The Truth About Cars » 24 Hours of LeMons Texas The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:52:49 +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 » 24 Hours of LeMons Texas Vellum Venom Vignette: Art and Design at The 24 Hours of LeMons 2013 Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:50:40 +0000

My worst moment at the College for Creative Studies was during Portfolio Review: a presentation of one’s body of work since the beginning of the semester.  So it comes as no surprise that my favorite parts of a LeMons race is judging the artistic(?) themes of the cheaty $500 race cars in attendance.  Let’s combine the two for this quick vignette into an alternate world of automotive design: come up with a moderately creative theme, say or do something idiotic, make me laugh and perhaps I’ll forget about that fancy header…or those super cheaty shocks that supposedly “came with the car.”

Did you really think that car design ends in the studio?


A 1990′s Pontiac Trans Am is a great canvas. This aftermarket(?) hood works well with the warning sign cribbed from an OSHA-compliant industrial zone. It’s mounted and cut in a way to harmonize with the body’s cut lines…for a reason…


Right. A toxic waste of a machine. Also note the sweet T-top covers.


Major props for the Terminator 2 style dying hand in a pit of goo!  This was a great theme that made good use of the Firebird’s real estate. This was a short and sweet Portfolio Review, also because F-bodies are so horrible in LeMons!


The Tow-Mater themed Miata is a local favorite.  “His” eyeballs went up for this LeMons race, as it was a full 24 hour running.  While not as cute with those square headlights in play, this team did a fantastic job impersonating the vehicle of many a kid’s fancy: check out the weathered paint on the door!  And since this Miata is only moderately cheaty with good-natured racers in tow, well, it’s hard to hammer them too hard during their Portfolio Review.  IMG_1479

Yup, Escort Service.  You just know these guys will fare well in their Portfolio Review. Because this is probably painted on a…IMG_1480

Ford Escort.  While this platform has uber LeMons potential with enough cheating and a decent crew, many an E30 must die in the paddock before it’ll ever win.  Combine that with the truly tasteless (yet clever) theme involving the famous Escort name…yeah, they got off easy. Ish.


This Shelby (yes, Shelby!) Daytona Z made plenty of friends at the race. Usually Engineers aren’t the most creative with themes…but…IMG_1485

Okay, this isn’t especially clever, but mechanical engineering formulas/jargon on a car tuned by Shelby himself is entertaining. Because we all owe so much to Nikolaus A. Otto!


Supposedly that’s the formula for an automobile’s exhaust composition. Some of the elements look right to my unverified eyeballs, but it didn’t help this Shelby. It barely ran long enough to produce said byproduct of the Otto Combustion Cycle.


Beaker from the Muppets sealed the deal: this Shelby sailed through its Portfolio Review easily.  Great theme on a horrible K-car!  How could it NOT dominate the slowest class in LeMons???   (It didn’t, remember it’s still a K-car.)IMG_1496

I had to dress up for my Portfolio Review, so I appreciate it when racers do the same.  Kudos to the flying sausages!

Great artwork too, by the way.  Someone definitely listened to Rob Zombie when they attacked the hood of this Porker.



Ditto this Toyota Supra with the Texas flag on the hood, made out of Shiner Beer bottle caps. Passed Portfolio Review with flying colors!


They say it’s Chuck Norris, I think it’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad! Plus it’s an E30, so this Portfolio Review might go poorly!


This Buick Century was “hand painted” in support of a local charity in Austin.  Part horrible Art Car, part horrible LeMons racer.  I LOVED IT.  IMG_1510

How can you say no to a vehicle with this much style? With a suspension so soft that the rear sloshes in harmony with the front when you push down on the front bumper?  It literally felt like a water bed with no internal baffles.  Sailed right through the Portfolio Review!


Pretty obvious, but totally worth a laugh on inappropriateness alone. But this was (IIRC) a super-cheaty Integra, and no amount of low-brow humor can overcome that!


A brilliantly executed theme on a VW you’d otherwise forget.   IMG_1519Slapping a mannequin onto a Honda Civic does not a good theme make, but seeing the underwear’s collection of track filth netted a hearty laugh. 

IMG_1520Plus it’s a Honda Civic, so it’ll be driven waaaay too hard and the head gasket will go explodey…Portfolio Review, Passed!


One of my favorite cars is next.  This Ford Probe is an eye catcher in the world of crap cars for a good reason! Note the attention to detail in the paintwork and the craftsmanship in the spoiler made of license plates.


Retaining the (rather cool when new) Probe SE graphic in your custom LeMons mural? Brilliant! IMG_1526_2

Even their name has some style…even if “some other guys” kinda ruined it.

IMG_1526_3Considering Houston is the home of the Art Car scene, this Probe does a good job mocking the genre. Or is it paying homage?


And lastly, the Probe’s roof. Michaelangelo would be proud…except not.


If Upton Sinclair ever ironically drove a Dodge Neon race car in the Land of Steakhouses…


A truly horrible theme for an increasingly less horrible LeMons racer. At least the team (all two of them) dressed to match the Gas Monkey thing.  This Datsun roadster is all-electric, and considering its terrible (but ever improving) on-track performance, “aping” a horrible TV show that grows on you…well, it totally made sense. What’s that sound that Richard Rawlings always makes?  Wow-ooooh!


Because Barbie always wanted a GMC Caballero.  Did they ever make a Ken doll with a mullet? IMG_1569

Another winner in this race for losers, they sailed through the Portfolio Review on theme/vehicle choice alone.  They offered to bribe and we told them it wasn’t necessary!

