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The Carlisle Import Kit/Replica Nationals is certainly one of the most eclectic shows on the calendar for European car enthusiasts. Its scope is not as wide as Carlisle Productions’ own Spring and Fall meets, which are literally open to everything automotive, but this show draws in nearly every make of automobile ever imported here, as well as kit cars and replicas. When cars like Saab and Peugeot turn out in high numbers, you know you’re be in for an interesting show.
Carlisle is a small town nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania. Home to the U.S. Military’s Carlisle War College and Dickinson University, car enthusiasts know it for the well-groomed Carlisle Fairgrounds that will host no fewer than 13 events this season.
The sprawling Carlisle Fairgrounds is always good for an equally wide array of activities. The non-judged show field is the keystone of the event, and it’s surrounded by a large vendor area, used car corral, new car dealer area, kit-car exhibition halls, seminars, and more. Camping on the field is even an option for those who may want to stay more than an afternoon; the show goes for three days, and while some camp merely to avoid the steeper hotel rates, others perhaps may simply enjoy the generous indulgence of beverages that are best not followed by a drive home.
Just as this event is so unique in its scope, it is also unique in the crowd it attracts. You won’t see much of the burnout-inducing compact crowd at Carlisle, nor the stuffy atmosphere of a Concours d’Elegance. Rather, it’s a broad grouping of earnest car enthusiasts coming out of the shadows to share their love for what are often small niches in the automotive world.
Since Carlisle split out their now defunct Compact Car Power Jam, the presence of Volkswagen-owners has waned. Through the slow years, a select group of VW enthusiasts and the always present LIMBO club members have stayed loyal, but the time is ripe for a re-emergence of VWs at Carlisle and nobody knows that better than Carlisle Productions.
This year the show spotlight was on Volkswagen. Carlisle’s invitation-only exhibit hall featured several shining examples of Herbie the Love-Bug, a clean early Scirocco, a Bus and several more.
The show field was peppered with a range of newer VWs, including some heavily modified cars showing that VW could be on a resurgence at Carlisle.
Up until several years ago, Audiphiles never really knew what they might find at Carlisle. The showing of cars from Ingolstadt was spotty, until more recently when some particularly enthusiastic B2 car owners decided to make Carlisle “their meet.”
First came the 4000s, Coupe GTs and UrQuattros in numbers. Then following that group, the Audi Club of North America helped bolster the event through their own involvement. Finally, last year some DKW and NSU owners made Carlisle their national event. All of these spirited groups helped make the 2006 attendance stronger than ever.
Those B2 owners, the Audi Club of North America and even some DKW and NSU owners made up the majority of the Audi field. More new models were on display this year too, from the latest B7 A4 to D3 A8s, several S4s and more.
If you glanced at the Audi field, you might have been surprised to see what looked like one of the Auto Union Silver Arrows. Was that a Type D hillclimb car? No, but you had to hand it to the owner for trying. While this wasn’t quite a Crosthwaite & Gardiner replica as Audi has made of several of the legendary racers, this was an impressive likeness based on a 1963 Auto Union 1000S.
Obviously eclectic, the Carlisle Import Kit/Replica Nationals is one event that’s always a pleasure to add to the calendar. Though the attendees are as varied as the cars themselves, a great enthusiasm for cars and a general intention to party is more than enough parallel to draw commonality between those who venture to Central Pennsylvania for the event. See you next year.
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