As the largest swap meet and classic car show on the American West Coast, the Pomona Swap Meet is a legendary event in car circles – but where did it all begin?
Swap meets in the United States have long consisted of vendors who sold mostly secondhand goods in outdoor spaces, or exchanged goods of relatively equal value with other traders. Although not exclusive to this nation, swap meets have long been essential for ordinary people who either couldn’t afford the item brand new, or were seeking something that was hard to come by.
Given the nature of cars – especially of the classic variety – it should come as no surprise that this demographic are amongst some of the biggest swap meet enthusiasts. As these are typically automotive-centric social environments where everyone attending can celebrate all things cars while still syphoning through the goods on offer, there’s arguably none more famous than the Pomona Swap Meet & Classic Car Show.
Unveiling The Origins Of The Pomona Swap Meet
The Pomona Swap Meet & Classic Car Show is a one-day event that is held seven times per year at Fairplex in the City of Pomona, California. At each event, visitors can expect to find up to two thousand vendors selling tons of hard to find car parts and accessories at relatively low swap meet prices. As a paradise for classic car lovers with over 25,000 attendees at each event, the Pomona Swap Meet also has a long and colourful history.
At a time where large-scale swap meets were few and far between – especially for cars – George W. Cross III often struggled to find parts for his personal restoration projects. Even when he did have a win, these items were often unaffordable.
As an antique automobile enthusiast himself, George believed in the feasibility and entertainment value of an automobile-specific swap meet. Moreover, he needed an easier way to find parts for his unique restoration projects.
During the seventies, automobile specific swap meets were rare and were usually sponsored by local car clubs as fundraisers, along with generally small in size and exclusively attracted local enthusiasts. Limited to these locally sponsored swap meets, it took George three years to find the parts necessary to complete his 1922 Model T Touring restoration.
Growing increasingly frustrated with these limitations, George had an idea – why not start his own swap meet, but with a twist? He was certain that other automobile enthusiasts could benefit from a central swap meet in which they could find parts for their automobile projects and restorations, but he knew that the culture and entertainment of such an event needed to make an impact as well.
Armed with a $100 advertising budget and a handful of vendors, George launched the first Pomona Swap Meet on August 3, 1975. After handing out flyers and relying on word of mouth to attract patrons, the first Pomona Swap Meet was an overwhelming success. Somehow, the event managed to bring in over four thousand people to The Point parking lot – where the Fairplex Sheraton sits today – at what was then known as the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.
It wasn’t long before George was able to schedule a second swap meet, just five months later on January 11, 1976. Billed as the first “Indoor Antique Auto Swap Meet” in Southern California, the crowds were once again huge, and it was obvious that George was onto something big.
Quickly outgrowing his first two locations, the third event was moved into the White Avenue parking lot, which was designed to give the event room to grow. A Porsche section was added to the existing automotive showing and sales areas that already included Antique Autos, Hot Rods and Corvettes. In the vendor area, an Antique Toy Row was added, which featured vendors selling a wide variety of antique toys and collectibles.
In order to accommodate the growing demand of the show, George added more dates to his lineup and what originally began as an annual swap meet, quickly grew into five shows per year by 1981. In line with the popularity of the Pomona Swap Meet, the show was growing to be too big for the White Avenue parking lot, and the decision was made to move the show into the main fairgrounds parking lot, where it still resides today.
As the industry expanded, so did George’s vision. In 1983, George Cross & Sons was formed by bringing George’s two sons into the family business. Family and friends have always been a big part of the business, and it remains so to this day. 1983 also marked the year that George commissioned artist Dave Bell to draw the first of many now famous Pomona Swap Meet flyer artworks. Over the last three decades, Bell’s iconic art has become synonymous with the Pomona Swap Meet.
Throughout the next two decades, the Pomona Swap Meet grew to the point where the event regularly reached maximum capacity, and late arrivals had to be turned away simply because there was no room to park another car. Eventually, an eight event per year schedule became a necessity.
Today, the Pomona Swap Meet & Classic Car Show is the premier classic car swap meet in the United States, and is famous all over the world in classic car circles. There are now close to twenty-five kilometres of cars and parts to be found at the event, and before George passed away in 2008, he was said to have been enormously proud of his legacy and contribution towards ensuring that car culture lives on.
Your Guide To Everything Classic Cars
Finding a fellow vintage auto enthusiast can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but rest assured that Classic’s Garage understands the thrill more than most. Having spent forty years collecting anything and everything from matchbox cars to hub caps, he’s successfully followed his passion to source, collect and stock beautiful and low mileage classic automobiles from around the world.
Although his passion is for automobiles built before 1978, with a particular love for Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Oldsmobiles and even Fords, Wayne is just as passionate about the stories of the owners. If it’s even remotely different, rare or just plain unusual, Wayne will overcome the relevant logistical and geographical challenges of bringing the cars to his showroom in Australia.
Classic’s Garage is a showroom conveniently located at Seventeen Mile Rocks, that specialises in the restoration and sales of vintage automobiles. If you’re on the hunt for Brisbane classic cars – quite simply, Wayne is your man. If you would like to arrange a viewing or inspect any other of our classic vehicles, please get in touch with us today.