Carlisle Swap Meet
by Yolanda Vazquez
It's a rite of spring for the nearly 100,000 automotive enthusiasts who flock to the south central Pennsylvania city of Carlisle each year. They make the pilgrimage in search of the most diverse collection of post-war vehicles, hard-to-find parts, and obscure car-crazy memorabilia available anywhere. It's been a tradition that pans a generation, and we sent our FYI reporter Yolanda Vazquez to see why it's still going strong.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: It's that time of year again where enthusiasm for the collector car hobby hits an all-time high.
MARK CHILLI: It's great to see the American muscle cars and all those great cars. And then it's neat kind of to see the cars maybe you grew up with as a kid.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: For the past 35 years, a faithful fraternity of curious car lovers head to Pennsylvania for the spring carlisle collector car swap meet and corral.
MAURICE BURSTON: I took off all week, so I'm here Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: For five days, huge crowds slug through the 150-acre fairgrounds in search of that perfect collector car or that special part needed to complete their coveted garage find. A growing draw each year is the car corral. Close to 2000 cars dot the hilly landscapeâ€”all of them up for grabs; some, in desperate need of restoration, others, showroom ready.
GEORGE WEISENBORN: I'm hoping somebody will be interested in buying it, I don't want to take it back home.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Carlisle usually follows popular trends and this year it's a mixed bag of classic and muscle cars. You'll see lots of chevelles, corvettes, and camarosâ€”the extensive lineup makes it an easy, one-stop-shop for buyers.
MANNY LICKER: It's nice to be able to see the car, hear the car, and drive the car before you purchase it.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Manny Licker is a buyer from Florida who's been coming to Carlisle since the mid-70's. He says the car corral offers great deals and a strong sense of camaraderie.
MANNY LICKER: I've been a car nut since I've been a little kid, so coming here to me is like a vacation. It's business and vacation all wrapped up in one.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: And if a vehicle over at the car corral doesn't tickle your fancy, you can head on over to expo center. Over the next 3 days they'll auction off over 300 carsâ€”some of them rare finds. Like the 1931 Cadillac Fleetwood roadster. It was part of the famed movie world collection in California and should fetch up to 125,000 dollars. Or how about this uniquely-painted 1957 E-code Thunderbird?
KEITH KOSCAK: Truly beautiful car. Finished in a rare color-dusk rose with colonial cream interior-absolutely gorgeous.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: This is the first time Auctions America supervised the bidding at Carlisle.
KEITH KOSCAK: Standing room only in there. Spirited bidding, I mean cars are doing really well.
BILL MILLER: This area of the country has always been very strong for collector cars.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Bill Miller is the owner of Carlisle Events and the company responsible for putting together the annual gathering. When he and the late Chip Miller held their first spring show in 1977, they never imagined it would turn into the car-mania Mecca it's become today.
BILL MILLER: This is actually our biggest event now because people are cooped up all winter, you know, can't wait to get out, and this just brings them out of the woodwork.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: And nowhere is that more evident than at the swap meet. People come looking for hard-to-find original equipment parts, new tires, classic grilles, diesel engines, truck beds and anything else you can possibly imagine. This u-pick-it trailer is a hit with customers.
CHRIS ORR: I have a lot of things that are older they don't make anymore, so fortunately people really get excited about it.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Dan Lyons is looking for parts for his '61 Falcon. He's pretty certain he'll find them at Carlisle.
DAN LYONS: Best things to find is when you get in here and start looking because when you're looking for it, you don't find it. It's when you're not looking is when you find it.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Isn't it always like that?
DAN LYONS: Yup.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: More than 8,000 vendors set up shop to hawk their wares. People haul around parts in wagons, carts, in their hands and on their head. Spring Carlisle is a true automotive enthusiast event, one that's sure to keep the crowds coming for years on end.