The Marvel of the Pomona Swap Meet
Come one, come all, and bring cash and your automotive shopping list (or your leftover parts) to Southern California’s greatest autojumble
The late George Cross III in the mid-1970s was a postman who collected and restored old Ford Model Ts and As. He sensed there was need for like-minded enthusiasts to have a venue to congregate, buy and sell parts, swap stories and information, and show off their cars – something that extended beyond the usual car club meets and local parking lot shows.
So with this idea, and a hundred bucks in his pocket, he launched what has become a happening that covers more space than some airports, and draws 15-20,000 people on the seven Sundays each year it’s held.
Growing beyond humble Lizzies, the event became known as the Corvette-VW-Porsche Swap Meet, and now welcomes just about anything with wheels and a motor to become the Pomona Swap Meet.
One of Pomona’s many unique attributes is that it commissions a different poster and T-shirt art graphic for each and every show, over all these years.
Cross’s first swap meets were held in smallish corners of what used to be called the Los Angeles County Fairground, since renamed Pomona Fairplex (also home to the NHRA Wally Parks Drag Racing Museum, and the Home of the Winternationals Dragstrip). The Swap Meet now fills several of the complex’s massive, multi-acre parking lots, and is a vehicular and social event of grand scale.
Technically, the Meet is broken down into cars 'for sale' and 'just on display' areas, as well as row after row of parts, goodies, accessories, chrome, wheels, tires, floor mats, die-cast models, toys, hoods trunks and fenders, engines, tools, and detail supplies.
If you had the gumption to walk every single isle and row during the one day event, you’d cover around 15 miles. Besides all the swappage taking place, Pomona has become a massive social gathering. Car Clubs set up tents and BBQ grilles for their members who participate by bringing their cars, family and friends, spending the entire day enjoying the event. One observer commented that 'It’s really no different than a day at the park, except instead of swing sets everyone has cars and parts to play with.'
It’s a great day for everyone, and a long day for some. Many vendors who renew the same booth space event after event (so return shoppers know where to find them), show up in the middle of the night to begin setting up. The gates open to the public at 5am and, with some lines to park running a quarter mile long, the early shopping often illuminated by flashlight toting bargain hunters.
Most vendors are hobbyists who are simply cleaning out their garage or parts store, some are professional buyers and sellers; others stock new goods and clearly make this their business.
The cars for sale area is also populated by a combination of private sellers and buyers looking to buy or sell a car. But it’s not unusual to see dealers and flippers huddling around a wad of $100 bills and car title paperwork, making a deal – occasionally to bargain hunters from outside the United States looking for rust-free iron to ship back to their home market for keeps or resale.
Has the growth of the internet and markets such as eBay in anyway diminished the Pomona Swap Meets appeal or attendance? Not at all – this gathering served as automotive social media long before the internet became popular.
One vendor commented to us that 'People still love to make a day out of it, they love to look at the cars, and touch and feel the parts they are considering.' Every type of cart, handtruck, wagon, or baby carriage is fair game for hauling your hardware back out to your car in the massive parking lot.
Many folks show up with empty car trailers planning to snag a find. And it’s easy enough to spend the day with plenty of carnival style food vendors on hand, and more than adequate restroom facilities.
We don’t know anyone who has actually walked all 15 miles of the Pomona Swap Meets vendor rows and cars for sale areas, but it’s a worthy goal as your New Year’s Resolution next time you are near the Southern California Area on one of those magic seven Sundays – just bring your walking shoes.