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Crazy Swap Meet Stories

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by rustyfords, Sep 19, 2011.

  1. My swap meet T-Shirts say , "WE SCREW the OTHER GUY and PASS the SAVINGS ON TO YOU"
    Rex_A_Lott likes this.
  2. I love swap meets and have pretty good luck finding what I'm looking for.
    Portland swap meet every year for the last 20 and a regular at Pomona CA before that.

    My friend I call Hoardmaster brings good stuff then also has a $1, a $5 and a $10 table with mostly crap. On the $10 table we'll balance a valve cover on the pile and set 3 junk carbs with air cleaners on it so it looks like a tripower. People run up and grab it only to knock the whole mess over. We have a good laugh at their expressions. Some people walk away while others will spend time trying to set it back up like it was.

    I contact cemented a $1 bill to the blacktop in front of our spot. hahahahaha

    A guy behind us on opening morning has a 59 Nash Metro convertible. Fresh backyard repaint over plenty of Bondo and a $600 for sale sign. Very complete but needs a vinyl top and not running. I go back to my spot and ask if anybody has $100 and wants to double their money by noon. Only one guy wanted in. I go buy the Nash, turn the for sale sign over and write $1650 OBO. Sold it within an hour for $1300. Never actually touched the car. Saw it change hands 3 more times that day with a $2600 ending price. Car never left the original spot.

    One year at the race track we had a bunch of friends and several spaces. Back then I was building houses so I brought enough scaffolding to get 18 feet high. We ran ladders off of it to trucks around the perimeter, then covered it with tarps. Basically a redneck circus tent. The first day I had quite a few people ask if I had a building permit for it. Next day I brought a permit off of a house and displayed it. People would ask, I'd say yes and point. Most would go read it.

    Had a rebuilt aluminum Olds 215 V8 engine on a start-up stand with a radiator and glasspack mufflers. That year was extra cold so we'd start it up and use it for an auxiliary heater. After a couple start-ups I noticed the people would flock to it. So, every time we'd run low on customers.... start the 215. Kept having to jack up the price so we didn't loose the heater though.

    One sunny year we set up a bunch of rearview mirrors on Hoardmaster's $1 table so the sun reflected directly down the aisle to the entrance gate. That was a customer caller.

    Bought a nice 1957 Chevy power pack air cleaner for $20 that had slight surface rust. Keep a can of semi-gloss black in my truck just for this reason. Gave it a quickie job and next guy by spots it, offers $300. I tell him what I'd done, it's still wet and to come back in 1/2 an hour. He did.

    Pomona, I had a bunch of C1 Corvette stuff including a pair of 1954 quarter panels priced at $400 each. That night I wake to a crunching sound. Guy backing his trailer in ran over one of the panels. Had a 6X8 trailer packed full of NOS baby moon caps. He said he'd trade the caps for the panel. I told him to stay, sell the caps and I'd take $300 for the panel. No deal. So, 2AM in the morning we're unloading hundreds of caps. I made nearly $900 on the caps that day. Took over 100 caps home along with damaged 1/4 panel. Repaired it and sold everything next trip around.

    Another Pomona episode. I'd waited until last possible customer was gone before loading up. I get down to 2 sets of BBC heads and a 1957 Chev 283 short block. Figured I'd warm up the box truck. Crap.... the battery was dead but I had an extra. Only problem was in my tired stupor, I buried the toolbox. I walk over to a group of scrap vultures and ask if anybody has a 1/2" end wrench I could borrow for 10 minutes. All said no. I say I'll trade the BB heads and 283 for one. It was a scrapper scramble for tools.

    Also at Pomona I talked a friend into meeting me there, I lived in Palm Springs and he in Pismo Beach. He'd never been to a swap before but had tons of cool stuff. The night before, I park in the line to get in and walk further up to find him. He's got 4 complete, original paint 66-69 Chevelle SS396 front clips on his trailer. I ask how much. He says $200 each. I pay him, then in the morning I pull the hoods off and sell them quickly for $400 each. (before reproductions were available) He was kinda mad then I sold one of the clips minus hood for $250 and gave him the money. By the end of the day we sold the rest of them for a $900 total. He ended up making over double what he planned on with the $800 I paid for the hoods and I made $800 too. We went to Pomona together for the next few years.

