Editor’s note: Follow all of the action and updates on our special Monterey Car Week page.
Amid the splendor of Monterey Car Week, there’s one dark, funky presence that would have been a blight on the classic car festivities if it were not so much fun. This would be the Concours d’LeMons, which is the Bizarro World version of the snooty, high-end car shows and auctions taking place this week.
Here, the rotted, rusty, battered dregs of motoring are unabashedly celebrated for their very awfulness. Also here are vehicles that were crappy or just miserably mundane even when they were brand new. Then there are the misguided customization projects that went so horribly wrong, and today are so hilariously weird.
The annual LeMons show, held on the lawn of Seaside City Hall, is an ironic antidote to the lofty collector car shows and auctions that crowd onto the Monterey Peninsula this time of year. It’s fun and its funny and nobody takes it seriously in the least. The awe and admiration of the high-end concours events are replaced here by good-humored mockery.
You might have called this an “everyman’s concours,” except that most regular folks would have junked these wrecks long ago.
The unsightly result of unchecked oxidation was the prevailing patina, such as the rust-pocked Volkswagen double-cab pickup or the ’77 Chevy pickup truck whose hood was entirely perforated by rust-through, making in look like some kind of strange industrial lace.
Of course, there was Pacers, Vega, Pintos and Trabants, all terrible cars from the get go. But there were also Cadillacs, Mercedes and Jaguars, unwitting victims of the ravages of time and nutty owners.
One of the funkiest cars on site was a poor AMC Gremlin that some tasteless customizer attempted to turn into a long, baroque neo-classic. Basic skill was severely lacking, obviously. This was one of several cars that you’d look at and think: How could this even happen?
Some of the zaniness is turned into pure performance art, such as the wackily dressed William Hughes of Prunedale, California, who spent the show as a living hood ornament on his musty 1973 “Vomit Comet,” about which he said, “I drive it every day, pretty much.”
One of the most-exciting moments happened with the arrival of undoubtedly the world’s worst Jaguar XK 120 coupe, a car that looked like it had just been dragged out of a swamp and which overheated mightily in a roiling cloud of steam as soon as it was parked, accompanied by gales of laughter from onlookers.
How bad was it? Picture a car on which an 8-year-old had tried to learn body work, with no glass in any of the windows, including the windshield, and an interior that looked like it had been blasted by a hurricane, only more rotted.
Meanwhile, across the street in a small park, other LeMons celebrants marked their completion of the four-day, 2,000-mile Tour d’LeMons. Most of these disreputable cars looked like they wouldn’t make it down the block, but somehow they muddled through the rally that took them from Monterey to San Pedro, California, on to Yuma, Arizona, and back again.
“It’s kind of related to the whole LeMons thing: Let’s endurance this,” said Amanda Silverstein of Sacramento, who did the tour along with her passenger, Diana Singleton of Mesa, Arizona, bizarrely dressed as roller-derby queens while driving a diminutive 2008 Smart car completely festooned in fluttering ribbons and such.
On this side of the road were a few more ridiculous pieces of performance art, including a couple of guys dressed as pirates who drove a Range Rover that was riotously done up as an ersatz ship of the seven seas, black sails hoisted on its roof.
Well, shiver me timbers!