The crazy cars of the Concours d'LeMons
Posted on: Sunday, August 15, 2010 10:17 AM by Nicole Gustas
While throngs flocked to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Pebble Beach and Quail Lodge on Saturday to see the ultra-elite in automotive excellence, a raucous crowd converged on Toro Park in Salinas to admire automotive horrors at the Concours d'LeMons. Reliant Robin three-wheel car, known for tilting onto its side in tight turns. The stated goal of the Concours d'LeMons is to showcase "the oddball, the mundane and the truly awful of the automotive world." Show cars compete in categories such as "Rueful Britannia," "Unmitigated Gaul," "Der Self-Satisfied KrautenWagen," "Needlessly Complex Italian," "American Rust Belt" and "Soul-Sucking Japanese Appliance." Competitors are encouraged to bribe judges with food, booze and whatever else they have on hand to win the title of "Worst in Class." Announcements during the event warned guests, "If you recognize our celebrity judges, please do not report them to their parole officers." In-the-know car geeks, however, recognized the two judges instantly; they were automotive journalist Jay Lamm and former racing superstar Dick McClure. Berkeley's Dan Lennon celebrates after winning the Worst in Class award in the "Needlessly Complex Italian" category. Judges, in sombreros, can be seen at rear left; his bribe, as well as his documentation from showing at Concorso Italiano, can be seen on the hood. As the judges perused the cars of the "Needlessly Complex Italian" class, competitors offered them shots of Limoncello (deeming the lemon-flavored Italian liqueur most appropriate for the Concours d'LeMons), among other bribes. The judges oohed and aahed over the way one Alfa Romeo had rusted (and kept rusting through the paint, even after restoration), and admired the outrageous tailfin another Alfa owner had bolted onto the back of his car, as well as a large light to replace the non-working headlights that had been mounted onto the metal bar welded on as a bumper. But it was Dan Lennon's Fiat 600, shown above, that captured the judge's hearts. The judges raved at the rust on the outside of the rain gutters, saying, "The outside of the rain gutters! Now that's something that can only be accomplished with fine Italian engineering!" At first they were dismayed at the paucity of his $2 cash bribe piled on top of the food and drink on his hood, but were mollified when Lennon pointed out, "But that's what I paid for the car!" In the end, there was one deciding factor: Lennon had to drive back to Berkeley in the thing, and the judges were sure the car would blow up before he got there. They decided that the "Needlessly Complex Italian" award might help him feel better as he stared at the ashes of his Italian car. Shortened VW Type II bus wins "Worst in Show" award. The overall winner of the "Worst in Show" award, however, went to this shortened VW Type II bus. The car has several stability issues; on the plus size, it can do wheelies and very tight donuts. 1924 Electric Auto Red Bug. Other oddballs abounded. This 1924 Electric Auto Red Bug could be viewed as a proto-Tesla. Astoundingly, the vehicle still runs. Owner Leslie Dreist-Joseph, who won the award for most dangerous vehicle (a highly competitive category in 2010) said that the car can hit 10 miles per hour, "depending on what the scale says when I get on it in the morning." The car won the hotly contested "Most Dangerous" category due to the lack of seatbelts, the low profile and the steel steering shaft aimed directly at the driver's chest. 2011 Bentley Mulsanne, looking out of place amidst the Pintos and Trabants. The most out-of-place car at the Concours d'LeMons was, without a doubt, the ultra-elite 2011 Bentley Mulsanne (MSRP: $285,000), apparently there due to a GPS accident. The driver (standing behind the car in the black shirt) surveyed the crowd and said, "Wow, the Quail has really gone downhill since last year!" Hal Sperlich mini-van prototype Rear view: Hal Sperlich mini-van prototype Steering and instrument panel: Hal Sperlich mini-van prototype The theme of the 2010 Concours d'LeMons was "A Salute to the Mini-van." The showboat of the salute was this early, non-working mini-van prototype by legendary auto designer Hal Sperlich. Eventually, this vehicle would grow up into the Dodge Challenger. 1948 Davis Divan, owned by Wayne Carini of Discovery Channel's "Chasing Classic Cars." The Concorso Italiano has Jay Leno, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has McDreamy (aka Patrick Dempsey), the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance has Steve McQueen's old car, and this year the Concours d'LeMons pulled its own celebrity: Wayne Carini of Discovery Channel's "Chasing Classic Cars." Carini brought a 1948 Davis Divan, an ultra-rare 3 wheeler (only 13 were ever made). According to Carini, designer Gary Davis was run out of the automotive industry due to a conspiracy by the major auto makers against what they perceived as a threat. Davis served a short jail term and then moved on to a career designing bumper cars. Carini and crew weren't just at the event to show off the Davis Divan; they were also there to film it for a segment on Discovery Channel's "Chasing Classic Cars." Expect to see a segment on the show in November or December...and expect to see even more fans of oddball cars at the Concours d'LeMons in 2011. For more photos of the Concours d'LeMons, see our Concours d'LeMons Flickr set. For more coverage of the other events leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, click here to see all our posts on Monterey Auto Week. For information on all events during Monterey Auto Week, see our Monterey Auto Week and Concours d'Elegance page.