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. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 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 Super Piston Slap: I Know What I Don’t Know http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/super-piston-slap-i-know-what-i-dont-know/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/super-piston-slap-i-know-what-i-dont-know/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851082

Were you ever taught something you already knew, something you normally teach others? That moment of surrealism came for this regional LeMons Judge while attending the Newbie School in a new racing series called the World Racing League. Baruth already gave you a tease: I set aside the idiotic ironic Indian Chief hat of LeMons for a weekend stint as a racer/pit crew/errand boy with the same team that brought you the iconic Ford Fairmont Wagon: now with more Granada.

To see the stance is to know it: Property Devaluation Racing made a worthy successor to their Fox station wagon.  So when these guys offered me a spot in the Granada and their similarly-spec’d Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, I took Friday off, forked over the fees, picked up another Fox Body loyalist from Hobby Airport (you might remember his Homer Simpson car) and hit the road for College Station.

I drove the Granada for 10 minutes during the Friday afternoon test ‘n tune session, and felt great: the Granada’s flat cornering with mild understeer was a natural transition from my street going Fox Body Cougar.  But the first day of racing?

Logging 100-ish miles in the Thunderbird was a different story: the Granada’s tame demeanor was replaced with something a (handling savvy) teammate later explained as body roll induced oversteer. The Thunderbird had razor-sharp turn-in, so sloppy steering inputs netted body roll which reduced the rear tire’s contact patch, easily inducing oversteer.  Lap 1 resulted in a huge spin entering a corner at around 50mph.  Lap 2 was no better: a similar wipeout left me bewildered, frustrated.

Both times I self-reported my impending black flags before the staff received word from the corner workers. Perhaps LeMons taught me well.

Not well enough. The Thunderbird’s owner’s words in my Nerdie helmet kit were clear: spin again and you’re out for good.  It was the reality check I needed, quickly swallowing my pride and methodically retracing the track at a slower pace. This let me understand how drastically the Thunderbird sits/lifts with my steering inputs.

Racing the Thunderbird was like a scientific experiment: repeat the process but alter a variable every time.  Enter the turn at the right speed, monitor your steering inputs and smoothly accelerate exit post-apex.  If you turned too hot, the rear tires howled: slightly dial the wheel back and they shut up.  Thank goodness for TWS’ banked oval, it was the only place I blipped the throttle, downshifted to 3rd and comfortably unwound the Thunderbird’s wicked Windsor V8 to pass “slower” cars. Sure I was slow and hyper-conscious elsewhere, but the banked oval experience continues to give me goosebumps.

Now the World Racing League is an interesting series: damn near any class of car races on the same track.  I was passed by far more professional drivers in LeMons cars, Spec Miatas and misc. track beasts to the point my left hand seemingly spent more time doing the “point by” for others than grasping the tiller. And a certain Poorvette absolutely clobbered every car out there, as you’d expect from the wholly under appreciated C4 Corvette.

I learned something besides the obligatory “damn that was so exciting I’d totally do it again” statement of any autojourno in my shoes: my racing technique toolbox just multiplied. The Thunderbird gave me a new set of tools, items previously more foreign than Portuguese.  So now I Know What I Don’t Know. Several of my friends suggested I embrace this new addiction to hone my skills, as I’m now a racer.

No dice.

Racing brought me a short term joy that I will gladly spend another $1000 in fees, gas, hotel, meals, etc. to replicate another weekend.  But the Thunderbird helped me cross a (final?) frontier: I did what made moonshiners so famous, racing/working on a boring car made from bits of more impressive vehicles. This experience crystallized my plan to write the definitive story of Ford’s underappreciated chassis.  I told others about this (including a working vacation to the Detroit Public Library) and they agreed: that’s a book they’d read.

Which isn’t exactly the point: like the benefits of grade school music programs, racing helps you in your real world.

It’s a deeply personal experience that everyone with a modicum of disposable income should try. Go race and then make yourself. Just don’t get motivated to write a book about Fox Bodies, that’s my schtick.

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Super Piston Slap: Poorvette Fever! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/super-piston-slap-poorvette-fever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/super-piston-slap-poorvette-fever/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:12:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=775097

Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash.  As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…

…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip.  And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you.  The Poorvette is proof positive.

Now this ain’t no secret, as Murilee Martin already mentioned how the Poorvette shoulda been buried under penalty laps. But wasn’t.  Why?

  1. The team: historically they‘ve been nice to everyone, pre C4 Corvette ownership.  Sometimes that goes a long way in determining penalty laps, or lack thereof.
  2. The Poorvette’s somewhat believable story: being an earlier C4 (Tuned Port Injection) body with an LT-1/6-speed swap gone wrong (supposedly), then sold for cheap-ish and parted out to fit in LeMons rules.***
  3. Track record:  American V8 iron has rarely endured in LeMony races, much less possessing the fuel economy to match with the infrequent pit stops of more efficient metal. #notwinning
  4. Margin for error: you are guaranteed to enjoy passing every lily livered furrin’ car in your wedge-tastic Vette, to the point that euphoria nets you a black flag. Then serious repercussions (that often come with zero-penalty laps) in the judging area…resulting in no chance of winning.
  5. Not winning is a big “win” for everyone: the fanbois have grist for their mill, the haters do their thang, and LeMons tells another insane story.

Clearly this is a win-win for everyone. Especially you, oh cheaty race team.

Photo courtesy: (http://www.murileemartin.com)

And how did the Poorvette do? It led the pack, getting everyone all hot and bothered.  But then the stock fuel tank/pump had starvation issues in the corners, which was the icing on the cake after the power steering failed the day before in testing.  No matter how fast you’re going, those Z06-style wheels are too wide to ever make a lack of power steering acceptable. Even still, the Poorvette probably also set one of the fastest lap times, which totally means nothing in an endurance race.

