Ballarat Swap Meet through the years

BALLARAT'S world-renowned Swap Meet this year celebrates 25 years of automotive trash and treasure.

The event is the biggest swap meet in the Southern Hemisphere and attracts stall holders from countries as far away as Canada, England and South Africa.

Speaking to The Courier in 1991, event co-founder Trevor Wolstenholme said the idea for the swap meet came from a life-long interest in old cars.

"Initially, we only had one paddock booked and we would have been happy if we had 750 sites - we ended up with more than 1500," Mr Wolstenholme said of the inaugural 1990 event.

Every February, the Ballarat Airport site is turned into a mini city, with thousands of stallholders camping at the site and up to 30,000 regularly attending.

The biggest year for the swap meet was 1999, when 45,000 poured into the site to grab a bargain and admire 64 hectares of wares.

The event has a quirky and rich history.

Stories of buyers coming from America to buy cars and ship them back are common, as well as people fashioning petrol scooters and bikes to navigate the 19 kilometres of stalls.

In 2002 and 2003, the Ballarat Morris Minor club provided a pick-up and delivery service, transporting heavy parts to people's cars.

Three quarters of attendees are from outside of the Ballarat region.In 1991, The Courier wrote the Ballarat Swap Meet was a boost to the area's sagging economy, with the event bringing an estimated $5 million into the region.