Barry and Connie Duncan share a laugh next to their 1925 Hupmobile sedan at the Trader Days Car Show on Sunday.
Barry and Connie Duncan share a laugh next to their 1925 Hupmobile sedan at the Trader Days Car Show on Sunday.
By Brian Hess

Times Bulletin Editor

VAN WERT — It’s that time of year, and the VW Co. Fairgrounds once again hosted the Northwest Ohio Trader Days and Water Dog trials. Admission was free for the annual event, and gave local residents the chance to browse the flea market, enjoy the water dogs and sample food from local vendors.

The first thing noticeable at Trader Days is the sheer variety of things available for sale. You name it, they have it: Coleman lamps, guns, musical instruments, clothes, knives, toys, tools, cds, and dog-lots of dogs: aussies, American pitbulls, mixes. One vendor had boxes of ammunition. Within seconds of approaching his table I was surprised to see he had some 450 Marlin. The Marlin company developed the round as a more powerful answer to the old .45-70 government round. It never sold well and is nearly impossible to find nowadays. He had two boxes.

You won’t find those at Walmart, and even for those who prefer to browse and not shop the variety of things available is educational. I took my young son. When he saw a Dr. Zaius coin bank I had to explain Planet of the Apes so the idea of an orangutan wearing clothes made sense to an 8 year-old. That’s not as easy as it may seem. A mounted pike prompted questions about fish; which ones are dangerous and which ones aren’t and the difference between saltwater and fresh.

Pricing is another advantage of the flea market. One vendor had tables of dvds for $1 each, and I walked away with a sackful. Dealers are usually willing to barter, as long as shoppers are respectful and reasonable. Another had a crate of old lps. In it was a sealed copy of Stryper’s To Hell With the Devil (1986), a collector’s item worth some money. He knew it and wanted $20, still a good deal. By Sunday afternoon it hadn’t sold so he let it go for half his asking price. You won’t find that at Walmart either.

Unfortunately, turnout was low this year and the food vendors felt it the most. Dawn Kennedy of Convoy Road Coffee Roasters admitted it had been slow this year and part of that was due to the lack of food trucks at the event.

Many had cancelled, slips of paper on the ground indicating where they were supposed to be. “The more vendors you have the more crowds you can pull,” she noted as I sipped a sample of their iced Tanzania Peabury. Monica Miller of M&M Smokehouse agreed, and she pointed to the spot next to their trailer where another vendor should have been.

Lugibihl’s ice cream stand has a long history at the Allen County Fair, but this year marked their first in Van Wert. Joyce Lugibihl (now Ginther) was happy to be there, but disappointed at the low attendance. “It’s not the Fair Board’s fault,” she said “there’s just too much going on this weekend.” Local residents also had the options of participating in the Flatrock Festival in Paulding, Canal Days in Delphos, the Pregnancy Life Clinic’s Walk for Life, Vantage Career Center’s Day of Caring, or the Marsh Foundation Centennial celebration-all going on this weekend. By 6pm on Saturday many vendors in the Junior Fair Building had left for lack of customers.

The event was not over, though. Sunday was the day of the car show, and a dozen beautiful old machines were lined up with their doors open and hoods up. Among the best were a 1923 Ford T-Bucket ‘rat rod,’ a restored 1935 Ford truck, a 1958 Chevy Delray, a 1964 Ford Fairlane Sports Coupe, and a pristine 1968 Triumph TR 250 sports car-the lone foreign model at the show. The belle of the ball, however, was a beautifully restored 1925 Hupmobile Series E sedan in blue.

The car is 1 of only 3 1925 E’s in existence and is owned by Barry and Connie Duncan, a couple living in Bluffton, Indiana. The Duncans bought the car in 2012 and spent years having it restored at great personal expense. Like most I had never heard of Hupmobile, and neither had Mr. Duncan when he bought the barn find at an auction in 2012. “I went there for a tractor and left with an old car,” he said smiling. Despite its age he was able to start the engine and drive it home. “The brakes needed work, so we had to use the emergency brake coming home.”

Since then he and his wife have become Hupmobile experts, joining a group of 250 owners worldwide, whose organization puts out a book every two years with updated names and contact information. Duncan gets a kick out of educating people, and finds it funny when they mistake the car for something else. “Most people see the ‘H’ on the front and think it’s a Hudson.” Like the famouse ‘Tucker’ cars of the 1940s Hupmobiles were innovative in their design. They had vacuum-assisted fuel pumps and their timing chain was on the front of their large ‘straight 8’ engines, which in turn was connected to the generator, the distributor and the water pump. A few more interesting facts about the Hupmobile company: it was founded by two brothers, like Dodge, and was in business from 1909-1941, it was headquartered in Detroit and the city’s first police vehicles were 1910 Hupmobiles, and the NFL was created in a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio in 1920.

So there is an Ohio connection after all.