Hare, meet the Tortoise…son!

But still, the Poorvette’s maiden voyage netted a respectable 6th place on a weekend lacking Corvette friendly weather.  Not bad considering how many Porsche 944s need far more work to accomplish similar results.  Perhaps one day we will see C4s give those Porkers the drubbing they got back in the 1980s. If so, don’t expect Judge Phil to be generous with C4s again. Ever.

No matter, the Poorvette’s crew even earned a Judge’s Choice Award, which proves once more: we need more C4s in LeMons!  Well not exactly.

Perhaps more “taboo” cars that aren’t of the E30 or retired Spec-Miata variety. Like more Porsche 928s, rear-wheel drive Maximas souped up with Z-car parts, more cheaty compact trucks (cough, RANGER, cough) and more GM sedans easily modified to DOMINATE in the slower classes: C and B.   And let’s not forget more super-durable CVPI Panthers, too.

So there you have it: good stuff happens in LeMons when you play your cards right. Thank the Poorvette for proving that.

*** Considering the early C4s utter domination in SCCA back in the day, and their still impressive autocross performances today, the Poorvette crew would do just as well in LeMons with the stock aluminum headed L98 and a close ratio 4+3 gearbox. Their LT-1 swap and wide ratio T-56 gearbox did very little for me. This is an endurance race, not a drag race!

 

 

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Aries K http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764217 15 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe quantities of true Chrysler K-Cars in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards have been declining a bit in recent years, though I still see enough of them that I choose only the most interesting to photograph for this series. So far we’ve seen this “Hemi 2.6″ ’81 Dodge Aries wagon, this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon, and today I’m adding a gold Aries sedan that has special significance for me.
18 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see, this is the car that provided the hood for the “Lee Iacocca, Comintern Agent” mural that went on the Plymouth Reliant wagon judged to be the Worst Car In 24 Hours of LeMons History.
20131122_121205This hood now lives somewhere in California, having been removed from the Reliant by Iacocca zealots.
12 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was in pretty good shape for a 28-year-old sedan that depreciated to scrap value by about age 10: no rust, interior not bad.
05 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinLots of options, including air conditioning and AM/FM radio.
04 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinQuality engineered.
Don’t forget to visit the Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™!

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Art and Design at The 24 Hours of LeMons 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/vellum-venom-vignette-art-and-design-at-the-24-hours-of-lemons-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/vellum-venom-vignette-art-and-design-at-the-24-hours-of-lemons-2013/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:50:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=631010

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?

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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…

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

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

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

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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!

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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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The TTAC Racing Shirts Are Finally Here! So We’re Going To Give More Of Them Away http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/the-ttac-racing-shirts-are-finally-here-so-were-going-to-give-more-of-them-away/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/the-ttac-racing-shirts-are-finally-here-so-were-going-to-give-more-of-them-away/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 13:10:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=625033 jules1

What a long, strange trip it’s been for the TTAC Racing shirts! To begin with, they never made it to MSR Houston for the actual race, being left in a storage area by the folks who were prepping the car. The car itself never made it on track for the race. So this commemorates a race effort that, strictly speaking, never happened. It’s like having a shirt for the 1983 Corvette.

Which makes them either worthless or highly valuable. If the latter were the case, they’d be on eBay like, right freaking now. Since it’s the former, we’re raising the stakes.

jules2

We initially announced that we would be giving five shirts away. Due to the delay, we’re going to make that ten, and we’ll announce the winners from that thread on Monday. We’ll also give away another five to readers who post in this thread.

Sizes available will be Men’s L, XL, and 2XL, as well as Women’s “S” as modeled above by recurring TTAC imaginary character and improbably-constructed child of the Sixties, Julie Hyde. She would like to complain for the record that she received no chance to do any makeup or prepare for the photos. Complaint noted and ignored, Jules. No prizes for guessing what her nickname is.

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TTAC 24 Hours Update: The Benz We Didn’t Race And The One We Did http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/ttac-24-hours-update-the-benz-we-didnt-race-and-the-one-we-did/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/ttac-24-hours-update-the-benz-we-didnt-race-and-the-one-we-did/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 17:11:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=532137 benz1

Gorgeous, huh? She appeared in the night like a white-robed dream, resplendent in her restrained livery and requiring just four or five hours of work to be ready to race.

Problem was, the race had already started.

In the upcoming week, you’ll get to hear from each one of the participants in our ill-fated LeMons race, but here are the salient points: The SLC wasn’t ready to race, so we borrowed another Mercedes-Benz that was also not ready to race and a Jetta that probably should not have been racing. We got the Benz ready and it ran for 1.5 laps before it died. Then we got it ready again and it rained.

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How many laps did we complete? Not very many. How did we finish? Not well at all. But our rookies have been appropriately blooded, so to speak, and there was more than the usual hilarity and stupidity involved. Watch this space.

Another thing that didn’t happen: our TTAC shirts didn’t arrive. When they do arrive, we will be awarding a total of ten shirts to randomly selected commenters in the original TTAC racing post.

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TTAC Is Going Racing. You Can Help, You Can Win Something, You Can Laugh When We Crash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/ttac-is-going-racing-you-can-help-you-can-win-something-you-can-laugh-when-we-crash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/ttac-is-going-racing-you-can-help-you-can-win-something-you-can-laugh-when-we-crash/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 18:39:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=527665 450slc

The Truth About Cars has long had an explicit editorial policy and tradition of not covering motorsports.

However, nobody ever said that we couldn’t go racing ourselves. For the first time in the site’s history, TTAC will be fielding a race team. And because we love our readers, we’re having a T-shirt made to commemorate the disaster occasion, and we will be giving those T-shirts away to our commenters.