    I restored a 69 GTO RAIII car and had bought 2 other 69's for parts. One was a very complete 4 speed car but a little rusty that I bought mostly for the wheelwell moldings. Took it to Pomona and let people pull their own parts while it was on the trailer. I had a list on the car with pricing but didn't think it would turn into a couple of fist fights over parts. Pretty much stripped the car in one day and I sold the hulk the following day.

    Had a 55 Vette rear clip for sale. Guy walks up and pays my $1500 asking price then asks me what it is. Weird! Then asks if I'd deliver it to Hollywood from Pomona for another $200. I agree then on my way there I'm thinking about the $18,000 in my pocket and maybe it was a set-up. I stop and stash the cash. Get to the guys place right on Hollywood Blvd. He's got a 4plex turned into 1 house with a huge garage below that's an art studio where he made car art. Sold him 10 more rear clips from various old cars over the next year. He was making car couches when the trend first started.
    Willy_P, jvo, Bandit Billy and 7 others like this.
  3. carbking
    Joined: Dec 20, 2008
    Posts: 2,914


    I started vending at swap meets in 1966, and started (and still do) telephone orders beginning in 1971. MOST of the enthusiasts in the antique car hobby are pretty decent people; but there is the occasional know-it-all that virtually all they know is incorrect.

    I never had issues with pricing; as I had a sign on my table that stated "The retail price of any item MAY vary with the attitude of the customer"! IT NEVER DECREASES! If someone offered me less, I simply pointed to the sign with no verbal comment. They would either purchase or walk, their choice, I didn't get mad.

    I have never deliberately destroyed a part, but have seen it happen and completely understand. In 51 years of retail, have seen enough to write a book (but don't have time).

    Suffice to say that anyone who has not vended at a swap meet or done telephone ordering cannot begin to comprehend how incredibly rude some individuals can be; and yes, I have on rare occasions disconnected the telephone.

    I do enjoy these swap meet threads, brings back some funny memories.

    weps likes this.
  4. bangngears
    Joined: Aug 30, 2007
    Posts: 923

    from ofallon mo

    At a local swat meet a guy had a set of 40 bumpers with brackets and bumper guards ,looked real good, nice chrome for $200 bucks. 4 or 5 guys all standing around saying what a good deal that was. I said yep and handed the guy his $200 and picked them up and was walking away and then a couple wanted to buy them from me. Well i knew sooner or later i would build another 40, so didnt sell them. Checking Drake prices when i got home it was $875 worth of parts i bought
  5. wutnxt
    Joined: Aug 2, 2009
    Posts: 321


    I have a friend who will remain nameless who paused to use the porta john at the swap meet. Took off his money belt containing $4000, hung it up, did his business and left. When he returned to get the belt, it was gone. Never saw it again
  6. Deuced Up!
    Joined: Feb 8, 2008
    Posts: 3,932

    Deuced Up!

    So I am at a huge local swap meet about 8 years ago. I am looking for a rear bumper for a local Coca Cola Chevelle Circle Track car of which I was building a replica. I actually find one, it is not perfect but I buy it for $45 which I thought was pretty good deal. It had an old STP decal still stuck to it. However a few minutes later I find a near perfect example for $75. I decided to buy it too.

    I was talking to the vendor about the project and he was a Chevelle guy and wanted to see some photos etc. We talked for quite a while about the car. He asked how much I paid for the other bumper and I said $45. He offered to give me my money back on it if I wanted it. So I took him up on the deal and left happy with a very nice bumper for the project.

