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.
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.
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 Fieri–costumed army of car dudes (trust me, it’s a demographic) talking up their garbage.
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.
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 anyplace else.”
Unlike its 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.
There are oddities like the Yugo–the worst car ever made–so poorly engineered it’s had more of a life as a punch line than as a vehicle. There are also kit cars, street-legal Frankenmobiles 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.)
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.