The Carlisle Import and Performance Nationals is more than surviving, it’s thriving

Photography by Tim Suddard

The pandemic changed virtually all events: After shuttering them, it seems to have given them new life as people are now eager to interact in real life.

In the case of this year’s Carlisle Import and Performance Nationals, that help might have been through the roof.

This past weekend, May 12-13, the show exploded with what is arguably the largest Friday ever witnessed.

And despite a gloomy forecast for Saturday–by and large a bit gray but not very rainy–the enthusiasts kept on coming. In the more than 25 years that we have attended this event, this was the largest crowd that we had ever seen. Carlisle officials confirmed that the show field was in fact the largest they had ever welcomed.

We noticed some other changes at this year’s event. The once-dwindling swap meet area was bigger and more vibrant than it has been in at least a decade. There were more vendors and new ones. In addition to the regular British and Swedish parts vendors, we saw booths offering parts for Miatas, Z-cars and other more modern machines.

We were part of that vendor crowd, successfully cleaning out our project car garage of leftovers. We also found some of the parts needed for our Bugeye and Elva projects.

Another major change is a fundamental shift towards a younger audience. Anyone who tells you young people aren’t that into cars anymore wasn’t at the Import Carlisle show. While there was still a nice selection of British, German, Swedish and French cars, the Japanese car clubs really made their presence known this year.

Ever trying to improve the show, Carlisle officials turned the cars for sale area (that struggled in recent years to compete with the plethora of auction sites now in the market) into a brew pub mixer with a live band on Saturday. Area breweries brought out their best beers and a live band played to the happy participants.

Import Carlisle 2023 is in the books and the conclusion is Carlisle certainly hit one out of the park this year.

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slantsix HalfDork
5/19/23 12:49 p.m.

I need to make it a point to attend this show. I have talked about it for years and It's only a 2.5 hour drive for  me.  Good to hear about the  shift in the car corral and the thriving swap meet.

When I attend the Chrysler show in early july every year those problems are not too aparrent... Lots of car corral choices every year. Giant swap meet, and the staff genearlly never allows the car show / fun field participants to park sidewards etc... as the show attendandees would not fit... they need all the space.


Thanks for sharing!

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
5/19/23 1:10 p.m.

In reply to slantsix :

Even when I went a few years ago, I was impressed at the turnout. At the time, the swap meet and the rest of the show felt a little separated, but there was definitely a mingling between the young and the old happening.

It was also a pleasant break from the scorching Florida temperatures.

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