7 cringe-worthy contraptions from the 2019 Concours d’Lemons
Before the confetti rained down on the Best-in-Show 8 Liter Bentley, a select league of Concour-goers untucked their shirts and swapped heels for sandals at the town hall of Seaside, California, to take a break from the pomp and circumstance. Those with a taste for the sour turned up in droves for the good-humored perversion of automotive elegance that is the Concours d’Lemons. Throw on some Johnny Cash and grab a doughnut if you’d like to relieve the kool-aid-free Concours, and scour the ridiculous flavors of this fantastic farce.
1955 Desoto Firedome
This 1955 Desoto Firedome rides high on a Ford F-250 chassis and is a regular competitor in one of the world’s craziest rallies, the Gambler 500. Dave Mackey resurrected the Desoto, sitting empty after donating its Hemi, by shoehorning in a second heart and bolting on the brush guard.
When roaming the West Coast, this Desoto fits right in with the “rustic, dusty, and post-apocalyptic” Gambler 500 Camp. Tag along with the rolling monstrosity and trace the evolution of the cracks in its bullet-holed windshield on Instagram.
Spot the AMC headlight buckets?
Built by Martin Lauber, the sides of 1973 B100 Tribute boogie van gleam with airbrushing done by Dirty Donny, who worked for Metallica designing everything from murals to album covers. The retro vibes of Donny’s pinball machines and skateboard designs sing the same tune as the hidden beer compartment under the diamond plate floor—swathed in beige shag carpet. (Naturally.)
1990 Yugo convertible
This 1990 Yugo is entirely original—other than the nightstick. That charming embellishment was “borrowed from Navy Shore Patrol in 1966,” a placard reads, and currently fulfills a high calling of keeping “chicks out of the Yugo.”
Redeemed from a shed, this Yugo is one of only 72 convertibles… and we’d bet money it’s the only one of those 72 possessing the illustrious title of “The Ultimate Chick Magnet.”
2016 Shenzhan Letengxuan XIAOSHUDI “Small Water Drop”
“I bought it from an Elvis impersonator I met online who was teaching English in China—but he didn’t know any Chinese,” laughs owner Steve Mandell. “I had to wait months for it to cross the ocean. When I opened the crate, I thought, “Oh my god, what did I get?”
He took the words right out of our mouths.
Pointing to the rear of the magenta monstrosity, Mandell informs us that “There’s no air in that tire. But the handling is so bad I didn’t notice the difference driving over here.” It’s a good thing the Concours d’Lemons is a morning affair, because after daylight hours, this little electric water drop requires a flashlight.
The instrument cluster looks hand-stencilled, the headliners on the setas are corduroy, and the head light covers are hand-laid fiberglass—over plywood. Such was the strategic execution of 400 Opel-Senator-based Bitter SC coupes, cars that Erich Bitter designed for super car looks at a reasonable price. Raise your glasses to this eccentric cocktail of German engineering.
Neo-Classic limo that was once, allegedly, a ‘73 Lincoln
This strange Neo-Classic, Mercedes-Benz-styled limo is equal parts extravagant and tacky. Which is a good thing, since without the convertible rear hatch and tiled floor, we might have disqualified it from the Concours d’Lemons. It clinches its claim to lemon status when we learn it had to be pushed onto the lemon-infested lawn. It’s a California car, built on a stretched ’73 Lincoln frame and equipped with a 351 Ford Windsor. Classy, as only the Concours d’Lemons can do it.
John Leary leans down, picks up the left grille insert, and pokes it back in the rusted Karmann Ghia’s hood. It falls sideways through a jagged hole and onto the grass. “Same thing happened on the way over here and somebody picked it up and brought it back to us,” he smiles.
This pitiful Karmann Ghia, with the hood literally belted onto the front fenders, is the highpoint of
Leary’s two-week California vacation. On request of Dodi Khalil, of Dodi Auto in Monterey, California, Leary got the little coupe running after 20 years in a deep coma of rampant oxidation. The motor was stuck, the valves on one bank were missing, and it stood in dire need of and carburetor work and fuel lines. And here it is, with both little chrome nostril grills and a massive split down one of the rear tires, at the Concours d’Lemons.
A week ago, Leary didn’t know Dodi. Now? He just grins. “I think we’ll be friends for life.”