New Zealand’s largest swap meet

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New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide Events -

TTrevor Stan­ley-joblin

he Can­ter­bury branch of the Vin­tage Car Club (VCC) is the or­ga­nizer of the largest swap meet in this coun­try. In 2016, the event cel­e­brated its 39th year at Cut­ler Park, Mclean’s Is­land Road, Christchurch, Oc­to­ber 7–9. The park is the head­quar­ters of the Can­ter­bury Branch of the VCC, and its 15 hectares ef­fort­lessly ac­com­mo­date the over 600 sites — it’s easy to spend two days there, even if you don’t take in the huge car show held on the lower field.

As this swap meet dates back to 1976 (two pre­vi­ous ones were or­ga­nized by the Rod Ben­ders Hot Rod Club in Christchurch), it may well be the long­est-es­tab­lished old-car-related swap meet in New Zealand. I first joined the VCC in Oc­to­ber of 1970, after buy­ing a to­tally orig­i­nal one-owner 1929 Ply­mouth 4 that had trav­elled only 33,784 miles (54,370km) (but that’s an­other story), and Lor­raine and I have had our site at the event since about 1978. This year may well have been our last; but, I am re­minded by sev­eral folk that I have stated this be­fore in the last cou­ple of years. Time will tell; you can’t pre­dict the fu­ture.

Like any­body who has at­tended swap meets over many years, be they a site holder, buyer, or just browser, I have some fas­ci­nat­ing yarns to tell.

I re­call a time, around 1976–’82, maybe, when the weather was con­stantly hot at the swap meet — too hot on many oc­ca­sions. One par­tic­u­lar year around this pe­riod, I had for sale an eight-track car stereo, all set up and play­ing. With it came about 20 tapes, some even still in their wrap­per: Glen Camp­bell, Neil Di­a­mond, the James Last Or­ches­tra, Olivia New­ton-john, Cher, Kenny Rogers, Amer­i­can Graf­fiti, etc. Re­mem­ber the ’70s? I cer­tainly do, with great pas­sion. Any­way, I sold the eight-track and all the tapes for $70! What would you sell it for to­day? Ev­ery­thing comes back in vogue, it seems.

Then there was the time, in about 1996–’98, when I was sell­ing all the left­over parts, mainly body related, after fin­ish­ing a 13-year restora­tion of my ’36 V8 road­ster. I had priced them at what I thought was about top price at that time. A cer­tain man came along and bought the lot. Three or so hours later, Lor­raine looked after our site while I went walk­a­bout. I came across a site with pre-war Ford V8 parts for sale and spot­ted all the items I had just sold. The ask­ing price? About twice what I had just sold them to the site holder for. By the end of the swap meet, they had all sold!

There are so many in­ter­est­ing yarns to be told in re­gard to swap-meet finds. A clas­sic is a tale that I told in this mag­a­zine, some years ago. With­out go­ing into de­tail this time, a sporty-look­ing wind­screen frame was still avail­able for sale at the end of the day for next to noth­ing. An ac­quain­tance pur­chased it ‘ just for fun’. When he de­scribed it to me, I rec­og­nized that it was prob­a­bly the one some­one had ad­ver­tised for in the bi-monthly VCC mag­a­zine Beaded Wheels. I matched up the two men and, sure enough, that was it. Jonathan got the very screen frame he wanted for his very rare Auburn Speed­ster. It was the gen­uine ar­ti­cle for that model! The price dif­fer­ence? I’d best not go into that! Oh yes, and the great thing about this pur­chase is that a cast was taken of it for a sec­ond Auburn Speed­ster restora­tion, this one with a Christchurch his­tory.

In more re­cent times, I had for sale MKI Es­cort two-door parts, after fin­ish­ing my Mex­ico for sealed cir­cuit rac­ing. As I was set­ting up my stall, Bar­bara — from Horo­pito Wreck­ers — came over and said, “I will buy any­thing you have for Es­corts”, which was about 80 per cent of what I had to sell. All the Es­cort parts sold even be­fore the swap meet of­fi­cially opened.

In 2014, I had last-minute walk around on the Sun­day evening, just be­fore de­part­ing, and what did I spot? A pair of bumperettes with as­so­ci­ated brack­ets for the now very rare 1937 Ford 10 ute. Just the item my son, Paul, needed. The site holder had al­most fin­ished pack­ing up, and th­ese were the last parts to be loaded on. An­other minute, and I would have missed them!

Fi­nally, last year, an In­ver­cargill site holder had some Hud­son wheels for sale and had listed them in the site di­rec­tory. A North Is­land vis­i­tor saw the list­ing and was im­me­di­ately able to lo­cate the site via the swap-meet map. The con­se­quent out­come, of course, was the In­ver­cargill seller made a North Is­land re­storer a very happy man. No doubt this was typ­i­cal of many find sto­ries of the day.

I’m sure many of you will have a tale to tell on find­ing parts at swap meets. If you’ve got one to share, please drop me a line at stan­car­_nzcc@hot­ (you may re­main anony­mous if you wish). To fin­ish, I would like to re­mind you of a in­ter­est­ing lit­tle adage that re­lates to mir­a­cle finds at swap meets, mar­kets, via chance meet­ings, ‘so-and-so told my mate’ hap­pen­stances, and so on: ‘one man’s trash is an­other man’s trea­sure’ — there never has been a truer word. Look­ing back, now that it’s all but over for me, I wish that we had taken more de­tailed notes each year since 1978 on the var­i­ous sto­ries, as a site holder, buyer, and lis­tener to all the in­ter­est­ing yarns — well, they’re not ac­tu­ally yarns but true sto­ries, even if some have been slightly em­bel­lished.

Post­script: The car I re­moved the eight-track from is the one I would like back. It was a 1973 Holden States­man de Ville, fin­ished in a beau­ti­ful colour of green/blue teal metal­lic with a black vinyl roof with white bro­cade up­hol­stery. I pur­chased it off Al­lan Bramwell (of Bramwell Scaf­fold­ing), a mem­ber of the Banks Penin­sula Branch of the VCC. It’s hard to be­lieve to­day, but I paid $4800 for it when it was just 10 months old. It was the first sec­ond-hand States­man to be of­fered for sale in Can­ter­bury. I think the odome­ter read about 18,600km. Our off­spring, now all adults, of course, still re­call this car with great pas­sion, as we do also, es­pe­cially the time we drove along the beach at Ti­tahi Bay (just out of Wellington).

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