And with that, an apology: I’m sorry to soil your finely honed eyeballs with these horrible excuses for car design.  I promise to do better next time. But thanks for reading…and I hope you have a lovely week. Still!

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And the Real Winner Is… Mon, 19 Dec 2011 02:59:53 +0000 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… Mon, 19 Dec 2011 02:37:10 +0000 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 Sun, 18 Dec 2011 01:19:45 +0000 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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And the Real Winner Is… Mon, 03 Oct 2011 08:53:30 +0000 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… Mon, 03 Oct 2011 08:22:39 +0000 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 Sun, 02 Oct 2011 04:37:00 +0000 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 Sat, 01 Oct 2011 19:56:17 +0000

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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Fieros, SHOs, and TTAC Hacks: BS Inspections at the Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons Sat, 01 Oct 2011 04:12:22 +0000 Here we are at MSR Houston for the fourth annual Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons race. To ensure that TTAC’s coverage of the race remains completely objective, we’ve got three of your most loyal and dependable TTAC scribes delivering hard-hitting, hammer-jack-stomping journalism for y’all.
Sajeev and I are race officials, and Jack “That’s a PLYMOUTH Neon, Sucka” Baruth will be getting some seat time behind the wheels of the Tetanus Racing Neon and Porsche 944. By the way, that pistol in my hand is an “Hijos de Villa” commemorative tequila bottle.
The fact that I’ve been judging for the 24 Hours of LeMons for more than three years, with LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm handing me rapid fire louie like Rambo got bullets, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Lamm is The Greatest Race Promoter Who Ever Walked The Earth (indeed, he is one of the Giants of Motorsport), nor does it alter my certainty that the 24 Hours of LeMons will one day be regarded as the pinnacle of American civilization.
Speaking of integrity, the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court has plenty! I’ve been making special commemorative BRIBED stencils to spray on the cars of teams that grease the gears of justice, and this weekend’s racers got a Houston-centric version that I’m sure they’ll prize for years to come (or until they repaint their cars, which happens every few months).
We had some good themes and costumes on the cars, including this puzzling Whoopie Cushion/Daisy Duke/Big Foam Cowboy Hats arrangement on a Texasified BMW 2002 (they claim it’s a 1602, but the engine is out of a 320i, which de-1600-izes the thing). What does it mean?
Also puzzling were the Scary Clowns. I hope they wear these outfits all weekend!
We set a new record for Fieros at a single race, with three showing up this time. One has an original 2.8 V6, one has a Lumina 3.4 V6, and this Fierrari has a late-model 3.8 V6. Sure, Fieros always blow up in LeMons, but we still love them.
That’s because the Fiero is the American mid-engined sports car!

It’s late and I have to get up painfully early to inspect the 20 or so cars whose teams didn’t have their act together well enough to make it through today’s inspections, so I’ll leave you with this timelapse video showing most of the cars that did make it through our gauntlet today. Check in tomorrow for live coverage from Judge Sajeev!
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Trackday Diaries: Dangerous ticks, a descent into madness. Wed, 08 Jun 2011 15:01:28 +0000

Hear the rhyme of the Tetanus Neon
See the pictures on T-T-A-C
Mesmerizing the unlucky reader
Stay here and listen to the nightmare of defeat

Well, that’s more the Iron Maiden version of “Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner” than Coleridge’s, isn’t it? And yet, this is not a dissimilar tale. There’s plenty to tell about my stint as a driver for last weekend’s 24 Hours of LeMons — misfortune, dehydration of the aqueous and fuel varities, damage, failure, and, finally, escape.

Friday, 1:30AM — “You can’t write about me,” she says, “and, also, I’m not crazy like that one girl on your Facebook, (redacted).” Agreed on both counts, so that’s all we will say about this particular blue-eyed Tex-Mex beauty. I’d flown in to Houston’s Hobby Airport at five o’clock to meet some friends for dinner. In the early stages of the drinking, I’d gotten a text message from our own Murilee Martin, telling me that the Tetanus Neon team had been battling some sort of fueling issue all day in practice. “I’m sure they will figure it out,” he wrote.

Vaguely disquieted by this news, I’d allowed myself to have a couple of Ketel One doubles to wash away the worry. The party kept moving, from the Pappas Steakhouse through four more bars and finally landing at a “jazz club” where the house band played “Purple Rain” and “Rock With You.” After sobering up, I return to the steakhouse and convince the night janitor to find the keys for my rental in the valet stand.

Saturday, 9:00 AM — I arrive at the racetrack to meet my team and shoot the breeze with the other TTACers at the event. Mary, the young doctor who owns Tetanus Racing, is petite, forceful, and pale-skinned. She informs me that the fueling issue — a “bucking” which limits the Neon to 4500rpm — was intermittent yesterday and may not recur. In all other respects, the car is set to go. I’m scheduled to drive the fourth stint of this nine-hour day. With temperatures in the 105-degree range, it’s planned that those stints will be about an hour. I’m concerned about this. My experience racing LeMons has taught me that 150-minute stints are absolutely essential to winning, and 180-minute stints are better. We’ll have to see.

Saturday, 1:00PM — Our first driver, Jimmy, had experienced no problems with the car, but by the time Mary gets in, 4500rpm is the most it will rev without shaking and cutting out. Our lap times are perhaps twenty seconds slower than the car’s true potential. Still, we’re in the top half of the field from the simple expedient of continuing to proceed. All three of the other drivers come out of the Neon looking fairly dehydrated and dizzy; without power steering, and in this heat, it’s fairly tough to pull even a 75-minute drive.

