The Neshanic Station (NJ) combination flea market and car show was held on Saturday July 16, 2022. As this show is all but three miles from my house, my Alfa Romeo and I were there. Last year, its inaugural season, I was able to make it there four times. This year’s visit was my first since July 17, 2021, making almost a year to the day since I last attended.
It was warm, but not unbearably so, when I arrived a little after 8 a.m. There were already about a dozen cars parked on the field, and about a dozen more arrived after I did, so the turnout was very respectable. Last year, the show organizers tried hosting shows twice a month. This year they have been keeping to a once-a-month schedule, but a change for 2022 is the addition of a trophy for “best car”. Not sure what the judging criteria is, and I left before any winners were announced. If the possibility of a trophy or some other prize helps encourage participation, I’m all for it. I just don’t need something else collecting dust on a shelf.
In addition to the usual domestic machinery, there were a few of those funny foreign cars on display, and I made acquaintances with their friendly owners. Anthony drove down from South Orange (about 45 minutes away) in his Bertone X1/9. (If you’re unfamiliar, when Fiat left the U.S. market in the early 1980s, Bertone took over production of the Fiat X1/9 and imported it with Bertone badges in place of the Fiat emblems.) His was a little crusty around the edges, but he proudly showed me all the maintenance and repair work he’s undertaken since he bought the car. I got the impression that this is the first car on which he’s ever wrenched, and he attributed helpful YouTube videos to providing the needed knowledge. I was impressed with his nerve, cleverness, and ingenuity, especially given that he’s working on a car that went out of production over 30 years ago.
Joe was a bit more local; he drove over from Bound Brook in his 1970 Datsun 240Z, the first year for this pivotal sports car. He had recently completed some major restoration work, and the car looked great. As we were talking, he let it be known that he also has a Volvo 122 station wagon, and he said he actually prefers driving the Volvo over the Datsun. In either case, his love of smaller import machinery was most obviously made when he described how much he loathes driving his wife’s GMC SUV!
I left the show field close to 11 a.m., yet I was not the first to depart. The size and variety of the turnout gave me the impression that the show organizers were having a great day. I hope to attend several more times this year before the season winds down.
(Late but not forgotten, I am posting this show from several weeks ago only now, as other priorities were handled first.)
Neshanic Station held its first of two scheduled July car shows on Saturday July 17, 2021. I’ve been a regular at these local events, if only because I live about 3 miles away! Taking the Alfa again in order to give it some deserved exercise, the field was slightly less populated than we’ve seen previously, possibly due to the vacation season, possibly due to the weather.
Repeating my previous comments about this show, it’s a “run what you brung” theme: old, new, original, restored, stock, modified, whatever. If the owner thinks it’s interesting, then it’s welcome. Some cars were familiar to me from previous shows, and some were new to me. As is typical, attendees brought mostly domestic iron, but there were several Germans and one British/American hybrid to keep my Italian mistress company. There’s no charge to enter, but the local church requests a monetary or food donation to support a local food bank.
The day dawned sunny, hot, and humid. Arriving at 7:58 a.m., I parked my car, grabbed my camera, and began walking around to snap pictures. By 8:45, I had soaked through my t-shirt. While I remembered bug spray, I neglected to grab sunscreen or a hat. A quick call back home and my wife was kind enough to scoot down with both those essentials.
Several vehicles stood out: a classic ’40 Ford, the Cougar Eliminator, the Benz SLC with typical 1980s mods, an impeccable Nash Metropolitan, a Screaming Chicken Trans Am, and a current-gen Ford GT, driven, not trailered, onto and off the show field.
Did I mention it was hot? People actually started to leave shortly after 9 a.m. I threw in (more like wrung out) the towel at 10 a.m. and headed home. As always, I enjoyed myself, and there’s no sense complaining about the weather. Show organizers have moved this to a twice-a-month thing, and I plan to continue to attend as many as my schedule allows.
As always, this is a “run what you brung” kind of show, so anything of interest, be it older, newer, original, modified, etc., is welcome. The flea market seemed better supported with vendors compared to earlier this year, and plenty of spectators were there to wander the grassy field. Attendance for all is free, with a requested donation of food or cash for a local food bank, always a worthy cause.
On a personal note, I was thrilled to be able to drive and show my 1967 Alfa Romeo to this show, its first public appearance since June of 2019. Much of the past two years was spent completely rebuilding its brakes, then completely rebuilding its carburetors. While the car had made several very short outings near home, this was the farthest I had ventured in it (a whopping 3 miles) since completing the multiple overhauls. The Alfa felt strong under both accelerator and brake pedals, so I did something right!
