THE RED DEER SWAP MEET—A TRADITION FOR CAR GUYS SINCE 1965

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I always look forward to the first weekend in May because that’s when the Central Alberta Vintage Auto Club hosts its annual swap meet.

Charlie Parker and Dale Saby held the first meeting on October 6, 1965, and since then CAVAC evolved into a solid organization with deep roots in the local community.

Their swap meet is a welcome event every May and they are so well known their event is like a magnet for car guys across Western Canada.

The CAVAC Swap Meet is one of those venues where you’ll find what you’re looking for—or you’ll find a guy who knows a guy that can help you.

I like the variety at the Red Deer Swap Meet because you’ll see things like rare wheel covers for a ‘53 Hudson to period correct Keystone Torque Thrust mags for that Day 2 look on your classic 60s muscle car. The possibilities are endless if you dig into some of the vendor setups. 

I’ve seen some smoking deals for project cars at the Red Deer Swap Meet and many of them are still listed the old-fashioned way—on a sheet of cardboard. This is an old tech show so why not use old tech displays?

They have projects displayed outside too at the swap meet and that’s where I’ve seen some very interesting future car stars in waiting. CAVAC doesn’t limit itself to conventional Ford, Chevy or Mopar stuff—you’ll see orphan car and foreign car projects inside and outside the show.

There’s a hardcore car guy vibe to the original Red Deer Swap Meet because the show is full of gearheads who know how to build a hands-on classic. That means they know what they’re looking for so they can spot a part that looks like oily, nasty junk to their wives–but it’s gold for advancing the ball on their projects.

The conversations at the Red Deer Swap Meet never veer off one topic—old iron. It’s all about what you’re working on, what parts you need, what you drive and what you used to own. This is the kind of conversation that won’t draw in your non-car guy dentist, but it’s gold for car guys.

There’s an atmosphere at the Red Deer Swap Meet that you won’t get anywhere else. You can show your buddies a greasy old driveshaft and ten guys will look at it like you just struck the mother lode at the California gold rush. Their wives look on with more horror than admiration, but if they are at the event, at least they understand the sickness.

I’ve bought a lot of stuff at the CAVAC Swap Meet. Nothing big like an old truck or a vintage station wagon, but I may have cornered the market on old license plates and Mechanix Illustrated magazines from the 50s and 60s. None of those purchases broke the bank because stuff like that costs a lot less than a cocaine or gambling addiction.    

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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