Carlisle’s Import (and kit car) Nationals remain interesting because of some of the oddities that come out of the woodwork. It’s not just the things in the vendor areas (like a Merkur dealership sign, for example) but the car show which is heavily focused on brands often overlooked in more typical gatherings of imports held stateside. There are not many places outside of Sweden where the number of Saab 900s in a given area vastly outnumbers – well – nearly everything. (Perhaps my more than a fair share of my fondness of this event is rooted in the large gathering of Swedish machines) Furthermore, it’s a rather funny when you realize you’re in the United States and walking right past a Citroen DS or Opel Manta but don’t stop to look because you’ve seen a few already.
This year Italian cars were featured, though I can’t really say that there were more this time than before. Perhaps one of the most interesting cars was neither a Swede nor an Italian, but one from France. A Harrisburg-native 1907 Renault was spotted somewhat hidden in building with some other well-preserved “Franco-mobiles” (including the first ever Renault Alliance to roll off the Kenosha, Wisconsin assembly line as seen here in our first Great Automotive Failures article)
While my Saab has made the 5-hour trek to Carlisle before, this time, I drove my ’79 BMW to the event – proudly sporting some home-made RWP stickers. I’m also proud to say this is the first time I’ve entered a vehicle in this show. I seemed to have the only E21 BMW there and the car’s vibrant paint certainly helped it stand out. I have to say that the car did a great job getting me to south-central PA and back. My drive took me along a stretch of road that runs south past my alma mater, Penn State, and into the Harrisburg/Hershey/Carlisle area. It’s full of elevation changes and is a blend of two and four lane traffic with long sweeping turns and, at times, fairly good speed. Idyllic German-car cruising. (However the ancient tungsten bulbs that were still in my car proved less than ideal after nightfall)
It’s been since 2010 when we last posted about this event, and to be honest, this year’s show was similar. As to be expected with most of these sorts of show/swap-meet events, the swap-meet part is more there in spirit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still much to be found, but nothing like when I first went to the event fifteen years or so ago. That being said, I did score a set of headlights for my Saab 900 for $20 (for the pair!). If you’re familiar with Saabs, you know that’s a good deal. I also managed to find original copies of 1979 BMW sales brochures among the memorabilia vendors.
All in all, if you’re close enough to make the trip and are a fan of these cars like we are, it’s worth it to go. We also encourage you to bring your European car with you if you’ve got one. If you feel so inclined, enter it in the show! Chances are someone will enjoy seeing it as much as you enjoy bringing it.