    The next week a friend pops over to the shop and says I have something you really need. I said, Oh really, what? He said a rear bumper for the Chevelle. I said actually I found one. He said not like this one! He recounted how he had seen it at the swap meet and asked about it. The vendor told him it came off an old Coca Cola Race Car and described what the car looked like etc. This is the actual bumper off the original (long lost) Chevelle. I took a look and sure enough, there was the STP sticker. I asked how much he paid for it and said $100! :eek:
    flux capacitor and wraymen like this.
  7. oldpl8s
    Joined: Apr 11, 2007
    Posts: 1,399


    Can someone translate this?
    clem likes this.
  8. oldpl8s
    Joined: Apr 11, 2007
    Posts: 1,399


    I usually have a few Hot Wheels with me. Newer ones, not rare ones. I save them to give out to the kids who seem to be behaving well despite being dragged around by dad looking for rusty old parts.
  9. carbking
    Joined: Dec 20, 2008
    Posts: 2,914


    Maybe (lots of Foster's beer commercials - how to speak Australian ;) ) - Evidently the poster had a friend that was selling 1933 Ford grilles out of his car trunk at a Melbourne Australia swap meet in the 1980's for $250. each. A European with an attitude (will omit the ethnic slur) offered $50. which was unacceptable. The same guy came back 5 times with the same offer. After the last time, the friend chopped the grille in half. The heckler uttered some profanity and walked off. The friend stated he had chopped the grill in half in an area where it could be repaired, and pulled another one out of the trunk for sale. The friend stated he would repair the damaged grille tomorrow. The friend's name was Mark

    The above is an amateur translation, and not guaranteed to be perfect ;)

    And making an ASSUMPTION: As the poster is from Australia, it is possible that the 1933 Ford was an English or Australian Ford, rather than one made in the USA. I show two different 4 cylinder English Fords for 1933, one an 8 HP 57 CID, the other a 14 HP 124 CID. Remember, this paragraph is strictly an assumption, based on the probable origin of the post.

    EDIT: After rereading the post, it appears it was the OP that uttered the profanity, rather than the heckler. Like I stated above, amateur translation!

    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
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  10. tim troutman
    Joined: Aug 6, 2012
    Posts: 293

    tim troutman

    I had 2 chrome mustang wheels in my booth a guy walks up looks and says I have 2 wheels like that says how much for those shoot him a price he says there not worth that I tell him ill give that for yours he says there worth more than that some people are hard to deal with
  11. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 6,643


    I was at my friend Al's swap space at Iola. One of the regular crew of which I am a member had a fishing rod with a fake $5 bill on the end of the line. We were on the main path with lots of people traffic. He would cast the $5 into the middle of the path and when someone would bend over to pick it up he would give it a tug. With a few beers to help out the mood I was in tears when he fished a loopy blond right into the swap space before she looked up to see she had 6 guys laughing their asses off at her.
  12. dusterdave173
    Joined: Dec 30, 2010
    Posts: 226


    I always love the guys that low ball you on a $5 part and offer like $1--then I reply $6 they get a stupid looks and say OK $2 then I say OK $7 etc lots of fun
    There is no better feeling in the world than scoring on a part you NEEDED for cheapo--never mind flipping one I mean something you know you can use and got for cheap--now that is living
    I was building my front engine dragster--did not make swap until late Sunday as I had to work--came in the gate with $600 first table I see a beautiful Hilborn injection just like I need--with a beautiful pump--price $1200 not really that bad--I looked the guy straight in the eye--pulled my wallet flipped it open and said I got $600 your call--he said what the heck and grabbed the loot--Happiest day at the swap ever!! It is the one in my picture here on the Hamb--it sure runs sweeter because of that deal.
    Truck64, jim snow and Bigcheese327 like this.
  13. Man that just plain sucks. I came close to doing that myself. I left an envelope containing over 3 grand on a counter at a fast food joint we stopped at. I pulled it out to dig for some change, got distracted by the clerk and left it sitting there. I was in the car about a mile up the road when it dawned on me. I freaked and was about to do a quick U turn all the while knowing its fruitless, the money is gone. That's when my wife pulled out the envelope from her purse. She caught the whole act and picked it up with out saying anything. I was happy and pissed all at the same time. The pissed feeling went away rather quickly especially since she didn't rag on me too bad.
  14. Love the swapmeet stories....
  15. Kind of a crappy story but years ago, before cell phones and the net, my brother and I were at a swap meet. He had some quick change pieces for sale. Guy came buy and bought the stuff for decent at the time, asked if we could hang onto the parts and he would be right back to pick them up. This was late morning and we told him were leaving at one. At noon it starts pouring. We wait till one, two, 2:30, in the truck, a lot of people left. We struggled with what to do. We didn't want to be accused of running off with the parts, so we left them right where he set them. Told a few guys working the swap on the way out......I don't think he ever got the parts.

