Imagine for a moment that its 1955. Dwight D Eisenhower is president, just a decade ago World War II had come to a close, the average wage is $3,851 per year, and the government is now requiring seat belts to be installed in automobiles. “Doo-wop” and “Rock N’ Roll” are all the rage, but it will still be another few years before the states hear the first melodic tunes of the Beach Boys, and another decade before there first mainstream hit “Good Vibrations” hits the air-waves.
It was during this early golden age of America that Jim Ladd, and a small group of car enthusiast decided to petition the Antique Automobile Club of America to organize a AACA Hershey Regional Chapter. In that year Mr. Ladd and his small group of car nuts were able to gather 400 cars to register to be judged at show for what would come to be known simply as Hershey. Rain the first year caused 100 cars to cancel, but for the time 300 cars on deck was still an impressive gathering of classic automobiles, considering there was no internet or social media to help spread the word, and long distance phone calls were still mostly made through a intermediate operator.
Each succeeding year from 1955 the Hershey event has grown in size and scale. Free admission, and adding a swap meet and vendors early on likely helped to intrigue spectators from far and wide. In 1965, just a decade after the first show, 35,000 gear heads would descend to Hershey to view over a thousand classic automobiles on display. The annual pilgrimage for car lovers to Hershey has attracted the young, the old, and everyone in between, not just for the cars but for the love of the classic car culture and the desire to pass that appreciation to the next generation.
Today the Hershey AACA Fall Meet is held at the Hersheypark Giant Center the first week of October, and attracts a quarter of a million people from all over the world to see rare and unique automobiles, search for hard to find parts, and experience a living open automotive museum of sorts. What took just a few dozen people to operate in 1955, has now swelled to around 75 committees and 750 volunteers to bring the event activities together.
From first light, and until the sun goes down car lovers comb the rows of the swap meet, searching for treasures, talking shop with the good old boys, and admiring the beauty of brass and classic era automobiles of all sizes and conditions. From highly restored classics, to original barn finds, and rusty old replacement fenders, expect to find a little bit of everything in Hershey, a little slice of heaven for auto aficionados.
If you plan to make the pilgrimage to Hershey(Oct. 5-8, 2016), Chrome Runners recommends planning in advance so that you may arrange reservations to stay at the Hershey Lodge. Its convenient location, and comfortable accommodations make it a great and unique place to set up your base camp, and it is also the location in 2016 where the evening RM Collector Car Auction will be held October 6-7. Don’t forget your checkbook though, last years bidding netted the auction house more than 16 million in sales.
– Will Loomis