A few cars were ones I had seen earlier this year, but most were new to me, which is a big part of the fun. Drivers felt free to come and go as they pleased, so I missed photographing some of the earliest departures, but did just manage to capture Jessie and her Saturn (more about that below). The Neshanic Station Car Show has turned into one of my personal favorites, admittedly in part due to its proximity, but also for its variety. I’m looking forward to making an appearance, with or without a car, for as many of the remaining monthly shows this year as my calendar allows.
Jessie and her Saturn
She was a late arrival, driving onto the field around 10 a.m. or so (when I had been there since before 8 a.m.). I’ll be the first to admit that my prejudices were in full bloom as I watched this white wagon approach, saying to myself “who thinks that an old Saturn station wagon is collectible, or the least bit interesting to anyone else??” Then, as she ambled by me at 3MPH and I peeked inside, I saw the first item of interest: the driver was on the right side of the car. This was a RHD Saturn, likely an old mail delivery vehicle.
She parked, and almost as if she does this every week, the young driver went about her routine, first removing an easel, then a large picture board she placed on the easel, then some other mail-related paraphernalia at the rear. I approached her and asked her name; “Jesse” she replied. In short order, she told me that the picture board was a reprint of an article from the Hagerty magazine, featuring her and her 17(!?!) Saturns. “You own 17 Saturns?” I asked somewhat incredulously. “Yes”, she said, noting that she had 2.5 acres of room in nearby Millstone for her collection.
It took only a few minutes for me to get it. She is a young, enthusiastic, car collector, and in that sense, she’s no different than I am, or many of my friends. The only difference is she collects Saturns, and mind you, only the “S” series cars, built in Spring Hill TN. No “L” series cars built in Delaware, or heaven forbid, those rebadged Opels sold by Saturn dealers near the end of the make’s run. She knows what she likes, and that’s what she sticks with, which actually puts her a step or two ahead of some collector buddies who can’t seem to decide on a theme for their own collections.
I wished Jessie good luck, which I don’t think she needs from me, and walked back to my car, further realizing that I do know several other people, male and female, who are in the 20s, crazy about cars, but who tend to like vehicles not in my own field of interest. Does that make her (or them) any different from the way I was in my 20s, or the way the rodders of the 1950s were? Not at all; the good news is, there is room in this hobby for all of us, even those who collect Saturns.
If you live in the Northeast corner of the U.S., then you can relate to the observation that the weather can be fickle. Springtime is especially unpredictable: March can bring sunny 75 degree F weather or two feet of snow. April can be as hot and dry as summer, or can make us suffer through two weeks of ‘April showers’.
Nevertheless, it stayed dry, and the cars came out. Some were the same as seen in March, and many others were new. As before, there were no ‘rules’ about what you could bring, which again resulted in a nice mix of old, new, original, and modded. In other words, there was something for everyone.
I was a spectator for this one, and I’ll simply say that time constraints both before and after the show impeded my participation. Not only was the vehicular turnout impressive; spectators, catching wind of this, were out in good numbers, possibly lured by the flea market on the same field. Like before, there was no entrance fee, but participants and spectators were encouraged to donate food or cash to support a local food bank, a wonderful cause indeed.
The photos can do most of the remainder of the work here, although I do wish to call special attention to the 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II four-door sedan which, similar to the ’65 Bonneville I wrote up last time, was a single-family-owned car in completely original condition, and a true time capsule. The next show is set for Saturday May 15 (they will run once a month, always on a Saturday), and as we move into the presumably less fickle spring weather, it won’t be a surprise to see an even greater turnout.
FAVORITE CAR OF THE SHOW: 1965 CHEVY II
I spoke to this owner at length, who told me that his great uncle had purchased this car new, and it has remained in the family ever since. He stated that it’s all original, including paint, interior, and inline-6 engine. While there were a few scrapes along the sides, there was absolutely no sign of rust or corrosion anywhere. This Chevy II was a “Nova”; many may forget that the Nova name began as an upmarket trim level on this compact before eventually replacing “Chevy II” as the model name. The ’64 NY license plate includes mention of the World’s Fair; growing up in NYC, I remember those plates as a boy.
A new entry on the collector car calendar has sprung up in 2021: the Neshanic Station Car Show, which held its inaugural event on Saturday March 20, nicely coinciding with the first day of spring. And a glorious day it was, with sunny blue skies, no wind, and moderate temperatures reaching close to 60F by midday. The clear air made for some stunning photography.
The car show was combined with a general (not automotive) flea market, which deserves some background history. The tiny hamlet of Neshanic Station for decades held a flea market every Sunday during decent weather, with a wide range of vendors selling a great variety of new and used goods. It became quite well-known and would draw an audience from all parts of the Garden State. A few years ago, the private property which hosted the flea market was sold, and the lot was taken over by the county, merged with a local park. The old flea market was dead.
