Entering the main gate at a local swap meet, the early morning sun was already beginning to feel warm. I was quickly reminded of all the similar meets I’d attended over the years. There is nothing quite like the smells of fair food and old car parts mixing to trigger a wealth of memories.
Beginning our slow walk down the first aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the older couple ahead of us going through every box at every vendor’s spot. The ragged and soiled parts bag over his shoulder gave him away as a veteran of many past events. His wife patiently stood beside him, consulting on every potential treasure. I was reminded of a dear friend who recently passed away, and how he and his wife would faithfully comb the aisles at the local swap meets.
Paul and Millie had attended many such events over the years in similar fashion. Even though Paul had a beautifully restored ’57 Corvette “Fuelie” that he’d first acquired in high school, his quest was often the same; he was looking for parts for his early ’20s Maxwell, most often door handles. I’ll have to admit: though I knew Paul many years, I never actually saw his Maxwell.
You see, Paul was a collector of sorts and saw value in many things. He’d seldom part with any. On the occasion when I helped him move into his new house, he hoisted open the door to his old garage, pointed in, and told me of the elusive Maxwell parked in the back. However, a 20+ year collection of parts obscured it from view. Even after we’d filled the moving truck, no telltale silhouette of the Maxwell could be observed.
Once after attending a large swap meet, we sat at the table of his motor home and discussed the day’s treasure finds, and of course the ones that got away. He pulled his old Maxwell door handle from the weathered parts bag, as I had seen him do so many times before. I felt compelled to ask him, “With all of the time you have spent looking for its mate, and the expense of attending so many swap meets, why not send the one you have out to have a duplicate casting made?” His response was quick: “But, then what would I look for?”
After pausing a moment to reflect, Paul went on to say, “When it comes to finding that rare part, the real treasure is in the journey, and by simply having the part made, I’d have missed out on so much more.” Paul was definitely a collector, but perhaps his greatest collection was one we never saw. This priceless collection of memories and experiences would be eagerly shared as he spent time with his collection of friends and family. All along only he knew, he’d already found what he was looking for.
Paul’s lesson to all of us was far more valuable than his elusive door handle. The times spent enjoying our hobby with good friends and family are the real hidden treasures behind the dust and old parts. Take the time to enjoy these treasures and cherish them forever.
The two most fun/ important treasures I found while “junkin” was a complete Mercury/ Ford Talladega cockpit and a 4 foot Rattlesnake.
just got a mustang hood ornament haven’t seen any just this one
Great story to keep us grounded in life! My first wife of 25 years always by my side “junking” she always called it. Jefferson, Iola, Hershey, etc.
Gone now 4 years ago and lucky enough to find a gal that enjoys it as much as I do.
i do collect car parts just because they are nice !!!
I can certainly identify with this great story,,,When my wife and I go to swap meets, it’s usually just to talk with gearheads while looking at treasures,,If we buy, great if not, great,,were still shopping!
Sometimes the hunt is much more fun than the find. I spent many years at Hershey with my dad looking for parts. The last time we were there was in 1979. I can only imagine what it is like today to rummage through the parts down each and every isle. I go to the Charlotte Auto Fair twice a year and do some searching, but most of all, I go to pass out brochures of my inventory at Classic Cars of South Carolina. I have enjoyed the hobby and business for 60 years this year. My dad purchased our first collector vehicle, a 1934 Ford Pickup, in 1958. I was 9 years old at the time and have made buying and selling vintage vehicles as a business since the early 70’s. I have many many wonderful memories over these 6 decades. Thanks for reading, Ron Ayers 1-864-313-2908
Thank you !! I have a 59 corvette with 68,000 Miles on her that I bought when I was 19.. l would love amy info you could provide
Excellent story!!! The wife would will trek out with me to shows now and then. We both have had Carlisle mud up to our arm pits in the past. Most times I go to flea markets/shows I come home fairly empty handed. She says didn’t see anything you wanted, my reply usually was, “Yea, didn’t want to spend the money .” I take her more in last couple years, because now it’s. “If you want or need it, get it now.”
I have two original hood ornaments for the 55 chevy, the big birds, badly pitted. Can they be cleaned in some way or do they need rechrome? Will also sell one or both.
When it comes to dealing with pitted cast parts like your hood ornaments, we have seen many attempt other methods of reconditioning them over the years including: Chrome paints, Vinyl wraps, etc. Really nothing is a substitute for having them re-plated. However the expense of plating die-cast parts will give most sticker shock. Compounding the problem, On popular cars like ’55 Chevys, good quality reproductions are available for less than what it will cost you to re-plate your originals.
This is a good problem to have if you’re looking for a nice one to put on your ride… although it does diminish what others are willing to pay for pitted originals.
Great story. Message is well received. Now if I could only get MY wife interested in classic cars!