Sunday, February 4, 2024

Turlock 24

The weekend before the one which is about to end was the 57th Annual world-famous Turlock Swap Meet. What began in 1966 at the parking lot at the McHenry Village shopping center in nearby Modesto, and welcomed just six (6) vendors and a handful of buyers, has grown into one of the biggest automotive swap meets on the West Coast. The modern event hosts more than 1,000 vendors and over 20,000 total attendees over two days. The swap meet uses every available square inch of the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock to create 2,067 vendor spaces which offer parts, accessories, vehicles of all types, all things car related and a good many totally unrelated articles too. 

My first visit to Turlock was back in 2011, and I've been at least half a dozen times since. I've learned over the years that at least three things are guaranteed about the swap meet: It’s always held on the last full weekend of January, it will feature more rusted metal and dulled chrome than you can shake several large sticks at, and it will be a mega early start. The swap meet also has a well-earned reputation for being very foggy and absolutely freezing, although it was actually very pleasant this year. 

I set the alarm for a very antisocial 5:15 am, and set out on the two hour drive south, only pausing to grab a gas station coffee and pick up one of my BAMA mates. Together we negotiated the pitch black back roads successfully, found parking and joined the queue of eager parts hunters just before 7:30. 

Once inside we had the dilemma of whether to search for Mustang parts or hot chocolate first. That one was actually pretty easy. What followed was a systematic walk around the entire site. The layout of the sales grounds at Turlock can be a bit confusing if you're not familiar, but we've been so many times now we know how to pick our way through the stalls. It helps that a great many of them are in the same location every year. 

Turlock is not just a place to track down the radio delete panel for your '65 GT350. You can find everything from a dodge charger to a battery charger, not to mention a wide variety of automotive memorabilia, well-stocked tool corrals and a whole bunch of unrelated items. We came across a very well-worn copy of "Fix Your Chevrolet" this time around and in the past I've even seen a group of would-be felons trying to hawk a genuine bear skin rug! 

I've had some good luck at Turlock in the past - the third member in the '68 came from here at an excellent price - but it's not really a place to look for a specific thing, it's better to just see what comes along. This year I was keeping an eye out for a center console that might look nice in the Mustang and maybe a few items I could restore - and I got very lucky with a vintage gasoline can and a more-than-100-year-old fire extinguisher. I've seen a restoration of one of the latter on youtube and I can't wait to have a this space!

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