    Little different in the cell phone era. but I always warn people that ask to keep things while they find a cart, get the truck, etc. Do it now!
  16. Ray C's son
    Joined: Dec 27, 2009
    Posts: 410

    Ray C's son

    A friend and I used to sell at the Columbus Super Ford spring meet in the late '80's early 90's. We always bought right so we could sell right. Anyway, I had a freshly turned and magged good 427 steel crank and some guy was trying to beat me up on price, telling me there's a guy a row over that has a better one cheaper, blah blah blah. As I'm telling him he should go buy that guy's crank a guy walks up and peels the cash off for the asking price right in front of the guy. He just looks at me and walks away. I saw the guy later walking around, now wearing a cardboard sandwich board selling his car and parts. I always wondered if that incident pushed him over the edge and he's collecting stamps or something now. Good times and lots of similar stories from those days.

    exterminator likes this.
  17. scotts52
    Joined: Apr 7, 2008
    Posts: 2,181


    Not a swap meet but a yard sale.
    A local church was having a yard sale, trying to raise money to send kids to camp. I found a table full of wrenches, sockets, etc. I rummaged through it all and gathered up all the craftsman tools. Too much to carry so I asked for a box. I loaded the box and took it up to pay and said "How much?" The guy looked at the box and says that it says $20 on it. I told him no, that was already on the box when it was given to me. He shrugs his shoulders a little and says $20. I told him I couldn't in good conscience pay so little. I practically had to force him to take $40. There was probably at least 40 pounds of tools in it. He smiled and laughed as he called out to a buddy "This guys trying to pay more than what we're asking for stuff. We both were happy.
    clem, Bubba1955 and exterminator like this.
  18. dartracer
    Joined: Apr 18, 2009
    Posts: 224


    Couple of years ago I was selling at the Tri State swap meet in Denver. After I had unloaded my truck and pulled it out, I was walking back inside and saw a spot with Ford parts in it. In this spot was a Mopar Hemi 4spd with bell housing fork and flywheel. Ask how much, they him and haw and say $400. Get it back to my spot, and put in the back to take home after the meet is over. I get called into work for a few hours on Saturday morning so I tell my buddy I will get there around 9 or so. When I get there Saturday the trans is gone, so I ask my buddy about it. He says it didn't have a price but a guy offerd $1500 so he took it. A lot of the stuff I sell is marked so I don't have to bring it home.
  19. jim snow
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 1,146

    jim snow

    A few years back at the N.S.R.A. show in Burlington,VT. First day of swap I see a 12 draw top Mac tools top box for forty bucks.There is couple talking to the vendor about how dirty it is and are trying to beat him up on the price. I reached out with two twenty's the vendor thanked me.The look there faces was priceless.Its a keeper.Snowman
    2many projects likes this.
  20. Last year I put onto my table two like new hi dollar 3 inch core Magnaflow mufflers. They had a total of maybe 90 minutes of running time, all stainless steel too.
    They were a little loud for my ears but did sound very cool.
    I paid $280 bucks for the pair.
    Early in the morning a potential buyer offered me $80 bucks for them and I said no, I want $110 but would have taken $100.
    Three hours later I leave to take a pee break only to return to find my buddy who was minding our spot we share took $45.00 from some other person.

    No I don't make money at swap meets anymore. Seem like most everything I sell goes 10 cents on the original dollar. It's all good car stuff, just things that didn't fit properly, was the wrong color, the wrong style or I just dont need it anymore.
  21. 35 Dodge Hot Rod
    Joined: Nov 29, 2007
    Posts: 182

    35 Dodge Hot Rod
    from Mecca

    At Iola last summer I had a friend drop by my site on Thursday night and ask me a favor. He bought around $800 worth of parts and stuff from a guy down by the barn, and told him he couldn't get back inside with his truck until after 4pm.

