Story and photos by Ron Kowalke
It began 40 years ago with a season-ending swap meet held at the Carlisle, Pa., fairgrounds with the soon-dropped name “Post-War ’74.” The old car hobby has undergone a lot of change since 1974, and Carlisle Events’ rebranded-in-1975 “Fall Carlisle” meet has grown and evolved right along with the hobby.
The 2014 edition of Fall Carlisle, held Oct. 1-5, offered its usual lineup of car corral, swap meet and auction, but reminders of the meet’s past glories were also a large part of that mix. “40th Anniversary” signs, give-away stickers, a Saturday evening picnic party and a salute to the 56 charter vendors who have attended all 40 years of Fall Carlisle (Old Cars Weekly among them) were festive additions to this year’s event.
The work of building Carlisle Events into a multi-show, multi-state business that began 40 years ago under the direction of co-founders Bill Miller and the late Chip Miller (no relation) has mostly been passed on to their sons, Bill III and Lance, respectively. The balance of honoring the past while moving forward was nowhere better displayed than with a 40-vehicle lineup from mid-’70s muscle cars to current-day exotics presented in and around Carlisle Events’ Building G, a former John Deere tractor dealership. There, each of Fall Carlisle’s 40 years was represented by a noteworthy car or truck from that year.
In addition to the aforementioned charter vendors, there were plenty of swap meet sellers who have logged many years of setting up at Fall Carlisle.
One, a veteran of 25 years at Fall Carlisle, is Larry Gillen of Spring Grove, Pa. Among his various items for sale was an Esso gift box from a time when service stations actually provided both service and give-aways to thank customers. The gift box contained a key fob, lighter fluid, rust inhibitor and maps — all useful items that today are sold in the convenience marts attached to gas stations. Gillen was asking $50 for that piece of Esso petroliana.
Another swap meet regular is Raymond Tucker of Burke, N.Y. The owner of a salvage yard in Bruxton, Tucker was selling a rough but near complete 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible on which he humorously chalked “Just a little elbow grease.” He explained that he’s restoring a ’53 Bel Air hardtop, and has two other like cars for needed parts, and was selling the droptop as excess. His asking price was $5,500, elbow grease not included.
Not far from Tucker’s vending site was parked a light-olive-green 1939 Ford rumbleseat coupe that caused a lot of double takes among spectators walking by it. The reason for the second looks was the coupe’s right-hand drive, evidence of its being built in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Window signage claimed the right-hand-drive ’39 Ford was the “Only one in the USA.” It was billed as a 50,000-mile original, and had an asking price of $45,000.
The car corral was also a source for low-mileage cars, such as a 52,000-mile 1956 Chevy Del Ray two-door sedan that was promoted as a “California car.” The two-tone green beauty fitted with fender skirts could be had for $23,500.
Showing low miles but needing work was a 1941 Nash 600 “Slipstream” two-door sedan. Billed as being stored for 46 years after racking up 64,000 miles, the barn find-condition car was offered for $8,000.
Needing lots of work, but rare enough to justify a total restoration was a 1968 Dodge Coronet R/T convertible. R/T could have stood for “rusty and tired” in this case, but the spray bomb-primered, 440-cid V-8-powered droptop was built in small numbers and an ambitious restorer needed $6,500 to own it.
With 40 years in the books, Carlisle Events is already exerting elbow grease in its planning for the 41st edition of Fall Carlisle, to be held Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2015. Go to www.carlisleevents.com to learn more.
More photo highlights from the 40th Fall Carlisle….