A good swap meet is like a treasure hunt because you never know what you're going to find and one of the best events on the West Coast is held in Portland, Oregon, every April.
Although the primary function of a swap meet is obvious, they also serve another purpose-they're a great indicator of the economics within the hobby as the basic concept of supply and demand couldn't be more evident. On that subject, we made a number of observations about the custom classic truck scene and some of them appear to be contradictory. Chevy C series are hot and the price for complete trucks is on the rise, while on the other hand Chevy parts are plentiful so they remain reasonable-go figure. As always, '53-56 Ford F-100s are desirable, although the price for complete trucks seems to have softened ever so slightly, and while later Fords are increasing in value the biggest jump in sticker prices was on F-1s. These haulers are really coming on strong and the price of parts reflects the demand, they're going up. Then there are the Dodges-while Mopar fans are loyal, they're small in number and we didn't see many trucks for sale and not much in the way of parts either. That means building something different, like a Mopar (or how about an International?) could be a challenge, but then it may be an inexpensive way to go and definitely set your ride apart.
There's an old saying: "Let the buyer beware" and it must have been coined by someone who attended lots of swap meets. When hunting for parts come prepared and make sure you know exactly what you're looking at. We've actually seen few instances of a seller purposely identifying an item incorrectly. But just because someone says a part or piece is one thing doesn't necessarily mean it's not something else-they may not know. A case in point-one vendor was selling an intake manifold with three carbs that was said to be factory setup for a small-block Chevy. We knew there was never any such thing and what he had was for a 348. Out of curiosity we asked the seller for more information and he explained the tri-power set had been purchased years ago at another swap meet but since it was never installed he decided to part with it. After we, and several others, convinced the seller what the parts were the sign was corrected and shortly after the manifold and carbs went to a new home. While some misrepresentations are honest mistakes, others are not. There are those who will try to hide flaws; as an example, take a close look at parts in fresh primer, flat black from a rattle can hides a multitude of sins.
When it comes to good buys, abandoned projects can be an absolute bargain. For one reason or another someone's dream of building a truck came to a halt and now it's got a For Sale sign hanging on it with a price far less that the value of the individual parts. For some recouping a portion of a lost investment is often better that letting it sit in the garage. Then there are projects for sale because they became someone's nightmare. It may be on the block because the builder got in over his head and made modifications that were ill advised he and didn't know how or couldn't afford to fix them. We've seen frames that have been butchered with horrific clips, chopped cabs that were crooked and worse and the owner wanted out. In some cases the project in question could be saved in others it was beyond help. In any case, when buying someone's stalled project look it over carefully to make sure you're not getting in over your head, and, most importantly make sure it has identification numbers and a good title. In most states today registering any vehicle without the proper paper trail and corresponding ID numbers can be difficult, if not impossible.