Ron Wenger knows a thing or two about putting hot rods and classics together. He spent more than half-a-century working in dealerships as a mechanic and his spare time building hot rods. His 1932 Ford three-window coupe has all kinds of parts and pieces in and on it bought at swap meets. He will be collecting parts to complete the build of his 1937 Chevrolet coupe today and tomorrow at the Coastal Swap Meet (May 27, 28).
Wenger has been part of the committee that puts on the swap meet at the Tradex Centre alongside the Abbotsford Airport. This is the 51st Coastal Swap Meet which is Western Canada’s largest exchange of collector cars, parts and memorabilia. The swap meet was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 because of COVID restrictions and there is a lot of pent-up demand for hobbyist to get back to swapping cars and parts.
A typical swap meet sees collector cars and parts changing hands all weekend. CREDIT: Alyn Edwards Photo by Alyn Edwards
In 1969, group of car enthusiast who had parts for sale decided to set up some tables at the New Westminster Parkade. It became an annual event that was moved to Coquitlam Recreation Centre parking lot and then to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. Four local car clubs are the organizers: Vintage Car Club of Canada – Vancouver Chapter, British Columbia Hot Rod Association, Pacific International Street Rod Association and the Totem Model A & T Ford Club. More than 100 club member-volunteers set it all up and run the event.
Swap Meet coordinator Bill Trant says there are a record number of approximately 800 stalls booked including parts sales and a car sales corral. The two-day event is expected to attract up to 5,000 participants from all over western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, from as far south as Oregon and California.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook with people either enquiring about the meet or booking stalls. I’m continually getting comments about how happy people are to see the meet returning,” Trant says.
His brother Peter has never missed the swap meet event over 50 years. “Swap meets provide a unique convention-like setting where like-minded people come together socially, to share experiences, learn from each other and reminisce with old friends.
The distinctive grille of the 1932 Ford hot rod built by Burnaby’s Ron Wenger. Photo by Alyn Edwards
The 1932 Ford coupe hot rod built by Ron Wenger with parts purchased at the Coastal Swap Meet. Photo by Alyn Edwards
A small block Chevy engine powers Ron Wenger’s 1932 Ford hot rod. Photo by Alyn Edwards
Parts purchased at the Coastal Swap Meet have contributed to the chassis restoration for Ron Wenger’s 1937 Chev hot rod. Photo by Alyn Edwards
Bernice Blamey and her parrot attend the Coastal Swap Meet. Photo by Alyn Edwards
“I’ve always said that the best swap meet is the one where you find whatever it is that you are looking for. And it seems to me that, the larger the meet and the greater the number of vendors, the chances of that elusive part showing up are increased.
“I think that people are generally weary of the pandemic-driven restrictions we’ve lived with for the past two years and are really looking forward to the kind of social interaction that a large swap meet enables.”
This writer has been attending the Coastal Swap Meet for four decades and I have enjoyed the hunt for parts and pieces. On one occasion, I was looking for the big cathedral-style taillights for a 1958 Buick I was restoring when I ran into a friend who was looking for the same thing. I couldn’t wait to tell another friend who I encountered at the swap meet that I was looking for the same elusive parts that our mutual friend was seeking.
“Why didn’t you guys tell me?” he exclaimed. “My brother in Alberta has eight sets of those.” As a result from a meeting of three friends, everyone ended up with what they needed.
It is certainly true that eBay and other online sources have broadened the search for parts needed to restore cars that are sometimes up to 100 years old. But there isn’t that free-flowing exchange of local information available on eBay.
Ron Wenger will be looking for parts for his 1937 Chevrolet hot rod project at the Coastal Swap Meet. CREDIT: Alyn Edwards Photo by Alyn Edwards
Items for sale at the swap meet can include restored and restorable vintage and classic cars and trucks, wheels, tires, suspension and engine parts, whole engines and transmission with some rebuilt, fenders, doors, bumpers, glass, custom accessories, books, car literature, models and more. It’s just one of those great places to be if you enjoy the art and engineering of old cars and the people who restore and preserve them.
View of video of a previous Coastal Swap Meet at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClSAigf5Pwzhe2qSs9FOKkg
Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. email@example.com