Merkur Club of America
What is Carlisle?
Carlisle is different things to different people. In a nutshell, the Carlisle Ford Nationals is an excellently run car show held in Carlisle, PA at a purpose-built facility. It's not a Pebble Beach type show. A lot of the cars on display are daily drivers and are far from 'garage queens'. Along with the show, Carlisle Events has over 2,000 vendors on the 82-acre facility. These range from big names like Meguiars, Eastwood, Roush, & Ford to vendors with NOS parts, Ford/Merkur memorabilia, and individual enthusiasts selling off parts after a garage clean-out. Along with the show there is a drag race at a local 1/8th mile strip, autocross racing, the latest Ford concept cars, guest speakers, seminars, burn-out demonstrations and special events for the families.
When is the show?
Usually the show is Friday - Sunday at the beginning of June every year. For 2023, the show will be June 2th - June 4th.
Where is the show?
The Carlisle Fairgrounds in Carlisle, PA
Carlisle is about 15 miles southwest of Harrisburg, near the center of the state. The fairgrounds are accessible from I-76 and I-81. See the Directions page for detailed maps.
Who can attend?
Anyone! There are no restrictions on the age, condition, or level of modification of your car. Similarly, there are no restrictions on the age or condition of any family members you may bring. The showgrounds are criss-crossed with gravel pathways, which makes pushchair and wheelchair access easy. There are plentiful clean bathrooms and portajohns.
How much does it cost?
It depends on where you stay and for how long. If you stay with the majority of Merkur owners at the Penn Harris Hotel in Camp Hill for two nights it will cost you around $300 (most of that being the hotel). That of course assumes you are not tempted to buy shirts and other merchandise on the showfield! If you are looking to save some money:
- Buddy up with other Merkur owners and share the cost of a hotel room.
- Camp out at the showgrounds. That's right, several Merkur owners camp at the showgrounds every year. Carlisle events charges $15 for the weekend and bathouses, water and waste disposal is available. Space is limited and must be reserved on the Carlisle Events registration form.
- There is an excellent convenience store on the route to the showground. Stop there in the morning and stock your cooler with ice, water, soda, snacks and a sandwich.
How do I go about attending?
What if you decide to attend at the last moment?
No problem. You can just show up at the gate on the day of the show and register, albeit at a slightly higher cost. Bear in mind however, local hotel rooms are sold out in advance, and MCA membership can ONLY be purchased/renewed PRIOR to the event (no sign-ups at the showfield).
What does the registration fee cover?
Your registration fee allows you onto the showfield from Friday morning (gates open each day at 7am) through Sunday evening. Two people per car are covered under your fee. You will also receive a goody-bag from Carlisle Events, entry into the drawing for the giveaway car, and allowed participation in the 'Fun Field' judging and awards.
Registration lets Carlisle know you're coming. If you fail to register, they may not have enough goody bags and the registration process will take longer.
If you pre-register by a certain date (date varies per year, please check the Carlisle registration site for this year's date), you will receive your registration sticker in the mail before the event. Apply this sticker to the upper-right hand corner of your windshield before leaving home and you will be able to drive right through Gate 3 and onto the showfield upon arrival at the fairgrounds.
Can I leave the showgrounds during the day?
Yes, at times traffic can be congested, but you can leave the showgrounds and return during the day.
Can I leave my car on the showgrounds over night?
Yes, Carlisle Events provides 24 hour security and many owners leave their cars on the showfield. However, we'd recommend bringing your Merkur to the Penn Harris Hotel in Camp Hill in the evenings, where the club congregates after the show and into the night.
I've heard about the awards, what are they?
Carlisle Events awards a plaque for first, second and third places in each of the Merkur classes - there are classes broken down by models and years as well as for stock and modified vehicles. These winners are decided by all attendees on a ballot system.
