The Truth About Cars » 24 Hours Of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 24 Hours Of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/24-hours-of-lemons-editorials/ How to Buy a LeMon (The Fun Kind) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/buy-lemon-fun-kind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/buy-lemon-fun-kind/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 15:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877474 People write buyers’ guides for fancy newfangled machinery all the time, but what if you’re looking for a hooptie to go racin’ with? Lower your expectations and enter the world of triple-digit-price-tag motoring. Most grassroots racers don’t have purpose-built factory racecars or pristine concours-style restorations. They’ve picked up a cheap car that they don’t mind […]

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People write buyers’ guides for fancy newfangled machinery all the time, but what if you’re looking for a hooptie to go racin’ with? Lower your expectations and enter the world of triple-digit-price-tag motoring.

Most grassroots racers don’t have purpose-built factory racecars or pristine concours-style restorations. They’ve picked up a cheap car that they don’t mind ripping the interior bits out of so they can go play. To be honest, if a car is too nice, I’d feel bad about turning it into a racecar or running it to the limits of its mechanical ability, anyway. A walk around the Spec 944 paddock made me a bit jealous, as most of those fellows paid less for their base cars than I did for my LeMons 944.

See, beaters aren’t only perfect for crapcan endurance racing. They make excellent rallycrossers, club racers, stage rally cars, and can class up the joint in almost any amateur racing group in existence. For every dude who shows up at a weekend in a GT3 Cup with a full crew, there’s usually ten dudes with previously-totaled street cars having just as much fun.

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Spec[k] 944.

I’ve had the misfortune (sure, let’s call it that) of buying three questionable 944s in a year: one already prepped racecar that got totaled in my first race with it, a rusty ’87 flood car shell that was a total dud, and finally, the almost too pretty, but secretly held together with Bondo and spit red ’84 car.

If you’re looking at a car few people want anymore, like an older subcompact, you can easily luck out and find one in great condition: running, driving, and sometimes even with decent maintenance records. Anything more desirable, however, usually comes with a reason for being that cheap.

Take my menagerie of 944s, for example. A good street car, per this excellent buyer’s guide from Pelican Parts, usually runs upwards of $4,000, although recent Craigslist searches show that figure should be more like $2,500 to $3,000. Either way, it’s not exactly a Daewoo Lanos. Mine were all in the hundreds, so I had some significant issues to fix before I could do sweet, sweet Porsche doughnuts with it.

The flood 944 was the cheapest, but it was a flood car, and just a rolling shell. I had to bring my own wheels to haul it away. Everything underneath was so rusty that some of the bolts fell out. While much of the interior was salvageable, the car had been sitting a long time and was pretty dusty all over. Receipts from the early 2000s, a sealed condom and “Ryde or Die Vol. 2″ were among the surprises I found underneath the seat. The fact that it was a shell for a post-refresh car and all of my parts from the first racecar were from an early ’83 car made it an even worse match, so I sold it off to another 944 racer with more time to re-fill it with go-fast bits.

The ’84 I bought in its place was a winner…sort of. The front of the engine was all torn apart, it came with no coolant and the water pump was leaking out the front. Those items took longer than I’d hoped to deal with, but they weren’t fatal. The chassis was straight, the interior was mostly stripped already and it was mostly complete. The engine was even stronger than my totaled car’s, so all I had to do (ha!) was put the front end back together.

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Since your LeMon will inevitably have some issues, here’s how I’d rate them, from most tolerable to run away now:

1. Cosmetic damage: You’re really aiming for something that looks mostly like your model of car from 50 feet away at 50 miles an hour. If the only problems you’re dealing with are a couple of dents, mangy paint or an interior that needs ripping out anyway, you’ve just hit the hoon-beater jackpot.

2. Incomplete service history: You’re probably going to run through your race-beater with a fine-toothed comb, anyway. If everything else is in order, you can always just do all the maintenance yourself so you know, for example, when that bothersome interference timing belt was last changed.

3. Comfort and luxury items that don’t work: This really depends on how you’re using the car. If you’re driving it to a rallycross, you probably want to keep your HVAC system intact. If you’re trailering it to a ChumpCar race, rip that nonsense out. Luxuries like heated seats or runroofs are low on the priority list for a good race-beater. After all, the easiest fix for a broken beater sunroof is screwing that exterior panel into place so it doesn’t move anymore.

4. Brake or suspension woes: These are among the easiest items to swap out, provided you didn’t buy something with pervasive rust. (I love living in Texas. I really do.) Even though my 944 had a confusing array of mid-year refreshes and options for sway bars, eventually we could figure out the correct bushings to replace all of the old, rotten rubber, and putting them on required some extra uumph, but wasn’t horrible. These problems also tend to be less expensive than the ones under the hood.

5. Minor engine or transmission woes: I may feel as if my 944′s coolant hoses were designed when everyone was still hungover from Oktoberfest, but honestly, replacing some crappy looking hoses is relatively easy compared to other problems. Deferred maintenance isn’t too big a deal–just do it now. Floppy shifter? That’s probably just a bushing under the knob in a 944.

6. Significant rust: Nothing will make you hate life more than dealing with a bunch of seized rusty bolts. Sure, you can replace rusted-out floor panels and battery boxes with fresh metal, but it’s an extra pain. Really, though, rust sucks and makes me thankful that I live in Texas, where we don’t understand what that magical frozen sky-fluff is and stay at home when that happens accordingly.

7. Major engine or transmission woes: Anything where you have to dig into the engine to fix it is kind of annoying. Any 944 ad that includes the words “recent water pump replacement” or “new clutch” automatically gets my attention. The timing belt is behind the timing and balance belts (which require a special tool to tension, because Porsche) and the clutch is a nine-hour job. Doable, but again: annoying. I’d rather spend my time doing sweet beater doughnuts, but that’s just me.

8. Engine or transmission failure: 944 timing broke? There’s your engine out. I guess this isn’t as big of a nuisance if you’re buying a beater for a neato engine swap, but unless you have a spare drivetrain sitting around, this probably is a deal-breaker.

9. Severe chassis damage: Either it’s rusted all the way through and barely still recognizable as a car, or it’s just so severely bent that there’s little to no chance that you’ll pull it back out into a straight-tracking mass of car. RUN AWAY NOW.

Of course, to know the difference between meh and awful problems, you need to research your car a bit first. Unless you’re looking for something really obscure and even more worthy of the Project Car Hell moniker than your average beater, a quick Google of “[car] buyer’s guide” typically brings up plenty of advice from people who’ve bought your beater before.

The location of an oil leak, for example, can be the difference between normal, expected beater droppings and a serious, time-sucking issue. A slow leak in an upper or lower balance shaft seal for the 944 is tolerable, however, any leaks that drop oil onto the timing or balance belts themselves can weaken those belts, so watch out. Likewise, replacing an oil pan seal sounds harmless unless the pan itself is on top of the subframe of the car. Then it’s not so fun.

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Look for clues that can give away larger failures in your research. A warped or cracked coolant expansion tank, for example, could point to overheating issues, which in turn could mean that the head gasket is in peril. Likewise, lots of rotten rubber components probably means the car either sat for a long time or wasn’t maintained properly.

Take a close look at the whole car, not just the engine bay. A hatch or door that doesn’t fit very well could signify nasty frame damage underneath. Lots of Bondo probably means it’s been in a decent smash, as do patches of mismatched paint.

Don’t forget to research expensive fixes as well. Which problems will cost the most in time and money?

On the other hand, always look for upgrades that will save you money in the long run. If you’re buying someone else’s already prepared racecar, ensure that the cage welds are all a decent quality (one continuous weld, without seams or that cottage cheese like look of splattered weld material) and be on the lookout for outdated or excessively worn safety items you may need to replace.

Upgraded wheels, brakes, shocks and other items that come with your beater can be great as long as they’re decent quality items. (Sketchy blown no-name eBay coilovers, not so much.) Few people look at mods as adding value when buying a used car, so that works in your favor when getting a beater as a toy.

Look out for factory upgrades as well. While there’s little chance that the Koni shock package on a 944 will still be in usable condition after all these years, a limited-slip differential would certainly be a nice option to have. If you have zero mechanical ability whatsoever, try to find if there’s a panel on the car that lists out the factory options it came with, and know what codes to look for.

Finally, it’s always best to have a second set of eyes look over a car before you buy it. For the last 944, I sent my friend James Wilson to check it out since he’d raced Spec 944s in the past (and even asked him for beater shopping advice as research for this article). There’s always the option to have your beater go through a normal pre-purchase inspection, too, just in case you don’t know anyone who’s had that kind of car before.

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Beater as off-road beast. Photo Credit: Brianne Corn

Just because a car is cheap enough to be disposable doesn’t mean it should be. If you start out with a fairly ugly but mechanically decent car, maintain your beater well and it should treat you well through many hours of fun.

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Tales of a Class B LeMons 944 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/tales-class-b-lemons-944/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/tales-class-b-lemons-944/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877065 It feels as if it’s finally the Year of the Porsche 944 in the 24 Hours of LeMons. Several well-organized, knowledgeable teams such as Porch Racing and Floridiot Motorsports have made the 944 work reliably and well enough to contend for an overall win on laps. “Der Porschelump,” however, is not one of those teams. […]

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It feels as if it’s finally the Year of the Porsche 944 in the 24 Hours of LeMons. Several well-organized, knowledgeable teams such as Porch Racing and Floridiot Motorsports have made the 944 work reliably and well enough to contend for an overall win on laps. “Der Porschelump,” however, is not one of those teams.

I had tried to buy my way into one of those cars by buying an ex-ChumpCar winning ’83 944, but unfortunately, my time with that car was cut short. Some of you may recognize me from Jalopnik, where my first paid article was about having my racecar totaled in the first driver’s stint. Oops.

So, I bought another one. A commenter on my banana’d 944 article responded that he had one for sale, so I jumped on it. Enter: My First Racecar Build.

Can someone with almost zero mechanical experience beyond brake pad swaps make a 944 with a busted water pump run?

