some variety and encourages show-goers to mingle for the day.

The food truck was run by Mary, Queen of Pork. Her chicken was good too.
The food truck was run by Mary, Queen of Pork. Her chicken was good too.

This blog entry will focus on the photos, and you’ll see the very broad range of cars on display: pre-war and post-war, domestic and import, trailer queens and daily drivers. Remember that clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

The meet committee members were efficient as usual; judging was completed shortly after lunch, trophy award presentations commenced before 2pm, and we were packed up and outta there by 3pm. Car show season has officially begun!

1968 Ford Mustang convertible.
1968 Ford Mustang convertible.
1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider.
1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider.
The front trunk ("frunk") on a 2nd generation Chevrolet Corvair.
The front trunk (“frunk”) on a 2nd generation Chevrolet Corvair.
The iconic rear glass of a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window coupe.
The iconic rear glass of a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window coupe.
Mercedes Benz 190SL roadster.
Mercedes Benz 190SL roadster.
Early '60s Lincoln Continental convertible, the last domestically-produced 4-door car with "suicide" rear doors.
Early ’60s Lincoln Continental convertible, the last domestically-produced 4-door car with “suicide” rear doors.
A beautifully restored VW bus, lowered and wearing Porsche wheels.
A beautifully restored VW bus, lowered and wearing Porsche wheels.
The VW bus engine compartment never looked this good from the factory.
The VW bus engine compartment never looked this good from the factory.
A Packard Caribbean convertible, featuring tri-tone paint.
A Packard Caribbean convertible, featuring tri-tone paint.
The "gunsight" tail light of a 1955 Chrysler Imperial.
The “gunsight” tail light of a 1955 Chrysler Imperial.
The unique sliding door arrangement on a Kaiser Darrin (one of THREE at the show!).
The unique sliding door arrangement on a Kaiser Darrin (one of THREE at the show!).
T-Bird tails.
T-Bird tails.
A 1937 Packard convertible (owned by my friend Ron Novrit).
A 1937 Packard convertible (owned by my friend Ron Novrit).
A 1963 (first year) Studebaker Avanti. Note the round headlight bezels, found only in '63.
A 1963 (first year) Studebaker Avanti. Note the round headlight bezels, found only in ’63.
A 1959 Ford Skyliner, with the retractable hardtop in the "display" position.
A 1959 Ford Skyliner, with the retractable hardtop in the “display” position.
In the 1950s, Dodge was one of several car companies offering three different colors on one vehicle.
In the 1950s, Dodge was one of several car companies offering three different colors on one vehicle.
There was a time when a "continental kit" was an item of necessity, not of decor!
There was a time when a “continental kit” was an item of necessity, not of decor!
At one time, one could choose a luxury car like a Cadillac, or a compact car like a Metropolitan (which might fit in the Caddy's trunk).
At one time, one could choose a luxury car like a Cadillac, or a compact car like a Metropolitan (which might fit in the Caddy’s trunk).
A first-generation Mercury Capri, rarely seen in the East, as they all rusted away.
A first-generation Mercury Capri, rarely seen in the East, as they all rusted away.
A Lancia Beta Zagato.
A Lancia Beta Zagato.
A 1966 Buick Riviera.
A 1966 Buick Riviera.
A 1927 LaSalle, a GM nameplate that would not survive but a few more years.
A 1927 LaSalle, a GM nameplate that would not survive but a few more years.

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.