10 of the Best of the Worst at Concours d’Lemons in Chattanooga

J.A.
By J.A. Ackley
Oct 20, 2022 | Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, Morris, Plymouth, Pontiac, Saturn, Tatra, Concours d'Lemons, Chattanooga Motorcar Festival

Photography by J.A. Ackley

Imposters. Rarities. Oddities. Dweeby cars loved too much. Sexy cars loved way too little. Yes, this could only be a Concours d’Lemons.

The most recent Lemons somehow took place last Saturday at the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival–a weekend-long event that also held “The Gathering of the Greats–Ferrari edition.” What a juxtaposition. A Dodge Aries and a Ferrari mentioned in the same breath? Ugh.

Fortunately, the Concours d’Lemons had a Ferrari… but even that was a knock-off.

Here’s a list of 10 cars that caught our eye… for better or for worse.

10. 1995 Saturn SC2

Pop-up headlights up the flair of a Rad-Era car, but can they make a Saturn sexier? Maybe. After a few drinks, perhaps. Associate editor Colin Wood disagrees. He absolutely loves the sleek lines of a classic, Space-Age-looking Saturn.

9. 2022 Ford Maverick XL

Yes, this is a rare machine, indeed. Just go ask our Director of Marketing & Digital Assets Tom Suddard. For months he has said he had one on order. We thought about swiping this one for him, but we were told bail money is not a covered company expense, unfortunately.

8. 1978 Pontiac Sunbird Safari Sport Wagon

Don’t call this a station wagon. It’s a Safari sport wagon. If you’ve had kids, or dealt with them in any fashion, you can understand why the word Safari fits as you try to wrassle them and strap them in for a ride. This one only has two doors. That makes it difficult to get those wild kiddos in, but they’d have a hard time getting out, too.

7. 1970 Plymouth Superbird

Strip Weathers has certainly seen better days. Life as a supporting character in Hollywood isn’t easy. We don’t know if this car developed a (nitro)meth(ane) habit since its last appearance in the Cars franchise in 2017, but we hope that despite its looks that it’s living a happy life.

6. 1985 Dodge Aries Wagon

If you look carefully, there are some snacks on the hood of this car to bribe the judges in the background. The car is so clean that you could eat off it. It’s still amazing that the K car saved Chrysler back in the 1980s. It just goes to show you, mighty are the meek.

5. 1951 Morris Minor

The owners of this car call it a “Concerto Miata n Morris Minor.” I’m so confused. This British car is trying to make an Italian opera reference to a Japanese car. Oh wait, it carries a 1996 Miata powertrain. That makes more sense now. Wait, not really. Most swap a different engine into a Miata rather than swap out a Miata engine into another ride.

4. 1972 Dodge Colt

If you can’t beat them, join them! That’s the philosophy Chrysler took when trying to take back market share lost from Japanese imports like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Datsun 1200. Mitsubishi produced this car for Chrysler. It also battled American greats such as the AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, and Chevrolet Vega.

3. Toyota Camry

Underneath this extraordinary façade of Rolling Stones references is an ordinary Toyota Camry. A bunch of high school kids pieced this project together that looked to build not only their art skills, but their history skills, too. That’s right. The Rolling Stones band is ancient history to high-schoolers, but Keith Richards will probably outlive us all. More on this car’s noble mission to come soon.

2. 1938 Tatra T-97

Onlookers could be frequently heard saying, “What’s a Tatra?” “Where’s Czechoslovakia?” “What state is that in?” Ugh. This car came from the Lane Motor Museum (not in Czechoslovakia, but Nashville), which has several Tatras in its collection. This one, with its rear-mounted four-cylinder engine and sleek aerodynamic profile, could easily cruise at 68 mph. Hold onto your hats, it gets faster, topping out at 78 mph. More on the Tatras in a future story.