    When he finally got back inside, the guy had locked up everything in his trailer and left for the night. Well, my friend had to get back so he could go to work Friday. Yeah, no problem, I'll grab the stuff and bring it back with me Sunday. He didn't remember the spot number, but had the sellers phone number.

    I tried calling him several times and leaving a message, but he wouldn't answer his phone. The guy was hard to track down, I had to play dumb and go to the tower to find out his spot number. Finally I rolled up to his site and the guy was just treating me like shit. Don't have a clue what his problem was. Some of the parts were on the heavy side, so I asked him if I could borrow his hand truck to make a few trips. "Yeah whatever." Then he started complaining to me about my friend not coming back to get his parts. It was his first year swapping there, and I told him there are certain times the gate crew won't let outsiders into the event with a vehicle. This didn't stop his grumbling.

    I made about 3 trips to get all the parts back to my spot, and then before I wheeled the truck back I let all the air out of the tires. Doubtful if he had an air compressor with him.
    Atwater Mike likes this.
  22. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,305

    Atwater Mike

    Turlock is my long standing favorite...Loved Watsonville, and Milpitas Ford plant swaps, but still go to Turlock.
    Six years ago my bud (fellow shop owner) and another hot rod pal walked into Turlock about 11:00 AM, there was a guy and his wife selling oddball stuff. I picked up an old gray saxophone, uninformed hot rod friend says "Ha! If you can play that, I'll buy it for you!"
    It had a reed, keys felt smooth...I asked if it was O.K...seller said, "Go ahead!" I softly played the main 4 bars of 'Take 5', then 'Summertime'... Hot rod bud was blown away, got seller down to $40. I walked away with a 1949 'C' Melody sax, played nice. Felt like the Piper of Hamlin, my 2 buds following behind as I 'riffed' some Art Blakely runs...

    There was a kinda 'hip' guy selling parts, I noticed an old chrome Mor-Drop with a bend in it, (like it had 'curbed' hard) I asked how much, (it was bent 45 degrees, chrome wasn't flaking though...He said $25, I handed him a 20 and a 5. My bud Larry picked up the axle, and the guy said "Take these too, they go with it..." A pair of chrome wishbones, '34 type, split, chrome tie rod ends. All for $25???
    (guy confessed to Larry that the axle was in a 'T', his brother was killed in it... kinda spooked me, but felt like I was doing him a 'turn', removing it...Mixed feelings that day!)
    Some older guys were hanging out on the corner, they razzed us for the bent axle. "Wall art? Can't fix that!"
    They couldn't...I could...
    Monday after work, I made up some steel spacers (fit inside the beam) and flattened some copper tube to insulate the chrome from steel spacers. The 50 ton air over hydraulic press straightened that axle in 3 gentle pushes.
    Caster looked equal, with cold rolled rods in the pin bores...also KPI was equal. Chrome was undamaged.
    I took the axle to a one day swap next to some Kiwis at Mission college and sold it for $525 cash 2 weeks later.
    Kept the 'bones, and the 'C' Melody sax. (I usually play Alto, but just scored a Curved Soprano! Looked for one since '65!)
    117harv likes this.
  23. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,378


    A lawyer cheated me out of $350 but was dumb enough to leave his 56 Chevy wagon stored on my property. He had paid $1500 plus he had gone thru a terrible hassle to get the title. After 10 years, I took it to a swap meet in another state and sold it for $450 after taking the two doors off and keeping them for my 4 to 2 door conversion. 55slab2.jpg 55slab.jpg
  24. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 5,089




    Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, swap meets were popping up all over So Cal. As they became more popular, the costs and merchandise went from home garage/speed parts to commercial products at a discount price. That started ruining the events for us. We liked what was offered when everyone cleared out their garages with extra stuff and did not make a living selling commercial stuff bought from wholesalers. Back then, our favorite swap meet was in Santa Barbara’s neighbor, Goleta. We called it the “Goleta ”Drive In Swap Meet.(today, it is called: ) We were amazed at the amount of stuff that was for sale. There was stuff from everyone’s garage, with little to no commercial stuff. It was like a huge neighborhood garage sale. That is what we liked. Plus, it was on the way to some great surfing spots along this portion of the coast (between Goleta and Campus Point at UCSB) and to the other side of the campus.

