They will not be famous

For sheer fun, there can’t be a classic car event anywhere to beat the Concours de LeMons, a crazy, irreverent event, whose the name itself is a play on words!

Now a fixture during Monterey Car Week, this competition, a “must” on the Saturday agenda, sees “terrible” cars battling it out to be named the Worst in Show and take home the much coveted Lemon Trophy (a real, fresh lemon), awarded in recognition of the winner’s “unforgettable” characteristics! 

Entrants are prepared to go to any lengths in order to win, even trying to bribe the judges (dressed for the occasion in Hawaiian shirts) with fries or slices of cake (preferably homemade)! All these ingredients add up to a truly crazy car party where great fun is had by all, and this year was no exception.

Worst in Show

Admittedly, a car has to be something truly “special” in order to win the Worst in Show award: it isn’t enough for it to be an ugly looking, terribly preserved, or cheaply designed and industrially produced car. To win this trophy, it needs to combine all of the above, in the worst way possible! 

It was soon patently clear that one car, an “in house, most likely derelict” creation, meant to look like a 2003 Ferrari Enzo and based on a 1985 Pontiac Fiero, had all the right credentials: completely out of proportion and poorly executed, it really was a symbol of hopeless car design. The “Ferrari” Fiero was bought on e-bay for an undisclosed amount of money. It was able to be present at Monterey thanks to a crowd-funding campaign that raised around USD 4,000 to cover both the preparations and the travel expenses. After the event, both the owner, who asked to remain anonymous in order to preserve his (and not only his!) name and dignity, and everyone else was left wondering who on earth could possibly have dreamed up the idea of starting, let alone finishing, such a project!

The Prancing Horse, the air intakes, the large cap for refuelling, the doors that open upwards and the red colour are not enough to turn an old Pontiac Fiero into a Ferrari Enzo. Especially if it is so bad that it deserves the prize for the “worst” in Show.

The environmental disaster trophy

The task of presenting this unwelcome trophy fell to Stella Kinney, a renowned naturalist and marine biologist with a deep love of both nature and cars. Her pick, it has to be said, got right to the point, because the winner, a 1955 De Soto Powerflite Coupe based on a Ford F250 4WD chassis with a 460 c.i. V8 (tuned) engine, was as outrageous as it was spectacular. It guzzles a gallon of gas to cover just 5 miles and, its owner, John Steele of Washington State, had to stop about eleven times to refill while driving south, budgeting around USD 2,500 for the fuel alone. Luckily for the environment, this journey south was a once in a lifetime trip for this car.

Any changes made to this rusty “fake” De Soto seem to be made to harm the environment. Starting from the exaggerated consumption. What better symbol to draw attention to the health of our planet?

A happy surprise

Rick Gabrielson’s mainly unpainted 1955 Pontiac Safari has certainly seen better days, as shown, in particular, by the presence of some rust holes on its top. The car was exhibited together with a sign briefly outlining its history, which is only partially known. It was first spotted by its current owner in 1986; he noticed it, without a powertrain, standing exposed to the sun in a storage yard, where it was rapidly aging. It took him several years to convince the owner to sell it, and after some tough negotiations, he finally managed to purchase it for around USD 800. To Rick’s surprise, the owner included the complete engine and transmission in the sale, as well as almost all the missing parts. By 1994, the car was back on the road, and it has been used ever since, proving to be a good and reliable runabout. Just a few days before the show in Seaside came a real surprise: on reading what was known of the car’s history, a resident of Salinas recognized it as his old car, and showed up with several pictures. He revealed that the Safari, equipped with a racing engine, had been used, as a member of his Spaghetti Benders racing team, to tow and push a dragster. Amazing! What a great surprise, and wonderful glimpse into this “retired” old lady’s past.

Who could have thought that this car, in the past, was a support to a Dragster of Spaghetti Benders Racing? Maybe, then, the spaghetti were “al dente”. Today they seem definitely inedible!

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