Packed Crowds, Perfect Weather and Cars From All Over the World | Carlisle Recap

What started as a swap meet has morphed into one of the largest and most diverse car events on the East Coast. Call it a bucket-list event for fans of imports.

This year’s features included the national Opel meet as well as a stunning turnout of Manx owners as they memorialized the life of Manx creator Bruce Myers.

If Manxes and Opels aren’t your thing, you could also find everything from old British roadsters to newer JDM-type machines. There was even a competition aspect: a full tent of race cars plus drift action on Carlisle’s own track.

And then, of course, there's the swap meet that started it all. It's no longer the center of the show, but we still found some parts for our Elva Mk VI project car, including electrical components and the proper Raydot mirror.

We were encouraged to see some new vendors this year, and Saturday welcomed a few pop-up vendors who seemed to be cleaning out their garages. This phenomenon reminded us of the Beaulieu Autojumble in England, and we’d love to see more of these types of vendors.

We heard some complaints about the light traffic, but we were able to sell almost everything we brought. Those who sell parts for a living and price their parts at retail don’t seem to do that well at Carlisle. Those who come to clean out their garages at greatly discounted prices seem to do much better.

Parades by both the Manx and Opel club members through the vendor areas made for interesting diversions throughout the weekend.

The event schedule has changed a bit, too, with nothing planned for Sunday since that day was never successful. Thursday, while not an official day of the show, has become a much bigger deal, as dealers and bargain hunters scoop up the good deals early. Two years ago, we purchased a small-mouth Triumph TR3 nose in good shape for $20 on a Thursday.

This year’s weather was unusually perfect (sunny with lows in the high 40s and highs in the low 70s) and attracted healthy and diverse crowds for the car show. The Saab, Volvo, Audi, Opel and Manx clubs seemed to have the biggest representation, but from young people camping in tents and driving stanced-out Miatas to older folks with Renaults and Citroëns, Import Carlisle really had something for everyone.



Why Collect Opels?

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Opel Manta and the 25th year that Opel enthusiasts have been officially gathering at the Import Carlisle show. All involved celebrated the occasion.

But in today’s world of social media and online car clubs, why does a group like the Opel club still see the importance of a more structured get-together? Is it just about being social, or is it more about preserving the legacy of a brand that left our shores long ago?

It’s about both,” says Allen Gage, one of the Opel gang’s ringleaders at Carlisle. “Truly we love the cars, but my wife, Vickie, describes Carlisle as going to a family reunion except everyone likes each other.” Allen then admitted that the Opel club is a drinking club whose members all happen to like the same car.

How do people fall into Open ownership? “It usually starts with a GT and then morphs into Kadetts and Asconas, and then it morphs into 11 Opels in the garage,” he says.

For Allen, the Opel bug struck in 1973. As a senior in high school, he had a friend that got one as a graduation gift. “We thought he had a race car,” he recalls. “From there, years later I decided to buy one. Then my wife wanted one, and we bought her a red 1969 GT. And soon she decided she wanted one of every year.”

Cars drew me to it,” he says of his Opel fascination, “but people are what’s important now”

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sir_mike New Reader
5/20/21 10:40 a.m.

Your right Tim...not what it was years ago.I gave up going when they first starting letting the tuner cars in.The swap meet area used to go on for rows.Now you know how small it has gotten.And $40.00 to show your car....used to be $10-15.Maybe because I'm 68...

5/21/21 2:34 p.m.

As a long time subscriber, I am extremely disappointed in this article.  Volvo was the featured marque and you seem to have completely missed that fact, instead making it look like it was an Opel and Manx only show.  The truth is that the number of Volvos enthusiasts that attend this event every year, despite the way that Carlisle has ruined it by combining in the tuner crowd, far outnumbers the Opel or Manx groups in attendance.  And it was the 60th anniversary of the Volvo 1800 series of cars as well - with some very significant examples there on display.  It boggles the mind how you managed to go there and miss this obvious fact.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
5/24/21 5:05 p.m.

In reply to paulgraz :

Sorry about that. I was there, but was there but did miss that. The Opel folks reached out to me to let me know what they were up to and I did not see or hear anything from the Volvo Peeps. 

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