We’re required to wear full drivers’ suits and keep our visors down while fueling the car, so I’m feeling a little beat just from being wrapped up in several layers of Nomex and running around pit lane. Mary, the third driver, reports that the rev ceiling has dropped to about 3800rpm and that the car can no longer sustain full throttle. We decide that the fuel pump needs to be swapped, but the nearest one can’t be in our hands until the end of the day. She’s also concerned about vibration from the CV joints. I agree to take it out for a while just to see what happens, but request that they completely fuel the Neon before I get in. Off we go!

Saturday, 2:30PM — I’ve been driving for an hour now. For most of my stint, the Neon hasn’t been able to accept more than half throttle or run more than slightly under 4000RPM. By using one-third throttle and no more than 3500RPM for a few laps, I’m able to build up a “push to pass” time where I can run as high as 4300RPM and full throttle opening for a few seconds.

Yes, I’m passing people. The driver talent pool at LeMons is always shallow — this is entry-level racing in $500 cars, not GP2 — but I’m surprised at how many people are utterly dismal at negotiating turns. If you are reading this and wondering, “Am I good enough to try LeMons,” and you successfully drove to work without killing a busload of kids, the answer is probably “Oh, yeah.” With about fifty horsepower on tap, using fifth gear where possible to get above seventy miles per hour but never seeing eighty, I’m passing cars almost as often as I’m being passed. Too often, however, they will simply blow by me on the next straight and then hold me up for two or three corners before I can short-brake them again. Still, we are climbing up the charts as cars break, retire, or take long driver changes.

Saturday, 3:00PM — I’m ninety minutes in and I am feeling pretty good, actually. Although I had failed to maintain my training regimen prior to arrival, I have a few advantages my co-drivers don’t have. To begin with, I’ve been racing cars without power steering for years, and I’m physically the largest person on the team, so the work is easiest for me. I’ve also consciously worked to keep my breathing and heart rate down during the stint, used my hand to direct fresh air to my face, and although I don’t use a Cool Shirt, I do have a hideously expensive OMP custom Grand-Am drivers’ suit that is much cooler than everyone else’s three-layer G-Force specials.

I find a true joy in driving the utterly powerless car as fast as it can go, holding the very last bit of corner speed, methodically unwinding out of every turn as soon as possible, drafting the faster cars and offering no courtesy to passing traffic. I decide to drive until the fuel runs out.

I’ve found a sparring partner on track: a Miata which drives away on the straights but falls back to my front bumper on the twisty back section of the track. This situation — a Miata having power, but lacking cornering, compared to a Neon — is so backwards from club racing it makes me laugh. A few times I manage to get side-by-side on the front straight, only to be drag-raced out by four car lengths. Oh well. Our duel lasts almost ninety minutes before I finally start to fuel-starve at 3:32 and call for a pit-in.

Saturday, 7:30PM — A full load of cold fuel fixes the bucking issue and the next two drivers have full use of the car. We’re up to seventh. Chris, the co-owner, sweats it out through a very difficult ninety-minute closing stint as I sit ready by pit lane to jump in at a moment’s notice. Amazingly, we are in seventh place; my lap times without power were very similar to the full-power laps turned later in the day, and running at that pace is apparently good enough.

Sunday, 2:30AM — (redacted)

Sunday, 6:30AM — I tumble into bed to sleep for two hours before the race.

Sunday, 6:45AM — There’s an emergency conference call for a production issue with my job back home. At one point I interrupt the proceedings to dry-heave for five minutes.

Sunday, 12:00PM — I arrive at the track to find the Tetanus Neon sitting in the paddock. The CV joints are making big noise and shaking like hell. On the plus side, the first driver had full power for his whole stint; on the minus side, the second driver didn’t. The new fuel pump, replaced by Mary and the crew while I was wandering drunk through downtown Houston, didn’t fix the issue. We are still in seventh but we are dropping fast.

Sunday, 12:30PM — Mary comes back in from a testing stint complaining about heavy vibration above pitlane pace. The left CV is thrashed. Worse yet, one of the lugs has snapped off the disc, with another one wobbling. We have no replacements. We are done.

Sunday, 3:00PM — I’m playing the bass line from “Tom Sawyer” through a massive Ampeg tube amp while notorious TTACer doctorv8 plays drums. It’s very cool in the house. Afterwards, we tour his collection of fabulous automobiles and discuss our Saturday nights. It seems very far from the heat and misery of LeMons, and it occurs to me that I could skip the race next time I come to Houston.

Sunday, 6:00PM — I’m stuffing my helmet bag into the overhead compartment when the woman seated next me says, in her Texas accent, “So… what do you do?”

“I’m… um, a race car driver,” I respond.

“What kind of cars?” she inquires, leaning over to display her fabulous endowment and smiling with megawatt teeth.

“Crappy ones,” I respond.

Thanks to: Tetanus Racing, Mary, Chris, Jim, Phil, Sajeev, the rest of the LeMons crew, and Sanjay. You see! I didn’t write about you!

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And the Real Winner Is… Sun, 05 Jun 2011 23:51:37 +0000
With a Mercedes-Benz taking the overall win, it only seemed fitting for another Mercedes-Benz to get the top prize: the Index of Effluency.
The B League Film Society’s 1967 Mercedes-Benz 200 suffered from many electrical and fuel-system problems yesterday, but ran more or less reliably today. In the end, its 28th-place finish (out of 43 entries) was enough to grab IOE glory. It’s worth noting that the W110 finished higher than the car with the quickest lap of the race (the Assmasters Mustang II). Congratulations, B League Film Society!

