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Monterey Car Week: Day 5 “I got to be a judge at the Concours d’Lemons”

I got to be judgy without being a jerk


Our content manager is on the road covering Monterey Car Week. Part four of his opus is available here

It’s been a whirlwind for this scribe, as I do my best to see as much as I can from the numerous Monterey Car Week events. On Saturday morning I found myself at Seaside City Hall, thinking in I was still in Monterey and trying to shake loose some cobwebs with strong coffee. The fog was out and the day was slowing waking up.

The park at Seaside City Hall was beginning to fill up with cars and the various vendors were getting ready for the Concours d’Lemons. For the unfamiliar the Concours d’Lemons describes itself as,”Celebrating the oddball, mundane and the truly awful of the automotive world”. It’s a car show that is more fun with lighthearted energy and embracing our love of cars.

Concours d'Lemons

Like a typical concours, judges review cars and trophies are given to the best of an automotive category. Creativity, energy and love of one’s car are all embraced, as opposed to the exclusivity or pedigree of a car. I’ve been to a few car shows and this one has all the right spirit that makes me love our community.

Thanks to graciousness of our East Coast Editor, Andy Reid, I got to be a judge at this year’s event. I was given a sash that announced “Bride To Be” and a clipboard to draft my opinion of the best contestant among the German cars. All of the judges got sashes to announce their distinguished role in the event. Each judge wore a different sash with wild pronouncements, none of were left unscathed, including Ray Evernham. You don’t really need to announce “Here comes the judge!” when you wear a sash.

Helping me judge the German cars was Porsche Car Club of America executive director, Vu Nguyen. I drive a Mini Cooper, but German cars are not my forte. It was fortuitous that I got to roll with Vu.

We checked out the scene and reviewed the various German cars. We chatted it up with anyone that wanted to tell us about their car, their baby, their pride & joy. A judge can be bribed by contestants and it’s welcomed. I can be bought, but alas no one tried to curry my favor throughout my brief tenure as concours judge.

In the German car category a VW Beetle caught my eye…

2000 Volkswagen Beetle

It was wild with an overall vibe that reminded me of Mad Max. I spoke to the 2000 VW Beetle’s owner, designer and builder, Jen Herchenroeder. She explained to us that it was once a proud Beetle with mileage ticking high and the VW needed some love.

Jen rescued the Beetle and rebuilt parts of the drivetrain, she said what parts but I was still a little groggy and can’t remember, and there was an electric schematic drawn on the dashboard by her. Jen and her teammate, Paloma Faultley, were wearing BattleBots t-shirts and compete on the show with their team, HiJinx. Paloma graciously told me about designing, and building robots for the competition. It was a cool and interesting to get to learn about some of the behind the scenes aspects of the robots and TV show.

Team captain Jen Herchenroeder and Paloma Fautley – Image courtesy of David P. Castro

Jen explained that the movie Tank Girl was some of the inspiration for the VW’s motif, and as soon as she mentioned the Lori Petty movie it clicked in my Blockbuster Video head.

Everything on the car was unique and hand built, no body kits you found online. Look at one angle and you would notice a new detail that you once overlooked with a previous glance. And each detail had a story on how it was built and some of the inspiration.

Jen and Paloma personified the essence of the Concours d’Lemons. The collective spirit of this informal concours is why I love cars; you can make them yours and there is something for everyone.

For once in my life I got be judgy without being a jerk.

David P. Castro
David P. Castro
The Santa Rosa, California native is an experienced automotive and motorsports writer with a passion for American muscle cars. He is a credentialed automotive, NASCAR, and IndyCar reporter that graduated from the University of Nevada. A devoted F1 and NASCAR fan, he currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, son, Siberian Husky, Mini Cooper, and 1977 Chevrolet C10.


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