Well, sure, with lots of time and help. There were a lot of “I really don’t want to touch this myself” items on the car like the water pump, timing and balance belts, and anything related to wiring. Even with help, most of my friends were used to things that weren’t a finicky 80s Porsche: mostly Subarus, BMWs, Mazdas and Mitsubishis. Nobody (self included) had the “special tools” that were occasionally listed. That being said, we could usually figure out most of my problems based on parts diagrams, online write-ups and a bizarre Danish-to-English translation of the factory service manual.

One of the biggest hindrances to getting things done had been a wreck shortly after finding the new car, when someone hit my daily driver during my lunch break. I had some neck and back issues along with a pulled tendon in my right wrist, so I had very little upper body strength left when I was finally ready to start working on the car again. I was by no means buff before, so losing what little strength I had built up was a pretty significant blow. Half the times I needed help with something, it was just for brute force to get something unstuck, shoved back together, or held in place with a steady hand.

It took significantly longer and significantly more money to kludge a car together from scratch than it did to buy one off of another team. I was fine with this since I definitely wanted a beater endurance racing car, but there’s good reason why I point wannabe racers to the for sale sections of the various crapcan series’ forums long before I’m comfortable saying that they should look in random fields for a ran-when-parked-twenty-years-ago Karmann-Ghia.
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The car was nowhere near complete in time for the initial full-24-hour race I had hoped to make, even after I had spent a week with my crew guy and several other friends trying to thrash together the car. So, we aimed for the March Eagles Canyon Raceway date the following year. Finally, after months of hard work during the coldest, most annoying winter Texas has had in quite some time, the reborn Porschelump was mostly ready.

One of the biggest last-minute nuisances were the stupid hood pins. 944s don’t really have a good place to put them. Most people either install a bracket, or they weld a tab onto the edge of the engine bay. We couldn’t figure out a good place to weld them in without having to move too much else out of the way. The coolant lines were among the last items to be installed in that engine bay. They zig-zag about the engine bay in such a manner that you’d think they were designed by a company that still specialized in aircooled power. Several of the coolant hose fittings were so annoying to install that the idea of moving any hoses back out of the way sounded about as appealing as taking a cheese grater to my ovaries, so we went for a pair of brackets to mount hood pins instead.
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I ordered some brackets online that looked like the right size, only to find that we couldn’t get the hood pins in them without taking out the cross-member that made them a triangle shape. Then, once it was modified into just a thick L-shape, I was completely unable to drill them in myself. I couldn’t hold the stupid drill in the same place at that angle long enough to accurately drill where I wanted it to go. It’s this kind of little stuff after an auto accident that wears on your patience and makes you feel broken.

I finally installed the brackets after a friend drilled out the holes for me, only to find that the angle of the upright for the pins to loop through wouldn’t work with the holes we’d drilled in the hood. It didn’t fit. Finally, one of my friends ended up just doing it for me the morning before I had arranged to tow the car over to the cage builder for some last-minute touch-ups on the welds. I don’t think I’ve ever been that grateful for someone stepping in to do something that I had resigned to pay a shop to do (don’t give me that look–safety items are exempt from the $500) in my life. At that point, it was just a frustration.

I had taken off a couple days before the race to finish up the car prep. I painted the white Salzburg 917 stripes coming out from the headlamp holes and finished them off with a glitter top coat. I put the seat on its sliders and did some last-minute interior cleanup.

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Chris Taylor had been bribed along to tow the car and help out as crew all weekend, so he helped install the radio system, harnesses, and my giant purple Puffalump bunny vinyl for the roof.

There was one more frustrating item that was over my head that I needed my crew to help with: the kill switch. I had all of the parts from the old 944’s kill switch, but still had to get some additional wiring and clamps for it to work. We couldn’t quite figure it out, so we sort of jumbled something together based off of some garbled phone directions from my crew guy from the first 944 and the September thrash-build-in-vain. The kill switch still wasn’t cutting off the alternator, but we were quickly running out of time. We’d figure it out once we got to LeMons.

Finally, with the kill switch mostly installed, I took four magnificent laps around Harris Hill Road to see if everything was going to work before loading it in the trailer. I hadn’t gotten to drive my old racecar on track much (if at all) once we’d finished making final preparations for it to race, but I did this time.

I couldn’t have been happier. “My car runs!

The rest of the day was spent traveling, so the next morning became last-minute crunch time.

The first race with a new car is always the worst. Will everything we did actually pass tech, or are we hosed for this weekend? As anal as I had been with car prep, I had hoped that all LeMons’ requirements were met, but I had left a decent list of items I needed help with before we could go through tech. The morning was spent painting the last number backgrounds, installing theme-related vinyls that made it more instantly recognizable as “Der Porschelump,” installing tow hooks, fixing the kill switch, trying to get the doors to align and shut better, tucking loose wiring out of the way, and replacing the coolant that I’d used for storage with water.

Have I mentioned how much I miss racing the Volkswagen Type 3?

Have I mentioned how much I miss racing the Volkswagen Type 3?

A few less important items like the slack in the throttle cable would have to be saved for later. There was a race to make, and I hoped that we’d at least get some practice laps in beforehand.

We finally got in line for tech that afternoon, nervous and dressed up as ze Germans: one dressed like an extra from “Sprockets,” the actual German on the team in costume lederhosen and me in a dirndl I had to duct tape to stay in place. I kept hoping that they wouldn’t think our car’s uneven idle was anything that needed an urgent fix. The car ran fine at speed, but either a bad O2 sensor or a leak somewhere was causing it to search for idle when it was stopped for a long time.

As the one who had been in and out of the car the most, I did the safety fire drill where you have to get out of the car as quickly as possible—in a dress. I was glad I opted for the long one at the costume shop. We passed technical inspection as “good enough” and were sent on to BS inspections.

Photo Credit: Murilee Martin

Photo Credit: Murilee Martin

Judge Phil bounced on the car’s front bumper a couple times. “MMMMM. Comfy!” he shouted. Kevin, the team member dressed as Dieter, asked Sajeev, “Touch mein monkey.” (Jeeves declined.) Actual German Thomas started answering random questions in German. I tried to argue for Class C, knowing that most of these cars get put in Class A. Ours wasn’t that quick, though, and it was by no means in great shape.

Perhaps the Saucy Minx had seen the terrible luck I’d had with this our car unfold like The Internet’s Favorite 944 Train Wreck, or he had his own idea of what “I bought this car out of the Jalopnik comments section” could entail from his time writing for the site. There’s such a diverse readership on Jalopnik that admitting this could either come off as “competently cheaty” or “some sixteen-year-old kid’s hopeless Craigslist find.”

Or perhaps this was just the single worst 944 that had come to a LeMons race.

Either way, we somehow got put into Class B and were quickly shooed out of the judges’ box.
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Finally, we could run some practice laps. I didn’t even care that I was still in a dress—I hopped right in after everyone else had a turn and went to go figure out the track. People whine a lot about Eagles’ Canyon being dull for having several long straights, but even in our down-on-power car, I had a lot of fun. Sometimes I could even keep up with faster straight-line cars if I got through a corner faster than them.

The lever for the sliders on the seat broke at the end of the day, so Chris borrowed a welder from another team to mend it for the next day. We had about a full foot difference in height from our shortest driver to our tallest one, so the idea of having to use a pillow just to reach things wasn’t ideal.  The best part about the car running well all through some practice laps was that this slider issue was the biggest issue we had to deal with after going through inspections.

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Race day started with thick, pea soup fog. Our other two drivers had arrived, Anthony and David, and I gave Anthony the first stint because he was local to the track and had driven it the most. I thought this would be the easiest way to deal with the morning traffic, but fog delays and a standing yellow flag until it cleared made his stint a bit boring.

We had two more crew members arrive as well—Tim and Nate. They helped wrench a bit and act as spotters, which compensated for the fact that our radio only worked on the front straight. Installing the antenna through the fiberglass sunroof insert wasn’t the best idea—reception is a lot better when you mount those on metal.

The weather cleared up into a perfect race day. The temperature stayed in the 70s for most of the day. People were lounging around in shorts, and even cold-natured me only needed a light jacket to deal with the wind.
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Our strategy was that we were in this for the lulz, so we didn’t need to push too hard or break the car. Everyone probably got tired of me saying “don’t break my car,” but to say I wasn’t on edge because of how my first car ended up would be a total lie. I hadn’t been able to drive on a track for months, and I still felt a tad weak. Thomas had some track time, but lacked any wheel-to-wheel racing experience. I figured we wouldn’t be any threat to any other teams.

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We stopped at the gas pumps to fuel and took it easy, short shifting between 5,000 and 5,500 RPM to keep the persnickety and often rod-bearing-hungry 944 powerplant happy. We lost a hood pin that we quickly replaced with a cotter pin and had one low tire that we had to air up mid-day, but other than that, it was fairly uneventful.

During the stop when we noticed the low tire, the car started peeing water. We didn’t see anything too unusual in the engine bay, but I discovered later that the wiring harness to the fans came loose and took out our alternator belt. Luckily, the car did not have to idle for long, so this wasn’t really an issue, and we never had any issues with power during the race since we had a brand new battery.

Best of all, I got to drive my own racecar! In a race! Even though I had prior experience racing the Type 3 and a Fiat Spider, neither of those cars were mine. This was the first time I’d gotten to drive a car that I’d owned and prepared in an actual race. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment with seeing your racecar project run, drive and work for its intended purpose.

In my opinion, out on track during a beater enduro is one of the most peaceful and bizarrely relaxing places to be. Lap after lap is spent concentrating on “where am I losing unnecessary time?” over any other worry or care in the world. You get into a rhythm after a while, figuring out places where you can cut past slower traffic and celebrating when you do.

I smelled a little fuel from inside the car during my stint and asked about it when I stopped, but we deemed it unnecessary to deal with until we stopped for the day. We thought a little gas might have dripped on the car during refueling or something.