1. Pontiac Mera

This Ferrari-badged vehicle looks an awful lot like a Ferrari 308, right? In fact, the owner of this ride said the 308’s body panels fit. Well, take a look at the door jamb and it has GM sticker. What kind of knock-off is this?! It’s a Pontiac Fiero Mera, which had a body finished by Corporate Concepts. Ferrari didn’t take kindly to it and sued the company. They eventually settled and this car disappeared after 247 were made. We’ll have more details on this car in an article dedicated to this vehicle.

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GCrites80s
GCrites80s Dork
10/19/22 8:38 p.m.

Anybody remember seeing a prototype Saturn (I think it was an SC2) at EPCOT Center in like 1987? It was in a big display as The Car of the Future. They made it sound like it would come out in the Year 2000 or something, not 2 years later.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
10/19/22 11:26 p.m.

I really like that Sport Safari.

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
10/19/22 11:38 p.m.

Fiero Ferrari kit cars are awesome.

So are 1st gen Saturns ;)

MotorsportsGordon
MotorsportsGordon Dork
10/20/22 12:22 a.m.

That superbird is a n interesting car they started with really just a roof etc and built that car on a Toyota nascar chassis with an Ls engine.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
10/20/22 4:08 a.m.
GCrites80s said:

Anybody remember seeing a prototype Saturn (I think it was an SC2) at EPCOT Center in like 1987? It was in a big display as The Car of the Future. They made it sound like it would come out in the Year 2000 or something, not 2 years later.

I do! I also remember the fiero in the same exhibit and a guy demonstrated the "dent-proof"'plastic body. Heady stuff for a little kid. 

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/20/22 7:12 a.m.
BlueInGreen - Jon said:

Fiero Ferrari kit cars are awesome.

So are 1st gen Saturns ;)

What's really comical is when those have been turbo'd or LS'd or both to be faster than the actual Ferrari- at least in a straight line.

maschinenbau
maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand UberDork
10/20/22 9:34 a.m.

That Miata-powered Morris Minor really gets around. I see it at shows all the time here in Atlanta.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
10/20/22 9:42 a.m.

The most appealing car there is the Morris Minor. I can see myself tootling around in that.

bluebarchetta
bluebarchetta Reader
10/20/22 11:42 a.m.

A '96 SC2 in Black Gold?  Yes, please.  Probably the most desirable S-series.  I wouldn't kick it out of my garage for burning oil, which is good, because it certainly would burn a quart every 1000 mi or so.

300zxfreak
300zxfreak Reader
10/20/22 12:23 p.m.

Re: the Dodge Colt......you might want to Google "Butch Leal + Dodge Colt" and see what you come up with.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
10/20/22 3:27 p.m.
MotorsportsGordon said:

That superbird is a n interesting car they started with really just a roof etc and built that car on a Toyota nascar chassis with an Ls engine.

That's pretty awesome. It seems almost sacrilegious to think of the Superbird with Toyota roots and a Chevrolet power plant.

racerfink
racerfink UberDork
10/20/22 3:51 p.m.
A 401 CJ said:
BlueInGreen - Jon said:

Fiero Ferrari kit cars are awesome.

So are 1st gen Saturns ;)

What's really comical is when those have been turbo'd or LS'd or both to be faster than the actual Ferrari- at least in a straight line.

When I was racing my '84 Fiero in SCCA ITB in the mid to late 90's, there were an incredible amount of companies that made suspension components for the Fiero.  The lengthened, aluminum tube A-arms with lots of adjustment were high on my list if I ever switched classes.  My ITB car had solid aluminum mounts for the engine cradle, some really nice Koni's, Energy Suspension bushings, and some Ground Control springs and anti-sway bars.  Too bad I didn't keep it long enough to develop the 2.5 Duke (if there was anything to develop), because it handled beautifully.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/21/22 7:22 a.m.
racerfink said:
A 401 CJ said:
BlueInGreen - Jon said:

Fiero Ferrari kit cars are awesome.

