The 24 Hours of LeMons came back to Houston, and it was another race of epic proportions with a side order of sheer lunacy. While the racing was hot, the Texas heat and humidity with a shocking lack in coastal winds made the event even more punishing on everyone involved, including the punishment-intensive judges who laid down the law in LeMon’s BS inspection. I still have battle scars from the late night mosquito bites. No matter, I weighed the facts presented by the team’s (supposed) $500 budget and snapped a few pics that readers of Piston Slap might enjoy.
10. Redefining Crap. (Hoonatic Racing, Acura Integra GS-R) Enjoy this picture while you can, this car is headed for the junkyard, as Chief Jay Lamm proclaimed the frame too crappy for LeMons: and generously offered a free Honda CRX for its hot-hot-hot powertrain. I had the misfortune to see this car from the beginning to the moment it scraped (literally) through tech inspection a full 3 minutes before the checkered flag. But it took the checkered flag! The team’s leader, a fellow Houstonian, had numerous problems with his ride: five-foot long metal tubes welded to the strut towers in a misguided attempt to make a rickshaw (yes, really) theme, cobbled up front AND rear sub-frames trimmed with a torch in lieu of frame straightening, and a team that bailed on him the first day of racing. Plus, I swear all four wheels pointed in different directions. In the end, this car won two awards from the LeMons team. I was a little teary eyed, because this crap heap and it’s never-say-die owner absolutely personify the American spirit. Or at least in LeMons, a place where embracing your inner shitbucket is encouraged and rewarded.
9. Uber Cold air Intake. (Team Tetanus Neon) The pictures say it all, but note the irony of using a stylized exhaust tip as an intake horn. And pay special attention to the lettering welded to the external portion of the intake: PAT PEND. I’d sell this design back to Chrysler so they can add a little street cred to the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot. Beause all they need is this Neon’s magic induction system, provided it comes without the regular mechanical failures of this poor little car. Then again, the insta-rust paint job has plenty of curb appeal. And if it turns heads on a LeMons Neon…
8. Awesome radiator cap. (Team Clunker) This small block Chevy V8 powered Nissan Z31 was profiled in our last LeMons Piston Slap, but I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of that cheaty-ass electric water pump on what’s supposed to be a $500 car. Upon closer inspection, I totally overlooked the coolest thing: a remote-mounted radiator cap. While I (now) regret looking at what kind of illegal radiator was mounted up front, I give credit where it’s due: that’s a cool trick. And relocating the overflow bottle to the stock battery location isn’t a bad idea either. Plus, I don’t recall this car coming in for overheating problems on this unusually hot Houston weekend. Nice job.
7. Pinto Wagon, exhausted. (Team Who Ville Racing) Eat it, Dodge ‘Lil Red Express. This Dr. Seuss themed, late 70s Pinto Wagon just oozed character from every orifice. Too bad the novel exhaust treatment couldn’t save the Pinto’s 2.3L motor from epic failure, which also oozed fluids from several orifices. Which is a reoccurring theme for cars of this vintage, proving that technology in the piston engine has greatly improved in the past 20 years. More to the point, it’s a safe bet that most LeMons winners have roots in the 1990s, or were absolutely cutting edge (E30 BMW) for their era. A Pinto? Neither applies.
6. BMW E30, Windsor V8 conversion. (Team Alamo City Rollers) Welcome to the best of both worlds, the handling perfection of an E30 Bimmer with the massive torque and free revs of a short stroke Ford V8. Except not so much, unlike the now famous E30-LS1 conversion, there’s a significant amount of weight added to the nose of this car. For no good reason. While Judge Phil and I think the car didn’t get any faster on track, it sounded deliciously-camtastic motoring by in the pits. No doubt this was a good idea, just not for a small track like MSR Houston. Texas World Speedway or (dare I say it) the Nürburgring would be a whole ‘nother story. I can’t wait for the time when LS-X swaps will be cheap enough to fit in a $500 LeMons budget, because these cars will get seriously impressive (i.e. even bigger crapcar deathtraps) in a short period of time.
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