Everything was going ridiculously smooth when our car came in unexpectedly during Thomas’ stint. We all rushed down from the viewing area atop the hill to see what was wrong. Sure enough, the best and only Porsche at the race came into the penalty box.

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Continuing my n00b tradition of getting all the black flags in the Type 3, our biggest novice had blown past a yellow flag in Turn 6. We apologized profusely, trying to back Judge Phil away from his demands for Puffalump blood. He let us back out, but let us know that if we came back again, sweet little Fluffy Bunny (Eater of Souls) would be in peril.

We were a bit more careful after that, to say the least. Nobody wanted to hear the sad tale of how my darling, innocent little Puffalump bunny rabbit bit the dust all weekend long. Nobody.

The rest of the day went smoothly for us, and we stopped in 17th place overall.

Nighttime was filled with the usual buzz of a LeMons evening break: a tour of the other machinery in the paddock, good food and frantic wrenching. Our trailer- and pit-mates had brought a 1975 Honda Civic and were working on an engine swap.
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We tried to diagnose the mystery fuel smell and do a few little things here and there. Everyone swore up and down that Eagles Canyon’s long straights would destroy all brakes, but we were still on the brake pads and tires from the original racecar that I had deemed “the practice set” before the race. They had plenty of life still, and we had zero issues with any of them. Three cheers for light, underpowered machinery!

The fuel issue was another story entirely. Opening the cover to the fuel filler neck on a 944 is like staring into the Kraken. You just stare at all the various fuel line appendages and wonder which engineer came to work on very strong hallucinogens. There doesn’t seem to be a nice, clear diagram of them in the manual, either. The hoses were moist when we took off the cover, but we couldn’t find the source of the moisture. So, we just tightened all of the connections that we could reach, sopped up any excess fuel that we could, and felt as if that likely fixed the problem. Delicious barbecue from the Poorvette team awaited, and I wanted to see how many LeMons teams would touch mein monkey.

The temperature started dropping rapidly overnight. Our poor pit-mates—engine swap now complete—woke up to find that their radiator had frozen overnight from the cold and the wind. Luckily for us, the 944 has a pointier nose with a smaller grille, so ours started right up.

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We had to add our windshield wipers back on first thing in the morning to prepare for the predicted precipitation. Chris had the ingenious solution to zip-tie the wiper lever to the roll bar so we wouldn’t have to finagle the wiper lever assembly loop back under the steering wheel hub again.

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Anthony came dressed and ready to go out in the freezing temperatures, so I put him in the car first again. The race started late as there was some ice over one corner of the track.

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We had one scare earlier in the morning due to our iffy radio communications. Anthony came in once thinking he’d been in for a while and wondered if anyone else wanted to have some drive time, but no one else was all that eager to get in the car, plus I felt bad that he’d gotten the really boring stint yesterday, so I let him stay.

Anthony chased down the leaders in Class B. At one point, we were as high as 14th overall and we were getting close to the top three in our class. One of the cars ahead of us had some issues and came into the pits. I was beyond amused at how quickly the car was running.

And then—the usual LeMons 944 curse struck. We got flagged in for a fuel leak.

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Whatever was wrong with the fuel neck was really wrong with the fuel neck. We had been running the fuel neck from the old 944 that had been hollowed out to allow for quicker fueling. To rule out the lack of inner flaps in the fuel neck being the issue, we swapped it for the stock fuel neck that had numerous baffles and other traps still intact. This ate up an hour considering that we had all lost most of the feeling in our outer extremities in the cold, and we dropped in the rankings.

Thomas had to back me down from “Other cars are breaking! We could still go for top 3!” crazy-talk. “No—just go back out, drive the car and have fun,” he said.

Anthony’s stint had been interrupted thrice now by weather-related shenanigans, so I said he could stay in until he feels like we should swap drivers. David was okay with running, but could take it or leave it.

We rode out the remaining time in the race until it was checkered early for a huge snow and ice storm rolling in. I was so shocked and delighted that the car merely finished that I couldn’t believe it. We only got back up to 6th in class and 20th overall, but at least the fuel leak didn’t surface again.

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Well, for a little while, at least. I discovered the fan wiring/alternator belt issue when I got the car back to the track. Once that rat’s nest of gnawed wiring and belt chunks was cleaned up, I then drove it until I noticed that it was peeing fuel out the side in hard left turns again.

Such is the life of a Class B 944.

 

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-real-winner-is-25/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-real-winner-is-25/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2011 02:59:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422759 The Index of Effluency, LeMons racing’s top prize, gets handed to the team that accomplishes a lap total far beyond what any sane person would have imagined possible for such a terrible, terrible car. Sometimes that means getting 10th overall in a Toyota Tercel EZ, and other times it means taking 36th out of 57 […]

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The Index of Effluency, LeMons racing’s top prize, gets handed to the team that accomplishes a lap total far beyond what any sane person would have imagined possible for such a terrible, terrible car. Sometimes that means getting 10th overall in a Toyota Tercel EZ, and other times it means taking 36th out of 57 entries in a 1977 Ford Mustang II. Macaroni Racing, in their Cologne V6-powered “big Pinto,” managed the latter achievement at the Heaps In The Heart of Texas 24 Hours of LeMons today.
158 laps on the 2.5-mile-long Eagles Canyon Raceway track is 395 miles. Imagine taking your grandmother’s basket-case Mustang II and beating the crap out of it at full throttle for the entirety of a 395-mile road trip on twisty, hilly roads (say, San Francisco to Los Angeles on the Coast Highway), while getting passed every few seconds by buzzing, angry swarms of BMW E30s, Mazda Miatas, and Ford Taurus SHOs. Would you expect your Mustang II to be in one piece at the end?
No, you wouldn’t. This brings Ford’s Index of Effluency trophy count for the now-completed 2011 LeMons season to four; behind Chrysler (with 4¼ IOE wins) and GM (with seven wins). Congratulations, Macaroni Racing!

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-winner-is-26/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-winner-is-26/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2011 02:37:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422751 This year, the Hong Norrth Mazda MX-3 won the Showroom-Schlock Shootout in Charlotte, the Cain’t Git Bayou in Lousiana, the ‘Shine Country Classic in South Carolina, and the Southern Discomfort, also in South Carolina. Today, Hong Norrth won their fifth race in the 2011 24 Hours of LeMons season, by taking the Heaps In The […]

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This year, the Hong Norrth Mazda MX-3 won the Showroom-Schlock Shootout in Charlotte, the Cain’t Git Bayou in Lousiana, the ‘Shine Country Classic in South Carolina, and the Southern Discomfort, also in South Carolina. Today, Hong Norrth won their fifth race in the 2011 24 Hours of LeMons season, by taking the Heaps In The Heart Of Texas race by two laps..
It’s hard to believe that this was once the lovable-but-hapless team that won the Heroic Fix award for performing a record five engine swaps in their terrible CRX. Once Hong Norrth got over their Honda loyalty and switched to the strongest marque in LeMons racing (sorry, BMW fans, your Bavarian overlords may have won the ’11 season Constructors’ Championship based on strength-in-numbers top-ten finishes… but Mazda had eight P1 finishes next to BMW’s four), their screwup-free driving skills were finally allowed to shine. The Hong Norrth MX-3 wasn’t the quickest thing on the track this time, though it came close (a Taurus SHO and an E30— both previous winners— topped its best lap by a couple of seconds), but in the end that didn’t matter. A few seconds saved in a pit stop here, a black flag avoided there, and a car that never breaks— that’s what you need to set the all-time record for most 24 Hours of LeMons races won in a single season. Congratulations, Hong Norrth!

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Heaps In The Heart Of Texas LeMons Day One: MX-3 Leads, Index of Effluency Battle Heating Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/heaps-in-the-heart-of-texas-lemons-day-one-mx-3-leads-index-of-effluency-battle-heating-up/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/heaps-in-the-heart-of-texas-lemons-day-one-mx-3-leads-index-of-effluency-battle-heating-up/#comments Sun, 18 Dec 2011 01:19:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422702 It’s not much of a shock to find that the most dominant team of the 2011 24 Hours of LeMons season, the seemingly black-flag-proof Hong Norrth Mazda MX-3, ended today’s race session at Eagles Canyon in P1. A lot can happen tomorrow, though, so unhatched chickens aren’t being counted yet. The day’s events featured plenty […]

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It’s not much of a shock to find that the most dominant team of the 2011 24 Hours of LeMons season, the seemingly black-flag-proof Hong Norrth Mazda MX-3, ended today’s race session at Eagles Canyon in P1. A lot can happen tomorrow, though, so unhatched chickens aren’t being counted yet. The day’s events featured plenty of Texas-style ventilated engine blocks and panicky trips to the junkyard as well.
Hong Norrth already has four LeMons overall wins in 2011; they’re not the fastest team on the track, but they don’t make mistakes and their car doesn’t break. It appears that BMW has the 2011 LeMons Constructors’ Championship nailed down at this point, thanks to the hordes of quick E30s and E28s, but Mazda will have far more wins than the Bavarians.
Hong Norrth isn’t leading by much, however, and the drivers of the Blue Goose Rabbit have come so close to a LeMons win so many times that they’re probably chewing lug nuts out of frustration at this very moment. If Hong Norrth stumbles in the slightest, the second-place Blue Goose Rabbit will be right there to grab the lead and keep it.
Because this is Texas, the SHO contingent is out in force. In P3, we have the SHOTime A Taurus SHO (foreground). Taurus SHOs have won plenty of LeMons races… and they’ve also destroyed more engines and transmissions than the rest of the field combined. Today, only one of the five SHOs scattered an engine all over the track (necessitating a lengthy red-flag delay to clean up the mess) and each of the remaining four sits in the top ten of the standings at day’s end.
We often forget that Hong Norrth runs two MX-3s in each race. They seem mechanically identical, but the team’s best drivers run the black Hong Norrth A car while the more black-flag-prone drivers take the red Hong Norrth B car. For the first time ever, the red Hongmobile has managed to finish a day’s race session near the top of the standings. Looks like the Hong Norrth B Team has been taking lessons in spinout avoidance from the Hong Norrth A Team.
No team in the first four positions can afford to relax, because they’ve got another tough previous winner looming behind them. The BenzGay 300E won the Garrapatas Peligrosas race (against most of the same teams in this weekend’s race) by the vast chasm of a 17-lap margin, and they could do it again.
On paper, the Los Bastardos Duratec-powered Renault Dauphine has the power-to-weight numbers to annihilate the competition at a horsepower track like ECR, but sometimes things— we can’t really call them unexpected things— just go wrong. Nobody hurt in the blaze, all-night wrenchfest sure to come.
It’s early to speculate too much on who might win the top prize of the weekend, but we can look at a few of the front-runners as of now. This dead-stock, 302-powered 1978 Mustang II (a team member’s grandmother’s ex-daily-driver) is looking strong.
The Barracuda of IOE-winning veterans NSF Racing is right in the thick of the IOE hunt; with its healthy 340 engine, it will need to finish reasonably high in the standings to defeat the Malaisemobiles for the Index (and by “reasonably high” I mean “top half”).
The Speedy Monzales Chevy Monza should be capable of going toe-to-toe with its Mustang rival for IOE honors; this Monza has a reasonably reliable Buick V6 under the hood, so it should blow up less frequently than the small-block version would.
The Mercedes-Benz 560SEL stayed running most of the day and sounds great on the track. It’s probably too well-built (i.e., one of the best-built cars in the history of the automobile) to qualify for the IOE, but it’s still a great big luxury car on a tough road course.
Photo credit: Nick Pon

