A clean ’88 Honda CRX Si was the real oddball at the 2019 Amelia Concours d’Lemons
The Concours d’Lemons has been a gathering point for oddball and crapcan cars since its debut in 2010. With its celebration of wacky and unusual cars, it is the utter antithesis of events such as Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. The “showfield” is usually a mix of poorly modified, generally abused, never desirable, and absolutely wild vehicles. This is the first year for Concours d’Lemons during the Amelia Island Concours weekend, and the usual derelicts were there dripping oil and rust flakes on the lawn of a small real estate agency on Amelia Island.
Amongst the ratty AMC Eagle wagon, Ford pickup with 310,000 miles, and Subaru Justy, sat a beautiful, original-owner, squeaky-clean 1988 Honda CRX Si. In a sea of weird and diverse, the little hatchback stood out. It was the nicest car there, by a longshot. At this event specifically designed to gather cars that don’t get love, it was a little jarring to see a clean import car that a lot of enthusiasts remember fondly. I decided to investigate. Who shows up to an event specifically for bad cars with a sweet CRX?
Walt Peterson, a retiree turned artist, with bright white hair and a jacket in the 70-degree weather, lounged in a low beach chair on the driver’s side. I asked what he and his Honda were up to amongst all the usual Lemons riff-raff.
“I live close, it’s just a second car for me, and the Concours sounded like a good time.” Said Walt Petersen, who bought the bright-red hatch new in 1988.
I couldn’t really argue, but that didn’t really satisfy my curiosity. He agreed that his hatchback wasn’t exactly among its flock at the Concours d’Lemons. He always thought highly of the CRX in general, and his car has 150,000 miles and counting, so it continues to treat him well. He doesn’t want it to sit and rot, so he keeps driving it.
The desirable original seats are long gone, and even his budget-friendly replacements now look pretty worn. He lovingly took care of the sport hot hatch, and the clean D16A6 1.6-liter four-cylinder in his tidy engine bay is proof. Walt is passionate about keeping it stock, too. The car is original down to the exhaust, unlike the many CRXs that suffered from major modding before the first The Fast and The Furious screening was over.
After talking with Walt, I realized that my initial skepticism about a clean collector car at a Lemons event was misguided. If you are truly passionate about cars, you’ve gotta welcome all comers. Walt just wanted to hang out with car people on a Saturday morning, and he shouldn’t be kicked to the curb because he took care of his Honda too well.
The car community doesn’t need to be more exclusive, it needs to be more open. That is exactly what events like Lemons are about: creating an inviting environment for all who love cars. If it your car doesn’t fit in, be prepared to field a lot of questions, like Walt did. If you love your car, take it out and show it off. Maybe just don’t bring a McLaren or a sparkling Duesenberg to Concours d’Lemons—the fancy golf course is right down the road.