The rules are simple. Comment in this thread — even if your comment is “I HOPE U GUISE WRECK IN TURN UNO” — and you’ll be entered to win one of five commemorative TTAC Team R107 event shirts. If you don’t win this time, don’t start “cutting” just yet, because we’ll have more to give away.

We will also give T-shirts to the first five TTAC readers who arrive to the race this Saturday, find a team member, and say The Phrase That Pays:

“TTAC 107 plays the hits 24/7 with No Shibari Rope Bondage!”

Doesn’t have to be exact. We want to give these shirts away so we don’t have to fly them home. We’ll also be testing a new TTAC logo at the race. Let us know if you like it or hate it.

The event itself is the Gator-O-Rama at MSR Houston. It’s a true 24-hour race running from 3pm Sat to 3pm Sun.

Our race car will be the one you see above — a lightly-dented Mercedes-Benz 450SLC. Prepared and operated by the pros at FEIND Motorsports, the R107 will feature state-of-the-art telemetry via the RaceCapture/Pro from AutoSport Labs. You’ll be able to watch our lap times and other car vitals live at http://www.race-capture.com. According to the folks at AutoSport Labs, “RaceCapture/Pro brings high tech, real-time race car telemetry to grassroots racers everywhere-something normally reserved for high buck Pro Race teams.” Now, let’s meet our team:

  • Derek Kreindler is a LeMons rookie who is making his wheel-to-wheel debut with TTAC Team R107. In the past, he has done a fair amount of karting and has been coached on-track by some of Toronto’s finest racers, or at least people who said they were Toronto’s finest racers. In his spare time, Derek likes beating the “TTAC Staff” robot with a sand-filled rubber hose.
  • Mark Baruth is an experienced National-level SCCA autocrosser who is making his wheel-to-wheel debut with TTAC Team R107. A recent graduate of the BOSS Track Attack, Mark likes playing the saxophone, gambling irresponsibly large sums of money, and meeting new people.
  • Marc Pfannenschmidt is a multiple SCCA National Champion autocrosser who is, you guessed it, making his wheel-to-wheel debut with TTAC Team R107. Known for his quick temper and fast hands, Marc is likely to be the most interesting driver to watch. Marc’s hobbies include P90X and beating people up.
  • Phillip Thomas is our crew chief and reserve driver. A mainstay of the Texas Rally Sport scene, Philip has won plenty of rallycross events, built a variety of cars, and crewed for both Brianne Corn and Dave Carapetyan at Pikes Peak. His current projects are mostly Subaru-based but we’re going to make him learn the R107. Philip is just 22 years old and is the team member most likely to be awake at 2am.
  • Jack Baruth has won both 24 Hours of LeMons (Flat Rock ’07) and ChumpCar (Buttonwillow ’13). He co-drove with Murilee Martin and the rest of the Jalopbik V8olvo team for the infamous Altamont ’08 event. He’s currently recovering from the world’s longest case of chronic pneumonia and might not drive the car at all. If he does, you’d better clear the lane, beeeeeeeeyatch.
  • The FEIND 450SLC is making its racing debut at this event. It will have no performance modifications, but we are hoping it will run steady and true for all twenty-four hours. It has as many as 180 horsepower to move about 3800 pounds with cage and safety equipment, making it about as quick as a Ford Fiesta. Read more about the R107 SLC and its history here.

That’s all, folks! Hope to see some of you at the race. I’d like to predict an overall victory, but my only prediction is that at some point some Baruth will lose his temper and throw something at another Baruth, at which point both of them will commence to internecine punching. You don’t want to miss that!

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Explore the Jersey Shore in Your Hoopty http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/explore-the-jersey-shore-in-your-hoopty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/explore-the-jersey-shore-in-your-hoopty/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 12:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=506201 Look closely, and you can see your humble author spewing the coolant that forced us into a head gasket swap that night

Look closely, and you can see your humble author spewing the coolant that forced us into a head gasket swap that night

 

Remember that guy who built a Subaru powered race car from a VW floor plan and a Wartburg? Sure you do. He won the car with an essay, beating a future TTAC contributor in the process. Still no? Well too bad, his name is Jim Thwaite and you should get to know him. He knows a thing or two about having fun with beaters, and he wants you to join him.

Jim is a veteran of multiple Big Apple to Big Easy banger events, a LeMons builder, GRM $2KX Challenger and general mad scientist who built his wife her own beach hammock from junk golf carts.

The steering wheel comes up through the hammock, and it all breaks down small enough to fit in the rear of a 1978 Mercury Colony Park wagon

The steering wheel comes up through the hammock, and it all breaks down small enough to fit in the rear of a 1978 Mercury Colony Park wagon

Still not convinced? He rescues dogs in his spare time. Yeah, he’s that cool.

Jim

Between all of this and his day job, Jim is also the President of Asphault Adventures; and on September 28th of this month they will be running a one day banger rally along the Jersey Shore.

Perhaps you have a crappy old car, a few C-notes burning hole in your pocket, or maybe you just decided to see how far you can push your spouse. Then this is the event for you. It is not racing, or even a rally in the sense one might expect. Think of it as a quaint, oddball scavenger hunt. You can even bring your nice car and have a great day exploring the New Jersey Shore and meeting other gearheads, or at least interesting people.

If you are near the east coast and are looking for a fun time, head over to Asphault Adventures and sign up. If you don’t live on the east coast, fear not. There is a RT 66 Run in the planning stages and should open up next year. It’s the most fun you can have in a beater without electrical tape over your nipples

Black Rock Nevada or the Barefoot Bar at the Oceanic Hotel in New Jersey?