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A Barracuda, Speedy Monzales, and a Luxurious W126 Benz: BS Inspections of the Heaps In The Heart Of Texas 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/a-barracuda-speedy-monzales-and-a-luxurious-w126-benz-bs-inspections-of-the-heaps-in-the-heart-of-texas-24-hours-of-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/a-barracuda-speedy-monzales-and-a-luxurious-w126-benz-bs-inspections-of-the-heaps-in-the-heart-of-texas-24-hours-of-lemons/#comments Sat, 17 Dec 2011 07:42:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422672 I’m still recovering from having my tonsils hacked out with pinking shears, so I couldn’t get to Texas to judge at the 2011 season-ending 24 Hours of LeMons race at Eagles Canyon Raceway. Fortunately, the LeMons Supreme Court has tentacles everywhere, and they’ve sent in some photos showing how Friday’s prerace BS Inspection went down. […]

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I’m still recovering from having my tonsils hacked out with pinking shears, so I couldn’t get to Texas to judge at the 2011 season-ending 24 Hours of LeMons race at Eagles Canyon Raceway. Fortunately, the LeMons Supreme Court has tentacles everywhere, and they’ve sent in some photos showing how Friday’s prerace BS Inspection went down.
Even after a Fiat 131′s transmission failure blasted a giant hole in the car’s floor in New Jersey earlier this year, Poage Ma Thoin Racing hasn’t let that scare them out of running their Texas Brava.
NSF Racing, fresh off back-to-back Judges’ Choice (for their ultra-classy Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9) and Index of Effluency (for their terrifyingly rusty 1963 Plymouth Fury) trophy wins, now brings a somewhat battered example of vintage Mopar muscle: this 1965 Barracuda with 340 and 4-speed. Knowing the aptly named NSF Racing, this thing is probably going to break in half 30 minutes after the green flag Saturday morning… and then they’ll fix it with zip ties.
Texans love their Taurus SHOs. Five of them showed up for the race. That means the one that keeps running will have four engine/transmission/suspension parts donors handy.
We’ve been agitating for someone to run a V8-powered W126 Mercedes-Benz, and so this 560SEL makes all the LeMons Perpetrators very happy. Who’s running it? Who else but slam-dunk 2011 Legend of LeMons honoree Brandon, who won the Index of Effluency with his W110 Benz in June and has spent the rest of the year dragging his terrible Jetta to LeMons races all over the country. Just look at this fine racing machine! No weak points!
This is some crucial racing gear right here.
The last time LeMons came to ECR, the strangely turbocharged (and barbecue/whiskey-still-equipped) Sensory Assault RX-7 won the Index of Effluency. Now the team is back, this time with a huge, rearward-facing turbo boost gauge. Why? To intimidate the competition. Now that’s racin’!

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Chevy 350-Powered Lotus Elite Fails To Dominate Race, Nobody Shocked http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/chevy-350-powered-lotus-elite-fails-to-dominate-race-nobody-shocked/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/chevy-350-powered-lotus-elite-fails-to-dominate-race-nobody-shocked/#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2011 22:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422188 On paper, a super-lightweight Lotus with a genuine ’68 Corvette 350 and Muncie 4-speed ought to eat up a road course; just go onto any online forum full of self-proclaimed car experts and they’ll tell you exactly that. Reality, on the other hand… well, reality doesn’t always live up to the expectations of internet car […]

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On paper, a super-lightweight Lotus with a genuine ’68 Corvette 350 and Muncie 4-speed ought to eat up a road course; just go onto any online forum full of self-proclaimed car experts and they’ll tell you exactly that. Reality, on the other hand… well, reality doesn’t always live up to the expectations of internet car experts.
24 Hours of LeMons aficionados have seen this played out many times (e.g., the terrible LeMons C4 Corvette and the even more terrible LeMons Subaru SVX), and so we all took a deep breath when we saw the B-Team’s engine-swapped Lotus Elite at the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza BS Inspection.
The B-Team goes pretty far back in LeMons history. They showed up for their first race in early 2009 with the type of car that bores LeMons organizers the most (BMW E30) and the 11th version of a way-overdone TV-show-based theme.
However, they executed their theme— unoriginal as it was— quite well, and they were reasonably clean drivers. We became accustomed to the B-Team as veteran, usually hassle-free regulars in the West Coast LeMons Region.
Then, early in 2010, they showed up to a race with a top-notch new theme: the Pussy Wagën from Kill Bill, complete with costumes. Since my street name is Phil— dating back to my days as “Warlord” for the East Side Alameda Locos— they called their team “Kill Phil.”
I liked the B-Team’s new look so much that I hung their portrait in my office, right next to the extra-unsavory LBJ campaign poster and behind the illuminated Opel Manta Leuchtbild. But still, much as I like this team, they were racing a Bavarian Boredomwagen.
Until weekend before last, that is. Sometime between the end of the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 at Infineon and the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza, the B-Team acquired an Elite into which some mid-70s mechanical genius had stuffed an allegedly Corvette-sourced 350 small-block and Muncie 4-speed. They managed to get a LeMons-legal cage into the thing (which is no small feat, given that the Elite has about as much substance as a gingerbread house), but they didn’t have time to get it, you know, running prior to the race.
Engines that sit for decades often don’t work so well when revived, and the small-block Chevy turns out to be particularly ill-suited to all-weekend-long road-race abuse. By the morning before the race, the B-Team had managed to get the “Chotus’s” engine fired up, sort of. All that oil smoke wasn’t a good sign, but they persevered.
They tried to take it out onto the track for some Friday prerace practice, but the car crapped out after a few hundred yards. No problem, though— that’s what all-night wrenching sessions are for!
Saturday morning came, and the green flag waved. Where’s the Chotus? Finally, the car clattered onto the track around noon. Hmmm… is it supposed to smoke that bad?
No, it’s not.
So, back to the pits for some more work.
To their credit, nobody on the B-Team was heard mentioning comparisons between the Chotus and their E30, in spite of the fact that the Pussy Wagën had been a consistent top-ten contender.
The engine was burning oil out of one bank while under load, which many paddock bystanders (myself included) told the B-Teamers was fairly strong evidence for bad oil rings on at least one piston on that side of the engine. However, the B-Team decided that the problem must be a bad intake-manifold gasket.
You know what? They were right! Once they fixed the gasket (and the distributor, and the carburetor, and the fuel pump, and probably several dozen other things), they managed to get the car onto the track on Sunday, knocking out a not-so-bad 68 total laps.
That was good enough for 117th overall (out of 131 entries), and the invented-for-the-occasion Least From The Most trophy (not to mention slam-dunk Legends of LeMons status, whenever I get around to doing the 2011 awards). You can read the B-Team’s story in their own words here. Good work, B-Team!

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-real-winner-is-24/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-real-winner-is-24/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2011 03:58:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421410 I’m in the passenger seat of the very bouncy ’97 Ford F250 LeMons Department of Highway De-Beautification Vehicle as I write this, heading up I-5 after one of the best races of the ’11 season, and I’m unable to dredge my depleted brain for the parts of speech necessary to do justice to Unununium Legend […]

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I’m in the passenger seat of the very bouncy ’97 Ford F250 LeMons Department of Highway De-Beautification Vehicle as I write this, heading up I-5 after one of the best races of the ’11 season, and I’m unable to dredge my depleted brain for the parts of speech necessary to do justice to Unununium Legend of LeMons Spank‘s achievements this weekend.
Spank combined four extraordinarily terrible European cars (Simca 1204, Austin America, turbocharged Austin Mini, Mini Moke) and a crew comprised of arrive-and-drives from all over the country to keep at least one car on the track at all times. The America had a replacement engine driven down from Seattle (just over 1,000 miles) after the original engine blew up during Friday’s practice, the turbo Mini had the front suspension from a semi-similar Austin Metro swapped in on Saturday, and the Simca and the Mini nuked their engines on the checkered flag lap. All in all, it was the Class C Onslaught Spank promised.
And so the Index of Effluency, LeMons racing’s top prize, goes to Spank, his Class C Onslaught posse, and his four indescribably effluent cars. Congratulations, Spank and the Class C Onslaught!

