Day Trip: The Pomona Auto Swapmeet

4:00 AM my alarm started going off, I had to pull myself out of bed and down stairs to my garage. I loaded up a few Fiat, Triumph, and Harley spares in the car and start the drive down to my parents house. Part of the advantage of growing up on a 100 year old former Walnut Grove and Farm, was the space that it afforded. Two barns, and five acres of space to haul home all kinds of cars throughout my high school and early college days. I bought my first car when I was 14 years old and hauled home over 50 more cars, bikes, and scooters to the old farm over the years. With that my father and I had amassed a large collection of spare parts, from a set of Triumph GT6 Disc Brakes to vintage Ford Power Steering pumps. The collection had been growing for years, and it was time to thin it out.

I stopped at a Donut shop a few blocks away, the only place open on a Sunday Morning at 4:30 in the morning. I drag myself in like a zombie seeking donuts and coffee. A few minutes later I pull into my parents driveway dad is just putting a few last minute items in the truck. I hand him a coffee and load the last few items I dug out of my garage. I had not been to a swapmeet to sell off car parts in about 10 years, I honestly don't know how people do this for a living.

The Pomona Swapmeet is the largest automotive car and parts swapmeet on the West Coast, even on a slow weekend thousands of vendors, cars, and even more shoppers brave the early morning to find the part, car, or motorcycle of their dreams. A large collection of internationals also attend looking for some prize to export to their homeland. We pulled up to the fairgrounds around 5:15 AM, it is still dark outside, and unusually cold. We find our space and set up the EZ-UPs unload the truck and settle in for about 8-10 hours of haggling, listening to stories from "experts" and hopefully selling off all of the stuff that has been clogging up my parents barn and garage for years.

The first item we sell is a old Triumph or BSA gas tank that my grandfather had reshaped with the aid of body-filler in the 1970's. It had to weigh about 20 lbs because of all the filler, but it was bright yellow with green flames and the guy just had to have it. The rest of the day was pretty steady with people walking up and buying everything from a old rusty motorcycle wheels and rusty bits, to an extra set of truck wheels.

I decided to head out and walk the show for a bit, some people really just haul total junk out to the show, for some unknown reason people buy some of it. I guess they are far more ambitious than I. You can find just about anything being traded at Pomona despite the stern warning given by the sign stating that only automotive related items can be sold. You can find Soda Machines, Old Signs, Shirts, Hats, Books, Art, and much more, if you are really hard up for some love you can always find some guy selling his "vintage" porn out of the back of his van.
The other thing that Pomona verifies for you is that the economy has not affected the drug dealers as most people selling their cars at Pomona have been smoking crack. Take for example this 1968 Mustang Convertible below.
This car may not look so bad in the photo, but trust me it needed a full restoration. You can make out all the chips and dents in the body if you look close, the door looked like it every car that ever parked next to it had opened its door into it with extreme force. It was a 289 c code, drum brakes, it did have a manual transmission, but the interior also needed to be refreshed. The seller was boldly asking $18,500. Another seller had a wreck of a 55 T-Bird that needed a complete frame off restoration for $16,500 when you could by a decent driver for $25-$30K at the same show. Pomona is not the place to go to find a deal, but it is a great car show. One guy had a 1994 Mini Cooper for sale for $10,500 the same car could be purchased (as this one was) for around $2,000 and ship it over to the states. The car was in the condition one would expect to find a used 1994 vintage car to be in.

Many of the American sellers are all holding out for that guy from Japan or Australia who buys cars for any price just because he has to have it. It is a epic myth at Pomona, stop and talk to someone and bring up the overseas buyers and they all have a story about a friend of a friend who sold a $5,000 car for $10,000 to the foreign buyer. The American sellers also expect that European or JDM items are worth much more than what they really are, case in point a 1951 Vespa 150cc Scooter, super cool, handle bar bike, but they sell for between $5,000-$10,000 for mint examples. The seller at Pomona wanted $18,000 for his poorly restored and maintained simply because "It's hard to find a old one" a quick internet search yields many for sale across the country for far less.

In the end we sold about half of the stuff we pulled out of the barn and garage, the rest will find a home via Ebay. It was a fun, yet long day. However, if you are looking for a great car event to see just about anything and everything automotive or if you are looking to find some rare parts Pomona should be on your list. They host it at the L.A. County Fair Grounds just about every month the schedule is at

By Michael Satterfield