Tour of Lemons
In the world of car shows, it’s hard to top the annual Monterey Auto Week for pure star power, with numerous concourses, collector’s auctions and morning tours featuring the finest and rarest examples of the automotive art. But there’s another Monterey event that is making news and winning fans for itself– by holding the world’s lowliest cars in highest esteem.
Like any other car show, the Concours d’Lemons boasts a mix of the familiar and the obscure, but all of these show cars have one thing in common: they are all clunkers— some ridiculed even when they were new, others once proud and now left for dead. These are the bottom feeders of the automotive ocean: derelicts, hooptees and loser cruisers. But for this day at least, they are the belles of the ball.
ALAN GALBRAITH: The Pebble Beach Concours is really the best car show in the world, and we figured if there’s a best car show in the world, then there has to be a worst, and we want to be that worst car show. So we are catering to the truly awful, the mundane and the oddball of the automotive world...Cars that don’t have a home at any other event during Monterey Auto Week.
JOHN DAVIS: What began in 2009 as an irreverent poke at the hoity-toity Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has now added a driving tour for these rolling wrecks and is co-hosted by title sponsor Hagerty Insurance.
JONATHAN KLINGER: The thing that we love about this event is here we are out on the Monterey Peninsula.. You have the world’s greatest cars, the world’s most expensive, valuable, rare, whatever adjective you want to use – for people from all over the world. And yet, there really wasn’t an event that just said “you know what, all cars are beautiful, and sometimes the most glorious examples of some of the worst cars ever built are still fun to see, and they still deserve to be driven.
JOHN DAVIS: Every parade needs a grand marshal, so Hagerty conducted a nationwide search for “America’s Sweetest Lemon”. The winning machine and its owners were invited to Monterey to lead this rolling roadblock along the famous 17-mile drive.
MINDY KINDELBERGER: It’s a 1970 Subaru 360, 2-cylinder, 2-stroke. 356 cc’s with 25 horsepower…I drive it every day, I drive four miles to work every day, and it’s a quick little trip downhill and it’s a long trip back up.
JOHN DAVIS: Of course the definition of what constitutes a lemon is debatable, even in this crowd, but the ahem,—ugly truth of this car show is that all are welcome, and appreciated for what they are.
These owners proudly flaunt their status as automotive underdogs, and do so with a sense of humor:
DAVE SCRIVENER: It’s fully restored then, I assume?
OWNER: It was painted in 1977, yes so it’s fully restored… I almost didn’t buy it because it had a rust issue, but it ran good... It still runs good… it’s got a huge rust issue now.
JOHN DAVIS: Surprisingly, the driving tour went off without a hitch. Despite dire forecasts of roadside peril, all 75 cars completed the 25-mile round trip under their own power and nearly intact.
And at the end of the day, all would agree that no matter what the car or condition it’s in, the fact that they are used and driven and loved by somebody earns these motorized mutts some degree of respect... And that’s what auto enthusiasm is all about.