A friend and I want to get into LeMons racing, but neither of us has much cash to throw at a hooptie or experience working on cars. I’ve changed oil, tires, lights, and brake pads but done little else.
We’re aiming at class C, which hopefully will mean just installing the required safety equipment and giving it a theme. Mechanically, any changes and repairs would be more for reliability than speed. We’re in Baltimore so it’ll be street parked, but I have off-street parking for my daily driver where we could wrench. Pick-your-own junkyards and my dad’s tools are both within a short drive (hi Dad!). If the the car’s cheap and mechanically simple, we can probably make it work.
What’s the most reliable, low-budget race car? Is there any advantage to buying from another LeMons team? Are non-runners or salvage-titles worth looking at? Should we start by crewing someone else first? Normally, I’d dive into hours of research on parts availability and LeMons reliability, but you asked for queries so I’ll gladly pawn this one off on you and the Commentariat.
Also, Maryland’s historic and street rod plates make registering questionable cars relatively straightforward.
I’m gonna overlook the fact that bribing judges in the 24 Hours of LeMons is essentially useless, especially for an honest, legitimate class C car. I, as the Most Indian LeMons Judge There Ever Shall Be, certainly like bribes
to stroke my fragile ego even if they cannot change my opinion about the vehicle’s credibility as a $500 car.
Anyway, on to your query: I very strongly suggest you start your LeMons career as an “Arrive and Drive” racer. I have spent upwards of $1,000 for a weekend of racing, and that’s above and beyond purchasing the usual safety equipment: race suit/race undies, HANS hookup on my helmet, cool shirt, helmet, gloves, shoes, etc. Being an A&D racer is a far smarter use of your resources, initially. Why build a shitbox car when you might seriously regret it?
You have parking space concerns. Adding the necessary safety equipment (cage, wiring, etc.) won’t be cheap for the novice wrench. Any $500 car you buy will be over $5,000 after you weld in a legal cage, upgrade the brakes (legal and necessary), add a race seat/harness and fix any massive problems on a car this old (i.e. worn out ball joints that could snap on the track).
Figure $5,000-7,000 for the car, $1,000 per person for fuel, track fees, lodging and food, $500-1,000 for used/new aforementioned personal race gear. I’m not even including the cost of tools, a tow rig, trailer and the hundreds of hours annually you’ll spend wrenching, sourcing parts, scouring Craigslist and eBay for deals Do you see where I am going with this?
Be an Arrive and Drive Racer first, then decide if taking the plunge on your own Class-C crapcan is worth it. Email me next year if you really, really wanna take the plunge.
Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:
In my years of judging and occasionally being a (very terrible) racer, I hear many team owner tales of Arrive and Drivers being total jerks. So don’t be a jerk! Money is only the beginning. You work hard and help the team. Help fuel in the hot pits and only stop working when everyone else leaves the car. This is regardless of the track going cold for the day or if your stint as a driver is over. If the motor blew a head gasket, the brakes went out, the wiring got fried, etc., you work (almost) as hard as the team owner. And always ask the owner how and where you can help!
Hard workers in LeMons are probably more important than hot shoe racers. Probably definitely.
Send your queries to [email protected]