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Directions: Taking a Drive Back in Time

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By Edward Sunkin

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Each Year, Hershey, PA, Becomes a Motorhead Mecca.

It may be considered the “Sweetest Place on Earth” to chocolate lovers, but Hershey, PA, satisfies the cravings of car enthusiasts as well. Each year, during the first week of October, the Antique Automobile Club of America’s (AACA) Eastern Division (Hershey Region) hosts its National Fall Meet, complete with a car show, parts swap meet and the selling of vehicles from model years 1981 and earlier.

According to Bill Miller, Hershey Region AACA Fall Meet chairman, about 250,000 people will attend the four-day event that’s noted by many as the “grandmother of all old-car shows.” Miller, who owns a 1927 Model T Roadster and a 1947 Mercury “Woodie” Station Wagon, which also happens to be this meet’s featured car, said the event takes up more than 350 acres in this Pennsylvania town. “If you walk the entire meet, you would probably clock over 35 miles of walking,” Miller said.

This year, there are close to 1,300 vehicles on hand for the car show, and all are eligible for judging. However, Miller explained that it is up to the individual owner as to whether or not the car will be judged.

Miller said vehicles are judged on how a vehicle would have been delivered from the factory, so additional points are not rewarded for over-restoration. The AACA has four categories each car is judged on — Chassis, Engine, Interior and Exterior.

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Some of the more unique vehicles on display this year include an American Underslung, a 1928 Minerva, a few Duesenbergs and a few Rolls Royce vehicles. There also will be a special display of 32 vehicles from the General Motors Collection.

If you are looking to buy one of these classics, you should swing over to the Car Corral. Miller said there are at least 1,000 vehicles for sale from AACA members this year in the Car Corral. “The Car Corral is a special area that is reserved only for the sale of vehicles from 1981 and prior years,” Miller said. “Everyone who resisters for the flea market and the Car Corral, as well as displaying a show car, must be a registered member of the national AACA.” Last year, the AACA Fall Meet celebrated its 50th anniversary. Attendees say the show has come a long way since its infancy. According to Miller, the first Hershey meet featured 400 show cars and only seven flea market vendors. Over the years it has grown to more than 1,400 show cars, 9,000 flea market spaces and 1,000 Car Corral vehicles for sale.

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Miller, who has been a member of AACA for 39 years, said the fall meet has witnessed various extremes in weather — from scorching heat, to torrential rains that resulted in flooding and vehicles and trailers up to the axles in mud. “We also experienced snow and freezing temperatures at the meet,” he said. “This year will probably be the last year that any portion of the meet is held on a soft surface, so the days of mud up to the axles is definitely going to be a thing of the past.”

To many who attend the event, there’s nothing like scrounging though the miles of aisles of old and obsolete parts. Many of these people relish in the face-to-face barter and buying that goes on in the swap meet sections. Many just come to witness the “show and tell” atmosphere of thousands of rare vehicle parts.

However, these days, the Internet has become another tool in the location of rare vehicle items and tool.

“The Internet hasn’t hurt the fall meet as you can see by the crowds we have attending each year,” Miller said. “The Internet has become another means of promoting the show and makes it available to those who are not able to attend for whatever reason.”

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Miller also said that more and more individuals are using the Internet to search for vehicles, parts and/or memorabilia. “I think we will always have both types of hobbyist, those who enjoy the human contact at the national meets and those who use the Internet to find what they’re looking for without leaving the comfort of their home.”

Some of the more popular parts that can be found each year at the Hershey event include brass headlights, brass radiators, upholstery kits, chrome bumpers and grills, license plates from the state and year of the vehicle being restored and even antique gas pumps.

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“The list goes on,” Miller said. “I have heard it said many times over the years that if you can’t find it at Hershey, you probably aren’t going to be able to locate it.”

It seems fitting that this show, the largest of its kind in the U.S., is held in a town called Hershey. This event is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gunna get, or find.

Special thanks to AACA members Bill Prescott and Rich Spina, who helped with this report.


THINGS TO DO IN HERSHEY:

Antique Auto Museum in Hershey — a 71,000 square-foot-building dedicated to the celebration, preservation, education and display of the American motor vehicle history. The current museum collection includes more than 130 automobiles, and the collection spans eight decades of auto history. Built solely through donations, the Antique Auto Museum has established itself, after only three years of existence, as one of the premier collections in the country.

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Hours: Open daily, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Note: Oct. 4-6, 2006, the museum will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. to accommodate the many members and guests that will be in Hershey attending the AACA Eastern Division National Fall Meet.

For more information, call 717-566-7100 or visit www.aacamuseum.org.

ZOOAMERICA North American Wildlife Park is an 11-acre walk-through zoo located next to HERSHEYPARK and open year-round. It is home to more than 200 animals representing 70 species native to five regions of North America. An accredited member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, ZOOAMERICA offers an exciting and educational experience for families and groups.

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HERSHEY Highmeadow Campground, located just off Hersheypark Drive, offers year round camping on 55 acres of rolling countryside. Established in 1963, the campground offers convenient and cozy camping cabins along with nearly 300 campsites in a picturesque setting of majestic weeping willows and grand oak trees.


Get Connected For More Information:

Antique Automobile Club of America: www.aaca.org
Hershey Car Show: http://local.aaca.org/hershey
Hershey area lodging information and other area attractions: http://www.visithhc.com

What: AACA Eastern Division National Fall Meet
Where: Hershey, PA
When: October 4-7
Admission: Free to the Public

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