Four Speeds and Drum Brakes: Still Swappin’ Parts

The vintage car season in New England always starts with a drive down to Carlisle, PA for the annual PCA All Porsche Swap meet. The warm up for that is the West Coast Porsche Literature Meet held at the Los Angeles Hilton the end of Feb. Since that is a plane flight out it isn’t really possible to take a lot of parts and pieces out to sell and that limits my purchasing power because I hate paying for checked bags on the return flight.

There is not much of a restriction when it comes to loading the car for the road trip south. Once the popup tent and a couple of small flat tables are in, there is a lot of room with the seat backs folded down in the Audi.

I really do have to continue emptying the garage and I have discovered the secret of how to do it. For the last few years I have just watched the WTB (want to buy) listings on a few Porsche sites and when I see a need for something in my garage I shoot off an email with a price and off it goes. Those WTB listings have dropped off the last year or so which tells me that guys either have all the parts they need or they’re on that highway in the sky. The secret is to go where people are still looking for Porsche parts and then price everything at half its value. That way even if they don’t need a 356A louvered engine cover they’ll buy it thinking that they can resell it for a profit. Note to self: let it go, it’s been to Carlisle twice and never found a new home.  

Years ago a few of us would load up the parts and roll out at midnight on Friday. Six hours later we’d be at a truck stop on Interstate 81, pouring brown gravy over biscuits and sausage just a couple of miles from the Fairgrounds gate. It was a road trip we all looked forward to for years.  As the years rolled along we traded the truckers breakfast for a steak dinner with friends from the South and began driving down on Friday afternoon. That way we were in better shape to stand around for 6 hours the next day selling parts and the return run was an easier drive too. This year I found myself making a solo run down the interstate in the RS4. It actually took a little of the pressure off to drive like an old guy. With plenty of horsepower coming from the K24 turbos I could drive it like a motorcycle. Double digits here, triple digits there and back to normal speed. Great fun.

Brother, Bill, was always up for a two hour drive from Silver Spring, MD so getting him to bring the Speedster was easy. The fact that it usually won the 356 Class at the Porsche Display was another draw. This year was no exception, he won again, but the threating weather did keep some of his competition home in the garage. His white Tub looked great in a sea of newer P cars including some with four doors. I have always said that 90% of life was just showing up and this was another example.


With heavy clouds most vendors put up their pop up tents but they weren’t needed which is unusual for Carlisle. The PCA Region that has organized the show for 47 years claimed that the number of sellers broke all records and I know that the buyers were spending money. I sold at least half of the parts that I took and while it was tough to do, the only thing I bought was food.

It was fun to see people face to face that I talk to during the year, even those that live only a few miles from me. We have lost a fair number of car guys over the last few years, guys that have made major contributions to the hobby. I guess we’re all seeing that off ramp in the distance and checking in with friends means more than ever.

Even Cars and Coffee gatherings have gotten big turnouts the last few years. Telling stories or selling parts, is always better in person.

As many do, I glance over the obits in the Boston Globe on weekends just to see if anyone I knew left the party early. When I see big write ups I’m always surprised at the interesting lives that so many have lived. These are the kind of folks that would’ve been nice to know when they were living but now they’re gone. I don’t read any that were vintage car people like my friends. Maybe their kids just didn’t put that part into the story. Besides how exciting would the section be if it talked about swap meets, long car rides and standing around in parking lots for hours ?  It still seems like fun to me, I guess old habits last a long time. Let’s keep that up for as long as we can.

Tom Tate – KTF