Black Rock Nevada or the Barefoot Bar at the Oceanic Hotel in New Jersey?

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Question: What Engine Swap Would Most Enrage Single-Interest Corvette Fanatics? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/question-what-engine-swap-would-most-enrage-single-interest-corvette-fanatics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/question-what-engine-swap-would-most-enrage-single-interest-corvette-fanatics/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502169 Toyota V8 - Picture courtesy of LextremeIn my role as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, prospective racers often ask me questions that go something like: “I have a (car type known to be fast and/or expensive) that I got for (credulity-strainingly cheap price) and I would like to race it in LeMons without getting hit with penalty laps. How can I do this?” In most cases, the car will turn out to be a BMW M3, Acura Integra GS-R, or C4 Corvette, and I tell the questioner to seek another type of car. Still, you can get genuinely horrible C4 Corvettes for LeMons-grade money, provided you sell off some trim parts and so on, and that’s just what happened with this bunch. No problem, I said, just drop in an engine that will anger the Corvette Jihad and all will be well (it helps that the Chief Perpetrator of LeMons racing was the owner and editor-in-chief of Corvette Magazine for years, and he can’t stand the Corvette Jihad). I suggested the Toyota 1UZ V8, as found in Lexus LS400s and SC400s, but perhaps there’s an engine that would raise the blood pressure of Corvette fanatics even higher. What engine would that be?
LeMons-Phoenix10-0895In fact, we’ve seen two C4s in LeMons racing. There was this one, which was overpriced at 300 bucks, came with a very tired LT-1 350, and got stomped by a couple of bone-stock VW Rabbits and a slushbox Neon running on three cylinders.
309-LVH12-UGThen there was Spank’s “Corvegge”, which featured Olds 350 diesel power and ran on straight vegetable oil. Some Corvette guys were made upset by this, but at least the engine came from General Motors.
pickup2So, what engine would elicit the most rage from the Corvette Jihad? The team would prefer something with sufficient power to get around the track at least as quickly as, say, a Saturn SL2, which rules out my first choice (a Model A flathead four). Ideally, it should be an engine that can be purchased cheaply. Chrysler 360? BMW M50? Ford Modular 4.6? Nissan VH45?

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Piston Slap: Hella Sweet Engineering at The 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-hella-sweet-engineering-at-the-24-hours-of-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-hella-sweet-engineering-at-the-24-hours-of-lemons/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492311

Aside from the great friendships forced via encouraged bribing that naturally occur when like-minded people congregate, the 24 Hours of LeMons is a fantastic opportunity for those wearing a Judge’s robe. Take last month’s race at Eagles Canyon Raceway: when stupid (yet purposeful) things like this Flavor Flav clock on the dash of this Mitsubishi Eclipse arrive, I can’t help feeling like I’m hosting “Pimp My Ride LeMons” edition…

While Xzibit makes hilarious faces/comments as the kids talk about their hooptie’s general crappiness, I just snap a photo and begin judging them…so click the link to see more hilarity.

photo 1 So what is a rotary tool doing on the firewall of this Honda product?  That was my question…and the answer is astounding.

Apparently Honda’s EFI system uses a VSS (vehicle speed sensor) that is rather expensive to fix.  And fix it you must! When the VSS fails to report vehicle speed, Honda’s computer freaks out: going into a reduced performance, limp-home mode.  An inconvenience for most folks on the street, but a killer for a race car.  So what’s the fix on a $500 budget?  Attach a Dremel-style rotary tool to the firewall, turn it on and let it spin the VSS’s cable instead!

Wanna know what makes this even funnier?  The re-engineered, V2.0 implementation of this VSS workaround includes an ON/OFF switch on the dash!  Get in the car, put your helmet on, strap yourself in, fire up the motor…and wait for it…don’t forget to turn on the Dremel!

Re-engineering a brilliantly half-assed workaround is a fantastic notion. Such is the beauty of the $500 race car!

photo 3

This is the alternator of a Fox Body Mustang with the “twin spark” 2.3L four banger.  Said motor emitted a horrible shriek on occasion.  Upon closer inspection, the Mustang’s owners decided that zip ties were an adequate substitute for a proper nut and bolt.  Which apparently was lost at some point in the car’s life.

Surprise, surprise: the shriek went away after installing the correct hardware.  What would Xzibit say at this moment?

photo 4

This V6 Mustang is designed-owned by a pair of unbelievably intelligent engineers.  Very nice dudes who “get” the concept of a LeMons car, to boot.  These engineers, in the spirit of a $500 car, avoided the easy route of buying fancy shocks, painting them black and hoping we didn’t notice their performance on the bounce test.

The engineers said they had two good street shocks, and two horrible ones.  Combine the two (on a completely unnecessary Ford 9″ rear for what reason?) and you get adequate race dampers on the rear axle. Also note the adjustable panhard bar mounting points: very cool, but not very funny.

The shocks are completely in the spirit of LeMons, so I’m suitably impressed.  Laughing, but still impressed.

 

photo 5

Say you got a last-gen Mazda RX-7 turbo (FD bodystyle) for $500 after it caught on fire and became essentially worthless to any street going Rotary fan.  Say you spent a ton of money making it into a legit race car.  You probably don’t have much more left in the kitty for necessary body items to make an FD worthy of an endurance race. (And trust me, it wasn’t. Don’t fill the comments section with BS about how this car isn’t a worthy LeMons car)

This RX-7 was assembled in a matter of days, not months.  I was blown away at the “quality” of work, including this awesome home HVAC intake grille being used at a cooling grate for the RX-7′s turbo mill. I mean, why not use one of these if you have it lying around?