So are 1st gen Saturns ;)

What's really comical is when those have been turbo'd or LS'd or both to be faster than the actual Ferrari- at least in a straight line.

When I was racing my '84 Fiero in SCCA ITB in the mid to late 90's, there were an incredible amount of companies that made suspension components for the Fiero.  The lengthened, aluminum tube A-arms with lots of adjustment were high on my list if I ever switched classes.  My ITB car had solid aluminum mounts for the engine cradle, some really nice Koni's, Energy Suspension bushings, and some Ground Control springs and anti-sway bars.  Too bad I didn't keep it long enough to develop the 2.5 Duke (if there was anything to develop), because it handled beautifully.

Didn't all but the final year use the Chevette front suspension?  I'm just thinking that if a feller (channeling VGG) could dial in a Fiero then couldn't and wouldn't those same parts work on a Chevette?  That could lead to a very humbling experience for everybody else on the course.

I seem to recall that GM got it right in '88? and had themselves a true MR2 competitor but then the incompetency of the Roger Smith minions axed it.

Aaron_King
Aaron_King GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/21/22 8:20 a.m.

A V8 Tatra is very high on my Lottery car list.

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
10/21/22 8:29 a.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk (Warren) :

Based on the track width, wheels and seats, I bet the body is sitting on as much Miata chassis as they could get underneath.

 

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/21/22 8:37 a.m.

In reply to GCrites80s 

I may have, the Cars of the Future was and remains one of my favorite stops at EPCOT. 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
10/21/22 12:28 p.m.
GCrites80s said:

Anybody remember seeing a prototype Saturn (I think it was an SC2) at EPCOT Center in like 1987? It was in a big display as The Car of the Future. They made it sound like it would come out in the Year 2000 or something, not 2 years later.

I went to Epcot at about that time and I remember my dad's reaction to the "Car of the Future" exhibit: "They've been drawing things like that for decades - it will never happen." 

I seem to remember the car looking more like a second generation Prius than an SC2, but I could be wrong there.

racerfink
racerfink UberDork
10/21/22 4:19 p.m.

In reply to A 401 CJ :

Yep, and the rear suspension and cradle was from the Citation.  There were plenty of go fast parts in the GM Performance Parts catalog for FWD applications because of the Archer brothers C&C Cavaliers, and Joe Varde's Pontiac Grand Am in the IMSA ProFormance Sedan series.  A lot of it was making the Olds Toronado stuff work, since it was FWD and much beefier already than the stock stuff.  With the popularity of the Fiero in the kit car industry, there was a LOT of companies that made performance parts for better handling.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Dork
10/21/22 8:51 p.m.
MadScientistMatt said:
GCrites80s said:

Anybody remember seeing a prototype Saturn (I think it was an SC2) at EPCOT Center in like 1987? It was in a big display as The Car of the Future. They made it sound like it would come out in the Year 2000 or something, not 2 years later.

I went to Epcot at about that time and I remember my dad's reaction to the "Car of the Future" exhibit: "They've been drawing things like that for decades - it will never happen." 

I seem to remember the car looking more like a second generation Prius than an SC2, but I could be wrong there.

We had the literature sitting around the house for years. It was definitely a Saturn. You might have gone just a little later when they were like, "Crap, that car's coming out really soon. Let's bring in another"

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
10/21/22 9:00 p.m.
bluebarchetta said:

A '96 SC2 in Black Gold?  Yes, please.  Probably the most desirable S-series.  I wouldn't kick it out of my garage for burning oil, which is good, because it certainly would burn a quart every 1000 mi or so.

A number of years ago I was shopping old Saturns for a winter beater. When inquiring about a car one of the questions I'd ask was,"How much oil does it use?" If they said "1 qt/1000 miles," then it was worth checking out. If they said "It doesn't burn any oil" I knew to skip that one because they were full of it and/or didn't take care of the car :P

I wouldn't mind having another one if I could find a 96-97 SL2 that isn't actively falling apart. It's so easy to make them way more fun than they should be.

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