A couple months ago, we told you how to avoid being ripped off when buying a car on the internet ("Don't Get Robbed," March '07). This time, we decided to look at buying cars the old-fashioned way: in person. We grabbed our cameras this past January, and descended on the Pomona Swap Meet at California's Pomona Fairplex-a world-renowned site for picking up cool hot-rodding projects. To call this event "big" would be an understatement. It is freakin' huge, combining a car corral and swap meet into one event, which is impossible to see completely. (Too bad it only lasts a day.) And it's crowded, too. Around 20,000 gearheads start arriving at 5 a.m. to check out the nearly 4,000 cars for sale. It's best to get there early, so bring a flashlight and some funds, since cash is king at Pomona. If you are selling a car, you will need to cough up $25 and should arrive well before 5 a.m. for a decent spot. Looking to buy? Then remember the phrase "the early bird gets the worm," and bring $8 for the entry fee.
We wanted to drool over the good deals, and laugh at the bad ones. It seemed like some guys had just finished watching reruns of Barrett-Jackson and concluded that their rusty clunkers were actually worth buckets of bread. In fact, you will notice we feature no Mopars in this story-not because there weren't any, but because most of the sellers at Pomona had already tasted of the TV auction Kool-Aid. Mopar buyers will probably have better luck at make-specific events, like those in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, Nevada, or Columbus, Ohio.
Greedy speculators aside, there are great deals at Pomona, and we found plenty. If you live in or near California, this is the place to find great rust-free cars. If you live farther away, you might consider making the trip, especially during January when we went. Just tell the wife and kids its time for a Disneyland vacation, then make your move!