    We bought and sold stuff from our garage arsenal. The old tools went quickly and we bargained for a cool, old, wooden skateboard with local Santa Babara wheels. That was bought for a whopping $.75, wahoo… It was like bargaining in Mexico for items. This is what swap meets were supposed to be, bring your stuff, see what you might like, and swap if possible. We always cleared a couple of hundred dollars. The old Long Beach swap meet at the Vet’s Stadium started just like a garage clean out sale. There were rows and rows of car parts and, including old cars. Swapping merchandise was not out of the question. Then, it started changing into more commercial parts and general merchandise. It was the people that decided to make a living out of commercial stuff at wholesale that made this LB swap meet start going down the drain, too.

    It was fun going to those meets in the early days for automobile parts. We have not been to one in quite some time because of the commercialization. The same guy that ran the big car shows in Long Beach and Los Angeles, was the same guy that ran the early swap meets. The company still sponsors the huge Rosebowl Swap Meet.

    47ragtop likes this.
  25. AldeanFan
    Joined: Dec 12, 2014
    Posts: 656


    My dad and I did the Barrie swap meet spring and fall for 12 years straight, starting when I turned 15 and got my first project car.

    Learned a lot about wheeling and dealing, car parts and negotiation.

    Best exchange I saw:
    Buyer: "will that bumper fit my car?"

    Vendor: "what kind of car do you have?"

    Buyer: " '62 biscayne"

    Vendor: " that's what It came off of"

    My other favourite episode was the two guys in the parking lot, one holding a very large windshield and the other measuring the trunk and backseat of the mercury topaz and shaking his head no.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    wraymen likes this.
  26. Johnny99
    Joined: Nov 5, 2006
    Posts: 833



    Portland OR. swap meet back in the late 80's. Guy in a stall about three doors down had a bunch of GM pony/muscle car sheet metal he was doing bodywork on with a claw hammer, bondo, and rattle can primer, he was selling! Allison aircraft engine in the bed of an old Ford truck with a drum of fuel, drum of water, and a handwritten cardboard schedule letting you know when to show up see that sucker make noise ! Chopped 32 three window body and frame, kind of a shitty metallic green paint job, around $3500 if I remember correctly. I think it was an old Portland area hot rod with some history.

  27. We did a similar thing at the Charlotte Auto Fair. We'd put a phony $20 bill in a cheap old worn wallet with the bill partly sticking out. Then toss it out on the asphalt roadway on the fishing line.
    BJR likes this.
  28. Joe Sloma
    Joined: Jan 9, 2017
    Posts: 24

    Joe Sloma

    Not a swap meet thing, but I had a 1952 International Pickup bed and frame I bought for my project and didn't need, I got it for 30 bucks, sold it for 1,800 to an out of Towner from Seattle. It was just taking up space and in really sweet shape.
    Joined: May 5, 2015
    Posts: 771


    I don't have the patience to be sitting around trying to sell parts but the one time I did was when my brother and I took a pick up load of 58 Chevy parts to a swap meet. Just getting to the spot cost us gas, time, and 35 bucks for the spot, this is in NH. Sat all day listening to people whine and cry about how much they need this or that or why we didn't have this or that. Once we made our money back, I was giving crap away. At the end of the day, we loaded everything back into the truck, I mean we had fenders, hoods, doors, everything big and heavy. we were getting ready to leave and this man approach us and asks if we could delivered what we had left to his house about 10 miles away for X number of dollars. Yea is was a good deal and we make some money, but the next month there was our stuff sitting at his booth.
  30. Over here i don,t take big stuff to the local swapmeets because the public all come with their little daily eurocars and cant fit anything inside for the drive home.
    patmanta likes this.

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