A swap meet is a wonderful concept. Dozens if not hundreds of people and businesses with used parts and unique items and memorabilia gather in one place to sell those items to hundreds of people who need them (or at least believe that they need them). You have to browse everything, because there is often no rhyme or reason to the layout, and you never know what may be in any given stall. If you are more focused, there are events dedicated to a particular marque (eg: Hershey Porsche). Either way, this is a shopping trip for car guys and gals. A few of these events are so big and rich in merchandise, that they rise to the level of international acclaim. One such event is the Beaulieu Auto Jumble. With a name like that, you would be forgiven for thinking it is in France, and with the correct pronunciation (pronounced bewlee), you would be forgiven for thinking that it is in Texas. However, it is in the south of England.
Beaulieu is known for being a British car event although there is also a healthy motorcycle presence. If you are looking for parts, accessories, memorabilia, or literature, for your classic British car, then this would be a glorious destination. If you grew up around British cars, then this is the ultimate memory lane experience. The event has many parts to it. It has for sale Corral, which had over 100 cars, vans, and trucks, of various types and shapes for those that wanted to buy a complete running ready to drive classic, or a project vehicle. It has 3 big color-coded swap meet (sorry, auto jumble) sections which are each many acres in size. It has the National Motoring Museum on the grounds. It has the Top Gear Experience, which is really the Top Gear museum. It has a Bonham’s Auction. But wait, there’s more……on Sunday there is an additional field with a “Boot Sale” where the average guy can sell the contents of the trunk of his car. In other words, the swap meet has a swap meet.
It was entertaining and interesting to see very specialized stalls within the swap meet. There were parts recyclers who only specialized in Cortinas or series one Land Rovers. There were stalls that only had old oil cans and lubrication products, or only old Rally Plaques, or only picnic sets, or only vintage luggage. Really unique items, and special limited edition accessories were easy to find in this setting. But not inexpensive. A good example was a fiberglass replacement fender forma W108 Mercedes !! There was also a strange absence of logic for what was inexpensive compared to the USA, verses what was not. Metal signs for example were very expensive once you did the conversion math, while engines were not, even after building in shipping costs. Clothing was in general very reasonable, but stickers were not.
However, all things are relative. To the many (and I mean MANY) French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Belgian, and other visitors in attendance, there were bargains everywhere. They were to be seen with arms laden with shopping bags, rolling tires and wheels back to their cars, pulling overflowing wagons, and smiling. Like all swap meets, the sellers can be even more interesting than the contents of their stalls. Colorful, engaging, knowledgeable, funny, eccentric, and all wrapped in Britishness. We heard about how a VW beach buggy with a 911 engine went airborne in Brighton, and why you should not put a 350Z (zed) motor in a Vauxhall, and why Dodge pickup trucks in England should be taxed as a Lorry. We have not laughed that hard in a long time.
Very few people of any kind leave without a purchase of some kind. For me it was books. Titles and editions not seen across the pond were all around, and only time, money, and weight prevented a larger haul. Before the next time I need to make a connection with someone from Fedex or DHL.