I made it to Carlisle once again. I say that as one who for years didn’t make the trip to Carlisle events, but, with Hershey 2020 cancelled, Carlisle once again became attractive. And there’s no reason not to travel to the Fall Carlisle auto show, if one is into vintage motor things: it’s a great collection of thousands of vendors on over 80 acres, bringing their wares to sell. Carlisle may indeed be the more muscle-car-heavy and more space-compressed, when compared to the larger and more genteel Hershey, but these are no reason to avoid it. My guess is that about 60-70% of the vendors present at Carlisle also set up at Hershey, but that still leaves 30-40% that one could miss, if only choosing the visit Hershey—and, it’s another opportunity to drink too much coffee and lose oneself for a day. So—even for those Hershey-only folks—I’d suggest giving Carlisle another chance!
Carlisle really doesn’t have any significant downsides; there is an admission charge (unlike Hershey), and you’ll have to pay to park (like Hershey…but not the current Hershey usury $20/day, either!). And, as I said, I believe Carlisle is a bit less ‘antique-y,’ but you’ll have to make up your own mind about that. (I will add that, if you visit Carlisle after having been away, you will certainly notice many open vendor slots and less walkers—unlike the jam-packed Carlisle and Hershey events of decades ago. Is time catching up with Old Car Guys? Probably.)
So, let’s take a quick walk around.
This is Carlisle, to me. Odd stuff, interposed in a suburban American neighborhood, attended by mostly old folks (nowadays, anyway). On the right is a nice BMW Isetta. This one was advertised at $19,900—about the going rate for these little car-ish devices from post-war Germany, when the economy was recovering and people were becoming able to afford more than a motorbike. In the center the vendor is letting all know that he or she is interested in vintage snowmobiles—like the Arctic Cat shown. Whatever the vintage thing is, somebody, somewhere, is collecting it. (Ever drive an old snowmobile? They tend to be, power-wise, a far cry from the hyper-powered modern devices.)
One thing you’ll have to come to terms with at either Carlisle or Hershey is the prevalent political view, displayed constantly. I don’t recall this, pre-2016; but now, politics is everywhere. Frankly, I wish there could be one or two places where politics wasn’t discussed.
As I mentioned, Carlisle is probably a bit more muscle car—or, at least, less pre-1940. Here are two beautiful Corvettes for you, ready to only grow in value. The ’59 on the left was slightly customized and had sold, likely for $70K or so. The ‘59 on the right needs some TLC, but priced at $54K, it’s not ‘crazy-money’, I suppose. (On the other hand, one could buy a small house in little Pennsylvania town for that kind of cash…)
And, a Corvette for the rest of us—at least, if you act, soon! This ’73 was fully restored and appeared perfect; price was $35K—less than the price of a new minivan. I confess to loving Corvettes, though I’ve never had one and never will (unless my wife changes her mind about them being ‘hoodlum cars’). Still, I see them as being the archetypal American muscle car, beautifully sculpted, and still affordable. (A nice late-‘70s/early-‘80s driver can be still be had for less than $10K.)
Carlisle has never been optimal bike-hunting country (for me, at least), but they do appear. This running ’69 BSA Victor Special and a parts bike were offered for $2500. Seems reasonable for a 53-year-old British icon, but, honestly, doing my own math I came up with about $1800 required for a thorough restoration … if the engine had no serious damage, and the delicate aluminum tank wasn’t hiding Bondo behind that purple paint. And of course many hours of work. For a finished motorcycle bringing $6K, at best, that’s not a great equation for me, anymore. Still, they are beautiful! (My restored ’70 is shown, on the right.)
This is reputedly a 1956 Rumi 125cc scooter. You can’t see the engine very well, but it’s actually a parallel twin. The new owner would certainly be likely to be the only one in town to have one of these distinctive scoots! Asking price: $4500. (It probably went home with a buyer for much less.)
This Honda Trail 90 has an unusual enlarged fuel tank, which I’m assuming was a dealer option. Unrestored and not running, but came with a “new motor” for the seemingly reasonable asking price of $950.
Other stuff. I personally don’t tend to buy automotive items at the shows—though I have bought a few motorcycles, and lots of car parts over the years. My prime finds are those “other things” that folks bring, to get rid of (to “see where it’s going,” as one elderly gentleman told me, years ago). I bought the pair of vintage cast iron skillets for $20, for my son who likes to cook. (They’re actually rather pricey, bought retail.) On the right is an interesting bicycle. Most know that vintage “Sting Ray” type bikes from the ‘60s (especially Schwinns) are sought by collectors, but I wasn’t aware that Schwinn had actually reproduced several models, a few years ago. I saw a handful of these for sale at the two shows. This brand-new reproduction Sting Ray was being offered for $350. (Note that this plebian model, unlike the up-market “Krates”, doesn’t have the classic gear shift lever for multiple speeds, hand-operated brakes, or a sprung rear end. It does have a bobbed rear fender, sissy-bar, “banana” seat, and the slick on the rear, of course! Buy the bike you craved as a 10-year-old and see how impractical is was, compared to the Sears full-sized bike your parents bought you.)
This ‘70s Yamaha SX650 was like-new. These bikes, while lacking a degree of handling finesse when compared to British twins, were well-made, reasonably priced, had functional electric start, and were reliable. I recall getting on one after a ride on my ’77 Bonneville; it might have lacked some tiny degree of Brit sophistication, but it was a fine motorcycle—and you didn’t need a drip pan.
Maybe the look of this ‘60s Chevy Biscayne is why folks like old cars: it’s aesthetically without fault—like an older F-150, Mustang, or 1950s Bel Air. Even the aftermarket wheels work nicely with the clean lines. And I’m sure the boys aren’t admiring a modest straight-six, up front. Big bench seats, glass all around …. what a fun ride it would be!
If there is such a thing as a barn find, this AMC Javelin should qualify! The grime is so authentic you might want to leave it on (like those NOS motorcycles, moldering in their wooden packing crates).
This 1950s Ford sedan and its seventy-something owner caught my attention as I was leaving. He had written “11.5” on the windshield; was that mileage or asking price? It was nearly the last day of Carlisle, and the car hadn’t sold. Maybe because it’s not sporty or sexy—just a car that someone once desired, worked hard to purchase, was proud of, and drove a family in. It appeared to be nearly perfect, and the apple of the owner’s eye. But, we can’t take it with us—and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
No more parables. Enjoy life while you have it!