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And the Winner Is… Sun, 05 Jun 2011 23:46:10 +0000
The temperature in Texas reached a muggy 104 degrees this afternoon, but that didn’t stop the BenzGay Mercedes-Benz 300E from winning the 2011 Garrapatas Peligrosas 24 Hours of LeMons by a commanding 17-lap margin.

With just a single black flag and 376 fairly quick laps, the Benz was virtually untouchable for most of the weekend. Congratulations, Team BenzGay!

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Garrapatas Peligrosas LeMons Day 1: 300E Leads, Everyone Else Done Blowed Up Sun, 05 Jun 2011 04:49:57 +0000
OK, not every car other than the BenzGay Mercedes-Benz W124 fell victim to thrown rods, busted suspensions, and the usual woes that knock LeMons cars out of races, but only 21 entries were still moving under their own power at the low point of late afternoon today. When the checkered flag waved at the end of the session, the BenzGay 300E sat atop a semi-comfortable four-lap cushion.

The second-place Pulp Friction BMW E30, with its crazy crypto-El Camino-ized rear body and huge plywood splitter, stands ready to move into the lead tomorrow, should the BenzGay team falter. Seven laps behind the BMW lurks the Black Flag Society Toyota Celica, followed by the LRE Datsun 240Z and the Hello Dead Kitty Racing BMW E36.

The Strangelovian B League Film Society 1966 Mercedes-Benz W110 started the race as a very strong Index of Effluency contender, but spent the day fighting various fuel- and electrical-system ailments and finished in 36th place (out of 43 entries). The old Benz could still grab the IOE, but it will need to stay on the track for just about all of Sunday’s race session to do so.

The overall winner of the North Dallas Hooptie LeMons in April, the Miagra Miata, was looking strong… until it got its rear suspension annihilated by the two-time LeMons-winning Red Rocket Ratnest Revival Taurus SHO in an unfortunate crash under a caution flag. That’s a chunk of the SHO’s bodywork stuck to the Mazda’s wheel.

The SHO took some pretty severe damage as well, but the Ratnests were able to replace the crunched axle and strut in fairly short order (most LeMons SHO racers have learned from bitter experience that they need to bring at least three complete cars worth of SHO parts to each race).

The SHO team spent most of the day helping the Miagra guys fix their Miata, which needed a complete rear subframe pulled from a not-very-close junkyard. It was all very heartwarming, especially when the Miata made its triumphant return to the track… but then the Mazda’s engine blew up a few laps in. Not exactly the storybook ending we might have hoped for, but fairly typical of real-world endurance racing.

A couple of Mustangs scattered engine innards all over the track today. Here’s a 302 that decided it’s done had enough of this racing business. A similar fate befell a four-banger Mustang a few minutes later.

Judge Sajeev was offered a stint behind the wheel of the Brown Car Appreciation Society Ford Fairmont… and promptly spun out a few laps later. His penalty: shrink-wrapping to the wagon’s luggage rack.

We took Sajeev on a humiliating tour around the paddock, with an accompaniment of Bollywood hits on the boombox-equipped Judgemobile (a golf cart). Do the crime, pay the price!

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Trio of TTAC Hacks Lowers Tone of LeMons Race Sat, 04 Jun 2011 17:54:32 +0000
TTAC scribes have descended on MSR Houston from all corners of the globe (actually just Ohio, Texas, and Colorado), and we’re busily flashing the TTAC gang sign and spraying our tags on fools’ whips. Left to right, Sajeev “Big Chief” Mehta, Murilee “Judge Phil” Martin, and Jack “Plymouth Master” Baruth.

Sajeev has donned the robes of the LeMons Supreme Court, Jack is the ringer arrive-and-drive wheelman for the Tetanus (Plymouth) Neon team, and I’m doing whatever it is I do at these things. We’ll try to keep you updated on the happenings here in Texas, provided we don’t pass out from excess firewater consumption.

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¡Garrapatas Peligrosas! BS Inspections, Texas Style Sat, 04 Jun 2011 03:12:46 +0000
The 24 Hours of LeMons has been racing at MSR Houston since 2008, and so we’re used to Shiner Bock, 100% humidity, and Taurus SHOs.

Dangerous ticks! The racers seem a bit puzzled by the name of the race, but the event patch is sure to become a sought-after collector’s item in the future.

The Cajun Coonasses’ Rolling Stones-themed “Beast of Burden” Saturn SC features an authentic Keith Richards-style cigarette in its grille now.

The Index of Effluency-winning Fairmont wagon of Property Devaluation Racing now has Brown Car Appreciation Society sponsorship. This car generally eats 1.6 Ford 302 engines per race, but we’re hoping it will manage to contend for an overall win this weekend.

The IOE-winning Sensory Assault RX-7 will feature a LeMons first: an engine-coolant-operated moonshine still in the car. The bottle in the foreground contains the fermented mash. Should work great!

We had high hopes for the Moose Knuckles Racing Porsche 924 after their nightmare JB Weld cylinder-head-repair frenzy at the last MSR race; they got exactly zero laps (half-laps behind the tow truck don’t count) at that event.

Sadly, things don’t look promising for the Porsche, what with the massive engine fire it suffered during practice this morning. Ai-ya!

The green flag waves at 10:30 Saturday morning, and I’ll try to do an update or two if I have the time. Failing that, I’ll have the usual end-of-day race update tomorrow night.

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Field Expedient Engineering: JB Weld Porsche Cylinder Head Repair Thu, 28 Apr 2011 16:57:35 +0000
When your 1980 Porsche 924 craps out minutes after the start of its first race and you’re in rural Texas, parts might be a little hard to find. You won’t get far with a blown head gasket and big ol’ notches burned in the head itself. But, damn, the clock keeps ticking! The Moose Knuckles team called every junkyard within 500 miles, but nobody had any 924 (or Audi 100) cylinder heads. In fact, nobody had ever heard of them furrin thangs.

