It’s that happy time of year again: the time of the moveable marketplace, the garage sale on wheels, when treasures are in transit from coast to coast. After the winter break, swap meets are in business, and it’s open season for wheeling and dealing.
Classic collectibles displayed at shows are often painted and polished; motors purr with deceptive ease. If you go to shows to see gems, you go to a swap meet to find a diamond in the rough. In the same way that Broadway shows open on the road, vintage iron often makes its first appearance on the circuit at a swap meet.
But the real attraction of a swap meet is that tantalizing sense of possibility. Anything, anything could turn up at any given meet. And it’s not just the hard-to-find part or piece you’ve spent months or even years hunting … at a swap meet, you could very likely stumble on to a treasure who’s name you’ve never heard before. If you don’t believe in love at first sight, then you’ve never seen a collector fall, and fall hard, for a piece of old iron.
The swap meet offers an odd blend of illusion and reality. Potential is neatly counter-balanced by the facts. Little can look more stark than a tractor or engine, wearing a uniform coat of rust, missing most parts. Yet the sow’s ear often turns into a silk purse. In the end, it’s still the hunt, and the promise of surprise, that draw the collector out each spring. Stay home, and you might miss something truly wonderful. Go, but take a trailer. FC