The rusty, the rotted, the weird, the ridiculous – they all find a place to rest at the Concours d’LeMons, the automotive antidote for all the high-falutin concours, car shows and auctions that prize prestige over patina during Monterey Car Week.
Here we have the unmitigated rejects of the collector car world, and everywhere else, for that matter, the Pintos, Pacers, Vegas and other assorted bad car memories, as well as once-reputable vehicles that have fallen on hard times. In most cases, very hard times.
“This is more rust than it is car at this point,” the show announcer says about one entry.
The object is sheer tongue-in-cheek comedy, mocking the grandeur and pretension of actual concours events, substituting old beaters that are sardonically treated as precious objects. Instead of Best of Show, the top award is Worst in Show.
Yet some of the cars actually are cherished pieces of personal history.
Such as Mario D’onofrio’s 1982 Mercury Lynx. What looks like a refugee from a scrapyard is actually a one-owner car, D’onofrio being the one owner – he bought it new as a young fellow in Detroit in 1982, drove it towing a trailer to California where he now lives in Ceres, and has had it ever since.
While the Lynx with its sun-blasted “finish” looks like a total derelict, D’onofrio said it has been in running condition and registered with the state the whole time.
“I’ve never had the heart to sell it,” he said as he stood beside the Lynx with his buddy, Jan Zentler, both clad in Hawaiian shirts festooned with lemons. “It runs, and I just have to tinker with it every so often. I enjoy having it around.”
One enjoyable aspect of having such a mundane vehicle is the number of people who stop to tell of Lynxes they’ve known in the past.
“All the stories people came by and told us, they had one, they knew somebody who had one,” D’onofrio said. “And they’re surprised that one’s still running.”
One of the more bizarre LeMons sights was that of a 1966 Chevrolet Corvair that has been transformed into a stretch limousine, with presidential seals on its doors, American flags on its fenders and a “Ralph Nader for President” sticker on its front bumper.
The limo was brought to the show by Jim Callahan and Asher Schlusselberg, LeMons regulars who won Worst in Show in 2018.
The schtick that they were telling passersby was how the Corvair was built for Nader after he won the 2020 presidential election (it was fraudulently stolen from him, they said, echoing current events), and how he tried to donate it to the Smithsonian but they wouldn’t accept it because it was too long.
“This is its debut on the show circuit,” Callahan jokingly added. “We were approached by Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and Audrain particularly; Donald Osborne and Audrain really want to put it in their show.
“But we wanted it to premiere at LeMons.”
Unlike the long-term ownership of the Lynx, Callahan noted that “Well, we got it recently.” That is, just two days earlier when the seller dropped it off in a parking lot across the street from the Seaside venue where LeMons in held.
“It was done as a father-son project,” Callahan explained, noting that this was the actual story of the car and not part of their act. “They started when the son was 72 and the father was 92, in Southern California.
“The father died last year at the age of 95 and the son just couldn’t wait to get rid of it, so that’s how we got it.”
Some other wacky sights at LeMons included:
• Will Hughes, another regular, garishly dressed as a used car salesman continuously trying to sell his battered Chrysler Imperial to spectators.
• A 2005 Hyundai Elantra turned into a crazy-looking homage to the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
• A rustic 1946 Chevrolet flatbed truck where the owner, Matthew Morillo, was cooking on a barbeque attached to its cluttered side. He said he built the truck in honor of his town of Paso Robles, “so beer, wine, guns, leather, barbeque, it’s all incorporated.”
• A late-model Mini piled high with stickers and glued-on ornamentation, creating an “art car” built by a guy who called himself “the last hippie.”
The Worst of Show went to something you wouldn’t quite call an actual vehicle, a hand-built VW-powered contraption with a fake horse and saddle on top where the driver rides up high.
Named Sauerkraut, the strange thing is owned by Daniel Shanahan of Sebastopol, California, who drove it up to the show stage to get the award, which obviously was a dangerous undertaking. The conveyance is so off balance to the rear that it constantly threatened to tip over backward – a helper sat on the frame up front to hold it down for the short drive.
“Sometimes worst of show is hard to pick,” the announcer said. “But this one was a runaway winner. “
In LeMons tradition, Sauerkraut was sprayed with Silly String by the crowd to celebrate its win, continuing the mockery with a nod to the Pebble Beach Concours practice of firing off confetti as the Best of Show car rolls onto the stage.