A concours for the rest, and the rust, of us

Concours d’Lemons makes its second visit to Amelia Island

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1978 Mercury Grand Marquis coupe not only has survived the decades, but the 800 miles drive to Amelia Island for Concours d'Lemons showcase | Andy Reid photos

The 2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance weekend offered a variety of events, 3 collector car auctions, a cars and coffee, the Porsche Werks Reunion and, lower down the totem pole, a Concours d’ Lemons. 

Think of Lemons as the coronavirus of the classic car show circuit. Its concours is a celebration of the Oddball, Mundane, and Truly Awful of the Automotive World. 

The sign says it all

Categories include Der Selfsatisfiedkrautenwagen, Needlessly Complex Italian, Swedish Meatball, Rust Bent American Junk, and the Royal Order of the MOT Failure, among others. At this point you should get the idea that this is not a car for high-end classics but is possibly the most fun you can have for your money. If you keep in mind that the event is free, the value increases.

Lemons made its debut at Amelia Island in 2019. This year more than 30 cars were entered. That might seem a sound number, but the event area could not have held more cars.

I had the opportunity (I foolishly volunteered) to judge at this esteemed event and drew the Der Selfsatisfiedkrautenwagen class. This was one of the bigger classes, with each car a bit worse than the one before. My class winner, or loser, remember, this is the bizarro world of cars, was a 1973 VW Beetle that was so rusty it had rebar wended to the body to reinforce it. 

I have no idea if the owner actually made it home. Since the only rule at Concours d’ Lemons is that after the show you must take your car away and not leave it there, I am assuming he got home, somehow.

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A couple of the entries in the Rust Belt category
Rueful Britannia is one of the Lemons classes

Another astounding car at Lemons was the Geo Metro pickup conversion. The car was not amazing and was a typical home-made pickup crafted from a car that already was bad new. What was more astounding is that the owner is looking to buy more Geo Metro cars. We offered to help him pay for a therapist.

The best condition car was the all-original 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis coupe, a car that a quartet veteran automotive journalists never knew existed. The car was a 60,000-mile survivor in immaculate condition that was driven 800 miles to get to the concours.

Though many of the cars on display at a Lemons event are disasters, we do see some that are, truly, rare, yet still awful cars. Case in point was Worst in Show — the top honor at a Concours d’Lemons. 

Worst of Show honors (or is it dishonors?) went to this Cadillac Cimarron, one of only 4 built with a manual transmission
Yes, that’s a manual shifter in the Cimarron

This was already a terrible car as it was a Cadillac Cimarron, a example of the worst kind of badge engineering and car on many peoples lists as one of the worst cars GM ever sold. 

However, this one was amazing as it was one of only 4 built with a manual gearbox. When we awarded the owner his trophy, he told us he bought the car for $500 and immediately had to spend $1,500 to make it roadworthy. 

Basically, he won at Lemons for the cost of the wax applied to any of the cars o the Concours d’Elegance lawn the following day.

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A buddy told me about Amelia Island Concours, so I drove all the way from Butte, Montana to see it. He didn’t tell me it costs $150 to get in. This was the only show I could afford. It was fun, but pretty much like our regular show in Butte. Not worth the drive.

  2. I find it hard to believe they added the 1978 Grand Marquis to this d’lemon car show. What Moron decided to do that? My Mother had a 1978 Grand Marquis Colony Park Station Wagon with a 460 cid in it that pulled us kids, two adults a dog and a 32 ft Airstream trailer all over this country! With the AC on full blast and NEVER one problem!
    I would put a car like that up against ANY new car today. It may not have gotten the fuel milage, but it will out last anything on the road today!

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