My not so secret life as a vintage car double agent

By Roderick Segiades.

 

I take my vows very seriously.

On May Day last year, I promised myself I would return once more to the A.A.C.A. Antique Automotive Flea Market in 2017. Almost exactly one year to the day, I made my triumphant return to Lindsay as I don’t like breaking commitments and, besides, I really love having a good time.

Despite the weatherman’s dire prediction – that for once came true – and the steady and heavy rains on Saturday and Sunday morning of the always first weekend in May event, I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more.

Put on by the Ontario Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America, it is the largest and longest running annual vintage car flea market east of Toronto, having existed since 1972 albeit in the former Stirling, Ontario location.

But unlike last year, I became a double agent this time around as both a vendor of hundreds of British car magazine ads and as a customer (but that’s strictly between you and me).

Selling adverts featuring long-gone manufacturers, from Austin-Healey to Wolseley, in conjunction with my friend and fellow literature seller, Ron Good, we braved the elements to vend in the comfy confines of the main hall.

The outside vendors had long vacated the premises by the time I showed up on the Sunday. And despite the weather, there was a steady stream of potential customers that noticeably increased about noon as the bad weather finally receded as the sun broke through.

Many a potential patron would carefully peruse the mostly Life magazine-sized adverts, no doubt seeking that one ad to instantly take them back to their own nostalgic nirvana. Others were hoping for the ideal ad to complement their vintage chariot, right down to the same car colour. Some looked to boost their financial horsepower by purchasing multiple advertisements at discounted prices. Whatever the circumstances, they all possessed a readily apparent single-mindedness to cross their finish line. Of course, there are worse ways to while away your time. And when not lost in the thick of the hunt, these treasure hunters were more than happy to reminisce about the halcyon days of motoring.

That search for automotive glory even included me, as I sought to acquire a purely domestic ad for my Canadian-only 1952 Pontiac Fleetleader Deluxe. After 24 years actively searching, still no dice. One literature dealer even resignedly suggested my hunt will be forever nought, as time here is no friend of mine. Yet, perhaps, this adult version of hide and go seek is all part of the thrill of the hunt where anticipation is half the fun.

Back to business. Egad! I quickly had my worst-case fears confirmed when I didn’t sell one advert that day despite the contented smile on Ron’s face. He did a steady and satisfying business selling Canadian and American magazine ads almost entirely focused on U.S. cars and trucks. But, to be fair, perhaps this venue is not the best for selling Anglo-related car items, as there are other Ontario ‘autojumbles’ much better suited to that endeavour.

Although my bank account wasn’t enhanced by this experience, I learned that even horribly inclement weather can’t dampen the enthusiasm of vintage car aficionados; they are a hardy lot.

Yet, my spirits remained high as this foray has encouraged me to expand my wares as there is a great future in selling the past.

When I wasn’t selling the good ole days (Ron and I would cover for each other), I, from time to time, would do a walkabout indoors and see what goodies were available to enhance my own collection.

There was a drop-dead gorgeous 1959 Chevrolet Impala four-door hardtop for sale in patriotic red and white. Appearing to be fully restored, it positively gleamed in its immaculate condition.

Featuring a body sculpted in what was then known as the ‘International’ style but better known as a ‘flattop’, this briefly popular look was considered leading edge with its extensive glass coverage. Only advanced in America by the GM family, it is seldom seen now. For a cool $28,500 this styling extravaganza could be yours, if you have space for one more ‘toy.’

But if you were looking for something more stately, what appeared to be a completely restored and very rare 1928 Franklin four-door sedan was for sale. Painted black with a light grey-brown mohair interior, the only air-cooled American luxury car of its era could be driven away for just $21,500 O.B.O. Unfortunately, despite its pedigree, this upscale ode to the Gatsby era came sans radio, as the first mobile finger tappers didn’t appear until 1930. That was the deal breaker for me, oh well.

I did manage to strike gold in finding a 1982 Chrysler front-wheel drive technical manual for my 1983 Dodge Aries K car (don’t laugh!) for just $5. Other gems included large calendar posters of a 1919 Gray-Dort, an extremely successful Canadian car in its day that outsold Chevrolet in southern Ontario; a 1927 Chrysler parked in front of a restored B-A gas station; and a beautiful 1960 De Soto Adventurer, all for just a loonie each. The latter was only ‘marred’ by the pretty female model standing in front of and not behind the conquistador’s last Dominion of Canada edition.

Of course, the find of the day was the essential and must-have items to complete my nearly mile-long 1975 Dodge Royal Monaco four-door hardtop: 8-track tapes! Now I can enjoy my sweet ride humming along to ‘Candy Man’ by Sammy Davis Jr. amongst others.

Fellow vendors included the usual suspects, such as Scarborough’s Vern Kipp, through his extensive early Ford V-8 and Mercury literature and parts. Always replete with a broad smile, Vern could also be found hawking the odd Studebaker item. His natural affability was further enhanced when I purchased several Motor Trend magazines from the 1950s and a book on Scottish automotive history from him.

Another proprietor had a whole box full of brake and clutch pedal pads for 1940s-50s cars amongst a multitude of parts, while a south-end vendor could provide countless fabric and carpeting options for your vintage ride. Needless to say, there were many other denizens, including plenty of literature suppliers with all kinds of workshop manuals for sale. One seller even had seldom seen car owner manuals a century or more old.

There’s no telling what will show up at next year’s edition to firmly test the resolve of my wallet.

The A.A.C.A. had their usual table set up in the north-west corner of the main hall to seek new recruits. Other clubs followed suit by playing their cards well enough to bridge their faithful with new converts, including The Early Ford V-8 Club of America Southern Ontario region.

To grease the works, and as every hobbyist knows, it’s de rigueur for such an event to have a food counter and the Lindsay flea market was no exception. There were plenty of fries, poutine, tea and coffee to fuel everyone’s motor.

As the Lindsay flea market closes in on its 50th anniversary, I look forward to reliving the past annually by vowing to sell more ads and by having a good time to boot, both under the ‘bonnet’ and outside, weather permitting.

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