The Truth About Cars » The 24 Hours Of Lemons The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 15:01:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (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 » The 24 Hours Of Lemons Team TTAC: Unfinished Syndicate Cars Need Not Apply Mon, 10 Mar 2014 18:15:33 +0000 unnamed

Racing is more than the story on track. If there’s thing I’ve learned in the last few years of rassin’ adventures is that the real battle in racing is the one leading up to getting the car on track. Not just the mechanical struggle of preparing a car to drive in conditions its creators had never anticipated, but in the personal struggles the teams could never had anticipated, too.

Some may have noticed we’ve been quiet on our Lemons exploits last fall, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Plain and simple, the deal for our 450SLC fell apart in such spectacular fashion that we decided to tactfully push it under the rug and move on with plans for our own in-house team. Sure, we’d wasted a ton of money, travel, and time off work, but what would the point be of publicly humiliating the person who had let us down?

That was our opinion, anyway. But Brandon Spears, owner of the Syndicate Lemons team, “builder” of the 450SLC we’d arranged to rent, and the letter-downer in question, had a different opinion about letting sleeping dogs lie.

buy a Mercedes SLC and race that MoFo  Page 1  — Bench Racing — The 24 Hours of LeMons Forums (2)

TTAC: coverage yes, paying their bills no.

Those guys showed up and hogged all the seat time from my other drivers, blew up a motor, and wouldn’t lend a hand to help finish the car they came to race.  3 hours before the end of the race I gave up working on it and went and drove. Didn’t help that the cage came in Thursday afternoon before the race.

But hey, at least they didn’t pay anything.

Car just needs the rear down bars and it is good to go.  Should see it at ECR, be sure to check out the team name 

After a few brief forum posts in which we rebutted Spears’ claims, we even let that go. We’ll get to the hard response to this in due time. However, a month later, the Eagles Canyon Raceway 24 Hours of Lemons event rolls through and there’s a nice surprise for us in the team name.


So much for tact.

Here’s the deal. Our car, the #107 Mercedes Benz 450 SLC, was supposed to have arrived Friday morning of the race weekend around 9 am. I was driving to Motor Sports Ranch Houston from Austin, a three hour drive, when I got Jack’s call that the car was late. By noon, everyone but Bark M. had arrived. We spent the afternoon learning the course in Jack’s rental ’13 Mustang Penske GT. Through out the day, unanswered text messages and phone calls to Spears built up in our phones as each promised ETA was passed. We had lost count of the number of times the 450SLC was “on the way to the track” by the time we made it to the Pappas Brothers’ steak house for dinner that night.

The last message we heard about the car, that evening, was that it would be at the track on Saturday morning, just a few hours before the 3pm start. You can see where this is going.

At 9pm, Saturday evening, six hours after race start, a Benz arrived… But it was not our 450 SLC. Spears’ other car, the “red pig” 560 SEL arrived with half of his crew. When the truck rolled up, we immediately started working with the crew to get the Pig ready. The to-do list included:

  • Replace right-rear brake caliper
  • Wire PIAA lights
  • Fix major fuel leaks

While we were establishing what was needed on the Pig, the Tiki/Jettarossa was offered to get our drivers on track. The car had mysteriously been abandoned by the team running it earlier on in the race. A quick fluids check found over a gallon of oil missing from the pan. Yes! A quick drive to Wal-Mart and a fistful of dollars in Royal Purple later, Bark M. was put on course around 10pm to try out MSR Houston for the first time — in the dark, driving an unfamiliar car.

It didn’t take long before he had to return. The car was losing oil pressure right before he put the car into the grass to avoid broad-siding a three-way accident ahead of him. It stalled in the maneuver, and when restarted lit its oil pressure light with great fury. When it was pulled back in, it was terrifyinly low on oil, again. This time the entire engine bay was sprayed with oil, it had been leaking under pressure from somewhere.

