EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog was written by John Gunnell, owner of Gunner’s Great Garage Restoration Shop in Manawa, Wisconsin. Gunnell regularly contributes articles and industry-driven observations for THE SHOP magazine and eNewsletter. See images in the gallery below.
After you’ve been to just about every big collector car swap meet in the country looking for antique car parts, it’s time to go to the Prewar Swap Meet in Chickasha, Oklahoma. It’s not the biggest automotive flea market (that’s the fall meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania), but it’s the only one we know of that’s strictly for cars made through the outbreak of World War II.
The slogan for the 2018 show is 1895-1945: Come Celebrate the First 50 Years of the Automobile. The event is set for March 16-17 in Chickasha and officially called the 28th Annual International Chickasha Pre-War Swap Meet. According to the rules, only parts for prewar cars can be sold.
Chickasha is located in the center of the U.S., 35-miles southwest of Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. It is easily accessible from anywhere in the world. The Grady County Fairgrounds is the location of this unique show.
In the early days of car collecting, hobbyists gathered at shows and swapped parts between them. Today, the big events are more like trade shows and a lot more professional, but the term swap meet has stuck for any venue where collector car parts are bought and sold.
Today, most states use either 20 or 25 years to define how old a car must be to be considered an antique. The rules at the Chickasha venue are a bit stricter. The focus is on cars that are 1945 or older models.
Up until 1916 or so, most cars had brass radiators and brass trim, The Chickasha meet has the largest selection of brass era parts you will find anywhere. People who have attended the show also point out that many of the parts and cars you’ll see there are Fords, especially Model Ts and Model As.
Officially, Chickasha is limited to pre-1945 automobiles, parts, and transportation items. The later category would include such things as sales brochures, owner manuals and workshop manuals.
The Grady County Fairgrounds underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in recent years. The north and south buildings have been totally remodeled with all new restroom facilities. Plans were approved for a new phase of expansion that began in 2015. Buildings are being built in the rodeo grounds area east of the swap meet. This new expansion of the facilities should enhance the 2018 meet.
The success of the Chickasha Pre-War Swap Meet has been a joint effort of Joe, Mike, Susie and Ryan Ersland. Joe collected antique cars for over 60 years and started the Chickasha Antique Auto Club with the first meeting held in his living room. His swap meet experience went back to the 1960s with his involvement with The Lawton Antique Car Club, and their Swap Meet in Apache, Oklahoma. He played a major part in starting the first swap meet ever in Chickasha in 1969.