Doane Yawyer: Cars

Doane Yawger: There’s nothing like a swap meet for lovers of old cars

Doane Yawger
Doane Yawger Merced Sun-Star

For a lover of old cars, it’s one-stop shopping. The old-car swap meet gives auto buffs a chance to buy a complete vehicle or selected parts while enjoying the great outdoors, rubbing elbows with like-minded enthusiasts, thinning out the wallet and getting some exercise to boot.

The fall automotive swap meet a couple of Sundays ago at the Stanislaus County Fairground was all that and more. I heartily recommend attending an old-car swap meet; it’s a terrific educational experience and fun, too.

About two dozen vintage vehicles stood out as I made the rounds. A few were quite “spendy” while others were more reasonable and could help a budding old-car devotee get his or her feet wet in the car-collecting hobby.

A 1972 Chevrolet half-ton pickup showed four decades of wear but appeared to be serviceable. It had a V-8 engine and automatic transmission and was priced at what seemed like a reasonable $3,900; no major body flaws were detected and the truck was decent.

A 1976 Chevrolet pickup, a bit more presentable, had a 16K sticker.

A 1953 Studebaker would set you back considerably more, with a $25,000 price tag. A 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix luxocruiser was priced at $7,500 and seemed like a lot of car for the money.

My eyes were drawn to a white 1965 Cadillac convertible with a $15,500 price tag; that old Cad looked like loads of fun.

On the higher side of the price spectrum was a 1960 Chevrolet two-door sedan for $20,000 that was updated and seemed to be a high-caliber street machine. I’m betting the owner had more invested in that car than he was going to get back.

A 1966 Ford Mustang hardtop had a mint-green color and would have taken $8,500 in greenbacks to drive home. A bit more different was a red 1969 Chevelle four-door station wagon marked with a “$7,250 FIRM” window sticker. That means the owner would drive it home if someone didn’t pay him all he wanted. I bet he drove it home.

I’m a bit partial to 1964 Thunderbird two-door hardtops, and a white one was selling for $2,650; I suspect it would take quite a bit more money to make it serviceable and reliable. Still, the entry price wasn’t bad for the enterprising restorer.

The muscle car enthusiast might have been attracted to a 1969 Ford Fairlane 500 two-door hardtop with a $4,000 price tag. It had a 302 cubic-inch V-8, a dull white-colored paint job and some potential if the new owner wanted to tear it down and start over.

Perhaps the nicest old car for sale in Turlock was a 1949 Chevrolet convertible that looked showroom-fresh. It had a $29,500 price sticker and certainly was no slouch in the looks department.

A 1940 Cadillac La Salle four-door sedan was sitting on the back of a rollback truck. It had mild street rod touches and looked like the perfect gangster car, all for $11,000 or best offer, which meant haggling might have been in order for the serious buyer.

A 1974 Chevy Nova two-door had a reasonably fresh metallic brown paint job, a 350 cubic inch V-8 engine and a $7,500 price tag. A 1965 Dodge Coronet two-door hardtop had a $9,500 sticker, again with the “or best offer” proviso.

In the “some assembly required” category out in the Back 40 of the swap meet was a well-worn 1927 Buick four-door sedan. It had wooden-spoke rims but no tires, and the roof was wide open, indicating the original wooden roof supports had rotted away years ago. For $6,500, you could have hauled the project home and then brought it back next year when you realize how much work it entailed.

It was fun checking all of these temptations out, and I can’t wait for the next Turlock swap meet, the biggie next Jan 24-25, also at the fairground. You’re never sure what you’ll find, but it’s guaranteed to be interesting.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or