Gear up for Fall Carlisle auction and swap meet

The Fall Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet and Corral scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 3 signals the coming end of the swap meet season each year.

Approximately 90,000 attendees will see more than 102 acres filled with anything and everything automotive related. For those looking to buy a collector car, there are more than 2,000 vehicles of all makes, models and prices for sale in the car corral.

The Carlisle Auction team also is revving up to host the fifth annual Fall Carlisle Auction Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The Fall Carlisle Auction takes place within walking distance at the Carlisle Expo Center showcasing antique, collector and special-interest vehicles.

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Tools of the Hunt:
Make the most of the car hunt at this year’s Fall Carlisle

By Gerald Perschbacher; photo by Carlisle Events

Eastern Pennsylvania will be teeming with car collectors when this year’s Fall Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet and Corral opens Sept. 29 and runs through Oct. 3. What is it that will bring nearly 90,000 people to Carlisle, Pa., to walk more than 102 acres filled with cars, parts and related items?

The hunt. The hunt for that elusive part, that choice piece of literature, that NOS bumper, that dream car, that project car, and the camaraderie that accompanies the hunt.

For repeat attendees, the hunt is addictive. The year doesn’t seem complete without hunting at Carlisle.

Carlisle organizers realize this. They ask, “Where else can you get close and personal with more than a thousand vehicles [perhaps nearly 2,000] of all makes and models, negotiate the price directly with the owner and buy with confidence?” They know it’s all about the hunt.

But hunters in nature prepare for their safari to make it more than a mere turkey shoot. Here are some ways that attendees to this Fall’s Carlisle can prepare for a good hunt:

If you seek particular car parts, draft a list of the exact items and have that list handy, either electronically or on paper. This is especially critical if the part is small, obscure or intricate. High-dollar emblems or model badges may look like the one you seek for your car, but there may be a slight variation in color or a single feature that marks the difference between models and years. Know that difference and come prepared with part numbers, measurements or even photos or illustrations of the parts you seek.

The same holds for mechanical parts. Models manufactured and assembled near the end of the annual run may have components that are a bit different than those near the beginning of production. If part numbers are available and readable on a part, you can distinguish the difference. If possible, carry the small part you wish to replace in order to compare it to a better example on site.

Know your price range. Don’t stand aghast at a $50 price tag, then set the rare part down and walk away. That price may be half of the going value. Check out these variables before you even set foot on the swap field, or that bargain you placed back on the table might be the elusive “big one” that got away.

Carlisle groomed itself as a post-World War II swap meet. It still carries this image. So if you expect to find a part for a 1909 Studebaker or a 1930 Bantam, don’t be disappointed if you don’t find it. Then again, vendors can be surprising — but most will concentrate on postwar stuff.

Prepare to get dirty, especially when hunting mechanical parts. Bring gloves if you must, and be ready to kneel in the dirt to sift parts or climb under a chassis. Some real bargains can be found in boxes loaded with odds and ends.

Don’t be dazzled by shiny parts and clean displays. You may find an expensive part for a cheap price if the vendor doesn’t have a clue. If the part fits your car, dicker for a price that fits your budget. It’s similar to going to a yard sale. The nicest items usually are placed up front and high enough for everyone to see them. But some “sleepers” are in the old boxes on the ground.

Don’t just think of buying one. I’m talking about that rare replacement piece you desire. Maybe a vendor will have five or 10 of the same exact piece. If you dicker the price for three at half of what the vendor wanted, you have some marvelous trading stock to use with other car owners. You will also be helping others with their car projects.

Maybe you seek the nice, clean items such as literature, paraphernalia, caps and jumpsuits and vintage toys to set off your chariot. There is plenty at Carlisle, and you’ll need a safe place to carry them. It’s not wise to walk the swap field without a bag or cart. The bag also comes in handy to keep bottled drinks and snacks while providing room for small purchases.

Bring a camera. It will be useful to compare a part in the swap to a part in your garage. A camera is especially handy for the car corral and auction (see Pictures convey the spirit and excitement of an event. If cars to your liking are there, you’ll be compiling valuable information with views inside and out, including close-ups. If you are serious about bidding on a car or dickering in the corral, you can send the images to experts at home and ask for advice.

The fifth annual Fall Carlisle auction is slated for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 from 3 to 11 p.m. The auction takes place at the Carlisle Expo Center a short walking distance from the swap field.

The hunt for that special car or part or piece of literature can be taxing, so eat and drink sufficiently and dress for the weather. When it’s all over and you’ve got the event under your belt, the memories of the hunt are just beginning as you relive the moments for months to come!

More Resources For Car Collectors