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It’s not quite 7 a.m. on a chilly Saturday in January, and the line of cars is already stretched half mile around the perimeter roads of the Fairplex in Pomona, California. From the driver’s seat of Automobile’s Four Seasons Jaguar F-Pace, it all looks similar to rush hour, but we’re certainly not complaining. Instead, we’re car spotting. There’s a brand-new Corvette Stingray, a 1970s Datsun 510, a ’60s Chevrolet C10 pickup, and a group of modified Volkswagen Beetles, rasping out their signature, air-cooled notes each time a gap in traffic opens.

On any other day of the week, in any other location, this bout of gridlock would bring endless unkind words, blaring horns, and blood pressure spikes. But not here. Thousands of people patiently wait for their turn to park at the Pomona Swap Meet, one of seven such Saturday morning events scheduled for 2017. After 20 minutes creeping along in traffic, we finally filter past the fairground’s parking lot toll gate, and the gathering’s enormity stretches before us. There are countless cars in the general parking area alone, with droves of people making their way forward through the lot to the ticket booth at the spectator entrance. On average, some 14,000 to 16,000 car crazies attend each Pomona Swap Meet. Elevated behind all this are the grandstands and timing tower for the Auto Club Raceway — a well-known dragstrip that has hosted NHRA race events since the early ’60s.

Pomona Swap Meet 02

The swap meet itself is a living piece of Southern California car culture. In 1975, George Cross III, then a car-crazed mailman from Santa Ana who owned a Ford Model A and Model T, thought to host an event that would bring car lovers together in a new way. Cross’ primary motivation was to find new parts sources outside his local Ford club, but what the swap meet turned into was something much more. The initial meet, launched in 1975 with $100 and plenty of paper fliers, was a rousing success that brought more than 4,000 enthusiasts together to buy and sell parts, share information, and do a little bench racing. By 1981, Cross hosted five events a year and had moved from the fringes of the Pomona Fairplex (a sprawling event space formerly known as the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds) into the enormous main parking lot.


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