Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Bows to Concours d’LeMons
Monterey Car Week and the 2015 edition of the Concours d’Elegance is in the books. It was grand. It was luxurious. It was stuffed to the running boards with pomp, circumstance and sense of occasion.
But, let’s be honest. It’s also burdened with frequent pretentiousness and an inflated sense of importance. We all love cars, ad the Concours presents some of the best preserved classic vehicles in the world. But, none of it is curing cancer. The anxiety and infighting between those displaying Concours cars in competition remain off the record, but it’s legendary in its backbiting ferocity.
If you want to kick back and enjoy the true spirit of the car in America, you need to step away from the seersucker suits, the fancy hats and the million dollar rides. Thanks to a free afternoon sent my way by our Lexus hosts during the Concours d’Elegance, I managed to sneak away to a venue that didn’t have the aesthetic impact of Pebble Beach – but trumped the main event in friendliness, humility and laughter.
The Concours d’LeMons showcases some of the most poorly built, badly received, ugliest and worst maintained vehicles you’ll ever see coughing and sputtering into a Northern California park. It’s a fixture during Monterey Car Week now and salutes the Joe Six Pack and Suzie Temp crowd that hangs onto their simple consumer vehicles long after most folks would’ve put bullets through the engine blocks.
There were hideous deathtraps like Pacers and Gremlins. There were kitschy examples of lost Americana such as Ford LTD Station Wagons and floating Oldsmobiles long enough to launch fighter jets.
There were endless sun damage, dents and faded or completely mismatched paint schemes. There was oil-stained grass under every chassis. But, visitors also found what the big time Concours on Sunday lacked — a sense of humor. To bring a car into the LeMons show, a guy has to know his machine is crap and love that about it.
The cars LeMons were lived in and saw endless adventures. They were family chariots. Teenagers lost their virtue in their backseats. They helped friends move. Unlike Concours exhibits, they didn’t hide in clean rooms where they were waxed twice a day by owners with more money than brains.
While the Concours d’Elegance might show us what we aspire to own, the Concours d’LeMons celebrates who we are.