Lee Iacocca - Lance Lambert
THE LEE IACOCCA AWARD
by Lance Lambert
I have been presented with a few awards during my automotive entertainment career. Some have been received with much appreciation and others were good for a smile. The humorous “Silver Throated Devil” award comes to mind. At the top of the appreciation list was being inducted into the Washington Hot Rod Hall of Fame. That was a great honor.
I recently received what I consider the highest honor of my automotive life and career.
Last summer Bill Smallwood III, a prominent member of the Mustang community, asked me to help at the dinner cruise portion of the Mustang Club of America’s 2010 Grand National Convention being held in Bellevue, WA. The dinner was on a tourist sightseeing boat departing from nearby Seattle’s waterfront. The MCA Grand National’s host club, Mustangs Northwest, occasionally asks me to participate in their activities and, as a proud member of the club, I feel that it is my duty (and a lot of fun) to fulfill these requests. Bill asked that I repeat my past activity as auctioneer at the event and be available for any emcee duties that might be necessary that evening. It is rare for me to pass up an opportunity to attempt to entertain so I eagerly agreed to be one of the participants at the podium. I did not know that Mr. Smallwood had ulterior motives.
The evening was proceeding nicely and fun was being had by all of the dinner guests. The boat departed safely, the food was great, my wife Jan agreed that our dinner companions at the table were very interesting and that the evening was going well. The meal was finished and the entertainment was about to start when Bill asked me to join him on the stage. Special guests were acknowledged, door prizes were given out and the auction portion of the evening was approaching. Bill introduced me to the audience and gave me the impression that it was now time for the auction to begin. As I proceeded Bill interrupted me and I, a bit embarrassed about my apparent poor timing, relinquished the stage back to Bill.
Rick Schmidt, Vice President of National Parts Depot, was called to the podium to join Bill. I stood off to the side and listened as they began their presentation of the Lee Iacocca Award. I did not know that this was going to be given at this event and didn’t know of anyone attending the Grand National that might be the possible recipient. Bill and Rick shared with the audience the history of the award and mentioned that two past recipients had been Carroll Shelby and Steve Saleen. These gentlemen are respected members of the international car community and are held in high regard by anyone that appreciates special interest and high performance automobiles. Bill had not informed me that the award was being presented at the dinner nor did he ask me to be part of the presentation. I realized that it was not necessary for me to be on stage at that time so I discreetly stepped back from the podium area.
The more they discussed the award the more puzzled I became over whom in the crowd might be receiving the honor. Steve Saleen, one of the evening’s guests, had already won the award. Steve McCarley, president of the Mustang Club of America, was in the audience and had also received the award in the past. Who in the crowd was going to be the next recipient? There was not a glimmer of thought that I might be the person named so it was surprising and a little confusing when I was asked to return to the podium. Perhaps Bill and Rick wanted help in presenting the award? They then announced that the Lee Iacocca Award was being presented to me. I was astounded. That’s a strong word but it’s what I felt. Shelby, Saleen and now Lambert? Had a huge mistake been made? Was it going to be taken away when they realized their mistake?
The Lee Iacocca Award is given for “Dedication to Excellence in Perpetuating an American Automotive Tradition”. For the past 18 years I have produced and hosted television’s “Vintage Vehicle Show”. Did this qualify me for the award? Sam Memmolo, former co-host of television’s “Two Guy’s Garage”, has received the honor. Ken Gross, accomplished writer, publisher and former Petersen Automotive Museum director, is also a past recipient. I write for a few publications and have taped a “Vintage Vehicle Show” episode at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Did this qualify me for the award? I felt like a tourist that had visited the Lincoln Monument suddenly being elected president of the United States. I have had some small successes but am I really in the league of these and other prominent members of the car community?
Apparently someone thought that the award was appropriate and for this I am very grateful. I fear, however, that sometime soon the phone may ring with the voice on the other end (Mr. Iacocca?) saying “I’m very sorry; a terrible mistake has been made. Please return the award at your earliest convenience”.
A personal letter arrived recently from Lee Iacocca congratulating me and stating “…our automotive traditions are safe in your hands”. Please don’t tell him that I’m just a guy that loves cars and has figured out a way to share this love.
My sincerest thank you to everyone involved in making this happen. It makes my efforts in perpetuating the hobby and the related community benefits feel worthwhile.
I’m truly honored and humbled.