Swap Meet Economics


For most of the twentieth century, No nation on Earth could outpace the GDP of these great United States. From baby buggies to bumbershoots, "Made in America" said something, and American industries took pride in saying it. After WWII, however, many American engineers found themselves being exported to the factories of our allies and enemies alike to stop the economic bleeding on their war-torn shores.

From these US-led philanthropic programs a new global economy was born, with nations developing specialties that would ensure their individual prosperity for generations. While Germany and Japan energized their economies building automobiles and electronics for the common man, America's best and brightest focused their industrial might against the other last, great post-war superpower: Russia The strategic shift from domestically produced consumables to big-ticket weapons and high-tech made the growth plan for every savvy US business obvious: build more RADAR, less RadarRanges. While we played cat-and-mouse with the Red Menace, China, Taiwan and South Korea humbly offered their mass-production services to anyone with a blueprint, a purchase order and a line of credit.


From this paradigm shift another new, uniquely American talent sprung: Branding and Promotion. If you couldn't beat them with Research and Development, simply Rip off and Duplicate and let the admen do their stuff. It worked, because America gobbled up every Japanese stereo, German car and Chinese pogo stick Madison Avenue could dump at her feet. No individual or business was immune to the siren song of satisfaction and low prices, and American institutions like The Schwinn Bicycle Co., Motorola, General Electric and Harley-Davidson simply grabbed an oar on the slow boat from China and started rowing. To sustain their own growth and prosperity, the best offshore suppliers of US-branded merchandise invested billions in advanced materials and technologies, to the point where it is now impossible to build a cellphone, a bicycle or a motorcycle that is 100-percent "American Made."

For lovers of two-wheeled machines, this is heartbreaking. While I didn't grow up in the Golden Age of the American motorcycle, I have lived in the eye of a different but curiously connected two-wheeled storm: Bicycle Motocross. The Golden Age of the American BMX industry was between 1974 and 1982, when Mongoose and Schwinn mass-produced hundreds of thousands of high-end 20-inch bikes in US factories, and dozens of boutique builders from ACS to VDC handcrafted quality bikes, parts and accessories on American shores. Today many motorcycle and car enthusiasts in their 30s and 40s cut their grease monkey teeth on BMX bikes built by companies I admired or worked for in my youth. One such gentleman is Marshall at Topping Events.

Topping Events hosted their inaugural So-Cal Cycle Show and Swapmeet at the Long Beach Municipal Stadium in 1997. Given SoCal's distinction as the spiritual home of both the custom chopper and early BMX industries, it didn't take long for Marshall to make the connection between both scenes, and to open his event to fans of rusty old bicycles, too. Fail to see the connection? Does the name Gary Littlejohn ring any bells? Beginning in the 1960s, this Hollywood stuntman, motorycle builder and metal fabricator crafted choppers, sidehacks, gas tanks and BMX frames. My first real BMX bike was a Littlejohn-Murphy monoshock I ordered from a California-based motorcycle and BMX mailorder in 1974.

On the third or fourth Sunday of every month, dozens of motorcycle swappers and a growing number of old bicycle collectors converge in the parking lot of the Long Beach Municipal Stadium at 5:30 a.m. to show their wares to the hungry mass of early risers. With flashlights in one hand and hot coffees in the other, ardent patrons of patina lurch from space to space like zombies searching for fresh meat. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and no one leaves Long Beach empty-handed.

The Long Beach Swap Meet brings out a who's who of modern builders, media mavens and bikeriders, which is why events like it are such powerful catalysts for the health and propserity of our scene. When "new" is too expensive, too garish or too cheap for someone's taste, "used" never seems to go out of style. Where else but Long Beach might you find the rocker box off an Ironhead and an Ashtabula BMX fork on the same table? The American industrial complex might be going to hell in a handbasket, but free-market capitalism doesn't get much better than that.

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Commented on 4-12-2010 At 06:13 am

looks nice!

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 06:24 am

I wish there was a big ass moto swap around here. Nice write up

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 07:19 am

Last sunday of the month in So. Cal is all about the swap meet. Anything and everything u can find there. If ur looking for some parts for a build or just burning the day a way, its always worth the $10 admission.

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 08:03 am

Long Beach Swap = king of Swaps.

To Hell with Phillanthropicism & Globalism

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 08:43 am

Damn MaGoo, that may just get you a Pulitzer prize. nicely done.

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 08:55 am

I am always eager for any of McGruther's prose. He expresses the outlook we share like none other. Well written!

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 09:14 am

Nicely written. However, not to twist the knife or anything, but where did you say the Crenshaw is made? How to get it back on these shores is the question that could be raised.


Commented on 4-12-2010 At 12:37 pm

Now that is definitely not 5th grade reading material. Wtf?

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 04:18 pm

Most manufacturing job loss is do to increased productivity due to technology.

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 06:11 pm

webster cycle swap for anyone in tampa area...always fun. nice history lesson, cool freakin bikes as usual

Commented on 4-12-2010 At 08:32 pm

I am going to have to get out to check this out. My work schedule has almost consistently had Sunday being a duty day, if not the entire weekend. Time to be sick one of these days.

Commented on 4-13-2010 At 04:08 am

Nice write up (although I'm more of a North American made fan than simply American made...) and nice bikes...
If anyone happens to be near Vancouver Canada the 25th annual
Tsawwassen Classic & Vintage Show 'n Shine is happening this Sunday.
Always a great swap meet and usually 300+ bikes.

Commented on 4-13-2010 At 05:40 am

and foreign labor is cheaper.

Commented on 4-13-2010 At 02:59 pm

Just a cheap excuse to post a bunch of motorcycle porn... AND I LOVE IT! more...


Commented on 4-13-2010 At 05:54 pm

According to: the rankings on GDP are #1 United States at 13,843,825 millions,#2 Japan at 4,383,762, #3 Germany, #4 China, #5 France, #6 UK, #7 Italy, #8 CALIFORNIA (the state), #9 Spain, #10 Canada, #11 Brazil, #12 Russia, #13 TEXAS (the state) #14 NEW YORK (the state). Don't sell the old US of A short. We out produce anyone else, even our states rank as major producers among nations. We do this even with our hands tied by restrictive regulations and free spending politicians while some competitors in "developing" countries use slave labor and no protection of the environment. Try breathing in Bejing or Mumbai even on a good day.

Commented on 4-13-2010 At 06:52 pm

sorta same as. found some cool stuff at O. riely.s auto parts. paint stripper in a spray bomb can. from Kleen Strip says Auto Strip on can for 5 bucks. tryed it on factory finish test subject(old chevy blazer) and was truly amazed with results. the paint bubbled and ran scared. a light scrape of plastic knife and i was at bare metal.

Commented on 4-13-2010 At 08:15 pm

what i meant was, that pan with the captain america helmet crammed under . made my heart flutter............

Commented on 6-26-2010 At 06:11 am

great write up...good info...good heart!

Commented on 2-18-2011 At 02:39 am

Every city in america should have one

Commented on 2-18-2011 At 02:39 am

Every city in america should have one

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