Conversely, you need to block off the gaping hole where the FD used to sport its trademark pop up headlights. One can assume the lights were stripped to help make this into a credible $500 purchase. Vinyl flooring makes for a great headlight alternative…especially at only $1.50 a headlight!

 

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Super Piston Slap: The Life and Death of a Proper LeMons Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/super-piston-slap-the-life-and-death-of-a-proper-lemons-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/super-piston-slap-the-life-and-death-of-a-proper-lemons-car/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 10:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482191 Sajeev writes:

One of the more (in)famous vehicles in junk car racing recently visited the big boneyard in the sky. It’s particularly sad for me, as this vehicle helped me back into the driver’s seat when I needed all the help I could get. The tenacious handling, phenomenal power complete with a BULLITT-worthy soundtrack in a brown station wagon; it was all positively insane. A sad tale indeed, but worth sharing from start to finish. So here’s Mr. Brian Pollock, owner of this brutally competitive Ford Fairmont Wagon, to tell the tale.

Brian writes:

It started by accident: I was killing time browsing a local Mustang forum and saw a post titled “The 24 hours of LeMons is coming to Texas”. I confirmed the information and called my friend Dave, who bluntly told me, “I won’t let you not do this.” Next call was to another friend, Marty, because he’d been autocrossing before and we needed a guy who had some idea how to make a car turn. We applied for the race and started talking about potential cars. We settled on the world’s rattiest fox Mustang. The car was terrible in every way, but it finished the race in a remarkable 35th place and we were hooked.

By the end of the second race we had figured out how to make the car stop and turn and were talking about building a second car instead of a V8 swap in the Mustang. The hunt was on for a cheap, unusual Fox body. I really had my heart set on either a fox LTD, a Fairmont sedan, or the holy grail of oddball foxes, the 1980-82 fox-box Thunderbird. I ignored the guy who contacted me with the wagon while I waited for something else, but time, the lack of a better (worse?) option and the wagon’s steadily lowering price convinced me otherwise. One trip to Waco and $150 made it mine.

Click here to view the embedded video.

(Start the video at 2:15 for maximum effect.)

Now we needed parts, lots of them. How do you build a fast LeMons car on anything resembling a $500 budget? You do research, lots of it. You figure out what parts from what depreciated wrecks will make your depreciated wreck better. You figure out who the nearest car crusher is and you follow the fluctuating price of scrap steel. You live on Craigslist. You buy cars from sketchy tweekers so you can get the right master cylinder. Then you list that car on Craigslist so his buddies can buy a fender, or window, or something, so when it makes its final trip across the scales you get back in the black. You do that a lot. I stopped counting, but my running guess is we’ve been through somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 parts cars to build three LeMons cars.

Sometimes you’ll be forced to buy used car parts instead of used parts cars. Try to avoid this. If you can’t, buy in bulk. I needed a set of pistons and found what I was looking for in a damaged short block. I bought the whole short block, two aluminum intakes, a pair of wheels, a nitrous system, and a Mustang. After selling what I didn’t need, I got what I wanted for free and turned a profit.

Now you have to figure out how to assemble these bits into a car. Learn to weld. You’ll need piles of metallic detritus. Our seat brackets are made from frame sections from a wrecked trailer. Rear spring locators are old header collectors. The sheet metal covering the fuel cell is a ’69 Camaro hood. The access door has been a tool box, a fruitcake pan, and a metal box from a nut and bolt assortment. Another team covers their cell with the top of an old dryer. License plates are invaluable, we use them for everything, including the switch panel.

Your labor is free. Use it: we put around four-hundred man hours a year maintaining the car when we’re not racing.

We debuted the Fairmont wagon in October of 2009. We blew up the motor in practice Friday. We worked all night assembling another and getting it in the car. It blew up mid-day. By Sunday morning we had a borrowed car repaired and through tech, but I was too tired to drive. We won the LeMons “I Got Screwed” award.

For what seemed like forever, the Fairmont spent more time with the engine out than it did on track. It took until November of the following year to finish a race. When it did, our 22nd place finish came with the top prize in LeMons, “The Index of Effluency” and a check for $1501.

2011 Racing Season: it started with a series of unpredictable oil pressure issues. In three races we had one oil pump seize, one break, and we mysteriously lost oil pressure on the track but got it back while putting the car on the trailer. By June we had the Fairmont in pretty good shape but our “Arrive and Drive” drivers were lacking. By the end of the year we had our act somewhat together. We finished the year with a class “B” win and 11th overall.

2012 Racing Season: the year we almost made it. At Texas World Speedway (TWS) in February we led for the first four hours and had two laps on the field when a rear shock broke. One driver spun, and a control arm bolt broke. We finished 4th and won class B again this time with a $500 check. In March, we were in 2nd place in Chumpcar on the first day (Saturday) when we burned through the brakes: we finished 7th overall. We were leading day two’s (Sunday) race when another weird oil pressure issue popped up. We parked the Fairmont and found a cracked pick up screen swinging in the pan.

May brought LeMons to Eagle’s Canyon Raceway (ECR). We did an emergency re-ring job instead of practice, and had driver issues. I never looked at the final results. September in Houston had rain. I should mention that a heavy, stiffly sprung station wagon is undriveable in the rain. In the wet we were fighting to stay in the low 20s, when it dried up we dragged up to 8th place. Chumpcar came back to TWS in December. We just weren’t competitive there with that series: Saturday 12th place, Sunday DNF with a broken T-5 transmission.

Which brings us to the end of the line: Lap 2 of the 24 Hours of LeMons season ender at ECR. After a minor in-and-out penalty for going 2 wheels off, we were in 3rd place and about to lap the leader. We came up on him fast and spooked the driver into missing his turn in point.

Click here to view the embedded video.