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-winner-is-25/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/and-the-winner-is-25/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2011 03:14:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421403 We’ve seen a BMW 5 Series take the overall win at a LeMons race before, but that was about 50 races back. Today, the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk 525i put a big BMW back into the winner’s circle. The members of IINPIJ paid their dues for race after race, adding a little skill […]

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We’ve seen a BMW 5 Series take the overall win at a LeMons race before, but that was about 50 races back. Today, the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk 525i put a big BMW back into the winner’s circle.
The members of IINPIJ paid their dues for race after race, adding a little skill and climbing a little higher in the standings each time. Last night, in keeping with the traditions of Le Mans of the mid-60s, they stayed up until 5:00 AM drinking Jack-and-Cokes and slam-dancing to the sounds of the old-school punk band they brought with them. This morning, they dragged their hungover asses out of their trailer and proceeded to maintain a two-to-three-lap lead over the field for the entire day. No black flags, no mechanical problems, all in all a perfect performance. Congratulations, If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk!

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Arse Freeze-a-Palooza LeMons Day One: E34 Leads, E30 and SE-R Close Behind http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/arse-freeze-a-palooza-lemons-day-one-e34-leads-e30-and-se-r-close-behind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/arse-freeze-a-palooza-lemons-day-one-e34-leads-e30-and-se-r-close-behind/#comments Sun, 04 Dec 2011 06:09:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421297 The checkered flag waved, the sun went down, the traditional delivery of lost bumpers and mufflers got dumped off the safety truck in front of LeMons HQ, and the Buttonwillow paddock went into the usual LeMons Saturday Night party mode. With the top five teams all grouped into a three-lap spread, there’ll be a long […]

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The checkered flag waved, the sun went down, the traditional delivery of lost bumpers and mufflers got dumped off the safety truck in front of LeMons HQ, and the Buttonwillow paddock went into the usual LeMons Saturday Night party mode. With the top five teams all grouped into a three-lap spread, there’ll be a long night of beer-fueled bench racing ahead.
At the moment, the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk BMW 5 Series has a two-lap edge over the P2 car. This team has been climbing the ranks of LeMons contenders for a long time, and they came tantalizingly close to taking the overall win at the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 at Infineon Raceway. All they need to do to get the win tomorrow is avoid making even a single mistake.
If the Punks do make a mistake, the always-menacing POSRacing “F’ed Up Express” BMW E30 (which won the ’10 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza) will be right there to make them pay.
A single lap behind the F’ed Up Express, the Lipstick On a Pig Nissan Sentra SE-R will take advantage if one or both of the BMWs catches a black flag or bobbles a pit stop. This veteran team has been in the hunt many times in the past, but never this close to the lead after the first day’s race session.
The battle for the Index of Effluency seems wide open, with the four Class C machines of Spank’s “IOE Onslaught” (Austin America, Mini Moke, Turbo Mini, Simca 1204) making a real statement.
The IOE favorite when the green flag waved this morning, the B-Team’s Chevy-powered Lotus Elite, didn’t have a great day. In fact, the Chotus managed just two very smoky laps. At the time of this writing, they have their 350 scattered all over their pit space, hoping to solve the catastrophic oil-burning problem.
As for the Class C favorite, a Quad 4-powered Oldsmobile… well, it turns out that all those stories about Quad 4 reliability/wrenching-difficulty issues are true; the cylinder head got nuked after a dozen or so practice laps on Friday and the team spent all day today chasing parts and spinning wrenches. They swear they’ll be hitting the track tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll get to enjoy the sight of a Chevy-ized Lotus dicing with a crazily torque-steering Oldsmobile.

But that’s tomorrow. Right now, there’s live music in the paddock, courtesy of If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk and their friends The Mice.

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Occupy Sesame Street, a Quad 4, and a Lotus Elite: BS Inspections at the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/occupy-sesame-street-a-quad-4-and-a-lotus-elite-bs-inspections-at-the-arse-freeze-a-palooza-24-hours-of-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/occupy-sesame-street-a-quad-4-and-a-lotus-elite-bs-inspections-at-the-arse-freeze-a-palooza-24-hours-of-lemons/#comments Sat, 03 Dec 2011 06:33:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421207 Here we are in Buttonwillow, California, for the fifth annual Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons. The judges of the LeMons Supreme Court (that is, me and one of the guys you should blame for the Passat getting Car of the Year) eyeballed 130 or so race machines in various states of cheatosity today, and […]

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Here we are in Buttonwillow, California, for the fifth annual Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons. The judges of the LeMons Supreme Court (that is, me and one of the guys you should blame for the Passat getting Car of the Year) eyeballed 130 or so race machines in various states of cheatosity today, and it’s quite a crop this time around.
After spotting a Quad 4-powered Olds Cutlass Calais in the junkyard last week, I started agitating for a LeMons team to race a Quad 4 HO Oldsmobile. Little did I know that a team with a Mormon missionary theme was preparing just such a car. This makes up for the Humber Super Snipe that was a no-show due to a thrown rod!
We also had our very first LeMons Lotus: this extremely wretched Elite. The team used to run a BMW E30, so we think they’ve made a wise choice.
The only way to make a Malaise Lotus any worse would be to install one of the least reliable engines in LeMons history: a small-block Chevy V8. That’s what the owner of this car did back in the Quaalude era, and we’re sure the swap made total sense back then.
The Elite went out for some practice laps this afternoon, and died about a third of the way around the track. Out of gas, claimed the team, but there sure was a lot of blue oil smoke involved.
As I write this, they’re deep in a feverish wrenching frenzy. They’re motivated, because they’ve got some tough Class C competition.
In addition to the Sex Pistons Triumph Spitfire (top), which blew up before the green flag waved last year, we’ve got this six-cylinder Ford Fairmont in Class C.
Speaking of non-Mustang Fox Fords, there’s also this Zephyr. It’s got a 302 and 5-speed, so we felt compelled to put it in Class B.
For reasons that probably have something to do with California’s Central Valley, we saw many, many Camaros and Porsche 944s. This IROC has one of the best themes we’ve ever seen on a Camaro.
The Geo Player Special, a two-race-winner CBR1000-powered Metro, threw a rod in spectacular fashion during practice. The rod ended up on the floor of the car.
Fortunately, the team has a spare engine on hand. All-night swap session!
Next door to the Geo’s pit space, we’ve got umpteen-race-winner Eyesore Racing’s ghettocharged Miata. They’ve gone with a very topical theme this time.
We’ve also got a team made up of Oakland police officers, so we’re enjoying the penalty possibilities involving an OPD-versus-Cookie-Monster clash.

Thanks to the magic of timelapse video, you can watch the entire eight-hour process in a few minutes. Music: Steva Nikolič – Arnautka (1927).

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-23/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-23/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2011 05:53:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415724 It is not possible for a Chrysler minivan to finish in the top third of a weekend-long race on the car-killing turns and hils of Infineon Raceway, which is proof that this weekend’s race never happened. That means that the performance of the Team Soccer Moms’ Caravan must have been the product of mass hallucination. […]

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It is not possible for a Chrysler minivan to finish in the top third of a weekend-long race on the car-killing turns and hils of Infineon Raceway, which is proof that this weekend’s race never happened. That means that the performance of the Team Soccer Moms’ Caravan must have been the product of mass hallucination.
This factory-5-speed-equipped Dodge family hauler finished ahead of more than 100 competitors, while remaining nearly black-flag- and breakdown-free all weekend.
The Soccer Moms battled a Colt, a GLC, a Fire Arrow, and an Escort wagon for IOE honors. In the end, even a Fire Arrow couldn’t match the sheer inappropriateness of a K-car-based minivan as a race car. Congratulations, Soccer Moms!

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-24/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-24/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2011 05:32:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415714 It’s been quite a year for the builders of the Model T GT: a feature article in Hot Rod, plus several races in which the T held the lead for quite a while before vaporizing the transmission. Finally, everything came together this weekend at Infineon Raceway aka Sears Point, and the world’s quickest road-race Model […]

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It’s been quite a year for the builders of the Model T GT: a feature article in Hot Rod, plus several races in which the T held the lead for quite a while before vaporizing the transmission. Finally, everything came together this weekend at Infineon Raceway aka Sears Point, and the world’s quickest road-race Model T turned more laps than every one of its 170 competitors.
The team’s route to the winner’s circle involved a reduction in power, going from a 500CFM two-barrel carburetor to a 390CFM model, then retarding the ignition timing. This slowed the car down by a few seconds per lap, but kept the fragile T5 transmission alive and reduced the number of fuel stops by increasing the car’s range on a tank of fuel.
I’ve known Dave Schaible, the hot-rodder behind the T GT, since he helped me build the Impala Hell Project’s engine more than a decade ago, and I know how he scrounged up the bits and pieces to build today’s winner (I also know he’s good enough at building engines that we did an impound-and-dyno-test routine on the T GT’s Ford 302— when it was in the Buttonwillow-winning Mustard Yellow Volvo Doing 45 In The Fast Lane— at a Thunderhill LeMons race a while back: 188 horsepower).
According to LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm, the rules will soon be a-changing, making quasi-scratchbuilt-chassis cars like this (the T GT is built on a much-modified Model A frame with Fox Thunderbird suspension) more difficult to get onto a LeMons track (rumor has it that motorcycle engines in LeMons cars may also be outlawed). The T GT has become Schaible’s daily driver, anyway, so maybe it’s just as well that its racing days will be over soon. Congratulations, Team Model T GT!