We had already started on the Pig by this point, and just left the Jettarossa aside for now. Marc and a member of Spears’ crew started working on the fuel fitting leak. I started on the brake caliper. A rally friend of mine, Matt, who was here after his Lemons team threw in the towel the day before, started working on wiring the headlights; even bleeding the brakes with me simultaneously. Jack was off working with Steven, the nominal team captain, to get a way to get the Red Pig teched after the John Pagel, the main tech inspector, left. They eventually worked to transfer tech responsibility to Steven after Mr. Pagel did an initial evaluation of the Pig. Though brakes and lights were now sorted, the fuel leak was still a major issue.

Matt went around looking for new crush washers, while Marc worked to modify what was around to the right diameter. Basically, we didn’t have a large enough copper crush washer. Despite all these efforts, the system still would not seal. After pulling the pump out of the car, it was seen that the mating surface on the pump had been damaged by some ham-fisted install in College Station.

Around 12:30am, Brandon finally rolls up with the 450SLC, only for us to find out that it too is unfinished. Some of the roll cage had yet to be welded in, the kill switch needed to be installed, and who knew what attention it needed once running.

We put our efforts back in the Pig, and two new mechanics from Spears’ crew installed the hoodpins, and were less than pleasant to us as we repaired their car.. While they finished this, Marc and I went over the Jettarossa with Spears. We found that there was a loose AN fitting on the oil pump, and in Spears’ own words, the oil pump was an aftermarket unit that might have been over pressurizing the engine and leaking from everywhere it could have.

The Pig was finally ready, and Jack Baruth took the first laps in it to shake it down and assume any risk of mechanical failure… Which took two laps before we found out that the transmission was quarts low on fluid and the radiator hoses were not fitted correctly. The 560SEL returned on a hook, accompanied by a thoroughly pissed-off Editor-In-Chief who, unbeknownst to him, had finished the only race lap he would see that weekend.

At 3am, we left with a promise from Brandon that the 450SLC would be ready by 9am on Sunday. We went to the hotel, assuming the obvious.

And at 10 am, nothing was done. But when we did arrive, we at least found the Spears crew digging into the catering truck before reluctantly sending the Red Pig out. It made a few laps, but burned through its power steering hose. Someone installed a hose that was 4″ too long, which routed it next to the exhaust manifold. That ended well, as you can imagine. “We’ll fix it,” Spears offered, “but first, OMELETS!” We sat around and watched him eat an omelet while the race, you know, continued behind us.

Around 11am, we finally put a driver, Marc P, on track. The end of his stint was a rain-induced caution that nearly put him into a sideways Camaro as the Red Pig’s wipers began to fail. The Pig came in for an emergency zip-tie repair on the wipers to lock them back onto the arms, and to wait out the rain. Marc swapped with me, and I put down about 8 laps before handing the car to Bark M. for about 10 laps. At this point, Steve came by to repo the car, despite that our 450SLC still hadn’t ran. It was at this point we learned that they hadn’t started working on the Pig until 4 days prior… on a car that hasn’t been raced, much less driven, in a year.

After Bark M. finished his 10 meager laps, we gave the car to Spears’ crew, and they ran the car for the final four hours. Their best dry laptime wasn’t equal to Marc or Mark’s wet laps. We bounced out for a fine cuisine at the local Pizza Hut, and returned to watch the race finish before loading out for the flights home.

So what did TTAC get out of this? By Jack’s estimates, $6,000 in combined travel and hotel costs, plus $950 paid to Lemons for a race entry that wasn’t actually fulfilled. Jack had also arranged for shirts to be made to hand out to readers, but although Spears had received those shirts on time thanks to Jack paying for FedEx two-day shipping, he’d forgotten to put them in his truck before leaving the shop. Our total laps on track number around 35 between four drivers. We were given not just one, but three broken cars.

After the end of the race, Mr. Spears sent Jack a bill for $1,600 for catering, light rental, and miscellaneous expenses. Jack counter-offered with the $150 per driver on which he and Spears had agreed prior to the race. “I am not,” he fumed, “paying for that guy’s fucking omelets.” Spears wouldn’t take that, and Jack wouldn’t pay any more than the original agreement, so that’s where the conversation stalled. Jack offered to give Spears the $950 race fee if Spears could get it back from Lemons, but apparently Jay Lamm decided a while ago to stop refunding money for teams that couldn’t make it to the track. Care to take a guess on which team the rumor mill says was responsible for that decision? Still, we decided there was no use in beating Brandon over the head online. Everybody has a bad weekend some time, right?

