When the 24 Hours of LeMons HQ crew left the season-ending Miami race on New Year’s Day, we didn’t go back home. No, we got right on a plane to northern Jamaica for our corporate retreat!
Of course, a LeMons corporate retreat means that we spend most of our time washing down curry goat, mannish water, and festivals with 120-proof “Jancro Batty” (warning: don’t use that term around polite Jamaicans, because it also means something intolerably obscene) which moonshine rum, which involves a lot of driving on some of the wildest not-quite-two-lane, not-quite-blacktop “highways” imaginable. More on that, and what we’ve discovered is the Greatest Vehicle You Can’t Buy In The U.S.A., later.
Driving from Montego Airport to our villa in the hills above Ocho Rios, Chief Perp Lamm ran his rented Yaris (a car not well-suited to the rigors of Jamaican roads, as it turns out) over a huge rock in the pothole-a-second Fern Gully— while dodging a stray dog— and punctured the sidewall. Fortunately, the car came with a full-sized spare.
In the Walkerswood area of St. Ann’s Parish, everyone knows that Ratty’s will take care of your vehicular maladies— whatever they may be. You roll up, chat with the guys hanging around the tubing bender, and let Ratty know what you need.
Ratty specializes in exhaust-system work, but he’s part of a huge network of savvy wrenches who can get you anything from a rebuilt engine for your Toyota Noah to tinted windows for your Suzuki Alto (99% of the vehicles in Jamaica appear to be late-model Japanese products).
Our sidewall puncture was sent out to a Ratty-affiliated tire man’s shop and taken care of, no problem. 300 Jamaican dollars, or about $3.50.
Sure, you’re not supposed to do this, but we need an emergencies-only spare for the rent-a-Yaris and we aren’t driving back to the rental agency in Montego Bay to get one.
Our Jamaican host had a burned-out taillight in his Isuzu diesel pickup, so one of Ratty’s comrades swapped the bulb for him. The price? “Just buy me one drink, mon.”
The shop is just a couple of little buildings to keep the rain off the tools and a few welded-rebar ramps for getting under cars, because that’s all you really need in a mild climate like Jamaica’s; a quick phone call from Ratty to one of his many mechanic buddies is all that’s needed to fetch the necessary parts and/or skills.
Let’s take a moment to admire the bare-bones simplicity of Ratty’s welder.
Here’s an ’81 Isuzu pickup with a replacement bed Ratty built from scratch.
Here’s an innovation that we’d like to see spread to the United States: this automotive repair shop has its own bar! Ratty’s Bar wasn’t open when we dropped by, but we hear the place really jumps when it’s in action. You see, Ratty’s isn’t just a shop– it’s a major local gathering place and socializing destination.
It goes without saying that Ratty’s Bar has become an important watering hole for the 24 Hours of LeMons HQ staff while in Jamaica.
I’ll try to get some more cars-in-Jamaica posts done while I’m here, if this brief window to the internet persists in staying open; otherwise, I’ll be back in full effect on Sunday. For now, it’s time to head back to Ratty’s for a few rum-&-Tings!
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