MOST people would not be too happy to know they own the worst car in the country, but John Moss is able to find the prestige in winning the top prize for Australia’s number one lemon car.
John’s 1963 Zeta – a critically unpopular vehicle made by South Australian manufacturing company Lightburn – won the prize for Worst of Show at the first-ever Concours d’Lemons Down Under in Adelaide.
The Zeta beat off competition from other infamous lemons, including the Leyland P38, Mitsubishi 380 and an early model Skoda, en route to scooping up the major honour – or dishonour.
John said the prize was “just something we can laugh about,” but also recognises the great deal of hard work and money he has invested into the car.
“Yes of course I was (happy to win). I was quite surprised,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s the worst car, it means it's the best car of the bad cars. It also means it’s in good condition.
“Basically a lemon is a car that is not popular and people won't buy."
The car enthusiast purchased his Zeta in 2015 in Melbourne and estimates that only about 10 of the cars are still around today.
“I’d seen one on the road when I was young and I actually thought it was a homemade car … I couldn’t get over anybody designing such an ugly looking thing,” John said.
“When I saw it advertised I knew that there were so few of them, so I thought ‘I’m going to get this thing', but it cost me a lot more to do it up than I was expecting.”
Lightburn designed the affordable ‘micro car’ with the idea that Australian families would like the convenience of owning a second car. But with only 363 of the vehicles sold between 1963 and 1966, John said the Zeta was by no means a family car and buying your wife one “would be the quickest way to a divorce.”
“Lightburn's idea was to produce a car that the wife could have to go shopping, but you can’t even put your shopping in it,” he said.
“Everything about it is wrong. The appearance of it is wrong, you can’t get into the back of it, to go backwards you’ve got to stop the engine and start it in reverse ... it has got all of these quirky features.”
Concours d'Lemons was established in the US in 2011, before arriving in Adelaide at the end of September for an inaugural Australian show.
John said Concours d’Lemons Down Under will be bigger and better next year, but he will not be defending his crown, as he plans to sell the 1963 Zeta.
“I’ve done it once now and I’ve got to stop while I’m in front,” John joked.