The Moose Knuckles were able to find a head gasket a few hours’ drive away, but they came up with exactly bupkis on the head. But then one of the guys remembered the fine print on the JB Weld package: Repairs Engine Blocks. Block, head, what’s the difference?

Picking up some JB Weld and JB Kwik, the Moose Knucks got right to work. Sure, combustion-chamber temperatures get higher than the JB Weld-rated 500 degrees F, but we’ve seen such repairs work in the past… on cast-iron heads. What will happen with an aluminum head?

Fill in the holes with that magical gray stuff, sand it down, and slap the head back on the engine. Take the car on the track. Return behind the tow truck. Repeat. Endlessly.

Because the track exit at MSR comes before the transponder loop, and the Moose Knuckles’ Porsche never managed a full lap under its own power, all those laps that ended on the hook didn’t count. Official race results counted the car as a DNS. On the bright side, the Moose Knuckles took home the I Got Screwed award.

Just so you don’t think JB Weld repairs always fail at LeMons races, here’s a JB-patched E30 oil pan from the same race. The car wiped out, bottoming the pan and cracking the hell out of it. Thanks to a generous application of metal-filled epoxy, the car finished the race.

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Strangelovian W110 Thrives On 573 Miles of Full-Throttle Abuse Tue, 01 Mar 2011 14:00:20 +0000
The first Mercedes-Benz W110 to compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons was this ’65 190, and it did very well in spite of having spent many years vegetating in a California field prior to being brought back to life as an endurance racer. Last weekend, we saw another W110; this time it was a ’67 200 that spent a few idle years in Texas before waking up on a race track.

Team B League Film Society – How I Learned To Stop Whining And Love The Judges was expecting to have many problems with their 44-year-old luxury automobile, but only a few fuel-filter-clogging incidents forced the car in for repairs. Otherwise, the car kept going around and around the track (the same could not be said for the team’s other car, a Jetta that blew its engine three laps into prerace practice and got a DNS).

When you bring a car like this to a LeMons race, you really don’t need to decorate the car with a theme like this, but we appreciate the extra effort. That thing on the roof is a replica of the bomb Slim Pickens rode to glory while going toe-to-toe with the Rooskies in nuclear combat in Dr. Strangelove.

Quite an appropriate theme for a Texas race!

The 200 wasn’t particularly quick— in fact, its 2:26.659 best lap was the slowest of the entire 81-entry field— but the team came in 48th place after doing 241 laps at 2.38 miles apiece. That’s 573 miles of about the worst punishment you can dish out to a car; quite an achievement for an elderly sedan that was never meant to go anywhere near a race track!
Photo source: Nick Pon

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And the Real Winner Is… Mon, 28 Feb 2011 00:14:03 +0000
Watching the J30/280ZX/SHO battle for the win on laps this afternoon was pretty exciting, but the Index of Effluency (which goes to the terrible car that accomplishes something orders of magnitude beyond what any sane observer considers possible) is what the true LeMons fanatics care about. A 280ZX coming in first is impressive, but how about an 80-horsepower Toyota Tercel EZ taking tenth place overall? How is that possible?
Team Exhibition Of Slow brought their hacked-up late-80s Tercel EZ— the EZ, as aficionados of rent-a-car-grade econoboxes might recall, is the low-budget/stripper “economy” version of the already miserably underpowered third-gen Tercel, complete with carburetor— and drove it around and around and around the MSR track, all weekend long, and received exactly zero black flags. They beat most of the E30s, all the Mustangs, in fact damn near everything on the track. Definitely one of the easiest IOE choices we’ve ever made. Congratulations, Exhibition Of Slow!

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And the Winner Is… Mon, 28 Feb 2011 00:01:19 +0000
The third annual Gator-O-Rama 24 Hours of LeMons endurance race is in the books, and a 29-year-old Datsun just beat out 80 or so competitors— most of them less than half the Datsun’s age— to bring home the Win On Laps trophy for Team Z-Wrecks.
The GT$500 Celica (itself nearly as old as the Z-Wrecks car) had a commanding lead late in the race, but its 22R engine threw a rod for the second race in a row and the situation devolved into a nail-biting three-way battle between the Swine Flew Raycing Infiniti J30, the Z-Wrecks 280ZX, and the SHOTime Taurus SHO. The ZX opened up a not-so-comfortable lead with several minutes before the end… but then it began losing power due to lack of fuel. Pit stop! The J30 closed to within a half-lap as the Z-Wrecks crew dumped a splash of gas into their car’s tank, but the Infiniti couldn’t quite catch its fellow Nissan and the checkered flag waved for the ancient 280ZX. Congratulations, Z-Wrecks!
Photo by Nick Pon

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Gator-O-Rama LeMons Day One One: Celica, 280ZX, J30, SHO, E30 Make Up Top Five Sun, 27 Feb 2011 03:40:02 +0000
As is typical for races at MSR Houston, the mechanical carnage has been quite extreme. We saw sheared axles, blown head gaskets, thrown rods, and a Jetta with its engine dragging on the pavement (the last one is a first in my experience). Still, some cars haven’t broken, and the battle for the win on laps has been cutthroat; meanwhile, the battle for the Index of Effluency— LeMons racing’s top prize, which goes to the team that accomplishes the most with the worst car— seems to have settled into your classic Tercel-versus-Camaro-versus-W110 slugfest.