The Neshanic United Methodist Church resurrected the flea market, combining it with a car show to help draw a crowd. For 2021, it will a once-a-month-on-a-Saturday affair. To sign up, one only needed to send an email stating the desire to exhibit a car. There is no fee, but the church requests a voluntary donation to the food bank that it sponsors. The church has access to a spacious lot across the street from the original flea market location, a flat and grassy piece of property easily 5 or 6 times the size of what had previously been used.
I had registered my Miata a few weeks prior, and since the location is literally three miles from my house, I departed a few minutes before 9 a.m. and was still there in plenty of time. There were close to a dozen cars already in place as I motored past them, with a dozen or more yet to show up after me. This was a “run what you brung” kind of show: no limitations based on age, condition, restoration quality, or modifications, and sometimes that’s the best kind of show, because you truly get the largest variety of vehicles. It’s also a great way to make sure that anyone who owns what THEY consider an interesting car can feel included in a group that frankly might shun them at another type of show.
Domestic iron from the 1960s comprised a large percentage of show cars, with two late-model Ferraris covering the exotic end of the spectrum. Not to be outdone, the Corvette contingent was out in full force, including a C8 mid-engine beauty in an eye-searing yellow. Late model cars included a Challenger, an Audi, and an Alfa 4C.
The flea market vendor turnout was smaller than I expected; the show cars dwarfed the vendors based on the amount of real estate taken. The crowd was a decent size, and the vast majority of folks walking the field outside adhered to the ‘masks on’ request except when eating or drinking something they bought from the on-site food truck. There is no doubt in my mind that for car owners and spectators alike, there was an overwhelming desire to get back to normal compared to 2020, and that helped account for the turnout.
As has been said many times before, after a certain amount of time in the hobby, it’s the people and their stories who become the real center of interest, and I met several fine folks whose stories are recounted below. The Neshanic Car Show organizers have already laid out their calendar through the remainder of the year, with the next two shows set for April 17 and May 15. My personal goal is to get that Alfa out of the garage where it’s been since 2019 in time for either the April or May event.
1962 Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan
I approached the owner of this 1962 Lincoln and told him how refreshing it was to see a sedan since what I see at car shows are almost exclusively the four door convertibles. He told me that he was at a dealer in suburban Philly who had both the 4-door sedan and the 4-door convertible. Although he really wanted the droptop it was so outside his price range, he went with this green-on-green one. The car is all original, everything functions, and he named the car after his departed mother, calling it the “Queen Maryellen”. He went on: “Listen, I’m really not a car guy but I just love this thing, it’s so easy to drive and attracts so much attention no matter where I take it.” He also has an Olds Aurora at home and he hopes to come back next time with a friend so he can bring both cars.
2014 Audi A4
A young man in his mid-20s approached my Miata and struck up a conversation, telling me about a friend who has a Miata with an LS motor in it. I told him that I was familiar with the conversion and that kits are available to do just that. This got us both talking about cars in general. I could tell that he was a genuine enthusiast who seemed to harbor no prejudices when it came to interesting cars. He finally let it out that he was the owner of the 2014 Audi A4 at the other end of the aisle from me. It’s a four-cylinder stick shift car, and he’s done some “minor” modding as he called it, with a performance chip, cat-back exhaust, and some other tweaks. His car was spotless. I truly admired this young guy’s devotion and enthusiasm. The hobby needs to find a way to be inclusive to gals and guys like him who have a late model vehicle which is their pride and joy. ‘Our’ rules cannot be forced on them. They are the future of this hobby if it is to survive.
1965 Pontiac Bonneville 2-door hardtop
This 1965 Bonneville, at first blush, was a nice looking car without anything overtly special about it. I began a conversation with the owner, asking my usual first question: “how long have you owned it?” He answered by telling me “my grandmother bought this car new in Pasadena California”. This Bonneville is a one-family-owned car which resided in southern CA until he brought it to NJ when he married and relocated. The car was in a collision in the 1980 s and got a total repaint at that time; otherwise, it’s all original. This was my favorite car of the show.
1963 Studebaker Avanti
The Studebaker Avanti is an automotive enigma – born out of desperation as the company was going out of business, it was manufactured only for two model years, 1963 and 1964. Fewer than 5,000 were built as “Studebakers” before the factory shut down. (Don’t confuse these with the Avanti II, which is an almost-identical car manufactured when the tooling was bought by two Studebaker dealerships.) This owner has had this car for about 10 years, stating that he pulled it out of dry storage and got it roadworthy. It’s an unusually low-spec car, with a 3-speed manual floor shift, and lacking power steering, power windows, or A/C. This too was claimed to be a mostly original car, and I saw little reason to doubt it. Perhaps most convincingly, old-fashioned service stickers from 1967 and 1975 were still in the driver’s door jamb.