The stench of the burnt clutch fills your nostrils with its abrasive aroma, as you lean forward to relieve your lower back from the sweaty stickiness of the car’s vinyl seat. Somewhere in the distance a loudspeaker is playing Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” and you couldn’t agree with this statement any more, as the foul, musty aroma from the back seat continues its onslaught on your senses.
A Volkswagen Beetle sputters past, with a front bumper that appears to be carved out of wood, complete with a vanity plate that says “BROKEN” hanging haphazardly from it, and as it backfires you see its owner panic, careening out of control and smashing into a parked Studebaker with questionable flood history. But instead of being upset the owners of the dinged car laugh uproariously, slapping the back of the VW driver and saying, “Good one man!” and “That wood bumper works great!” This isn’t just any old car meet you’re dealing with. This, friends, is a Gathering of Lemons.
For as silly as it may sound, the idea of meeting up to critique some of the crappiest cars to ever hit America’s roadways is a ton of good fun. There’s no reason to act uptight here: The cars are junk, the camaraderie is questionable in character, and the standards are so low that if you make it to the show you’re already a winner.
But this isn’t just about the cars, because it takes a certain sick level of self-deprecating humility to be seen behind the wheel of a swamp green Gremlin with lipstick red interior, and even though a lot of these cars are complete crap, their owners spend ungodly amounts of time, money, and energy on them. So if drinking PBR with midget contortionists, smashing into rusty Buicks for fun, and roasting weenies via a trunk mounted flamethrower sound like a good time to you, then this article is going to be right up your alley. May the lemon-filled fun begin.
If you want to be a part of one of these fun-filled junk-fests, you have two ugly options: 24 Hours of LeMons, and Concours d’LeMons. Both of them have ungodly amounts of hideousness and tetanus everywhere you turn; the first one is a full-blown endurance race, where clunkers compete for the “Harold Stassen Memorial Sticktuitiveness Trophy,” “the Albert Gore Jr. Carbon-Neutral Cup,” and other such venerable honors. Sure, there are cash prizes as well, but these guys have a tendency to pay them out in nickels, so bring an extra set of shocks if you plan on competing.
The crazy thing is that this is a bonafide event with races taking place across America on some of the most prestigious race tracks imaginable. From Gingerman Raceway and Thunderhill, to the Sonoma Raceway and Barber Motorsports Park, the most historic race tracks imaginable get overrun once a year as thousands of abominations bound around their curves, barreling past one another and making a spectacle of themselves. As these unholy events have grown in popularity with junk drivers, so has the populous of the grandstands — throngs of spectators camping out for the weekend to watch some of the worst car racing imaginable, because everyone deserves a chance to witness what their website calls “a breeding ground for morons.”
If attending cruise-ins and car shows is more your style, then be sure to check-out one of the three Concours d’Lemons shows for getting up close and personal with some truly terrible cars. There you can meet the weirdos who build, enjoy, and destroy them for a hobby and together make fun of the people who refuse to eat spam and eggs. It’s part legit Concours, with set rules, categories, and awards, part Burning Man, and part gypsy auction block, as Pinto owners haggle over reinforced fuel tanks and Iroc-Z owners swap cars in the hopes of getting one that doesn’t leak when it rains.
Praised for “Celebrating the oddball, mundane, and truly awful of the automotive world,” this crap-tastic Concourse is a weekend-long, fun-filled show where onlookers can ogle the worst that the automotive world ever offered. Based on the belief that “God loves ugly,” the Pebble Beach event has soiled hallowed grounds for six years running with rust and oil, in what Autoweek calls “an insistent affront to good taste and elegant design.”
Originally referred to as the Concours d’Ignorance, this unholy union of like-minded miscreants has now spawned two equally ugly offspring, with events this year having taken place in Georgia, Michigan, and California. So if you feel like breaking that old slant-six Dodge out of the barn for some show-and-tell, or if your Volvo 240 looks like it could use some dedicated track time, then head out to one of these events, because making memories is far greater than any form of dignity that you might muster.