Concours d’Lemons once again brought shame (and smiles) to Monterey Car Week
Monterey Car Week can be a bit … much. The ceaseless parade of supercars, blue-chip icons, and one-off coachbuilt specials all priced to choke Mansa Musa shorts our automotive tastebuds like a half-gallon of tiramisu for every meal. Dagnabbit, sometimes we just want a burger and fries.
Saturday’s Concours d’Lemons is the perfect trough of greasy junk food to smother the syrupy sweet. Yeesh—we probably should’ve eaten before writing. Anyways! In less gastronomical terms, Concours d’Lemons (CDL) is the rusty, musty, leaky-n-creaky counterpart to Sunday’s big foppery. Only the worst need apply; CDL bills itself as the show “celebrating the oddball, the mundane, and the truly awful.”
A wonderful cluster of enthusiasts answered this clarion call for crap with a pungent potpourri of vehicular weirdness that could only be politely described as eclectic. A set of vehicle class categories, a team of judges, and the finest turf parking mean CDL is quite similar in format to Sunday’s big show, only viewed through the porthole of a dirty beer bottle.
Hear its gargling, off-key siren song: “Bring us your tired, your rusty, your leaky, and your ugly!” Also, bring, cash. The Concours d’Lemons judges prefer cash.
“Rust Belt American Junk” hogged most of the show field, broken into the requisite sub-categories for each of the Big Three and an enigmatic “Other” section. Standouts from this pile of Detroit detritus included a shag-swathed Lincoln Mark VII complete with an inexplicable stuffed horse on the roof and an alarmingly well-preserved 1976 Mercury Bobcat Runabout Villager complete with faux-wood paneling.
This was also the home of our show favorite. Just a few weeks prior to the show, Linas Dauksa’s 1994 Dodge Caravan put him in a bit of a pickle with a “catastrophically” failed smog test. In a legislative move straight from the playbook of the crookedest d’Lemons judge, California offered Dauksa $1000 if he could please, for the love of Iacocca, get that heap of junk off the road and take the ‘ol family hauler to the junkyard.
He reckoned a cool four-figs was way more than the Caravan’t would fetch at RM Sotheby’s, so the coughing minivan made its way to The Great Soccer Field Parking Lot in the Sky. But, not before Dauksa got creative with the buzzsaw, ripping out a seat and carving off a piece of the Caravan’s door trim. These were affixed to a green wooden platform, itself jerry-rigged with an EMI starter motor and 12-inch subwoofer.
For his troubles, he took home the “Slightly Better Than a Go-Kart” award. We turned down his generous offer of ginger-ale-lemonade, knowing full well he needed to reserve the full jug for the requisite judge bribes—a welcome practice that potentially sees the surly judges waddle home with a belly full of booze and a wallet full of singles.
Taking home “The French Legion of Horror” from the French-focused “Unmitigated Gaul” category is a tricky one, considering most post-war French cars were CDL-qualified straight from the factory. We’re here for the crusty stuff, but a suspiciously neat-o Peugeot 505 STX sedan had us cooing “croissant!” The bad, batty Brits of the “Rueful Britannia” section held one of the most terrifying cars we’ve ever laid eyes on; one deranged—but very nice—enthusiast decided the best use of his talents was to cram the mechanical heart from a Honda VFR800 bike into the chest of a 1959 Berkeley SE-492 roadster. This monstrosity routed the driveshaft straight down the middle of the cabin floor, exposed rear gearteeth and all.
The popular “Soul-Sucking Japanese Appliance” class held anything but. After the owner of a ratty and unremarkable Mazda B2200 pickup gleefully showed us how the wiper arms preserved a slash of clearcoat in the truck’s ocean of primer-dull paint, we nearly ran face-first into a first-gen Nissan Leaf. Only, the owner slotted in the mechanicals from a Kawasaki ZX10R on to the subframe of a Lexus IS subframe, and crammed the whole doohickey into the rear cargo area of a 2013 Nissan Leaf on its last legs of battery life. A DIY hybrid has never sounded this good.
Ultimately, it was Kahlil Dodi’s tremendously wretched 1960 BMW 502 that won the inauspicious dishonor of “Worst in Show.” The Yawn Patrol crowd surrounded the winner—or is it loser?—and unleashed the traditional salvo of silly string onto the derelict hulk in a wonderful parody of Pebble Beach’s clever car-fetti. Only at d’Lemons.
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