Shiny or rusty, car parts attract many at swap meet

Bill Sanders and his wife, Cathie, drove up from Ponca City on Friday to attend the 36th annual Sunflower Swap Meet at the Kansas Pavilions.

By mid-afternoon, he had accumulated a crate full of parts for a 1957 Chevy pickup he's restoring.

"I've got all kinds of parts," he said. "Sun visor. Headlight. Frames and side mirrors. Signs to decorate the shop.... And we've still got half a building to go through."

Sanders is one of more than 20,000 car enthusiasts who are expected to spend a sizable portion of their weekend at one of the largest indoor car swap meets in the central United States.

John Stone, who helped coordinate the event, said the swap meet started 36 years ago at the Village Flea Market at Pawnee and Meridian. It has grown every year.

The event is sponsored by the Wichita A's, a Model A Ford club, but parts are available for all makes, models and years.

"There are parts for anything from pre-teen to modern-day," Stone said. "There's a lot of good, rusty iron, and a lot of shiny new stuff. It's all automobile related.

"If you can't find it here, you probably don't need it."

Among the 450 vendors was Dick Hamilton of Wichita, who was selling used license plates.

Kansas started making license plates in 1913, he said, and demand for high-quality used plates took off several years ago when the state decided to let the owner of an antique car register it using a tag from the year the car was built.

Hamilton's tags run from $10 to $40 each, depending on the year and quality. He said the highest demand was for tags from the years 1955 through 1957.

"And '65 is real popular," he said. "I don't know why."

The swap meet is spread over three buildings, one of which houses vintage cars in various states of restoration.

Cathie Sanders said she met her husband at a car show 30 years ago, and is as enthusiastic about car shows as he is.

"Swap meets, junk yards, you name it," she said. "We always have a good time."

Bill Sanders said he is a regular visitor at the Sunflower Swap Meet.

"This is the best thing to do in the middle of winter," he said.