It’s probably too early to get serious about the IOE discussion, since the Pontiac Montana may recover from its damage and blow away the competition on Sunday. Let’s discuss the race for the win on laps, which has the GT$500 Toyota Celica leading by a single lap. The GT$500, as you may recall, won the 2009 Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez LeMons and led the 2010 Louisiana event before throwing a connecting rod in spectacular fashion.

In second place, we see the Z-Wrecks Datsun 280ZX. Most observers of LeMons races (me included) feel that a 280ZX cannot take the win on laps, due to innate horribleness, but the veteran Z-Wrecks car, with its excellent drivers and bewildering reliability, may be the only example of the breed that has even the slightest chance. With a crazy-fast best lap of just 1:56.012, the ZX is getting around the track nearly four seconds quicker than the GT$500′s best effort… but reliability and consistency, not raw speed, win endurance races. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

We’re shocked to see a 280ZX in second, but an Infiniti J30 in third is just as startling. The Swine Flew Raycing car has a couple of top-ten LeMons finishes to its credit, and it’s now perched just two laps behind the leader.

We’ve seen a Ford Taurus SHO win a LeMons race before, but mostly we see the SHOs scattering engine and/or transmission parts all over hell. The SHOTime Ford will be threatening the other leaders all day tomorrow… as long as it doesn’t blow up in typical SHO fashion.

So many E30s in the race, but only one in the Top Five. The Theissen’s Revenge car has been breakdown- and penalty-free so far, and only four laps stand between it and the lead.

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Miatas, SHOs, and a Pontiac Montana: The BS Inspections of the 2011 Gator-O-Rama 24 Hours of LeMons Sat, 26 Feb 2011 05:01:00 +0000
The 24 Hours of LeMons has been coming to MSR Houston since 2008, and it has become one of the toughest, most competitive tracks in the series. Out of the 80 or so cars at the third annual Gator-O-Rama inspections today, at least four are former winners and another half-dozen have multiple top-three finishes.

TTAC’s own Sajeev Mehta served as a judge on the LeMons Supreme Court bench and helped us bust numerous cheaty Miatas and Fox Fords. Here we see him wearing a costume celebrating his Indian heritage, a gift from the very culturally sensitive Brian of the Property Devaluation Fairmont wagon team.

The bunny-themed VW Type 3 has an all-woman driver lineup and at least 150 pounds of stuffed animals on the car. Like the Property Devaluation car, this is a former Index of Effluency winner.

The always-in-contention Cajun Coonasses have switched their Saturn SC from a Speed Racer theme to a Rolling Stones “Beast of Burden” theme. We’re all wondering how long those lips will survive on the track.

Looks like Keith needs to get his blood changed again!

The Lambo-doored E30 was a hit with the crowd.

Here’s tomorrow’s pace car! Don’t worry, it’s not racing.

I’m too beat to write much more, so here’s the traditional BS inspection timelapse video. Check in tomorrow for race updates!
Music source:

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The 2010 Legends of LeMons: Unununium Medal Winners! Sun, 16 Jan 2011 03:00:52 +0000
First of all, nitpickers, I know that unununium was renamed Roentgenium in 2004. Atomic Number 111 will always be unununium in my heart, and (as soon as I can find a cheap source for the stuff) it will be used to stamp out the Murilee Martin Legends of LeMons awards for the most psychotic inspiring 24 Hours of LeMons racers of each season. The ’10 season produced a bumper crop of LeMons Legends, but only four received the coveted Unununium Medal. Let’s see who they are!

The Murilee Martin Legends of LeMons Medals are awarded solely by me, without consulting the rest of the schmucks at LeMons HQ… but you’re still free— nay, encouraged— to call HQ and complain if you disagree with my choices. We’ll get to the Ununquadium and Ununhexium Medals over the next few days; today, we honor the four teams that I think beat their skulls against brick walls epitomized the LeMons Ethos better than all others during the 21-race 2010 season.
Image source: Head-On Photos

Unununium Medal Winner: Speedycop and Team Police Brutality

We’ll start with the 2010 Coppa di Bondo (the top Emeryville-issued 24 Hours of LeMons season award) winners and their head madman honcho, Washington DC mounted policeman and Crown Vic drag racer, Speedycop. Police Brutality made quite an impression during the ’09 LeMons season with their insanely-fast-and-unreliable Lincoln Mark VIII and Organizer’s Choice-winning and then-oldest-LeMons-car-ever 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood, but it turned out that Speedycop was just getting warmed up!

Police Brutality showed up to the Detroit Irony LeMons with the world’s most terrible 1963 Ford Thunderbird, which promptly fried its transmission. You see, Speedycop’s M.O. goes like this: 1) Choose a car that never in a million years belonged on a road course, 2) Haul it to a race track at least 1,000 miles away, with about three weeks of items left on the to-do list, 3) In a wild-eyed frenzy, thrash on the car for 48 straight hours at the race track and get it (semi-) trackworthy.

Speedycop never, ever gives up. When no 390-compatible transmissions could be found within a day’s drive of Gingerman Raceway, he and his accomplices dismantled the dead Ford-O-Matic and converted it to a one-speed, direct-drive unit.

Here we see the one-speed T-Bird getting a push-start for its glorious return to the track. Sure, the engine exploded in flames and shut down the track about two laps later, but it was so worth it!

After doing a bit of post-race analysis, Speedycop decided that the problem with the Thunderbird’s original engine was its lack of both cylinders and Teutonic complexity. The next logical step was to buy a wrecked BMW 750iL and install its M50 V12 and automatic transmission into the Thunderbird.

