Incredibly, there are blokes out there who spend their lives travelling from one swap meet to the next across Australia snapping up car-part bargins as if were the last of their kind in the universe. But then, these guys they call autojumblers are out of this world.
Enthusiasts are expected to sit out the front of the gates of Encounter Bay Oval as early as five o’clock Sunday morning on February 1 for the third-annual Autojumble Swapmeet hosted by the Historic Motor Vehicles Club of Victor Harbor. The sellers get in at seven; the desperates half hour later.
About 3000 potential buyers and nearly 200 sellers of every car part imaginable needed to complete that restoration, plus heaps of automobilia, antiques and collectables will spread across the oval. And the normal person is invited to sell meaningful items (junk) from their boot.
If you think this is big, the much longer established swap meets in Bendigo and Ballarat attract 2000 sellers and 20,000 buyers, and the one in Idaho, USA, covers 100 acres and they have a train that goes around the meet dropping of buyers at makeshift stations. Maybe the council could redirect the StreamRanger line around Encounter Bay Oval.
Club treasurer Leith Kavanagh, who admits to having grey carpet on his garage floor where he stores his 1978 SC Porche (as you do), believes this obsession usually starts in your blood as a kid. “You may get a model car, then you want a scale car and then you start getting something else,” he said.
“After a while it becomes a challenge. Some blokes travel the world just buying number plates and sell them at these swap meets.”
Club events coordinator Graham Withers conceded the obvious. Buying things at these autojumbles, a term first used in England, becomes an addiction and for many there is no cure.
“It’s not about money,” Graham said. “You sell something and buy something else. You do it purely for the challenge; you cannot stop yourself. To these guys, everything is for a good reason, and at the end of the day you are proud of the story you have got to tell. Go into an autojumbler’s garage and I guarantee you he or she will go into great detail where and how they grabbed the greatest bargain of their lifetime.”
Actually, we did go into an autojumbler’s garage (pictured) in the heart of Victor Harbor and he had thousands of stories to tell. No name. Forgive the secrecy, but not everyone confesses to being hooked.
“I admit,” this bloke said. “Swappies are a breed of their own. They are collectors of all sorts of things. I started as a kid collecting things like Golden Fleece oil bottles which are now a collector’s item.
“I have always loved the old petrol company signs, and of course, any car part you can think of. It’s not about me; it’s the automobiles. It’s why I just share this with my family and friends.”
The vehicle pictured with Graham (left)and Leith is a 1927 Singer, once owned by WJ Crump in Mathoura, a NSW town in the Riverina region with a population of 653 last count. He sold it to a bloke for scrap metal for five pounds, and when he decided to keep it he was too frightened to tell his wife. Some 40 years later just after he died, this classic car was found under sheets of iron, and our mystery autojumbler heard of the story and snapped it up.
Our guy has restored a lot of classic vehicles, but he says this Singer is staying as it is. “You can restore a car as many times as you like but a car is only original once,” he said.
It was just one of the stories from this amazing garage. The only thing more amazing was that his wife has remained throughout his life of autojumbles. Like the classic cars, they don’t make them like that anymore. Bless her heart.
You need to get up early and go along to this Victor Harbor meet put on by the 280 member-strong local club to experience what this breed is all about. They seem normal until the gates open at seven, and resume their every-day life by 12.30ish when only the plastic chairs haven’t been sold.