"The West Coasts largest antique auto, Corvette, Porsche, street rod and Volkswagen swap meet and car show presented by George Cross & Sons Inc." Thats what the radio says and it always sounds good to me.
There are few things in life that are better than looking at old cars and parts. Ive been attending car shows and swap meets for over 13 years in California, most of the time with my son and my best friend, Ron.
The usual way it goes is we take one of our cars out and park it in the swap meet area. Then we are inside, where all the action happens: buying, selling, trading, and fabrication of the truth.
I decided to go to the Spring 2000 Pomona car show (you know, the West Coasts largest, etc., etc.). My son couldnt go, my girlfriend was out of town and my home projects were basically all caught up. A phone call to my pal Ron indicated he had made a commitment to his wife — signed in blood — that he would go visit the relatives.
Okay, fine. Ill go by myself.
Saturday I fired up the 72 Monte Carlo, washed it, and got a cooler for cold drinks. Purchasing beer at Pomona will break the bank.
I remembered that on my last trip to the show, in February, the wait to get in at 5:00 a.m. was long. I called the information line of George Cross & Sons at 714-832-2041 for information. The message indicated that now the car gates open on Saturday and stay open all night Saturday and Sunday morning.
It also mentioned that the vehicles should get there early because they might sell out.
My plan was set. I would leave at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, check in at 2:30 a.m., get a good parking space and take a nap in the back seat until sunrise.
I think all of us can remember the benefits of a large back seat from our high school days. The 72 Monte Carlo has a large one. While trying to sleep, my thoughts drifted to how we did things back then. But now, sleeping just wasnt working well in the back seat. Then in pulled a high watt-stereo car with a partying crowd. No sleep for me.
For those of you who have never been to the Pomona Swap Meet, it is huge. There are 12 miles of walking as you check out 1,500 cars. There is everything from restored pre-1931 classics to heavily modified roadsters to old part cars, waiting for someone to buy them and give them a new home. In a separate section there are over 1,000 vendor booths. My personal favorite is the Hilco fastener booth. They have the most complete line of fasteners for restoration in the free world.
There are also booths staffed by guys who, like myself, over the years have accumulated a vast inventory of auto parts that they now find they would like to part with. Most car guys cant pass up a good deal and frequently put them in inventory for a future project or restoration theyre contemplating.
In 13 years Ive been attending, Pomona has changed. There are more cars, more vendors, and more people out on Sunday enjoying the day looking at cars and parts. George Cross & Sons are smiling all the way to the bank. I would like to have just one of the concession stands. My first choice: a beer stand.
The thing that bothers me at this large event is that George Cross & Sons seem to have lost the vision. 13 years ago, it was all cars and parts. Today, there are all kinds of vendors that are not car-related. If youre reading this George — or any of the sons — pay attention here. Antique auto, Corvette, Porsche, street rod, and Volkswagen swap meet and car shows do not include sales of the following: home refrigerators, televisions, boom box stereos, arts and crafts, home air conditioners, used plumbing parts, home hardware, home light fixtures — and the list goes on and on. As soon as someone starts unloading goods that are not car-related at your show, give them their money back and kick them out.
George, I realize how hard it is to make a dollar. But Pomona isnt a craft fair or a used plumbing show. Its a car show. Stick with your original vision, George Cross & Sons: cars and parts.
One thing that hasnt changed about Pomona is the people in attendance: all friendly with a common interest. On this trip, I saw some old friends and made some new acquaintances. One of my sleepless neighbors turned out to be the owner of three salvage yards in Phoenix. The party crowd with the high watt stereo was the Martinez family from Santa Ana. I came to find out they owned Martinez Upholstery. I visited their shop recently and they will get my business on my 63 Plymouth Super Stock project.
Bob Dylan wrote a song in the 60s called "The Times They Are A-Changin." One verse goes something like this: "Admit that the waters around your head growin/And you better start swimmin or youll sink like a stone."
Pomona, like everything else, is changing. In some ways the change is good (more car stuff), and in some it is not so good (non-auto-related stuff and large crowds).
Because of the crowds at Pomona, will I get up at 2:00 a.m. to get my car into the show? Yes. Will I continue to sulk around about the non-automotive items sold? Yes. How did we do it in the back seat of cars? My memory fails to recall. But I do know that the Sheraton Fairplex Suites Pomona has a $99 room rate that includes a continental breakfast and its right around the corner from the show. For as Dylan says, "the times they are a changin."
Originally published in the August 2000 issue
of Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright August 2000 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.