Fall Jefferson Car Show

Fall Jefferson Car Show

The 39th Annual Fall Jefferson Swap Meet and Car Show in Jefferson, Wis., was a more-of-the-same-good-thing experience. The Sept. 23-25 event filled the sprawling Jefferson County Fairgrounds with over 3,100 swap meet spaces and 1,100 show cars. Hundreds of cars and trucks, from 1920s Fords to not-so-old Chevy Astrovans, were offered for sale in the show’s Car Corral.

Chrysler muscle cars were in the spotlight with Mike Beutler’s red ’63 Max Wedge 426 coupe and five other hand-picked Dodges on display in the main fairgrounds building. They included Ron and Mary Ann Barton’s ’70 Challenger T/A, Ron Priem’s ’70 Challenger R/T convertible, John and Mary Barnhart’s big-block ’68 Dart, Jeff Priem’s ’69 Charger R/T and Drew Haasch’s ’69 Superbee. 

The For Sale signs seen on cars at Jefferson reflected Hobby trends. This fall, the vehicles that stood out were ‘60s Mustangs, Oldsmobile performance models and trucks. One long and diverse row of trucks parked side by side in the Car Corral included an assortment of years, makes and models ranging from a nicely restored blue ’37 Chevy pickup to a black Chevy minivan. 

Gary Esse, who produces the Jefferson show, said that both of his large-$4-per-car parking lots were filled to capacity on Saturday, following a rainy start for the show on Friday. Esse said that his Spring Jefferson meet has traditionally been his biggest event, but the Fall Jefferson show is starting to catch up.

There were bargains to be had in every corner of the giant flea market. Automotive books and shop manuals that were once priced at $25-$50 were available for $10 this year. Vendors selling new products like Clamp-Tite tools, RediRad radio units and metal buffing balls were quick to offer “show special” and “save-on-shipping” prices. The mix of old collectible items and newly manufactured products or reproduction parts was probably about 50/50.

Fifties and sixties nostalgia items were “in” big time this year and one of the most creative was an old, but fully functional, refrigerator decorated to look like a Texaco “Fire Chief” gas pump. Another vendor was selling large reproduction automotive signs accented with neon lighting.

In both the flea market and the Car Corral there was no shortage of project cars needing thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars worth of parts to make them pretty again. A ’54 Pontiac station wagon and a paint-less Triumph TR4 that was pretty much rust free were temptations in the $2,500 price range, while a ’57 Ford wagon promoted as a “Barn Find For 40 Years” and tagged at $6,000 needed a little more restoration work than the other two. 

Fall Jefferson has become a stopping off point for vendors and hobbyists traveling eastward for the Carlisle and Hershey shows in early October and the sighting of many out-of-state license plates at this event emphasizes this. For many in the Midwest, Fall Jefferson signals that winter is just around the corner, but Esse was already pre-registering vendors for his 40th annual Spring Jefferson show, which takes place April 28-30, 2017. 

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