by Glen Quagmire
If the prospect of a hundred acres of cars and parts for sale appeals to you, think Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Since 1974 a former fairground has been transformed into a utopia for new and used parts and cars of every description. Located in south central Pennsylvania, this venue offers more than a dozen collector car swap meets and auctions each summer. The largest are their spring and fall car swap meets and auctions, which regularly sell out all 8,100 flea market spaces for parts and finished and project cars. In fact the car corral is so popular that a waiting list fills each space as soon as a car is sold. There are even on-site financing and title people to facilitate transactions. Most cars and parts are post-war, with emphasis on hot rods, muscle cars, and other vehicles from the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
Popular? Apparently, since about 100,000 spectators regularly attend both the spring and fall events.
In between, the sponsor, Carlisle Events Inc., conducts swap meets throughout the summer for specific areas of interest – an all-Ford meet, all-Chrysler meet, all-GM meet, one for Imports, one for Corvettes, one for Trucks, one for Motorcycles, and the list goes on. Spring, Fall, and Corvettes at Carlisle feature professional auctions in addition to the thousands of cars offered for sale in the car corral.
Extra activities add to the excitement, with selected events featuring bikini/beauty contests, seminars on restoration and performance, burn-out contests, rock-crawling demonstrations for the 4×4 crowd, special displays of rare prototype and race cars, appearances by special guests like Mario Andretti, and more. Plus, there’s terrific down-home food guaranteeing that nobody ever leaves Carlisle hungry, including the legendary “Big Smokey” sausage sandwich that has “entertained” digestive tracts for years.
The meets at Carlisle are family-friendly as well, with selected meets featuring a Women’s Oasis with massage, manicures and more, along with a Kid’s Activity Center with games, face-painting, clowns, and balloon and spin art. Also, every show weekend includes a non-denominational religious service on Sunday morning.
Permanent indoor bathroom facilities are continuously staffed and kept clean throughout show weekends, including showers for those camping on the grounds.
These events provide a huge economic boost to the community and, as a result, draw enthusiastic support from residents and businesses alike. In fact, the folks at Carlisle Events make a special effort to include the local Scouts and other civic and community groups in their events so that everyone benefits.
Hotels fill up quickly, so make your reservations early if you plan to go. And expect plenty of traffic on local roads, although the police and local officials have traffic control down to a science and it all works better than you might expect.
So if you’re looking for something easy, like a “Bel-Air” emblem for a ’55 Chevy, something unusual, like a grille surround for an Edsel, or just a good ol’ time looking at cars, parts, and people, Carlisle is the place for you.