Car Show Classics: Concours d’Lemons

Roger Carr’s recent posts and wonderful pictures of the British Festival of the Unexceptional reminded me of the Concours d’Lemons which I attended a few years ago. This free event in Seaside, California, during the Historic Car Week better known for the Pebble Beach Concours, describes itself as “An ugly oil stain on the Pebble Beach Auto Week”. I checked online, and sure enough it was scheduled for the upcoming weekend, and I headed down on a sunny Saturday. I chose this lead photo which reinforces the tongue-in-cheek humor of the show, but trust me, the Corvette is not representative of the cars on display; it just happened to find an empty parking spot by the Concours sign outside the Seaside city government grounds where the show was held.

This Aztek, also streetside, could have been a show contender. These cars, in the City Hall parking lot, were a lot nicer, and typical of the cars one sees all over the Monterey area during this week.

Note the ’57 Chevy convertible behind the Mustang GT/CS. This MGA was one of two parked outside the show.

OK, now we’re inside the show proper.The cars on display are an interesting blend of unrestored – but generally drivable – project cars, daily drivers, beautiful restorations or originals, and some just plain weird stuff. I suppose this Triumph GT6 falls in the first category.

It was the lead in the “Rueful Britannia” section; this Turbo Bentley bookended the British brigade at the other end.

On to the French cars, demonstrating Unmitigated Gaul, including this Facellia and a nice Peugeot 505. Neither were particularly lemon-like, and the Facellia looked worthy of a place at Pebble Beach to my unsophisticated eyes.

Another Gallic machine. Nice to see a 1961 Panhard PL17, but not a beauty to my eyes. It was not parked with the Facellia and the 505; perhaps they shunned it to it’s own spot.

Another car I’m not a huge fan of, but more likable than the Panhard, this 1960 Auto Union SP1000 was of similar vintage and in a similar market segment as the PL17. A baby TBird, I suppose, while the Panhard was just a bar of soap with hooded headlights.

More fitting in the Lemons category, at least to my older eyes, but immaculately clean with period wheels and stripes. But in the background, something a bit more exotic. No I’m not talking about the white Mazda wagon.

This Lancia Flaminia is the older big brother of the Flavia that Roger Carr highlighted here. The Flaminia is rear wheel drive, and has a V6. The Malibu in the background seems to be getting more attention.

This Yugo was the only Kommunist Kar on display. There was another Yugo in the parking lot across the street, proving that CC’s do cluster.

Not one, but TWO Bitter SC’s. This Swiss car has had it’s day at CC in the past. The red one was pretty nice; the other, well I’m not sure what the graphics were about. Things started to get more interesting as I got further into the show …

Yes, it’s a Nissan Altima … but why?

Some trucks, and some Dodge vans, with an interloper from South Bend. Still from the Rust Belt, I guess.

Now this was a ringer. Maybe not Pebble Beach worthy, but no lemon; it had patina but was definitely a driver. A 1927 3 litre Bentley. Looks like it just drove over from victory circle at LeMans, and maybe took a few interesting detours, taking 92 years getting here.

This 1965 Wagonaire had the rear sliding top open, but I wasn’t sure if the panel was actually in place. The faded badges on the fender sides indicated it had a V8.

And it’s for sale. Tires look good, and in fact the sheet metal looked pretty solid too. Probably a California car.

Another car for sale, $5500 seemed pretty steep for a 1957 948cc Morris Minor in this condition. Needs wiring and a new transmission, at least that’s what the ad said.

OK, I’ll need some help with this Packard. The metalwork on the high trunk lid and rear fins looked quite good, as if stamped with factory dies, but the front fins looked tacked on. Was the rear end a production effort, an attempt to make a more modern Packard before it became Studebaker-ized, or is this a well-preserved 1950’s custom car?

The Grumman Olson KubVan was covered here at CC, by Paul himself. This one was an ’85, and the underhood emissions plate seems to confirm it was originally fitted with a diesel VW engine.

But in a reverse of what one might expect with an early Rabbit or Pickup, this one had been replaced by a gasoline VW engine.

Coil and spark plug wires, definitely not glow plugs. The AMC Eagle next to the Kubvan presaged a couple of other AMC products.

A patina-ed Gremlin, a Nash Metropolitan next to it, and behind, another Gremlin with a V8. I didn’t get a picture, due to the crowds, but there was also an LS powered Pacer wagon along this row.

But for the Pacer fans out there, this wagon was in the parking lot. A nice example; does anyone know if those were OEM rims?

This Pontiac wagon was perhaps my favorite car, well, after the 3 litre Bentley. My first toy car was a Tootsietoy Pontiac wagon of this vintage, as proven by a family snapshot of me clutching it when I was barely a year old, and I recently picked up an example on EBay. I’m not sure if the owner is tightening up the bailing wire holding the front bumper on, but a few minutes later he fired it up and it drove away smoothly and quietly.

Well, I saved the worst for last. That’s right, the top award at the Concours d’Lemons is “Worst in Show”, and the winner is festooned in Silly String, instead of being showered with champagne. But what’s that, you ask? Why does a clean looking Pontiac Fiero deserve “Worst in Show”?

Because it’s not just any Fiero. This is an “Enzo”, a homemade, probably one-off (ie not a kit car) tribute to the Ferrari Enzo. In this photo it doesn’t look too bad.

From the side or the rear, it was another story. Definitely deserving of the trophy. I encountered the car later, in town, when it was hobnobbing with some German pals, and chatted with one of the owners. He’s had the car for several years but doesn’t know much about it’s history.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of perhaps its best feature, a molded plastic V12 engine visible through the rear window. The quality of the ersatz V12 was about the same as that of the body work.

A couple of other Lemons I saw later in town, also with some more reputable company. On the right an older Discovery wrapped in wood, more like a wooden sailboat than an American woodie, advertised for sale and claimed to be in “ship shape. not sync’ing [sic] yet”. On the left, a 1955 DeSoto with real 4WD as far as I could tell (front diff, connected to a transfer case with a driveshaft), and a Tepui rooftop tent in true 21st century “ExPo” style.

Definitely not Lemons either, I’ll leave you with few other sightings on the streets in town, in the vicinity of the Concours. A nicer Packard touring car; anyone know the year or model?

A JDM Nissan Laurel.

A few blocks away, the main street was closed off for a display of exotics. Not one but two LaFerraris. Perhaps suitably parked in front of an auto parts store that advertises “Import Parts”.

Actually, I think this Rolls might be worthy of the Concours d’Lemons in a few years. Somehow these Gulf Oil colors look better on a Ford GT or Porsche 917.

Slightly better, but not really to my taste:

A McLaren with Saudi plates.

I assumed the GA plates on this Koenigsegg indicated Georgia, the country, due to their European shape, but my son pointed out that the symbol on the left was the Georgia state seal, with the Great Seal of the US on the right. OK, enough exotica, I’ll leave you with these two just because I like them.