He went wide and looked like he was giving up the inside line. He lost control and came across the track in to the Fairmont’s left rear tire. The crash did extensive damage to the rear end and rear suspension mounts. We limped the car around the track until mid-day Sunday when it finally became undriveable.

In the end it wasn’t the crash that took out the wagon. The 1978 Fairmont was Ford’s clean sheet design during a fuel crisis, and the nationwide 55 mph speed limit. I doubt the fox chassis was intended to peg its 85 mph speedometer, certainly not to come down the steep banking at Texas World Speedway at a stomping 135 miles per hour.

Three years of racing just wore out the car. Everything from the cage forward bent, shifted, and sagged. The car droops when it goes on the lift and collapses when it comes down. It’s just not safe to drive anymore. Marty summed it up best while disassembling it:

“I’ve had more fun with this car than anything else in my life.”

We built the car, not as a joke, per se, but to be preposterous. We knew we could make it fast, and we knew we didn’t want another Mustang. There were 11 Mustangs in our Mustang’s last race. From the beginning we set out to have a winning car, but mechanical issues held us back for a long time. We prided ourselves on being able to out run the sports cars.

Loaded with junk, the last remnants of the Fairmont wagon went over the scales for $200, $50 more than I paid for it.

One of my favorite moments was coming up on a pack of three 944s and two Miatas just before a multi-turn complex at ECR. It took me two corners to pass 4 of the cars and one more to get the 5th. I don’t consider myself to be anything more than a competent driver, so I loved being able to get off line and pass cars that have some business being on a race track.

People generally loved the car…but some hated it.

We were even accused of cheating! Ratted out for our roller rockers when the motor was disassembled on the trailer, in a race where we didn’t complete more than 25 laps, of all things! We had the fox body’s historical successor, the Taurus SHO teams vote us for “The People’s Curse,” which Jay Lamm quickly, logically ignored.

I guess people couldn’t understand how a station wagon could out handle a Porsche.

They didn’t figure the hundreds of hours we put into the car in a year and our creative ways of solving problems, they assumed we were throwing money at it.

We did get a lot of positive comments on the car. At every race we would meet new people who wanted to introduce themselves and talk about the car.  (including myself – SM) I heard a number of people laugh as it rolled out on the track, only to be amazed once they saw it run. We got word from strangers all over the country who loved the car and wanted to drive it someday.

The comments from friends who heard of its demise meant a lot to me.

Todd Nelson: This is a sad day indeed…for you. For the rest of us, we will no longer have to live with the image of being overtaken – often rapidly – by an old, brown, beat-up relic from yesteryear…with tremendous horsepower. I’ll pour one out with ya at the next race.

Douglas Narby: I remember the first time I saw the wagon (from our 240SX) I said on the radio “I am going to pass this wagon”. A more experienced teammate came back with something along the lines of “good luck with that”. He was right. Great job while it lasted, y’all!

Mark Da Silva: The wagon was amazing! You guys know the huge amount of time that damn boat made our BMW E30 work overtime just to keep up! I had the privilege to drive it at ECR too, so it’s a shame to put the car into retirement!

 

 Good bye, Fairmont Wagon.  We’ll miss you. – SM

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Piston Slap: SHO-in off the MetSHO! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-sho-in-off-the-metsho/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-sho-in-off-the-metsho/#comments Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481543

TTAC commentator crabspirits writes:

I stumbled upon your Lemons Z34-fiero article.  My brothers both had LQ1 Cutlasses and whoever designed that engine was a sadist. They both blew the headgaskets and were impossible to work on. FYI: we run the SHO-swapped, mid-engine Geo Metro in the 24 Hours of LeMons. I had some good battles against that LQ1 Fiero, some captured on my helmet cam.

Thought you might find it interesting. I could’ve had him on the straights easy, but our clutch was slipping badly, and I didn’t want to divebomb him. Still, a worthy opponent.

The Metro has an ongoing track diary attached to the build thread. You can probably glean a lot of material from it. 

The car feels like a 200hp MR-S with better brakes. The suspension is built with all warranty returns from a local suspension company’s dumpster. It feels fine for what it is, but every now and then, a corner of the car will feel “weird” and you get an unpleasant surprise. When something fails on the MetSHO, it is always a case of “I can see it, but I can’t reach it”. It basically sucks to work on.

The main thing on the car that holds us back is tires. Good sized wheels for the taurus bolt pattern are hard to find, then you realize you can’t fit them when you factor in the coilovers and Geo real estate. We recently managed to squeeze some good rubber in the rear, but the fronts are still plastic-like. The brakes are good, but nearly everyone in the top 10 has big aftermarket setups. We usually get a best lap time in the top 5-10, but with our talent, we can’t seem to hold that kind of speed in this car without getting into trouble eventually. Fortunately, we are all drifters, so when trouble happens we usually know what to do. There have been many pleasant and unpleasant experiences with this car. Lemons has taught me a lot about car prep, tech stuff, driving, planning, and priorities (#1 is have fun).

Looking forward to such an article. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet with the Fiero team. I’m sure we share a lot in common. Same with the team that brings the Alfa 164-swapped Fiat X1/9.

Sajeev answers:

Z34-powered Fiero, SHO-Metro.  Fiat X1/9 with an Alfa motor. My goodness…every time I judge a LeMons race I am thankful for at least two things:  the free shit you cheaty-cheaters are obligated to give me, and your ability to make me look normal.  I sincerely appreciate both.

A friend of mine (using the term loosely, since all you people are certifiable) once mentioned that making a LeMons car is like freebasing on automobiles.   So if a freebasing (admit it!) gearhead such as yourself has such information proving the LQ1′s complete terribleness, it must be right.

