Hershey is a lot more diverse than it used to be, but the AACA Eastern Fall Meet remains one of the nation’s premier sources for prewar cars, parts, and automobilia. Case in point is this 1926 Chevrolet Superior V, seen in the car corral at the 2021 Hershey Meet. That’s V-as-in-Victory, not V-as-in-five; preceding Superiors were the 1923 Superior B, 1924 Superior F, and 1925 Superior K. While not outstanding in any particular way, it was the stylish, slightly more luxurious Chevrolet Superior that finally drove the utilitarian Ford Model T out of the market and made way for the ever-popular 1928-’31 Ford Model A.
Because of their wood-heavy construction and middling metallurgy, surviving General Motors products from the 1920s are thin on the ground today, especially the inexpensive Chevrolet cars, which didn’t often see second lives as hop ups or long-lived, Depression-era jalopies. In 2022, most pre-1936 Chevrolet cars are found as piles of rusty sheetmetal and occasionally as preserved engines running sawmills or other improvised machinery. Encountering a solid, nearly complete Chevrolet coupe that runs and drives for under $10,000 is a noteworthy experience, then.
Of course, this car was far from perfect, and was said to be a restoration project (started circa 1994) that originated as a barn find. The upholstery was slightly mismatched and appeared to be rodent damaged, though it wasn’t stained and seemed repairable. The exterior looked good at a glance, in period colors with nicely applied pinstriping, but the finish (apparently lacquer, replicating the original Duco) had cracked and lost adhesion in several places. The car boasted only a front bumper, leading us to wonder whether that was a later addition, or if the rear had been omitted since new. Nevertheless, those were cosmetic issues only and minor—easily overlooked on a car that already ran (nicely, even), drove, and stopped.
As the story goes, back in 1944, a guy with a quick quarter horse won countless bets challenging hot cars to a race. This roadster, however, had a reputation as the quickest car in the San Fernando Valley. With Pete Henderson behind the wheel, in a specially staged race held in La Habra, and witnessed by a large crowd, including speed equipment gurus Vic Edelbrock Sr., Ed Winfield, and Phil Weiand, this deuce was the only car that ever won. Ernie McAfee took a famous grainy photo showing the roadster edging out the horse. Noted hot rod racer Ak Miller and writer Gray Baskerville always said they could trace the origins of ¼-mile drag racing to that famous contest.
Digging into my Hershey memory bank led me to the discovery of another series of photos my father took of the AACA Eastern Fall Meet in October 1971.
Veteran Hershey-goers will quickly point out that the car show was still held within its original location inside what is now Hersheypark Stadium, which not only hosts summer concerts today, but remains the home of the town’s high school football team.
It’s also where the vintage race cars are now paraded in front of their class judges, and where the entertaining high-wheeler race is held during Meet Week (weather pending).A closer look at the pictures, however, reveals that some of the subjects captured on Kodak were not only rare examples, but also vehicles for sale on the east side of the stadium’s exterior.
Regardless of whether these images were cars on display or up for grabs, I couldn’t help but wonder where each of them ended up in the ensuing years. Enjoy this entertaining albeit brief look back in time.
Typically, at this time of year I start to gather my swap meet belongings and prepare for another trek to the famed AACA Eastern Fall Meet. Most everyone knows it simply as “Hershey,” adopted from the Pennsylvania town it has called home since its founding. I’d be giddy with child-like Christmas Eve anticipation, my backpack, parts books, and shop manuals stacked in the hallway, ready to load into the SUV, along with ample food and beverage, and a week’s worth of clothing and foot apparel fit for whatever Mother Nature had intended to throw at us. But the swap meet and car corral portion of the Fall Meet has been canceled for 2020, and as the days edge closer to the traditional meet week dates in early October, my usual elevated sense of anticipation has been replaced with a mood of somber reflection, of what Hershey has meant to me and my family, as the pandemic continues to cast its long, dark shadow that changed the 2020 meet.
I first got wind of Hershey during the early single-digit years of my existence. Both my parents were veterans of the meet by the time I entered their lives. Along with a few surviving photos—such as the one above, taken outside the original stadium when Dad was on the hunt for 1946 Hudson items—the tales, I have since learned, were typical of the era. Before departing, if rain was in the forecast (and it usually was), my parents would scoop up every used umbrella they could find for pennies on the dollar, and then sell the bent, tattered, and barely usable devices to saturated attendees in hours, raising enough cash to feed the gas tank for the trek home, and then some. Doubling the cost of the donuts they’d sell, on a daily basis, apparently, also deferred some of the travel expenses. These spur-of-the-moment, albeit brief, enterprises likely weren’t uncommon then, although I seem to recall a story involving an unused casket that was lugged down and sold at the meet; this demonstrated to me, even then, that the ability to sell anything at Hershey was not just a loosely spoken legend.
As the holiday season nears at a rapid pace, let’s launch Season Four of This or Thatwith a couple of haulers – ideally suited for volume shoppers – from the early days of the self-propelled industry: a 1915 Buick C-4 Express and a 1928 International SF36, both of which we spotted on the show field during the 2019 edition of the annual AACA Hershey meet.
[Editor’s comment: Please note that the This or That column is not a comparison report between two or more vehicles (in the original spirit of the Hemmings Special Interest Autos/Hemmings Classic Car/Hemmings Muscle Machines articles), but rather a feature that enables us, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle into our dream garage on a regular basis — with a catch: We can only pick one vehicle from this group, and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment. So let’s climb into the ultimate automotive fantasy time machine and have a little fun.]
Looking to promote its new-for-1930 V-16 automobiles in markets outside the United States, Cadillac shipped a “Madam X” seven-passenger Imperial sedan body to the 1930 Earls Court Auto Show in London, England, where it was purchased by an Italian count living in South Africa. Decades later, it would make a return trip to the United States, where it would later be fitted with sportier Fleetwood coachwork. Last week, this 1930 Cadillac V-16 roadster crossed the auction block in Hershey, Pennsylvania, topping the RM Sotheby’s results with a fee-inclusive selling price of $495,000.
For the last 60 years, every October, old-car enthusiasts have converged on Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the mammoth four-day, Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Eastern Division National Fall Meet. Known simply as “Hershey,” it’s the world’s largest old-car flea market.
Nearly made it there last year, unforeseen circumstances got in the way!