Iowa Swap Offered “End-of-Season” Bargains

John Gunnell |

   Hawkeye Downs Speedway has been a fixture in Cedar Rapids, Iowa since 1925. It was first called Frontier Park and later Cedar Rapids Speedway. Until 1989, it was a dirt track. It then became Iowa’s first paved oval, with quarter-mile and half-mile tracks, paved pits and many other first-class features.

   Each fall, the Iowa Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America puts on a swap meet at Hawkeye Downs. This year’s event was held on Oct. 16-17 and Old Cars Weekly attended for the second time and we noticed changes  Back in 2006 and we were struck by the good selection of old tin for sale and the end-of-year bargain prices. At this year’s meet there were more hot rods, more Mopars, more station wagons and more used tires than we ever saw before for sale. It appeared that the show hit its peak earlier, too. It was a two-day event, but about half the vendors had pulled up stakes by Saturday afternoon.

   The big auto parts swap meet and a smaller car corral were the main attractions at Hawkeye Downs. Parts vendors set up on the racetrack, in a large to the east, in a well-lit indoor hall and in other outside areas behind the grandstands. It was quite a trip around the oval racetrack—and to see everything, you had to do it twice, since the vendor spaces were arranged in two rings around the track (as well as the pits). In other words, you had to walk over a mile to see just this section of the swap meet. Sometimes you really had to hustle along, as vehicles were allowed to drive along the tight aisle between the rings to reach vending spots or to allow the buyers of large items to pick up their parts.

   Being a late-in-the-year event, the Hawkeye Downs meet still seemed like a good one to bring your bargaining powers to. We passed on a nice set of Proto Tool sockets on Saturday and went back to buy it on Sunday. It was gone and the vendor admitted he sold it well under his asking price. As one of the final swaps of the season, Hawkeye also inspires some vendors to come long distances. Kelly Long of Birnamwood, Wis., traveled 500 miles to sell his hot rods and hot rod parts and James Chapman came all the way from Florida to demo his unique, “old school” Martin auto body tools, such as metal-slapping spoons.

   This fall’s car corral had classics, sports cars, racing cars and relatively late-model truck and SUVs. Probably the best buy was a 1968 Chevrolet P30 Step-Van that had served as a rescue squad truck. This lime green metallic box on wheels was outfitted with cabinetry, benches and a new engine with just 300 miles. The asking price was $2,000 or best offer. Not bad for a 42-year-old truck that probably had to be serviced every month of its life. No wonder it sold.

   In addition to Kelly’s Hot Rod Parts, the Iowa show drew a number of well-known sellers such as Jensen’s Camaro Parts and Duffy’s Collectible Cars. Cedar Rapids-based Duffy’s is actually located just across the Interstate from Hawkeye Downs, which makes the swap a very convenient “extended showroom” for the internationally-known collector car dealer.

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