I have no doubt that anyone reading this has a certain level of familiarity with Monterey Auto Week. Also known as the only time of the year that it is fashionable to wear a fire engine red (excuse me, Ferrari red) baseball cab and polo emblazoned with everyone's favorite Italian prancing horse. What you as a reader may be less familiar with is the much less hoity-toity Concours d'LeMons (pronounced like the race, fruit, or emphasis on moans. It isn't picky). Concours d'LeMons, or Lemons as I often call it, it a platform for "celebrating the Oddball, Mundane and truly Awful of the automotive world" as they put it on their website. From the same twisted minds that brought you 24 hours of LeMons, the endurance race for $500 cars, Lemons seeks to showcase people and their cars even though the cars may not show love or deserve it. There is every manner of terrible from 2CVs to Beetles to Reliant Robins. Corvairs, Cimmarons, choked Cameros, and crappy Chevelles. There are cars you may not even know existed, like a rare example of a Blackhawk from the rebooted Stutz marque or a Mini Comtesse (2014 worst in show winner). Clearly it is the single most exciting gathering of mechanical refuse on the Monterey peninsula for the weekend.
Last year, before I went to college I was having an extremely boring summer. Hooning my stock 1974 VW Beetle up and down Mulholland (oh, the body roll) was getting to be a drag and I realized that I needed to get out. I had heard of Lemons and somehow convinced two of my gearhead friends to pile into that bug with me for 300 miles out and back to enter it into Monterey's least esteemed car show. Cruising along at what felt like the stratospheric speed of 75 miles per hour (until we got stuck behind that damn crossover on highway 1) we finally made it into Monterey just in time to watch the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance whizz by. After yelling obscenities at random pedestrians on Ocean Avenue through the bullhorn I had installed under the front bumper, we made it to our place to stay for the night. A $40 a night Air Bnb campsite in Watsonville. After a brief trip to Wal-Mart and a good night's sleep we set about crapifying the car. My friends had already taken the liberty of emblazoning my beetle with a racing number, adding masking tape stripes, and obscuring the rear window with the ludicrous phrase "100 Million Horsepower, Turbocharged." After Wal-Mart the car was given a furry green rug on the hood, helium balloons all over, and an American flag on the roof. Our judge bribe (it is encouraged that you bribe the judges at Lemons) was a sadly non alcoholic gallon of Hawaiian Punch that was sharpied to read "sorry, under 18, no booze." Despite our efforts and being a fan favorite (we think) we were snubbed by the judges for awards. As a consolation, the car was featured on Jay Leno's Garage and the photo above comes from his website, not bad huh? We capped off the day by deciding to sneak into The Reunion (shh) to watch the trans-am races. We got a lot more then we paid for. The beetle (still decked out in full Lemons regalia) was driven to the front gate where we asked an in charge looking fellow if we could pop in to buy some souvenirs, which we did end up doing. We were driving the car in, somewhat nervously, and following the way people were directing us to go. We took a directed turn and the next thing we knew we were driving this bug in the paddock at Laguna Seca in the middle of a race. I have never felt more out of place in my life. Thankfully the security guard that whizzed over to this sore thumb of not belonging simply directed us to the parking lot and did not ask for our passes. After some race watching and souvenir purchasing, we drove home making sure to stop at the Madonna Inn to use the men's urinal (a magical place).
Yesterday was very similar. The day before, my friend Daniel and I piled into a 22 year old Miata I had bought days ago on Craigslist with the intention of driving it many miles away from home. This time the 75 MPH cruising speed was traded for my first speeding ticket (thanks Miata), I got many new sunburns (I only drive with the headlights up and the top down), and we were sadly missing my friend Tim who had to go back to college the day before the show. We slept in the same campsite as last year, took the same route, went to the same Wal-Mart to lemonize our lemon, and ate at the same place the morning of the show. Just like last year we did not win an award but still came away smiling and had a blast sneaking in to Laguna Seca (no paddock this time). As we were driving home (before we decided to drive 300 miles on one tank in a car that can only go 300 miles on one tank) we looked at each other and asked ourselves, "Would I do this again?" The answer is most certainly yes, because the world gets a little bit better when you do fun stuff in cool cars.
Shout out to Jonathan Stein for prompting me to write this.