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Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 Day One: BMW E34 Leads, Model T GT Close Behind http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/skankaway-anti-toe-fungal-500-day-one-bmw-e34-leads-model-t-gt-close-behind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/skankaway-anti-toe-fungal-500-day-one-bmw-e34-leads-model-t-gt-close-behind/#comments Sun, 23 Oct 2011 05:26:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415636 It was a long, hot, crazy, metal-crunching day at Infineon Raceway today, with cars bashing into walls and each other, shooting rods through hoods, catching on fire, and generally reducing the world’s stock of sub-$500 beaters. Still, some of the 171 Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 24 Hours of LeMons teams managed to keep running, and when […]

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It was a long, hot, crazy, metal-crunching day at Infineon Raceway today, with cars bashing into walls and each other, shooting rods through hoods, catching on fire, and generally reducing the world’s stock of sub-$500 beaters. Still, some of the 171 Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 24 Hours of LeMons teams managed to keep running, and when the session ended we had some familiar faces in the top five.
Leading the race by the thinnest whisker-width margin is the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk GP BMW 525i. This team has looked pretty good in recent races, but this is the first time they’ve ever managed to finish a Saturday session on top.
I dropped by If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk HQ tonight and found that they were listening to Deep Purple, of all things, as they wrenched on their BMW. So much for their image! They promised they’d switch to the Dead Kennedys as soon as their “party mix” ended.
Pretty much glued right to the E34′s bumper is the Model T GT. This team has the advantage of being stacked with a bunch of ringers (some of the top Spec Miata drivers on the West Coast), but the massive disadvantage of the fragile T5 transmission. We’ve seen the T GT take an intimidating lead in race after race, only to barf T5 parts all over the track with hours to go. It’s got V8 power and killer driving talent… but you need a transmission to finish a race. Actually, the T GT would be leading the race right now if not for the 3 BS-inspection penalty laps we gave it as part of the “handicap the perennial contenders” program we inaugurated yesterday.
Speaking of teams being held back by penalty laps, Eyesore Racing also got hit with the 3-lap handicap, and that puts them four laps back of the leader instead of just one. That doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point, however; Eyesore is known for making a big move in the late hours of a LeMons race.
If I were an If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk driver, however, I’d be most worried about this car. POSRacing, aka the F’ed-Up Express aka Spin-N-Out Burgers E30, has been running its usual invisible, trouble-free race. This team rarely makes mistakes, and their car manages to avoid the usual LeMons E30 electrical-system and wheel-bearing woes. POSRacing is seven laps back of the E34, instead of the four-lap margin they’d be facing if they hadn’t been zapped with the 3-lap BS handicap.
Here’s something you don’t see very often at a LeMons race: a BMW 2002 in the top five. Team Hurling Moss has been around for years, and they’ve done quite well— though not this well— in the past. They’re a serious long shot for the overall win, with lap times 5-8 seconds off the other leaders’ best times, but you just never know what will happen at a LeMons race.
Meanwhile, the LeMons Supreme Court will be doing our best to keep miscreant drivers from putting each other into the many walls at Sears Point. Check in tomorrow to see how it all sorts out.

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Fire Arrow, Twin-Stick Colt, and Devo: BS Inspections at the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/fire-arrow-twin-stick-colt-and-devo-bs-inspections-at-the-skankaway-anti-toe-fungal-24-hours-of-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/fire-arrow-twin-stick-colt-and-devo-bs-inspections-at-the-skankaway-anti-toe-fungal-24-hours-of-lemons/#comments Sat, 22 Oct 2011 05:45:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415466 The full name of this weekend’s race at Sears Point aka Infineon Raceway is “THE SKANKAWAY ANTI-TOE-FUNGAL 500, SPONSORED BY CRUSKIN-SKANKAWAY INC., THE OFFICIAL FUNGICIDAL TOE CREME OF LEMONS,” because Cruskin-Skankaway, Inc., won the bidding war for race sponsorship. Appropriately enough, this race featured more Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler-Mitsubishi products than any race in LeMons […]

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The full name of this weekend’s race at Sears Point aka Infineon Raceway is “THE SKANKAWAY ANTI-TOE-FUNGAL 500, SPONSORED BY CRUSKIN-SKANKAWAY INC., THE OFFICIAL FUNGICIDAL TOE CREME OF LEMONS,” because Cruskin-Skankaway, Inc., won the bidding war for race sponsorship. Appropriately enough, this race featured more Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler-Mitsubishi products than any race in LeMons history.
Life is good when you have an early-80s Dodge Colt in your race.
Better still is when that Colt boasts a Twin-Stick transmission.
However, serious Chryslerbishi racers skip the front-drivers and go right for the Astron-powered machinery.
For example, one of the greatest Malaise Era MitsuChryslers of all time: the Plymouth Fire Arrow!
The LeMons Supreme Court rolls deep, with this Mercedes-Benz SLS gullwing and the equally cool Sawzall-roadster Plymouth Belvedere serving as co-judgemobiles. I rode from Los Angeles to Northern California with Judge Jonny in the SLS yesterday, and it’s quite a car. The loan of the Mr. Belvedere roadster really rounded out our judicial motor pool for the weekend.
Of course, Sawzalled four-doors have a few safety issues for passengers. Look out for the edges of the sliced pillars!
Speaking of Chrysler products, this 360-powered Duster adds some no-Mitsubishi-nowhere Moparness to the proceedings.
As usual, incomprehensible LeMons rituals abounded.
We’re not quite sure what the connection between scantily-clad naughty nurses and a “shooting brake” Porsche 928 might be, but the other racers enjoyed the spectacle.
On the subject of The Most Depreciated Porsche In History, this race features two 928s. Here’s the Chief Perp expressing his approval of the world’s first 928-versus-Corvair road-race matchup. My money is on the Corvair.
After all the big “Podium For Sale” hooraw after the last Infineon LeMons race, the car in question showed up with an appropriate theme. Here’s Judge Jonny selling 85th place to Dave Swig.
Around the same time, a certain GTI team bribed yours truly with one of the greatest judicial gifts in LeMons history: a diorama modeled after my introductory illustration for the 1965 Impala Hell Project series.
I made this illustration on a very early version of Photoshop in 1993, and I’d have freaked out if I’d known that someday I’d get an incredibly detailed diorama version.
This thing is going front and center on my office desk when I get back to Denver!
LeMons Legend Spank showed up with a pitchforks-and-torches mob escorting his Mini Moke. His Austin America and Turbo Mini weren’t quite ready yet, but we’re sure to see them on the track tomorrow.
No discussion of LeMons Legends is complete without mention of Speedycop, and he’s flown all the way out from Maryland to drive the car that I once raced. He arrived at 4:00 AM and immediately got to work on an excellent re-theme job for the V8 Volvo: Michael Jackson’s Haunted House, complete with huge dead tree poking through a hole in the roof.
Thriller!
Climbing his way into the ranks of the Spank- and Speedycop-grade crazed devoted LeMons Legends is Brandon from Houston. He’s building a W126 Benz LeMons car to go with his 6.9-powered ’67 200 sedan, but the car he chose to drag 2,500 miles from Texas was the engine-eating “Jettarossa.” Will it throw a rod or swallow some valves this time?With 170 entries in this race, it would take me all night to do justice to even a large fraction of the amazing sights I saw Friday, so come back tomorrow for more Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal action.

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-22/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-22/#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 04:09:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414291 To those of us in LeMons HQ, GM cars have that extra-special something that gives them the edge on the Index of Effluency. Sure, we thought that the Bangers & Smash ’00 Dodge Intrepid had the edge starting the race, but Chrysler products tend to be a little too effluent to keep running all weekend […]

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To those of us in LeMons HQ, GM cars have that extra-special something that gives them the edge on the Index of Effluency. Sure, we thought that the Bangers & Smash ’00 Dodge Intrepid had the edge starting the race, but Chrysler products tend to be a little too effluent to keep running all weekend (in fact, the Bangers & Smash car ran exactly two laps before nuking its 24-valve V6). In the end, the Murph and the MagicTones-themed Racing 4 Nickels ’89 Olds Cutlass Ciera drove straight to another General Motors triumph.
48th place out of 98 entries (many of which were A-Class Integras and E30s) is startlingly good for a car that shouldn’t have been allowed on the race track in the first place. It wasn’t an easy decision for those of us in LeMons HQ, though; a three-cylinder Geo Metro came in 21st, and a ’92 Olds 98 finished 29th (note the GM Effluence Advantage once again). In the end, the Ciera came out on top. Congratulations, Racing 4 Nickels!

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-23/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-23/#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 01:33:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414284 After Clueless Racing won the American Irony race, they spent 18 months in the wilderness, leading in race after race… and then their engine would blow another head gasket or throw another rod. They did everything right, but fell afoul of LeMons Rule #11B: Hondas Blow Up. Today, however, the Clueless Racing CRX grabbed the […]

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After Clueless Racing won the American Irony race, they spent 18 months in the wilderness, leading in race after race… and then their engine would blow another head gasket or throw another rod. They did everything right, but fell afoul of LeMons Rule #11B: Hondas Blow Up. Today, however, the Clueless Racing CRX grabbed the lead early on Saturday and never relinquished it.
Other cars closed the gap a bit (the CRX ended up winning by a solid five laps), but the CRX’s fuel economy and clean driving kept fuel and black-flag stops to a minimum. When the checkered flag waved, the crowd enjoyed the spectacle of a less fortunate CRX tossing a rod as it crossed the finish line. Congratulations, Clueless Racing!

