I remember once, long ago, when I was still young and beautiful and full of hope, back when I worked at the Old Site. I think a number of us writers were in some AirBnB while we were on a work trip to some car show, and a few of us were up late, drinking and talking and whatevering. One of the people there was everyone’s favorite Fancy Person and a dear friend, Kristen Lee. I remember we were all talking about cars, as usual, and the sorts of cars we tend to talk about, when Kristen interrupted, and with some degree of bafflement or exaggeration, asked “why do you all like terrible cars?” It was a valid question, and I’m sad to say I’m not sure we ever found a reasonable answer for her. But I know she was right, also: I do love terrible cars. And I can’t help it. And this could be a miserable situation, save for one bit of very good news: I’m not alone. Not by a long shot. In fact, there are many of us, and the multitudes of Terrible Car Fetishists have a wonderful way to celebrate our sickness every year: The Concours D’Lemons. I was a judge again this year, and, as always, it was fantastic.
One of the best things about the Concours D’Lemons is when and where it happens every year: right smack dab in the middle of Monterey Car Week, both physically and temporally, the perfect antidote to seeing so very, very many wildly expensive and rare cars that you’re lucky to be sharing any physical volume of space with. A human can only take so much wealth and class before the body will start rejecting all that refinement, and you need to experience some real garbage, some real phoned-in half-assery or really poorly considered engineering or design choices, or just some honest, forthright automotive crap to set your body’s delicate balance of humors back in order. You can see how great it is in the video below:
This year I was a judge for the Rust Belt American Junk – GM category, and we awarded our prize to a woman who has owned a ’93 Geo Metro Convertible since new and drives that tiny little charming crapcan every single day. It’s adored, likely in a way no Geo has ever been adored by anyone, ever.
You’ll see that at the Concours as well: unloved heaps that have been loved all their lives and are often the finest surviving examples of their generally unloved breed. That’s why you can see a pristine Chevy Vega, and inspect its fascinating taillights:
The Concours D’Lemons is also the only place to see trunk hinges so fuzzy and furry that they make you feel uncomfortable inside:
And it’s where you can see a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia that had literally been dug out of the dirt days ago, and still managed to get to the show under its own power, complete with a very desiccated, low-energy ex-mammal in the trunk:
The Concours D’Lemons is also one of the few places where even hardened, jaded, veteran car geeks can see things they never knew existed, like the Bear Cub microcar, a re-badged Bond Microcar for the American Market, and a colossal failure:
You can see all this stuff and so so much more in the video we shot, which is about as close as you can get to actually being there without having to deal with the likely-required tetanus inoculations and the stench of people like myself. So scroll back up and watch it if you haven’t, because I promise you’ll see some fascinating cars there.
Car shows don’t need to be about money or status at all. In fact, I think you may be able to argue that the more contempt for status and showiness, the better the car show, which would likely make the Concours D’Lemons the finest car show in the world.
That seems about right, to me.