- Everyone who attends Carlisle gets a voting form listing all the car classes. A lot of people don't realize they have this until they sit down in their hotel room on Saturday night and go through the 'goody bag' they got when they checked in at Gate 3. By then it's too late!
- Every car gets a sign, which must be displayed in the front window of all cars on the show field. On this sign is a unique entry number. Attendees (exhibitors and the public) fill in their choice against each judging category.
- The forms must be submitted by a deadline (normally 4pm) on Saturday
- Carlisle Events tallies the votes and announces winners at 9am on Sunday morning.
- Voting starts as soon as people arrive around 9:00 to 9:30am. This is when the showfield starts to fill up. PLEASE aim to arrive around 9:30 and no later than 10:30. Otherwise, your parking spot may be taken by a Ford Probe or F-250 truck!
What happens if you are lucky enough to win a fun field award?
Winners are posted around 9am on Sunday. Someone will copy this list and post it at the Merkur tent. It is the winner's responsibility to then go to the Carlisle Events award tent and tell them if you will be driving through the showfield parade to receive your award at the grandstand area. If you chose not to, you can pick your award up there.
If you do choose to drive through, you must follow the Carlisle rules which involve picking up a line-up number and getting on the line-up by around noon. We will not be chasing you around making sure you do this! Cars are lined up and drive in procession past the award stand. Each car and driver gets announced over the PA and Bill Miller hands the award to each driver in turn. It's a great feeling!
In addition to the Carlisle-sponsored awards, a team of MCA judges will be assembled, headed up by Saul Rivkin. This team will be judging MCA member's Merkurs and the club will be awarding our own plaques based on the judge's decisions. These awards will be handed out at the reception on Saturday evening and will be categories catered more specifically to our beloved Merkurs. Last year's categories and awards are listed on the Home Page.
What do I need to bring?
Everyone has a different travel kit - this does not include the standard Merkur travel kit of plug wires, hoses, oil, TFI, etc.
- Cooler, water, snacks
- Sun tan lotion and hat. It's amazing how easy it is to get sunburnt when you are standing around talking cars.
- Car cleaning rags, polish, etc.
- Chairs or a blanket
- Rain jacket. It can get breezy in the afternoon, and best to be prepared if the weather turns to rain.
- Money for all those cheap tools and Merkur parts in the expansive flea market.
What happens on each day of the weekend?
- Arrival day. Those that arrive in the afternoon often go to the showgrounds to get first picks at the flea market. People just somehow never have time on Saturday! Registration is open at Gate 3 on Thursday 12pm to 7pm, and Friday 7am to 9pm. It's easier to register and pick up your car pass on Thursday or Friday rather than Saturday morning. If you cannot get there before Saturday, don't worry. The efficient, helpful Carlisle staff keep the line moving and picking up your show credentials, rarely takes more than 30 minutes.
- After the show many members will congregate in the back parking lot of the hotel to swap stories and catch-up.
- For those interested, there is Drag Racing at South Mountain Drag Strip. Anyone can participate. Starts at 4pm. Eliminations at 6pm. Free round-trip shuttle busses available from Showgrounds
- It's showtime! Most people arrive around 9am and all day is spent at the showgrounds. There will be more cars at the showfield on Saturday than on Sunday. All judging takes place by 4pm on Saturday. Arrive late and you may not have a place to park and your car may not be judged!
- Cocktail hour with awards and prizes at the hotel in the evening
- The showfield is open and in full swing at 8am.
- Autocross is held on the fairgrounds - a great opportunity to try your car on a road course!
- 'Fun Field' judging results announced around 9am
- Good day to walk the trade tents and flea market.
- Award drive-by starts at around 1pm (Exact time to be announced)
What car preparation is necessary?
Some will spend a few months prepping their car, others will just arrive in their Merkur daily driver. Make sure however that your car is free of all the normal road grime. There is a car cleaning facility just inside Gate 3 on the left, and several car washes in the area. Make sure you have your own cleaning supplies.