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Showroom-Schlock Shootout LeMons Day One: Honda Über Alles! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/showroom-schlock-shootout-lemons-day-one-honda-uber-alles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/showroom-schlock-shootout-lemons-day-one-honda-uber-alles/#comments Sun, 09 Oct 2011 03:26:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414203 So many 24 Hours of LeMons teams have their still-beating hearts torn out by the Civic and Integra, race after race; the little Hondas are very quick around a road course (which is the evil lure that makes teams want to race them), but the B and D engines have this terrible head-gasket-blowing problem. When […]

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So many 24 Hours of LeMons teams have their still-beating hearts torn out by the Civic and Integra, race after race; the little Hondas are very quick around a road course (which is the evil lure that makes teams want to race them), but the B and D engines have this terrible head-gasket-blowing problem. When they’re not losing the head gasket— usually 15 hours into a 20-hour race— then they’re shooting connecting rods in all directions. Who cares? When today’s race session was over, Honda products sat in the top three positions.
In first, we have the Clueless Racing CRX. Clueless won the 2010 American Irony race 18 months ago, but since then they’ve gone through about 1.5 engines per race. They’ve even won the I Got Screwed award, partly thanks to my cruelty in mocking their agonies. Maybe Clueless will still be on top when the checkered flag waves tomorrow! Their car is quick, their drivers fast, and they have a four-lap lead when they start tomorrow. I don’t want to open myself up to charges of jinxing these poor bastids yet again, so I won’t emphasize their car’s big weakness any more.
You’d think that the Integra would be more reliable than the Civic in LeMons, but they may be even more fragile then their econo-siblings. So many times, an Integra has built up a seemingly insurmountable lead, only to puke the engine with an hour to go. Today, the Holy Rollers ’88 Integra managed to knock out a best lap a full five seconds quicker than Clueless Racing’s quickest trip around the Autobahn Country Club’s course. If they can match Clueless in black-flag-free driving and pit-stop times, they should catch up sometime early on Sunday afternoon. That is, if the h–d g—-t holds out.
Here’s a car that we’ve seen contend for a LeMons win in races going back at least two years: the Free Candy Racing “Pedobear” Civic. They’ve got a guy in Pedobear costume roaming the paddock and handing out candy, they’ve got horrifyingly offensive Pedobear aphorisms all over their car, and they’re on the same lap as the Holy Rollers. What could go wrong? Do I need to spell it out? There’s a BMW E30 and a Chevy Caprice in third and fourth place, respectively, but it’s unlikely that all three of the Hondas will have catastrophic… well, you know.
Meanwhile, the owner of the famous LeMons ’65 Impala Wagon showed up late Saturday afternoon instead of the promised Friday morning, after being unreachable by the Speedycop and the Gang of Outlaws crew that flew from Maryland to Illinois to meet him… and the car wasn’t quite ready.
That means the Outlaws will spend all night installing a new exhaust system, racing seat, harnesses, and probably a bunch of additional time-consuming stuff, in the hopes of making the green flag early Sunday morning. Such drama!
Since Halloween is approaching, we’ve been making teams carve the manufacturer logos of their race cars into jack-o-lanterns. This Integra-driving team’s “Pumpkin of Shame” was by far the best (though watching an Alfa Romeo team struggle with their car’s complicated logo was more entertaining).
Looks like the Tricky Dick effigy on the roof of Team Resignation’s Escort could use some more Dilantin. Check in tomorrow for more Showroom Schlock action!

Leader photographs courtesy of Sideline Sports Photography

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Nixon, Muppets, and an Intrepid: BS Inspections of the Showroom-Schlock Shootout 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/nixon-muppets-and-an-intrepid-bs-inspections-of-the-showroom-schlock-shootout-24-hours-of-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/nixon-muppets-and-an-intrepid-bs-inspections-of-the-showroom-schlock-shootout-24-hours-of-lemons/#comments Sat, 08 Oct 2011 04:27:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414080 We’re here at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, for the first annual Showroom-Schlock Shooutout (we raced here last year, but the race was called the Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500). The track is great, the weather is perfect, and we’ve got some super-LeMonic cars among the hundred or so entries. We’ve got a real dilemma […]

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We’re here at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, for the first annual Showroom-Schlock Shooutout (we raced here last year, but the race was called the Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500). The track is great, the weather is perfect, and we’ve got some super-LeMonic cars among the hundred or so entries.
We’ve got a real dilemma in the Judgemobile department. Do we go with the Reliant Super Robin, provided for us by the very generous team that’s racing…
…this VW Type 3 Squareback?
Or do we use the ’12 Dodge Challenger SRT8, provided by Chrysler? What do you think? Super Robin all the way! Both cars will get to do pace car duty tomorrow, so there’s a consolation prize for the tire-charring Mopar.
This extremely redneck-looking ’81 LTD Crown Victoria has never raced on dirt before (though its builder has been building dirt-track racers for decades), in spite of its appearance, and it turned out to be very well constructed and set up. The driver claims 50/50 weight distribution with the engine and driver setback, and we believe him.Team Resignation is back with their Milhous Special Escort. They are not crooks!
The legendary Speedycop had arranged for the owner of the amazing Rent-A-’65-Impala-Wagon to meet him Friday morning at Autobahn, and he and his henchmen flew in from Maryland for that purpose. Only problem was, no Impala, and no contact from the owner! No problem, said Speedycop, we’ll find a car on Craigslist tonight and prep it. Fortunately, the Impala’s owner finally checked in, and the car should be arriving early Saturday morning. Here we see Speedycop getting his imaginary car inspected.
I’ve always sort of liked the early Chrysler LH cars, in spite of their inherent horribleness, and so it made me very happy to see this dead-stock Dodge Intrepid gearing up to race. It has the hot 24-valve engine, but I still put it in C Class. That means it’s racing against the likes of Olds 98s and the Squareback.
Speaking of Class C, check out this Opel GT with Mazda rotary. It needs some roll-cage work and a windshield, plus it doesn’t exactly have a carburetor right now. Don’t worry, though, because it’s getting a Harley-Davidson carb tonight. That should work just fine!
We got our first-ever Alfa Romeo 164, though we were forced to hammer it with BS Penalty laps for being cheaty even by our lenient standards for Italian machinery.
This team had some good costumes to go with their Kermit-The-Frog-ized RX-7.
This Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed Maxima was fairly entertaining.
But the wolf-drinking-rainbow-PBR mural will probably give me nightmares.
The Little Douche Coupe is back, with Funny Car god Cruz Pedregon on the team and ready to fry the clutch and/or brakes as needed.
We’ve stopped worrying so much about a cheaty BMW E36 running away with the race, because it turns out that the E30′s successor is actually quite slow and unreliable on a road course.
The Wisconsin contingent is in full effect, with some of the delicacies peculiar to their far-off land (though we’re still waiting for someone from Racine to bring us a Pecan Kringle).

I was too busy to photograph all the cars that passed through the LeMons Supreme Court’s clutches during the day, but my timelapse camera sees all. Here’s a day of inspections compressed into a few minutes. Check in tomorrow for race updates!
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Junkyard Find: 1965 Rambler Classic 770 Convertible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/junkyard-find-1965-rambler-classic-770-convertible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/junkyard-find-1965-rambler-classic-770-convertible/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2011 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413410 Many of the older cars you find in the junkyard clearly spent a decade or three moldering in a side yard or driveway before taking that final ride behind the tow truck. The project that never gets started, or the once-reliable car that needs a new transmission, or sometimes just Grandpa’s forgotten daily driver. We […]

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Many of the older cars you find in the junkyard clearly spent a decade or three moldering in a side yard or driveway before taking that final ride behind the tow truck. The project that never gets started, or the once-reliable car that needs a new transmission, or sometimes just Grandpa’s forgotten daily driver. We don’t know that this Rambler ran when parked, but we can tell when it was parked: 1986.
That’s because the trunk is still full of Denver newspapers and phone books from 25 years ago.
This convertible is pretty well thrashed, far beyond the point of being a worthwhile restoration. You can get a fairly straight restoration candidate for cheap, so why pour ten grand into a basket case to make it worth five grand?
Still, it is sad to see this car headed to The Crusher. Perhaps some rat-rod Rat Fink type will save this 287-cube V8 for a fenderless ’26 Nash Ajax project (though a Jeep Tornado OHC six in a Graham-Page 612 would be even cooler).
Weather Eye!

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Super Piston Slap: This LeMons Fiero Gets Revenge on FoMoCo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/super-piston-slap-this-lemons-fiero-gets-revenge-on-fomoco/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/super-piston-slap-this-lemons-fiero-gets-revenge-on-fomoco/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 16:17:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413206 Since there are multiple TTAC Hacks on assignment here at the 24 Hours of LeMons, you’re getting into the mix from multiple angles. And, here in the Piston Slap corner of the world, the Cars are the Stars! But some whips simply have too much going on: feats of engineering superiority, a collection of creative/rare […]

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Since there are multiple TTAC Hacks on assignment here at the 24 Hours of LeMons, you’re getting into the mix from multiple angles. And, here in the Piston Slap corner of the world, the Cars are the Stars! But some whips simply have too much going on: feats of engineering superiority, a collection of creative/rare parts and a dump truck full of historical irony. That’s right, historical irony…with a touch of revenge!

Enter the Chevy Lumina Z34 powered Pontiac Fiero here at LeMons Houston. And a little Ford vs. Chevy history: from the viewpoint of Mr. Goodwrench and the average Joe.

If you were a Mr. Goodwrench back then: do please accept my heartfelt apology. Much like cramming 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, the Lumina Z34 was a hot mess to service: the double-overhead camshaft “wannabe Yamaha V6” conversion made servicing the spark plugs, timing belt, tensioners, etc. a nightmare. Buried in the frame of the less-than-Taurean Chevrolet Lumina, more skilled wrenches curse the name “Twin Dual Cam” compared to the Yamaha SHO motor. Moot point in this day and age, but I remember the chatter on car forums back in the late 1990s.


Let’s say you aren’t a Mr. Goodwrench:
the (1991) Z34 was a (cobbled up) competitor for the critically acclaimed 1989 Ford Taurus SHO. Much like the Lumina’s relative lack of success, the Z34 didn’t stand a chance against the SHO. Aside from less power, the SHO always rated higher because of the vehicle wrapped around the hot engine. Short of being an aspirational vehicle for Chevy Beretta owners or rabid fans of GM’s 60-degree V6 motor, the Lumina Z34 flopped.

So why on earth should you care about the mating of a Lumina Z34 and a Pontiac Fiero?

Continuing with the Ford vs. Chevy thing, the Yamaha SHO motor was originally intended for a Pontiac Fiero type of mid-engine sports car. Which was stillborn. Hence the need for the Taurus SHO to exist. So what’s a GM fan to do? Get the ultimate “Z34 revenge” by making your own Ford SHO-like mid-engine sports car!

And by that logic, you’d be a damn fool to NOT put a Z34 mill in a Pontiac Fiero!

The first thing that tips you off to this car’s “Screw You Ford” mantra are those wheels. Sure, the fronts are proper lacy affairs for the Pontiac Fiero. But what are those rear wheels? Is that really a Chevy Lumina back there?

