Cash is King at Turlock Swap Meet
The annual Modesto Area A’s Turlock Swap Meet has been a big hit for over fifty years, with tens of thousands of Californians coming out each winter (usually in damp, foggy conditions) in search of obscure old treasures. This year it was a pleasant 60 sunny degrees.
In fact, it seemed that ALL of California made their way out to the Turlock Swap Meet the fourth weekend in January. Traffic was backed up for miles and cars began searching along the railroad tracks for an empty spot to find parking.
Ask any West Coast hot rod guy what his favorite swap meet in the Golden State is and they will undoubtedly blurt out ‘TURLOCK!” By looking over the massive Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, it would literally be impossible to see everything. Being the first major swap meet of the season out west, the good stuff is all here. Rare stuff too.
When you cruise up to the gate, a small $10 fee gets you in (Just $5 on Sunday). It’s the best $10 you will ever spend if looking for vintage automotive treasure is your thing. Cash changes hands at a rapid rate here. Like a Chinese market, it’s all about the barter.
We marveled at the cars for sale, some in pristine condition, others in neglected disrepair, asking for a new start.
We spotted a Mach 1 in what used to be Grabber Blue, now wearing a bit of patina but in otherwise pretty nice shape — certainly a car you can’t get anymore. Of course, each of the thousands of attendees here are looking for old items that you can’t find anywhere else.
These items were in similar condition to the cars for sale here too – some in great shape, others covered in dust or taken over by rust. Even so, lots of the items were going for top dollar.
While it might not make sense to some why an old bit of stamped steel might fetch a few hundred bucks, if you’re on our website, we’re sure you just get it. That satisfaction after searching, sometimes for years, for the proper, matching part is bliss for car guys and gals. The final piece to the puzzle in a build or restoration is often the keystone. The “Built not bought” mantra fully applies here.
It’s awesome to pour over items like this, and we easily could have spent the entire weekend looking through the old-school mags that were lying around. A lot of today’s traditional hot rod builds are resourced from old magazine articles.
Swap meets like Turlock aren’t just about scoring rare parts or making money. It really is a lifestyle; hauling truck-loads of parts around the state and country doesn’t come easy but there are many swap lords dedicated to the gypsy road life, collecting and selling as they go.
What makes meets like this so special is the wealth of knowledge and experience at hand. You can’t get that at any of today’s corporate auto parts stores. Here you can walk up to a gray beard and discuss what thermostat you should use on your flathead Ford V8 or what steering box best fits a ’40 Ford Tudor.
These swappers are sharp. They know what the value of vintage auto parts is at any given moment. But you can score deals if you look long and hard enough. And bring plenty of “fun tickets” with you because above all, cash is king here as well as any other major swap meet you might visit.
Turlock Swap Meet Photo Extra!