Lemons and RADwood: Beware the motorized porta-potty, but enjoy the cars you forgot

Josh Sweeney

“Look out! Here comes the porta potty again!” someone shouted.

“Excuse me,” yelled the blue-hatted potty driver. “Coming through!

He did. And then he was gone. And then he was back, then gone again, this time with six feet of toilet paper fluttering from the urinal.

If it’s a motorized porta potty, this must be Concours d’Lemons, a home for cars that time, and everybody else, forgot. It, along with RADwood, a less extreme show series for cars of the 1980s and ’90s, are situated on the first green of the formerly pristine Ritz-Carlton golf course at Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida. On a couple of other greens are the 150 cars that make up the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, an event that has occurred each spring since 1996.

This year, on the Saturday before the real Concours is held on Sunday, a couple of greens were dedicated to everyman cars. Seriously, some of the Lemons cars were so nice it was hard to tell where Lemons ended and RADwood began, except for helpful signs. The porta potty—well, we have a pretty good idea where it belonged, though it did appear properly washed and waxed. It kept driving up to the valet parking area, no doubt confounding any number of serious-minded concierges.

Amelia unmitigated gaul chopped wagon front three quarter
Steven Cole Smith

Back to Lemons. “Would you like a gin and tonic? We’re drinking today,” said Patricia Schwarze of DeLeon Springs, Florida. Likely the pitcher of gin and tonic possibly influenced the Lemons Concours judges, who wear gold sashes, one of them reading “We accept bribes.” Her car was a button-cute 1965 Citroen, a tiny car that was designed to battle the Volkswagen Beetle. “It is cute,” Patricia agrees, “but I’m not sure the rear looks like it was designed by the same people who designed the front.”

Amelia vw pickup front three quarter hood up
Steven Cole Smith

Speaking of Beetles, Michael Shores of Fernandina Beach, Florida—everybody’s from Florida, and Fernandina Beach is just up the road—was showing his 1984 VW pickup, but it isn’t the one sold in the U.S. This one was built in Brazil and wasn’t imported to the States. “Look at the engine,” Shores says. “It’s just a Beetle engine, but stuck up front.” It is, which leaves a lot of room behind the grille.

Amelia Lancia front three quarter
Steven Cole Smith

Over there is a green 1976 Lancia Beta, an Italian that never quite caught on in the U.S. The car and its owner, Neil Claason of Jacksonville, are positioned behind a sign that designates the class: “Needlessly complex Italian.” Claason was planning to bring his 1991 Alfa Romeo, but, well, you know, the Lancia started. “Needlessly complex Italians,” he says.

Amelia pacer front three quarter
Steven Cole Smith

Arguably the hit of the Lemons Concours was Gil Pepitone’s gold 1976 AMC Pacer. Pepitone, of Winter Springs, said he has done a lot of work on his car, which sort of goes without saying, it being an AMC Pacer.

Amelia porsche with rooftop bike rack
Steven Cole Smith

Moving to the RADwood side, there’s David Wallens’ 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera. It has a BMX bike on top, a 1984 model that Wallens rode and treasures almost as much as his 911. “It’s all 1984,” he says, down to the specific IMSA sticker on the side window, and the vintage radar detector stuck to the windshield, which would do him absolutely no good on the drive home to Ormond Beach. The license plate is from 1984 in New York, where Wallens grew up, and the plastic license plate frame is from a long-defunct local Porsche dealership there, where Wallens rode his bike—possibly the one on the roof—one night to steal. He is hopeful the statute of limitations has passed.

Amelia honda accord hot hatch rear three quarter
Steven Cole Smith

Almost invisible—just as they were when they were among the most popular vehicles in America—is Jacksonville residents Graham and Ashley O’Conner’s white, two-door 1986 Honda Accord. These were once everywhere, and hardly anybody thought to save one. The O’Conners are the second owners, and the car is in lovely shape, given the fact it has 137,000 miles on it.

We are suddently interrupted by the porta-potty, traversing into RADwood territory. No problem here. This is a tolerant and inclusive bunch.


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    Getting a team together to run a Lemons event, have all 4 drivers lined up, but have not found the proper car yet. Since BMW’s get really funny looks from tech, my choice is a Volvo 144. Brakes FAR beyond the car’s potential, and a bullet-proof motor, as one of the scheduled drivers is a drag racer, he knows NOT the word “easy”. I’d really like to get the win on the event ! But if you break it, you usually don’t win it !
    So the hunt continues.

    The second half of the images is far more interesting than the first half. I’d take that Corrado over yet another rusty VW Bus, and I’m not even a Volkswagen guy.

    This article made me smile and laugh, and smile and laugh! That Pacer–the car star of Wayne’s World 2, and deservedly so, for its immense character! That Citroen Ami 6! When I–then 12–lived in Paris the year that ugly duckling was released in the City of Lights, I thought it was the world’s ugliest car! But to my present self, there is something wonderful about its shape and appearance. Perhaps because somehow it reminds me of that idyllic time when I was 2 and 3 (I do remember that far back). Now, I’m not sure how I should judge its aesthetics, but seeing it in this article sure put a huge smile on my face!

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