But months later we get the white glove back hand, and again in the Syndicate’s team name, so we decided it was time to get the story out there.

I won’t say it was a bad time, because the group of people suffering with me were some of the best I could have suffered with, but I can speak for everyone when I say we would have preferred to suffer behind the wheel of an R107; rather than in the back seat of someone else’s clusterfuck. Take a lesson from our mistake: when you rent seats in a LeMons car, make sure you know you’re renting from someone who knows what they’re doing, who will tell the truth to you, and who won’t whine on the Internet about you not paying him for a drive you didn’t get.

Photo: Brian Sidle

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On Brittany Howard, LeMons and New Jersey College Virgins Mon, 12 Aug 2013 14:07:52 +0000 Yeah, I opened this up for the screen shot, but I had been listening

Yeah, I opened this up for the screen shot, but I had been listening

You have heard it before, you’ll hear it again. Probably soon, probably better and probably from Louis CK, in which case it will definitely be funnier.

But what an age we live in! Literally, a mere 10 years ago my wife sat at home hoping my once a week phone call from Africa would actually connect. Today, I am texting her as she has lunch with her little brother in Virginia. But what’s more impressive is that I am doing that while watching real time race updates as my buddies the Three Pedal Mafia and their beater Rolls Royce battle Speedycop and his amazing upside down racecar at on the 24 Hours of Lemons at NJMP. The mighty K Car wagon is there as well.

Unfortunately, I believe that is the S-10 Sea Sprite, The Rolls is not doing well

Unfortunately, I believe that is the S-10 Sea Sprite, FB tells me the Rolls is totalled

Yeah, you can watch big races live on the a giant TV from almost anywhere with electricity, but I am here, in a hotel in Amman Jordan, Guinness slippers on, getting real-time lap by lap updates on my iPhone with the Race Monitor App. This allows me to annoy my east coast teammate with useless observations and pointless advice so obnoxiously, it’s like I am there, only they didn’t have to buy me a case of Dos XXs.

Seriously, what is most unlikely? Unicorn farts or NJ College virgins?

Seriously, what is most unlikely? Unicorn farts or NJ College virgins?


This is not up to the minute action of the latest Formula 1 race, but this is “as-it-happens” track data from a crapcan race. All in the comfort of a small couch while Brittany Howard serenades me from my Alabama Shakes Pandora station.

Yeah, I know I’m not cool, call me a fanboi, trend jumper, whatever. I will read it, from right here, on the same couch, 8,000 miles away. I will probably read it within seconds of you clicking “comment.” But I move my lips when I read, so it will take a while. I am from Georgia after all.

But think about it. To place the concept in another time frame; it’s like my Dad being able to watch a Friday night grudge race from his leatherette La-Z-Boy by tuning to a UHF channel back when I was a wee lad. Except the TV is in Spain, a heckler can toss beer can at him from Australia, all while he typed up a story about it. Then mailed that story to German editor in Japa…you see where this is going right?

Of course you do. I am pointing out that you can mock me, as I bother my team, while we are watching live updates and our snarky criticism of other people can span the globe. I only ask that for a few seconds prior to your slapping that “enter” key with resolute authority, you think about the wonder of it all.

It’s pretty cool huh?

Go Three Pedal Mafia!

Fire away.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and a gift for making Derek and Jack wonder if English is actually his first language.

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Twin-Engined Toyota Racer Works Fine, Confounds Self-Proclaimed Experts Wed, 18 May 2011 14:00:45 +0000
“How will you sync the engines?” whined the naysayers when they heard about the plan to weld an ’89 Corolla front half to an ’87 MR2 rear half. “How will you cool it? The handling will be terrible! It’ll never work!” If there’s one thing that 24 Hours of LeMons racing has taught the automotive world, it’s that the experts’ preconceptions can be thrown right out the window when it comes time to drop a cheap race car into the crucible of an all-weekend-long road race. For example, who would have imagined that Chevy small-block and Honda B engines would turn out to be among the most fragile in the crapcan endurance racing world? And who would have imagined that the DoubleSuck MR2olla would do so well at the notoriously car-killing Reno-Fernley Raceway?