Did Dearborn just get served? Peek a little closer, and there it is. Do yourself a solid and dig through the photo album, because you rarely see things quite this awesome.

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-21/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-21/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 08:53:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413315 Working in the 24 Hours of LeMons Penalty Box, the constant refrain of “Four wheels off” over the radio from the corner workers reporting miscreant drivers gets a little tedious. Hearing “Six wheels off,” however, really livens things up for us. That’s just one of the many benefits of having the Team Apex Vinyl Texas […]

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Working in the 24 Hours of LeMons Penalty Box, the constant refrain of “Four wheels off” over the radio from the corner workers reporting miscreant drivers gets a little tedious. Hearing “Six wheels off,” however, really livens things up for us. That’s just one of the many benefits of having the Team Apex Vinyl Texas six-wheeled Toyota Hilux in a race.
This truck has been competing in Houston LeMons races for a couple of years now, but it never ran sufficient laps to qualify for the Index of Effluency (LeMons racing’s top prize) until this weekend. The problem lies in the engine; the Toyota R engine may be utterly bulletproof on the street or in a Third World combat zone, but 20Rs and 22Rs have one of the most miserable failure rates we’ve ever seen in LeMons (though the R is better than any other engine at running after a loose connecting rod has punched a huge hole in the engine block). In fact, only the Mitsubishi Astron and small-block Chevy can rival the Toyota R for LeMons futility, and we probably don’t need to discuss the handling peculiarities of a 34-year-old pickup with an extra axle. This time, though, the truck worked just fine; the Apex Vinyl ’77 Hilux did suffer a rocker-arm failure and lost an hour or two, but otherwise stayed on the track. When it was all over, the six-wheeler rolled to a 24th-place (out of 59) finish. Congratuations, Team Apex Vinyl Texas!

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-22/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-22/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 08:22:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413309 There are some fast LeMons cars that suffer from a single glaring weakness that knocks them out of the running after maintaining a lead for hour after hour. For example, the Acura Integra and Honda Prelude and their fragile head gaskets, or the Toyota MR2′s chronic engine-cooling/oiling woes. The Ford Taurus SHO, however, is constructed […]

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There are some fast LeMons cars that suffer from a single glaring weakness that knocks them out of the running after maintaining a lead for hour after hour. For example, the Acura Integra and Honda Prelude and their fragile head gaskets, or the Toyota MR2′s chronic engine-cooling/oiling woes. The Ford Taurus SHO, however, is constructed entirely from weaknesses; the transmissions explode, the engines throw rods (when they aren’t too busy spinning bearings and/or burning valves), the brakes overheat, and the suspensions crumble like pretzel sticks in a trash compacter. Wheel bearings, electrical components, you name it. But when a well-driven SHO doesn’t fall apart, very few LeMons-priced cars can catch it on a race course.
That’s what happened with the SHOTime “Rat Patrol” ’92 Taurus SHO over the weekend of the 2011 Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons. The Rat Patrollers did everything right: no mechanical problems, quick pit stops, no black flags, super-smooth driving for hour after hour. In the end, the SHO kept the Blue Goose VW Rabbit at bay, taking the checkered flag with a two-lap lead over the very quick Volkswagen. The other two cars on the SHOTime “SHO Mafia” team came in fifth and twelfth (out of 59 entries), which annihilates the previous record for most total SHO laps without a nuked engine or scattered transmission in a LeMons race. Congratulations, SHOTime!
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Yeehaw It’s Texas LeMons Day One: Rabbit Breathing Down SHO’s Neck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/yeehaw-its-texas-lemons-day-one-rabbit-breathing-down-shos-neck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/yeehaw-its-texas-lemons-day-one-rabbit-breathing-down-shos-neck/#comments Sun, 02 Oct 2011 04:37:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413220 After a grueling all-day battle of thrown rods, car fires, and busted suspensions at MSR Houston, we never expected to see a Ford Taurus SHO with a Rat Patrol roof gunner on the same lap as a bar-sponsored ’84 Volkswagen Rabbit. That’s how things sorted out after the first race session of the fourth annual […]

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After a grueling all-day battle of thrown rods, car fires, and busted suspensions at MSR Houston, we never expected to see a Ford Taurus SHO with a Rat Patrol roof gunner on the same lap as a bar-sponsored ’84 Volkswagen Rabbit. That’s how things sorted out after the first race session of the fourth annual Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons.
There’s something of a SHO Mafia in Texas, for reasons that go beyond my understanding of geo-cultural factors, and so we’ve got three SHOs on Team SHOTime. One of them won two races in the ’10 season, but that car now sits in seventh. The leading “Rat Patrol” 1992 SHO hasn’t had a single black flag today, and (as far as I know) not a single mechanical problem as well.
It’s good to be the leader, but the SHOTime Rat Patrol guys can’t be feeling very comfortable with the perennially contending Blue Goose Rabbit a few seconds behind them.
The Blue Goose VW is one of those LeMons cars that everybody knows is going to take an overall win one of these races; it came within a couple of laps of the win at the North Dallas Hooptie and has been near the front of the pack at race after race. Right now, all the Geese need is the smallest stumble by the Taurus— say, a transmission scattered all over MSR’s Turn Six (a depressingly common SHO occurrence) or something as mundane as a slow refueling stop— and the VW will leap into the lead.
Thing is, the Blue Geese are themselves being sweated by the only 280ZX ever to have won a LeMons race, Team Z-Wrecks. This 29-year-old Datsun is a mere lap behind the Rat Patrol and the Blue Goose, and its best lap is quicker than both its competitors. No black flags, no mechanical problems.
As if the SHO guys weren’t already stressed enough about their escape-risk connecting rods and glass transmission, the BenzGay Mercedes-Benz 300E (winner of the Garrapatas Peligrosas 24 Hours of LeMons in June) cruises a mere three laps behind the Z-Wrecks car.
And, because you can’t have a LeMons race without a BMW 3 Series in the heart of the drama, the Hello Dead Kitty Racing E36 lurks a single lap back of the Benz (they’d be tied with the Z, were it not for the four BS laps handed out by the LeMons Supreme Court yesterday). That’s five cars within a five-lap spread, and a whole day of racing Sunday to sort things out.
Meanwhile, the toll on the competition’s running gear has been even harsher than usual. Toyota MR2s like to eat 4A engines, as was the case with this rod-throw victim. The team has a new (to them) engine on the way, and an all-night thrash should get them back on the track by the time the green flag waves tomorrow morning.
This Nissan Sentra SE-R engine suffered one of the most spectacular failures we’ve ever seen in a LeMons race, with a wayward connecting rod punching holes in both sides of the block and the oil pan, spraying oil all over the exhaust header and turning the engine compartment into a sea of fire. The driver got out of the car safely, the rescue crew put out the fire (including the infield grass fire that spread from the burning car), and the team is even now installing a replacement engine.
The MetroSexuals Suzuki Swift GT-engined Geo Metro (1,300 screaming CCs of twin-cam power!) suffered a catastrophic rear wheel hub failure, which resulted in a three-wheeled off-road adventure. End of the race? Not at all!
That’s because the MetroSexuals’ pit neighbor offered the hub assembly off his daily-driver Metro. That’s how they race, deep in the heart of Texas.

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Super Piston Slap: The Buick-infused Fiero at LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/super-piston-slap-the-buick-infused-fiero-at-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/super-piston-slap-the-buick-infused-fiero-at-lemons/#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2011 19:56:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413157 Perhaps you already know a little about this car from a previous post, but let’s look a little deeper into what makes an engine swap in a Fiero so positively epic. First off, if you don’t know about the Pontiac Fiero, shame on you! This is one of many half-baked efforts from General Motors that […]

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Perhaps you already know a little about this car from a previous post, but let’s look a little deeper into what makes an engine swap in a Fiero so positively epic.

First off, if you don’t know about the Pontiac Fiero, shame on you! This is one of many half-baked efforts from General Motors that deserved a better fate. Let’s face it, the Chevy Corvair coulda lived to see numerous upgrades and cult classic success, sparing us from colossal money pits of premium compact car hell, like the Mk V Volkswagon Golf. The multi-cammed, custom bodied Corvette ZR-1 (with a dash) was far too excellent to die, although it has finally come back with a vengeance in a slightly less unique guise. The Cadillac Allante finally made some sense when it received the Northstar V8 in the last year of production, but the Fiero was the worst sin a neglected GM product faced. The staggering number of upgrades in 1988 and the clean “Formula” trim level made this ride a potential success…if that wasn’t to be the last year of production.

Thank goodness for people who keep the flame, and raise up the heat. The Buick “Fireball” 3.8L V6 is a fun and worthy upgrade, as seen here in this LeMons racer that we all ogled during the BS inspection. Of course, the team’s wicked Ferrari theme didn’t hurt, even the wheels looked great! Adding the hood vents from a Trans Am GTA (correct?) and an impressive roll-on red paintjob with catch phrases in Ferrari’s own font absolutely sealed the deal. Opening the hood while doing my judge-ly duties, I remarked, “wait, that isn’t right? Is that a…

…and before I could fully digest the sheer volume of awesome presented to my eyes…

It’s a 3.8,” said a team member. Well, that just made my day. The 3.8L V6 is a gutsy, durable and coarse little mill, compact and easily fitted into the Fiero’s little frame. The later model (Series II and up) mills give you way more grunt than the 60-degree pushrod motor that came in a factory Fiero, and upping the ate with the (roots-type) supercharged Buick V6 would be absolutely wicked. Too bad this one is naturally aspirated! And while this motor (and any mid-engined car) has a serious uphill battle in an endurance style, crapcan LeMons race, this type of automotive expressionism is wholly encouraged and applauded ’round these parts.

Ready for more? We have another Fiero motor swap that’s worth a closer look, coming soon. In the meantime, you know I had to drop a little LSX love, even if that won’t fit within LeMon’s $500 budget.

Yeeeee-ha! LS4-FTW and I’m headed back to the races this weekend!

Click here to view the embedded video.

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