For those who wince at sports car showoffs, this wacky annual show is a sight for sour eyes.
Pebble Beach Car Week is the worst. Crowds, traffic, rich old dudes showing off their expensive toys—it’s an altar to fossil fuel-powered excess. Like other sane people, I knew to steer clear of the Monterey Bay for Car Week. Until I read about Concours D’Lemons.
The coveted “worst in show” award went to this almost-sort-of-quasi-replica Ferrari Enzo kit car, which is really a Pontiac Fiero in disguise.
Held at a location affectionately called “the oil stain,” D’Lemons is a celebration of the world’s worst cars. Here, the crappier or weirder, the better.
This wagon painted in 128 different colors won the “sight for sour eyes” award.
It’s a porous event, with no official borders. There’s an impromptu garage or surreal show-and-tell around every corner. By 10 am, competitors and spectators alike are drunk. Wise attendees avoid eye contact with the red-cheeked, Guy Fierri-costumed army of car dudes (trust me, it’s a demographic) talking up their garbage.
Every summer for the past decade, diehard car freaks have congregated on the lawn of Seaside’s City Hall to pretend like they own cool cars.
The most recent D’Lemons, held last August, was the 10th anniversary, explains Alan Galbraith, who’s known as Head Gasket and calls himself the idiot behind the whole thing. “2009 was our first year according to the court records and arrest warrants,” he quips.
Rougher around the edge than its put-together sister Concours d’Elegance, d’Lemons is where you go to avoid the automotive pretense.
A fanatic himself, Galbraith had been working Car Week for years before he came up with the idea. “I had done just about everything there is to do, you know, from helping friends with cars to volunteering at the show,” he says. “Finally it just got a little stuffy and I was looking for a way to let a little bit of air out of that balloon. I started this to feature cars that don’t get featured any place else.”
You won’t find pristine metallic paint jobs at this car show. Here, rust and disrepair rule.
Unlike it’s prettier and more popular sister event, the Concours d’Elegance, d’Lemons is all about kitsch, crap, and absurdity. Rust, wood paneling, matte spray paint, faux fur—normally a landfill aesthetic—are all materials that are celebrated here.
The inside of this van was shagged out with flowing tufts of white carpet and a shrine to Farrah Fawcett.
There are oddities like the Yugo–the worst car ever made–so poorly engineered it’s had more of a life as a punchline than a vehicle. There are also kit cars, street-legal Franken-mobiles made from disparate parts that count amongst their ranks at least one fake Enzo Ferrari—a counterfeit speedster some bros built that ended up winning “worst in show.” (It was subsequently covered in silly string, a d’Lemons tradition.)
Despite its reputation as the worst car ever made, Yugos like this one still get meticulous restorations and highly attentive care.
As the day winds to a halt, Head Gasket reminds everyone that it’s a free event and you get what you pay for. If you like cars that never should have never been made, then Concours d’Lemons is a feast for your trash-loving eyes.
Like many vehicles here, this motorized and capsulized tricycle begs the question: Why?