Atlantic City Swap Meet Attracts Old Car Hobbyists

John Gunnell |

“All of our gasoline pumps are original antiques — no
reproductions,” this vendor advertised.

The Atlantic City flea market, Feb. 26 to March 1, in the Atlantic City Convention Center, is an East Coast tradition. Many old-car hobbyists remember the early days of this event, when it was held at the classic Atlantic City Convention Hall on the old boardwalk. Many hobbyists rode buses from Boston, New York City and Philadelphia to come and buy parts. After the casinos opened, a weekend of gaming was an added attraction.

Today’s much-improved convention center facility allows an even bigger flea market than years ago, with better lighting, better access and much better concession stands. And in addition to riding down on buses, hobbyists who travel to the show can arrive on modern rail lines that run modern commuter trains right up to the lobby of the convention center.

Taking a look back at last year’s event, the flea market itself featured approximately 500 spaces and a diversity of products and services. Ted Goushy of Bow Sales Co., in Shrewsbury, N.J., was selling lifts and wheel service equipment. Gary Tabile was promoting the non-profit Vintage Automobile Museum of New Jersey, a 501(C)3 organization that he is vice president of. Pat McCarthy, of South Amboy, N.J., had a variety of racing memorabilia for sale from his private collection. It ranged from Clymer Indy programs to drag racing photos. “I’m just selling the stuff that I collected for many, many years,” said McCarthy. “If someone wants it, they want it; the economy doesn’t affect my business very much.”

Dave Hutchinson of Ragtops & Roadsters restoration shop, was
showing off the shop’s abilities at sheet metal fabrication work
with a Cobra body.

Many vendors that Old Cars Weekly talked to at Atlantic City in 2008 were there as much to share their restoration expertise with hobbyists as they were to make on-site sales. Dave Hutchinson of Ragtops & Roadsters, a Perkasie, Pa., restoration shop that specializes in British cars, was showing off the shop’s abilities at sheet metal fabrication work with a Cobra body. Hutchinson explained how Ragtops & Roadsters had formed many of the body panels to achieve a correct restoration of the valuable car. He said that the shop had a backlog of work that amounted to five storage buildings full of cars. “The jobs we get from attending the big flea markets like Atlantic City and promoting our craftsmanship assure that we’ll be busy in the future,” said Hutchinson.

Both Bill Wilds of Paul’s Chrome of Evans City, Pa., and Jack Baker of Nu-Chrome Restoration in Fall River, Mass., were exhibiting at Atlantic City and both had pieces that showed the “before” and “after” stages of bright metal trim repair work. Playing to similar needs of hobbyists were the Bumper Boyz, who came all the way from balmy California to enjoy the New Jersey winter and exchange shiny re-plated bumpers for others that hobbyists wanted done. In some cases, “the Boyz” take the cores back to the West Coast, fix them, and deliver them to the owners at other shows later in the year to save on shipping.

 Paul E. Case, the president and general manager of LeBaron Bonney, was set up at the 2008 Atlantic City Flea Market to promote the company’s auto upholstery kits and available bulk fabrics and supplies. Nearby was a booth, manned by Bill Miller, Ill., promoting the 10 Carlisle Events planned for the year 2008. Insurance giant J.C. Taylor had another booth.

Bob Topinka was promoting a new concept. His Mobile Auto Restoration business involved doing everything from minor repairs to a complete restoration at the car owner’s garage. “I can’t paint cars at peoples’ homes,” he admitted. “But I work with a shop that does that aspect of things and saves people money.”

As a kid, the author had a lot of fun using a water gun to make
steeplechase ponies like these run. Now both he and the ponies
are “antiques.”

Automotive art continues to look like a growing field, and the creativity of the artists shows up in new techniques and new products. Michael Tipton — a painter who does custom airbrush portraits — was showing off his latest canvases, while Digital Recreations uses computer-generated images to create show signs for classic cars and motorcycles.

A New Hampshire company called Flash Cards, Inc., (www.showboards.com) was another 2008 flea market participant. A graphic artist, who studied the types of art that were in demand in the old-car marketplace, started the company. After trying his hand at selling hand-drawn charcoal sketches of individual cars for $15 each, he decided that photo-realistic show boards were of more interest to car collectors. They tell the story of a car and can illustrate the vehicle, in full color, with photos. Different colors and icons can be added to personalize each Flash Card.

In addition to the auction located at the opposite end of the giant hall from the flea market, Atlantic City features a car corral and an auto salon where vintage cars and trucks were displayed as an extension of the flea market.

Lee Polsky of King of Cars in Deptford, N.J., had a classic-looking 1951 Daimler amongst his sports and muscle cars. Steve McShane, of Premiere Motor Cars, brought a ’70 GTO. However, the vehicle he really wanted to sell was the ’70 Chevy tow truck that hauled the GTO to Atlantic City from Langhorne, Pa. “I sure got looks on the highway,” he said.

This year’s event is expected to attract these same vendors, along with hobbyists new to the Atlantic City experience, further solidifying the event’s reputation as an East Coast mainstay.

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Gary Tabile was promoting the non-profit Vintage Automobile Museum of New Jersey, a 501(C)3 organization that he is vice president of.

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