Deals On Wheels And Everything Else At TMS Meet
FORT WORTH, Texas – After a couple of hours of wandering around the parking lot at Texas Motor Speedway, it was as if this particular assemblage of assorted tail light lenses, used carburetors and chrome wheel trim rings had taken on a life of their own.
Or maybe it was just the spring Texas heat, wearing me down.
“We’re dealing here today,” a vendor’s voice beckoned near the close of Day 3 of the 42nd annual Pate Swap Meet. “What’re ya lookin’ for?”
Actually, sir, nothing and everything – which I found to be the best way to deal with the massive amount of all things automobilia and Americana scattered across approximately nine-plus acres of TMS’ paved fan parking lots.
According to the complimentary copy of “The Pate Times” magazine I found blowing in the wind, the Pate Swap Meet is the fund-raising effort of 17 Texas and Arkansas-based antique car clubs. The event began life in 1972 as the South Central Swap Meet, organized by Barney Calvert of the Gulf Coast Region AACA in Houston with five other car clubs.
The “Pate” name is a tribute to Dr. Aggie Pate, founder of the Pate Museum of Transportation near Cresson, original home of this annual rite of spring. Pate, president of the Texas Refinery Company that owned an employee recreation ranch southwest of Fort Worth, housed his private automobile collection in the museum.
The inaugural swap meet was held in a rough semi-circle under trees across from the museum with about
350 vendors. The Houston Club quickly was joined by 16 similar organizations in the Lone Star State. Today, the 17 clubs boast over 2,100 member families with interests in cars ranging from Model A Fords to mid-1950s “Shoebox” Chevrolets to classic pick-em-up trucks and motorcycles of all makes and displacements. John Anderson is the event’s current president.
This is a place where you want to dream big, and maybe do serious damage to your 401k or annuity when the wife isn’t paying attention.
For example, could that rusty, 1956 two-door Chevy “post” be transformed into a copy of the menacing black street rod Harrison Ford drove to its fiery end during that famous drag racing scene in “American Graffiti?” Same for the iconic ’57 Chevy “post” parked next to it, with maybe a little less rust…or is that just “patina?”
Vendor-wise, the event is so well-organized by street and block and space that you easily can locate folks eager to deal inventories ranging from New Old Stock car parts to Genuine Old Rusty car parts, complete (and typically grease-covered) V8 engines, front clips, hoods, grilles, tires, wheels, tools, steering wheels, antique and reproduction signs and gas pumps, license plates, manuals and homemade yard art like the large metal circle featuring two crossed pistols and the message: WE DON’T CALL 911.
Among the people I chatted with was die-cast collectible car vendor Michael Fleming, of Jones, Okla., who said the money he makes selling his inventory at Pate and similar meets is earmarked for the 1950s Chevy bus he is transforming into a street rod. “I want to finish it before my grandkids get too old to care,” Fleming said of his retirement project.
Personally, I exited the grounds wondering if I made a mistake by (1) not buying that dusty box of approximately 25 “Hogan’s Heroes” VHS tapes for $25 (which would have made wonderful Christmas gifts) and (2) not plunking down a West Texas vendor’s asking price of $4,600 for a 1958 Ford Ranchero.
I’m not a “Ford guy,” but rough as it is in its faded and rust-pocked black paint, this was a one-off model year and only second year of the Ranchero. Having grown up in a family in which my dad, John Sr., loved and worked on his black Fords…there’s just a real “Texas cool” factor to that Ranchero.
But not wanting to spend what could approach six figures to have it restored…I settled instead on a 1960s-era shop sign/clock touting GM’s “Continuous Protection Plan.” Of course, the little electric clock mechanism in the back doesn’t work, which allowed me to barter down the asking price from $35 to $30. I’ll try to find someone in Fort Worth who can fix or replace the clock mechanism. But even if it forever remains stuck on 5:30, the sign/clock will look great hanging in my garage, in front of the stall where my 1978 Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car replica sits in repose, attached to a Battery Tender Jr.
Pre-registration now is being accepted for next spring’s Pate Sweet Meet, set for April 23-26, 2015. For details, contact Don Moore in Houston by phone at 713-649-0922 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at www.pateswapmeet.com.
Meanwhile, a number of similar meets will take place in and around Dallas/Fort Worth this summer, so perhaps I’ll cross paths with that ’58 Ranchero again. Which makes me wonder…would the vendor say “DEAL!” to $4,000, freshly removed from my annuity?
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com Comments