Oddities abound at 2014 Concours d’LeMons
For more than 60 years, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has been the crowning gem of the Monterey Car Week. In an event that literally translates from French to “a competition of elegance,” cars from esteemed makes such as Bentley and Ferrari are mere commonplace and participants and spectators live off a steady diet of caviar and champagne.
For the past few years, however, a much different gathering has taken place just down the road, where crystal champagne flutes and Bentleys are traded Schlitz-filled SOLO cups and Edsels – the Concours d’LeMons.
Much like a high school orchestral band award ceremony, the Concours d’LeMons is a celebration of the unexceptional, oddballs and truly awful. Brought to you by Jay Lamm and Alan Galbraith and sponsored by Hagerty and Classic Motorsports and Grassroots Motorsports magazines, it’s the proletariat’s version of the ever-bourgeois Concours d’Elegance and has become as much of a black mark on the California coast as the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. With a record-breaking, and possibly law-breaking, attendance of more than 120 cars, oddities were guaranteed to abound. From vintage Saab sports cars to the “Lamebroghini,” the field was ripe with viable cars all competing to take home the enviable “Worst of Show” award. Here are your “winners”:
Rust Belt American Crap Winner: 1947 Chrysler Town & Country woody
How the mighty have fallen! What was once the most expensive car in Chrysler’s lineup is now the reigning champion of all-American crap cars. This particular example has been owned by Tevie Smith of Vancouver, B.C., for more than four decades, and has probably not seen a car wash since he purchased it. Of course, rust isn’t everything, and this car features a wooden exterior that is unlikely to make an impression wtih anyone, unless you rub it the wrong way and get a splinter. With more than 300,000 miles, it’s amazing the car was able to make the trek from Canada, which it will probably not be making again, as the car died on the field and had to be pushed to the podium. So cliché, right?
Soul-Sucking Japanese Appliance Winner: Toyota Sports 800
Japanese automakers have made it a habit of producing incredible sports cars and never importing them to the U.S. This is far from the case with the paltry car Toyota named the Sports 800, which seems to be a bit of a misnomer. Powered by an 40-hp engine and released only in the Japanese Domestic Market, we really dodged a bullet on this not-so-fast-and-furious potential import. However, some lunatic had the brilliant idea to bring one over. His name is Matt Spielberg, a proud owner of one of 300 left-hand-drive Sports 800s produced for the U.S.-occupied Okinawa. Matt lovingly revitalized this tiny car, which LeMons judge Alan Galbraith says, “Should not have been restored.” However, Matt still enjoys driving on warm summer days with the targa top off, albeit, extremely slowly.
Unmitigated Gaul/French Legion of Horror Winner: AMC Renault Alliance
The AMC Renault Alliance upholds the lofty standard of mediocrity that some French automobiles are so well known for. The child of the French takeover of the American Motor Company, the Alliance was essentially a Renault 9 with stylistic changes made to suit the American market, and was built in Kenosha, Wis. However, this car was more of an American’t, and was prominently featured on the side of interstates everywhere. It appears that the owner of this particular example waved the all-too-familiar white flag of surrender long ago, as the car looks like it came fresh from the beachhead at Normandy circa 1942.
What Were You Smoking? Winner: “1986 Pontiac Fiero”
Of course, the patrons from the Quail Lodge just couldn’t stay away, and one bold soul decided to dabble with the rabble by bringing his Lamborghini Gallardo, claiming it was a high-quality replica based on a 1986 Pontiac Fiero, right down to the Lamborghini VIN. In an effort to appease the masses, the owner explained how far he went to “recreate” a Lamborghini, including a claim that the interior and exterior plastic work was done with high precision by a friend who creates prosthetic limbs. However, a good bribe will get you just about anything at the Concours d’LeMons, and it certainly got the owner the coveted “What Were You Smoking Award.” Prizes included an at-home drug test kit and a strong reprimand from the judges to lay off the good stuff.
Worst in Show Winner: Acoma Mini Comtesse
In what appears to be an unsurprising victory by yet another French car, the 1973 Acoma Mini Comtesse is probably the smallest, and most hideous, vehicle ever created by the same country that built the Bugatti Type 57. Built with those who could not legally operate automobiles in mind – namely children and the village drunk – the Mini Comtesse is built entirely around the idea of enabling those who should not be enabled. Powered by a fire-breathing 47-cc engine, this bucket-sized “car” can also be powered by a single foot peddle, mainly to comply with French regulations. When it comes to redeeming qualities, the Comtesse has zero – which is interestingly the same amount of sanity its owner has – and is deservedly this year’s winner of Worst in Show.