The M50′s mid-90s-style computerized fuel-delivery and ignition systems were just too damn troublesome, so for the Washington DC race, Speedycop converted an ammo can into a throttle body adapter and dropped a carburetor on top. For ignition, he rigged up a couple of junkyard six-cylinder distributors, one per engine bank. Amazingly, it worked.

Well, it worked except for the BMW transmission, which became very angry about the lack of input from the missing engine and transmission control modules and simply said “NEIN!” when the car hit the track. Limp mode, single speed, the usual. A water-pump failure added to the T-Bird’s woes, but LeMons Legend status doesn’t come easy.

The idea of a BMW engine in a T-Bird seemed like a good one, but perhaps a diesel would be a wiser choice. So, in went the M21 turbodiesel powerplant out of a trashed 524td wagon.

Naturally, it wasn’t quite ready when the green flag dropped.

But it wasn’t long before the Turbodiesel T-Bird roared onto the Stafford Motor Speedway track for the 2nd Annual 24 Hours of LeMons New England. The formula worked, and Police Brutality finally won LeMons racing’s top trophy.

After the race, Speedycop showed off some of his cop moves in the parking lot.

For the Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500, Police Brutality decided that what the series really needed was a Lancia Scorpion. And hey, why not drop the Scorpion body on an MR2 chassis?

It doesn’t look pretty, and of course it wasn’t quite finished when it arrived at the race track, but the ScorpiR2 worked pretty well and ran for most of the weekend. Speedycop even managed to talk 24 Hours of Daytona winner Randy Pobst, who was driving for some super-cheaty Crown Vic team, into taking a turn at the wheel.

Meanwhile, the Police Brutality Lincoln Mark VIII finally lived up to its potential and grabbed a fifth-overall finish at the Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez race (not to mention a mid-13-second quarter-mile time at the No Problem Raceway dragstrip). What’s next for Police Brutality? In addition to the quest for an overall win with the Mark VIII, Speedycop will be bringing the car I’ve dubbed The Greatest LeMons Car Of All Time: Eight wheels, two engines, 5,000 switches! If that isn’t enough to melt your face, there’s also a ’42 Buick awaiting the Speedycop treatment. Better step it up for 2011, Coppa di Bondo aspirants!

Unununium Medal Winner: Spank

Many of you followed the lunatic heroic Citroën DS San Diego-to-Miami road trip that was Spank’s capper to an all-time-great 2010 LeMons season. Let’s look at the achievements that put Spank into Unununium Medal territory:

We first encountered Spank when he drove his 998cc Austin Mini to an Index of Effluency win at the ’09 Buttonwillow Histrionics. In a calculation not made by your typical E30 LeMons team, Spank decided that the Mini was both too simple and too reliable. He needed something more… French!

A lot of LeMons regulars believe that Speedycop and Spank must be long-lost brothers, because there’s such similarity in their approach to LeMons racing. The choice of ridiculous awesome cars, the last-second thrashes, the hauls to distant race tracks. For the Sears Pointless race last Spring, Spank showed up with a 1971 Citroën ID19 that had been sitting since the early 1980s. It wasn’t quite running yet when he rolled into the pits, but at least the cage was ready.

After a thrash that went all night long and included a paint job, the Air Prance sChitroën started up for the first time since Reagan was a newcomer to the White House. 28-year-old oil and spark plugs, the works. One slow lap around the Infineon paddock and then right onto the track!

Shockingly, the Citroën ran all weekend, with a burst radiator hose the only problem that required pit repairs. The easiest Index of Effluency decision in LeMons history, for Spank’s second IOE.

For the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza LeMons at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Spank pulled out all the stops and dragged three cars to the track. The Citroën was there (and uncharacteristically ready to race upon arrival), the Mr. Bean Mini was there (with not-yet-functional turbocharging, using the bulletproof blow-through SU fuel-delivery setup), and… this was there.

You’d think that just bringing a terrifyingly rusty Mini Moke would be enough, but Spank and henchmen converted it into a totally credible Apollo 18 Lunar Rover… and they did the conversion at the track, because they still needed to, you know, get the thing running first.

When the rusted-to-hell subframe failed, Spank welded some bracing to keep the car from breaking in half. Meanwhile, he was busting ass helping his friends on the Team-ing With Bad Ideas Turbo Beetle team fix their never-belonged-anywhere-near-a-race-track car.

To end the season, Spank hopped into the Citroën on Christmas Day and headed to THE PAINFULLY BLAND BOWL OF THIN LUKEWARM OATMEAL THAT CAN NOT POSSIBLY OFFEND ANYONE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY ENJOY BEING OFFENDED, 24-HOUR SEASON ENDER… which was taking place in Florida, 2,600 miles from Spank’s San Diego home.

The Citroën made it, with much drama, but it needed a replacement water pump and some other repairs before it could race at Palm Beach International Raceway.

Onto the track! Tire woes caused the Citroën to lose some track time, but all went well… until a connecting rod started a-knockin’.

Spank didn’t want to bring the car back to San Diego (he wants to concentrate on the Minis), so he gave the Citroën as a wedding gift to Timing & Scoring gurus Stephanie and Roland, who tied the knot with Minister Lamm presiding. This isn’t the end of the LeMons sChitroën story!

Unununium Medal Winner: The Cannonball Bandits

Two teams have won the Organizer’s Choice trophy three times, but only one has scored all three of their trophies during the course of a single season (the other three-time winner will be getting an Ununquadium Medal for their 2010 efforts; stay tuned): The Cannonball Bandits!

What do you do with a Toyota Corolla FX16 to make it a better race car? You know the answer!