What else is there to say?  You made a fantastic machine, you certainly don’t need my advice…though I will say one thing: Thunderbird Super Coupe or Lincoln Mark VIII. Ditch the 6.5″ wide wheels and get a set of 16×7″ inchers from the big Ford coupes.  They are dirt cheap so they work in a LeMons budget. The extra .5″ will get you a slightly wider tire, and every bit counts. But since wheels/tires are considered a safety(?) item, you can go nuts and buy the aftermarket 9″ wide rims.

I have faith that you can make a 9″ wide rim fit in the rear.  And why not? Then again, talk to Jay Lamm before doing so…as citing me as a source might be the dumbest move on your part.  Dumber than freebasing cars, that is.

Best of luck, I wish you and your team well this year in LeMons.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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Real-World Review: Fleeing Hurricane Sandy Across 8 States In a Rented 2012 Kia Sorento http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/real-world-review-fleeing-sandy-across-8-states-in-a-rented-2012-kia-sorento/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/real-world-review-fleeing-sandy-across-8-states-in-a-rented-2012-kia-sorento/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2012 13:30:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466805 So the Halloween Hooptiefest 24 Hours of LeMons at New Hampshire Motors Speedway went well, with the Rust In The Wind Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX taking a very improbable overall win, and we of the LeMons HQ crew were packing up the gear on Sunday afternoon and getting ready to head home… when we heard that all of our flights out of Logan— in fact, all flights out of the northeastern United States— were canceled due to ZOMG THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING PANIC YALL!!!1! The plan had been to drive our rental Kia Sorento 70 miles or so to an airport hotel, spend the night there, and grab our flights early Monday morning. We got to the hotel in Burlington, Massachusetts, where we convened an emergency meeting of the very exhausted LeMons brain trust.
The four of us— me, Nick Pon, Jeff Glenn, and Jay Lamm— figured we could hunker down in the hotel for what was shaping up to be at least three days of hurricane hell, probably without electricity and most likely fighting with roaming bands of storm-maddened locals for D batteries and maybe rat carcasses to roast over burning tires… or we could leap into the Sorento and drive west or south in order to get to an airport both out of reach of Sandy’s path and featuring flights to San Francisco (for them) and Denver (for me). If we were going to go for the latter choice, we’d have to start quickly; it was already 8:30 PM and the edge of the fast-approaching storm would soon be closing roads and probably gas stations along any route we might take. We’d all been running on a few hours’ sleep per night for the previous few days— running a LeMons race with 100+ entries takes a lot out of you even when you are catching eight hours of Zs each night— but each of us had plenty of wild-eyed road trip experience and we figured we could split the driving four ways, crank the Melt-Banana to stay awake, and arrive alive. After a flurry of calls to airlines and frenzied study of weather maps— all four guys on laptops and phones— we narrowed our choices to Cincinatti and Charlotte. The storm looked likely to head east, but it had already been south, so we opted for Charlotte, North Carolina, close to 900 miles to the southwest. OK, let’s do it!
Jay Lamm samples Pickle Vodka - picture courtesy of Judge PhilLeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm, however, decided that he just wasn’t crazy enough to do the drive; he’d tried to dodge Hurricane Irene when in New York the year before and just ended up dealing with more hassle than if he’d just stayed put. So, he handed us the keys to the Kia and all the cash he could spare and sent us on our way. It was 8:50 on Sunday night and we had reservations for flights out of Charlotte for early Tuesday morning. No sweat, as long as we didn’t get trapped by closed roads and/or panic-stricken crowds clogging the roads in an escape frenzy.
Because we had visions of getting trapped on a dead-stalled highway in Maryland or Pennsylvania (I was getting sweated by visions from Cortázar’s endless-traffic-jam story La Autopista del Sur), we blew into the nearby Trader Joe’s to get provisions to last us a few days. I had several bottles of quality bribe booze from racers in my luggage, so I figured we’d be able to barter that for a few tin cups of mulligan stew from friendly hobos camped next to the miles of abandoned cars. Our shopping expedition was a whirlwind affair, since we showed up four minutes before closing time; three race organizers grabbing random stuff off the shelves as the apocalypse bears down results in a strange menu indeed. Two weeks later, I’m still eating leftover Plutonium Joe’s Isotopes-n-Capers Trail Mix™ and Hukbalahap Joe’s Balut Sticks™.
Assuming that the power was about to go out everywhere, we filled up the Sorento at the first gas station we found. While Jeff pumped, I went in to the station to buy Nitrute-Enhanced™ meat-stick snacks and caffeinated beverages. “Stocking up for the storm?” asked the clerk. “Hell no!” I replied, “We’re driving straight to North Carolina!” Everyone in the place turned and gazed upon me with respect. Or something.
The cargo area of the Sorento was just about completely filled with our luggage; we bring all the transponders and a bunch of other bulky race gear with us as checked baggage when we travel to races, so we had a lot of crap. It was a good thing that Jay had decided to stay behind, because we needed the unoccupied rear passenger seats for our food, phone chargers, and other stuff we’d need to be able to reach while the Sorento was in motion. So, if you’re traveling heavy, the Sorento barely has room for three adults and their equipment.
Even though Jeff had just spent a long day as Race Manager in the NHMS tower— that is, the guy who coordinates all the flaggers, emergency crews, pit-in/out staffers, sends me the penalty information, everything, a job akin to being an air-traffic controller combined with a police dispatcher— he swore he felt alert and ready to go and he insisted on driving the first leg of our journey.