To avoid the nightmare of trying to get a single shifter and clutch pedal to control two drivetrains, the DoubleSuck team decided to use an automatic transmission on the rear 4AGE and a manual transmission on the front 4AGE. When driving, the rear tranny goes into Drive and the driver shifts the front transmission normally.

Rather than trying to merge two electrical systems, the DoubleSuck designers opted to keep the front and rear systems separate. Two alternators, two batteries, two kill switches.

The cockpit features two shifters and two instrument clusters. To get the complete build story from the geniuses responsible for this innovative racin’ machine, check out the Verbose Beater website.

So we’ve got two 112-horsepower engines, one transmission shifting for itself and the other controlled by the driver, and weight distribution unlike anything Toyota ever considered building. How does it drive? We conned LeMons Supreme Court Circuit Judge and Index of Effluency-winning Renault 4CV racer Rich into putting on his gear and strapping himself into the MR2olla for a few test laps on Saturday; here are his impressions:

I was prepared for the worst, strange torsional stiffness, pirate-ship-under-stress creaking, disturbing bump steer, maybe a car that pulls viciously and doglegs down the road or the worst, has transition from predictable traction to some kind of wall seeking mission abort mode. Maybe it would behave like an AWD car where the center differential had just gone schizophrenic. I had no idea.

Looking at the dash was both amusing and intimidating. One set of 3 pedals, check. Two gauge clusters… mmmm ok. Two ignition switches, ha ha, and wait… what’s this? Ah, two shift levers. One has a 5 speed pattern on top, and the other has a button on the side. Oh this should be entertaining.

I was given proper flight instruction by a very generous, but slightly nervous team captain. He didn’t know what kind of yahoo was getting into the car that he had no doubt spent many sleep deprived nights putting together. “The rear engine is the loud one, we just improvised a cherry bomb exhaust. The front engine (with manual trans) is quiet, so you really have to watch the tach.” Ok, I think I’ll try to err on the side of much too high of a gear. You can usually lug a motor without hurting it.

Oh boy, the last thing I want to do is blow up these dude’s car.

So I was off.

I had the advantage at least of knowing the track, having raced there 2 years before. As I accelerated to merge with traffic I made my first mistake. I was thinking about the MR2 I had years ago and expected similar acceleration. This was wrong and I very rapidly ran out of first gear. Ok, lets go straight to 3rd.

For the first few laps I ambled around the track, generally staying to the outside and allowing the chuckleheads I had been punishing moments before to blow on by in their rat race. My comfort level with the car quickly improved and I actually started to push it a bit.

Remember 1993? Remember being broke, and having an 80′s hatch that you could only afford a couple improvements on? Remember having that hatch packed full of your friends and taking off for some party and deciding to impress them on that twisty on-ramp? Maybe you don’t, but a Corolla with an engine in the back or a Mr. 2 with an engine in the front would kinda handle like that with one notable exception. If you’re paying attention to the tach (remember that?) and you’ve been putting the quiet engine in the powerband, this baby would pull.

This car was as predictable as your beloved old hatch full of your moron friends, but it had a 3.2 liter 8 cylinder motor made into a dipole. The scary creaky machine I feared turned out to be a predictable little car that could really pull up the hill and exit corners with some gusto.

After about 5 or 8 laps I started getting a bit more brave with it and I had to remind myself: “wait, this isn’t my car, these aren’t my tires, and I’ll never hear the end of it if the guest judge gets a black flag for 2 wheels off, it’s time to come in”

With some debugging and a little more shade-tree engineering, this amazing little machine will be quite a contender. I look forward to the day when LeMons is all cars that exhibit creativity like this. Tip your hats to Volatile RAM Racing!

The MR2olla’s best lap time of 2:47 wasn’t exactly scorching (the quickest lap of the race was a 2:30), but the car is going to get considerably quicker once refinements inspired by a weekend of real racing get incorporated into the design. The MR2olla developed a rod knock in the rear engine late Saturday night, and so the team opted to avoid a track oil-down and parked it until a few laps before the checkered flag. 56th place out of 72, but all signs point to a strong performance at the next West Coast LeMons race.

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