What does it take to be Worst of Show at the Concours d’Lemons?

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Mike Garrett’s spectacularly bad 1986 Pontiac Fiero based Ferrari Enzo kit car. Courtesy Concours d’Lemons

It’s a new year, which means another season of Concours d’Lemons—a gathering of misfit, unloved, and off-beat vehicles and their fine chaperones. You can check out the full schedule of events here.

A show that celebrates the Oddball, Mundane and Truly Awful of the automotive world, the Concours d’Lemons sets the bar pretty low when it comes time pick the coveted Worst of Show honors. At most Concours things like originality, quality of restoration and provenance come in to play when picking an overall winner. Not so much at a Concours d’Lemons event. The panel of celebrity judges have to consider such special attributes as catastrophic engine design flaws, nearly vertical depreciation curves and the rarity of mediocre mass-produced models from major manufacturers that are now hardy seen anywhere outside a scrap metal yard. 

Chief Judge and Classic Motorsports Magazine publisher, Tim Suddard says, “Our worst of show recipient needs to have a special car, but not special in the normal concours vernacular. In our world special means two old Hondas cut in and half and welded back together, so that they can drive forward and backward. Another winner brought an old AMC (which is bad enough), but then turned it into a pimp-tastic replica of a mid-’70s Zimmer. The more outrageous the better. From zombie attack vehicles to crazily decorated VW vans, we have seen it all.”

Past winners of Worst of Show honors have included a pristine, low miles example of a Cadillac Cimarron in navy blue with factory gold package. Both a 1981 KV-1 and a Voison Biscooter, French mini-cars or very questionable construction, road worthiness and safety have been awarded the highest honors. The outrageous or noteworthy for intrinsic design and execution flaws all rank high on the judging sheets. No matter what the reason, if it is picked to be Worst of Show, you can guarantee it is spectacularly bad in some way. 

Winners of the hilariously named classes like Rust Belt American Junk receive thrift store sourced goodie bags and hastily made trophies. However, the top, or is it bottom, prize receives a silly string drenched reception from the large and growing throngs of spectators. Owners and spectators alike end up smiling and laughing throughout the show and ceremony, something that is in short supply at other Concours events.

Chief Judge Tim Suddard sums it up, “When judging any concours event, I look for the defensible position. At a place like Pebble, that means elegance, exotica and uniqueness. At a Lemons event, that means truly, over the top, ridiculousness. We want spectators to shout, ‘oh yes, that is truly insane, ridiculous or over the top,’ when they see our Worst of Show get sprayed with silly string in the winner’s circle.”

Click on the video below to take a look back at the Worst of Show winner at the 2018 Concours d’Lemons California.

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