Arriving in bright sunshine on the crisp morning of Thursday, October 6 at the world’s largest antique auto flea market, the AACA Fall Meet in Hershey, PA, I got to treat my phone cam to a legend right off the bat. As car buddy, Phil and I pulled into the grassy lot directly across from the main entrance, we found ourselves face to face with a super rare 1952 Cunningham C-3 coupe, parked under a tree by the snow fence and left alone like any run of the mill beater. It sported a “Grand Ascent” decal, denoting it as a projected competitor in the Hillclimb to be held on a storied course behind the Hershey Hotel on Friday and Saturday. We didn’t know it at the time, but later research revealed that this C-3 is owned by “Barn Find Hunter”, Tom Cotter (When we returned at the end of the day, he was sitting in it).
A brutish but immensely (in every sense) fast GT in its day, this Briggs Cunningham masterpiece’s siblings also survive. Reputedly, all 25 C-3s produced still exist. Carrozzeria Vignale hammered out a body with the look of a sheetmetal-encased steam locomotive, the image enhanced by the car’s gunmetal topcoat and sheer size. It shouldered a handy electrical system cutoff knob on the driver’s side fender, its status position easily recognized from outside the car.
To find such a rare and valuable bird sitting unattended would be unthinkable almost anywhere but at Hershey, where million-dollar toys are, if not as common as ’57 Chevies, certainly as accessible. Bodied by Vignale in 1952, the C-3 was fitted with a 331 cid Chrysler engine. And, “Yeah, it’s a got a HEMI”.
Along with the big boys’ toys, there are many examples of the first vehicles those now gray-haired motorists (like me) first used putting wheels to pavement: pedal cars. Produced in large numbers and in a bewildering number of versions, their designers aped grownup cars piecemeal, cherry-picking styling cues and adapting them to pressed metal and painted-on trim: the boxy Murray “Tooth Grille” Camaro at left front seems to carry the face of a 1970s Jeep Cherokee. Many of these tiny personal cars attracted creatively descriptive nicknames for easy reference, like the “Sad Face” Murray General fire and dump trucks at back, right, which are now being copied in modern reproductions for the nostalgia market.
Taking pedal car tribute to its glorious extreme is this (no other word will do) adorable replica built by Dan Hryhorcoff in fiberglass on a 1997 Ford Ranger platform. The giant Murray General is shod with 24-inch wheels and rubber from Coker Tire, and driven via a standard size steering wheel that is removed and stored under the hood for shows. It’s impossible to overstate how beautifully finished the car is, or how big the smile its sad face produces on any onlooker.
Going back even further in time, Benjamin Button style, you can find wheeled conveyances for kids even younger than pedal car drivers, such as this cool Taylor-Tot (not, Tater Tot) walker/stroller from the late ‘40s. Check out the winged wheel spats, faux pressed caning and abacus beads.
But, let’s get back to the main attraction of Hershey: cars and parts. Just inside the entrance was this stately 1936 Model 1601 5-Passenger sedan being sold by the Pierce Arrow Society to support their foundation and museum. Members had volunteered their time to make sure any new owner could drive it away if they wanted to. Marked down $3K from the $49,000 “sticker price”, and powered by a 385 cid straight eight developing 140 HP, the Buffalo, NY built luxury car could easily carry you in comfort on today’s roads. Just wear your gangster pinstripes.
Approaching the end of a row, we were attracted to smoke huffing from a tall pipe at the corner of a display space. The conduit descended into 20 feet of corrugated plastic tubing, snaked forward past a pizza chomping onlooker and a under a wire-wheeled chassis, where it channeled the exhaust of a smooth running, whisper-quiet flat head engine that had been (and would continue to be) kept running all day— an effective and entertaining way to promote a manufacturer of ignition timing and charging systems for the ever-popular Ford Model A. After all, who doesn’t like the look and sound of smoke puffing skyward, ala, Thomas the Tank Engine?
Not far away was another vintage Ford, this one adapted to farm duty. Friend, Phil, who grew up in rural New York, referred to it by the traditional nickname of its species, “doodlebug”. These were tractors assembled by farmers from kits or whatever old hardware lay around the barn during the cash-strapped depression, or “for the duration” of WWII, when newly built implements all went to the military. This running example, faced with a “Deuce” (1932) Model “B” radiator shell and powered by a four cylinder engine despite its V-8 hubcaps, had a more particular use: it was one of Charles Worthington’s custom machines, reincarnated specifically for golf course landscaping. Its rusty satin patina is one of the most comforting colors to be found at Hershey, especially on a beautiful autumn day, when activity is slowed to doodlebug pace on the field as well as in the rolling farmlands nearby.
Coming: more Flea Market views and a walk through the Car Corral at Hershey 2016. Note: info on above items that I did not already know comes from various sites on the web, mostly Wikipedia. Behind the doodlebug in the final photo is Catherine Hall, the flagship building of Hershey Middle School, dedicated by Milton Hershey in 1934.