The NASCAR Meyer Wienermobile showed up to the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons and stunned everyone by not only looking just like the real Oscar Meyer version but by being very quick as well. It did need a few structural repairs along the way, but mostly it just kept racking up laps.

Many E30 drivers found themselves getting passed by the Wienermobile, which must have made them reconsider the whole “Ultimate Driving Machine” business.

Many teams would be content to rest on their laurels after fielding one of the all-time greatest cars in LeMons history, but not the Cannonball Bandits! A couple of the Cannonballs have day jobs building parade floats (really!) and they broke out their skills once again at the Goin’ For Broken LeMons at Thunderhill Raceway Park. This time, they turned a Supra into a replica of Tiger Woods’ Escalade, complete with golf clubs and mannequins of a bathrobe-wearing Elin Woods beating on a supine Tiger on the car’s roof.

On top of all that greatness, the whole team dressed as a horde of Tiger’s heartbroken girlfriends.

Every single time the “Escalade” came off the track, “Tiger’s girlfriends” would give chase, beating it with golf clubs and screaming “WHY DID YOU BREAK MY HEART, TIGER?” et cetera. This ritual never got old, and we were very tempted to have Race Control black-flag Tiger just so we could see the angry girlfriends do their act again.

After the Wienermobile and Tiger’s Escalade, we were all asking ourselves, “How can the Cannonball Bandits possibly top that?” We got our answer at the Arse Sweat-a-Palooza LeMons, also at Thunderhill. This time, the Bandits went with a two-vehicle team: Canadian illegal immigrants in an FX16 Corolla-based “Hyder” truck and US Border Patrol agents in a Crown Victoria-esque Supra. That’s right, the Wienermobile and the Escalade were completely transformed for this race.

The Canadian illegal “frostbacks” included the whole tuque-wearing crew of north-of-the-border stereotypes, including hockey players and a flannel-shirted dude with a maple leaf shaved into his chest hair. You want to win Organizer’s Choice at a LeMons race? The chest-hair maple leaf gives you a decisive edge!

During the BS Inspection, the “illegals” came boiling out of the cargo box of the Hyder truck— which featured a section of chain-link “border fencing” and mannequin Canadian hanging onto the roof— and were promptly set upon by the “Border Patrol” members of the Bandits.


Meanwhile, the team had rented a Sno-Cone cart and was issuing free cones to all comers all weekend. This was most welcome given the 90-degree temperatures at the aptly-named Arse Sweat-a-Palooza.

The Cannonball Bandits are excellent drivers, so plenty of teams faced the shame of getting eaten up by the Hyder truck. We’re glad this driver had the skills to avoid a rollover when the Hyder blew a brake line and hit the dirt at 90 MPH.
Photo credit: Jeepskate

Unununium Medal Winner: Dave Morrow/Morrow’s Auto

Dave Morrow’s shop in Pittsburgh must have an unlimited stash of terrible junkers great potential race cars sitting out back, because Morrow’s Auto has managed to bring three of the all-time most startlingly wretched amazing race cars we’ve ever seen dumping fluids on tearing up a race track.

For example, the Snoopy’s Quest For The Holy Nickelbag GMC 1-ton van. After the van’s 350 done blowed up at the ’09 Lamest Day LeMons at Nelson Ledges, Dave decided that moving the engine back several feet and adding twin turbochargers feeding a blow-through Holley carb would solve the engine’s reliability problems.

And, other than the failure of both turbos plus a pesky engine fire, the Holy Nickelbag van worked great at the Detroit Irony LeMons at Gingerman Raceway.

At the same time, Morrow’s Auto was running their Woodstock-themed Pontiac Grand Prix, the only LeMons car powered by a Pontiac V8. The 400 worked fine, but the transmission had a few issues. Here’s a typical Dave Morrow LeMons tableau.

For the Detroit Bull Oil GP LeMons, also at Gingerman Raceway, Morrow’s Auto returned with the Grand Prix. By this time, they’d ditched the Woodstock theme; the Pontiac was now “Morrow’s Auto & The Wacky Racers, Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon Quest For the Holy Nickelbag.”

In front, a clear plastic hood shows off that mighty 400.

In the rear, it’s a Grand Prix-amino, complete with log bumper!

The Rufus Ruffcut-mobile got wrecked pretty good during the course of the Bull Oil GP, crushing the front log, snapping a control arm, and bashing the radiator. No problem, that’s what junkyards and busted knuckles are for!

Nobody was really paying much attention to the Grand Prix-amino, because the Pittsburgh contingent had also brought one of the worst best possible choices for an endurance racer: The Morrow’s Auto & The Wacky Racers, Penelope Pitstop’s Compact Pussycat Quest for the Holy Nickel Bag Vanagon Wasserboxer-powered Bradley GT!

The Wasserboxer turned out to be exactly as reliable as everyone predicted it would be, firing all four of its connecting rods into several adjacent counties in a spectacular fiery blast during its first practice lap (actually, I was the pessimist who predicted it would blow up when being driven off the trailer, so I was pleased to see the Wasserboxer’s relatively bulletproof performance). No problem, though— Dave Morrow brought a whole bunch of air-cooled VW engines of unknown running condition! At that point, he began the first of many, many engine swaps.

After much trial and error, a quasi-functional VW air-cooled was installed, but none of the carburetors worked. Fortunately, Dave was able to combine the lower half of the Wasserboxer’s throttle body with some pressboard, a Holley 2-barrel, and linkage made from coat-hanger wire, a bungee cord, and a bicycle shifter cable to make the engine run.

OK, that’s it for the 2010 Legends of LeMons Unununium Medal winners; check in tomorrow for the Ununquadium Medal Winners!
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