The Pomona Swap Meet has become a wildly wonderful event that is renowned nationwide for having such a vast collection of parts in one place. As anyone that has walked the rows and rows of vendors can attest, the show is more than just a place to sell used junkyard parts. An event doesn’t reach this level of acclaim by simply being a collection of used parts – especially in this hobby.
Americans have a passionate love affair with automobiles. We even know more than a few car enthusiasts that have strayed away from their four wheel love, but eventually, the song of the internal combustion engine lured them back into the comforting embrace of their seats. The Pomona Swap Meet captures the entire realm of that relationship. It is an automotive-centric social environment where everyone attending can celebrate the automobile – and yes, some will even find great bargains.
Originally started by antique automobile enthusiast George W. Cross III, the original swap meet was intended to create a special event where he could more easily find parts for his personal restoration projects. Much like those early days, some of the best bargains happen on Saturday night before the event even begins as vendors are bringing in their wares, and trading among these enthusiasts starts. We’ve wanted to buy a vendor space for ourselves, just to gain entry to the event on Saturday and see what behind the scenes trading takes place.
Mr. Cross launched that first Pomona Swap Meet in August of 1975, with only a hundred dollars in advertising and a only a few vendors attending. His legwork in promoting the event paid off as over 4,200 people crammed the Point parking lot where the event was held. Needless to say, the event was moved to a larger venue for the second show.
By 1983, the show was moved to the fairplex parking lot where seven events a year are currently held. These shows have become so popular and legendary that even the promotional flyers have become collector’s items. George Cross passed away in 2008, but he lived to see his vision grow to include vendor rows equaling 15 miles filled with 2,500 classic cars and 2,700 vendor spaces. This show continues to provide a place where enthusiasts can go seven times a year to celebrate the automobile.
We decided to check out the first event of 2017 to get a feel what the new trends for the upcoming year might be. In addition to the miles of car parts, don’t forget that this event has turned into a serious car show too. We’re not talking Autorama type cars either. This is your grassroots, home garage-built, run-what-you-brung type of event. This is the ideal place to see what the local builders are working on in their own garages.
The spectator gate (#17) opens at 5:00 in the morning – not at five dark thirty either, straight up five dark hundred! Believe it or not, at that time of the morning, we were not the first in line. There were hundreds of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. The two lanes entering the fairplex expanded to four lanes, then to eight lanes. All filled with cars waiting for the gates to open. We were at the tail end of the line but it only took ten minutes to get through the mess and into a parking spot.
Once the parking fee was paid, the eight lanes squeezed down to four lanes, then to two lanes, then a mad dash across the lot where attendants with directional flashlights point you into an open parking spot. It almost looks like aircraft taxi directors working at a busy military base on the morning that a battle begins. The exhibitor gate looked a lot more organized and relaxed.
It takes a 10-spot to get into a parking stall, and another 10-spot for entry into the show. While it might sound like a lot, the convenience of having 15 miles of car parts and accessories lined out in front of you is worth the entry fee. Once you are inside the gate, the entertainment factor is a pure bonus!
Held in January, and in the middle of the rainy season in Southern California, the temperature is a little chilly first thing in the morning. But you can stop by one of the many concession vendors and get a warm cup of coffee. While it isn’t Starbucks, the price is similar. Breakfast can even consist of a warm cinnamon roll. The beer stands don’t open until 7:00 in the morning, and no matter how cold it is, there will be several die hards with a can or two of adult pops wandering through the aisles.
The best plan for covering the show has always been to head to the furthest corner from the entrance and begin working your way back to the gates. This is a solid plan, because, by the time you finish walking through the aisles, you’ll be happy that you are heading back to the exit. If you are looking for specific parts, it might be a good idea to wear a handmade sign around your neck telling everyone that you are looking for parts for a 1960 Chevy C10 truck, or whatever you might need. That seems to be the most efficient method for locating your parts.
There is something for everyone at the show. If you need parts, you can probably find them. If you are a collector and looking to add to your collection, you will probably be able to do that. Want a project car? No problem there either. Thankfully, if you just want to look at cars and see what other builders are doing, you can spend hours doing that as well.
As previously mentioned, the event has become so popular that even the advertising flyers have become collectable items. If interested, you can check out a visual history of the event’s flyers by checking out the photo gallery below.