We decided that we’d need to give New York City a wide berth, due to the increasingly scary reports of evacuations from the city, and so we planned a route that took us west to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then southwest to Charlotte. Since Sandy at this time was just off the Virginia coast and moving due north, our route would be taking us down into the storm— or at least its western edge— but we figured we’d be far enough inland to avoid the worst effects.
The wind was getting wilder, the rain was starting to pelt down pretty hard, and I-84 was crowded with erratic-driving hurricane escapees, but Jeff kept saying “I feel great!” and kept the hammer down. The unibody, car-chassis-based Sorento proved to be surprisingly agile for a tall-looking CUV packed to the rafters with passengers and cargo.
One of my jobs as Chief Justice of the LeMons Supreme Court is to write the post-race summaries for the race sponsor, preferably on race day, so I tethered my laptop to my PDANet-equipped smartphone, fired up Photoshop to prep my shots of the winners, and got to work. The Sorento’s back seats aren’t up to, say, Crown Victoria levels of roominess (starting out, we felt that the Crown Vic/Grand Marquis would have been the ideal rental vehicle for this situation) and the ride got fairly bouncy, but I was able to get the job done before the laptop’s battery died. Meanwhile, the final game of the World Series was going on, and lifelong Giants fan Nick was doing his best to pick up the ballgame broadcast on the Kia’s radio.
We managed to pick up the final pitch of the game while we were somewhere in New York, and Nick wanted this shot to immortalize the moment (I’m an Oakland A’s fan, but— unlike most A’s fans— I don’t wish ill upon the Giants). Outside the car, the weather just kept getting uglier, but Jeff rebuffed all suggestions that someone else might take the wheel: “No, no, I feel good.”
At this point, the wind levels were getting worrisome. 18-wheeler drivers were pulling off at rest areas and hunkering down while many of the car drivers were getting increasingly erratic; some were creeping along at 35 while others pulled off head-clutching thread-the-needle passes on the road shoulder. Our Sorento was the quickest thing on the road, hauling distinctly un-CUV-ish levels of ass under dangerous conditions, and yet Nick and I weren’t the slightest bit nervous. Here is the place in this tale where I need to discuss the differences between good drivers and professional racers, because Jeff Glenn is a member of the latter group.
Jeff came from a racing family and was autocrossing an MGB and a Mini years before he was old enough to get a street license. As he got older, he graduated to faster and faster cars, until eventually he was piloting open-wheelers for a living. A few years older than the competition— because he’d opted to get a college degree and “wasted” four years— he realized that the reality of being a pro racer hadn’t turned out to be as much fun as he’d imagined as a kid, and so he became an automotive journalist and, when his editor started putting on goofy races, a race promoter.
Most of the time, Jeff is just the well-organized LeMons HQ staffer who talks to corner-workers on the radio, answers confused questions from racers who can’t figure out how to choose a car number, and makes sure all the gear gets shipped to the correct tracks. It’s when he gets behind the wheel of a vehicle— any vehicle— and the situation turns weird that you realize that you’re dealing with a heavy-duty, alien-DNA driving mutant here. Running late for your flight and need to do a 60-MPH bootlegger turn in an Aveo on a crowded airport road in order to get to the rental-car dropoff in time? No problem, Jeff makes it happen. Or, say you’re in Jamaica on the LeMons corporate retreat, you’ve got a diesel Toyota HiAce with 13 passengers and right-hand drive, and you need to navigate Jamaican roads teeming with stray dogs, overloaded buses, and “drug dons” in Escalades. Again, this is the guy you want driving.
Jeff gets an unnerving sense of focus when a driving situation becomes serious; his responses to communication go all robotic and he lasers holes in the windshield, looking several turns ahead at all times. In Jamaica, he had a way of knowing that there’d be a Montero with a busted axle blocking the road just around the next blind curve and he’d have the HiAce ready for it. In the Sorento, he got faster as the worsening weather conditions chased the other drivers off the highways and we knew that we had to outrace Sandy before she trapped us for three days at the Northern Maryland Chlamydic Lot Lizard Rest Area.
By the time we reached I-81, the southbound direction was empty save for a few hell-bent-for-leather diesel demons determined to get their 18-wheelers out of Sandy’s reach and barreling their wind-tossed trucks along at 85 MPH. The Smokeys were all tied up dealing with storm-related problems, and so Jeff really got on the Kia’s throttle at that point. I can’t say that the Sorento is quiet at speed in a hurricane, nor can I say that its ride is smooth. In fact, all that marketing talk about SUVs coddling you in a cocoon of isolation from the scary world outside— be it full of Uzi-packin’ carjackers or cataclysmic weather extremes— had nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of our Sorento experience. At one point I thought to fret about storm-addled cervidae hurling themselves into our windshield. “Don’t worry,” said Jeff, passing a careening Freightliner uphill as various tree parts bounced along the tarmac, “I’ll see them.” The storm got worse and worse as we blew through Maryland and the corner of West Virginia where we hold the Capitol Offense LeMons races, and we resorted to blasting Blood Sugar Sex Magick, repeatedly, to drown out the road noise. The sound system in our Sorento— I’m assuming the fleet version gets the El Cheapo stereo— was adequate, with a handy USB jack for our iPods, though the rear speakers deliver tinny sound reminiscent of the Flavoradio and the interface is on the maddening side.
We were in too much of a frenzy to keep track of fuel economy, but we had to make several fuel stops to refill its 18-gallon tank. Our all-wheel-drive, squarish pseudo-truck probably didn’t crack the 20 MPG barrier, given our not-so-efficient pace.
We encountered snow and sleet in the hills of Virgina, but the winds began to calm as Sandy and the Sorento headed in opposite directions. Nick and I gave up asking Jeff if he wanted to take a driving break, even as he began talking up the idea of roaring straight through to Atlanta, where we’d be able to catch Monday-morning flights.
Somewhere near the Virginia-North Carolina line, the skies cleared and the sun began to rise. We woke up the LeMons Travel Boss and official moonshine taster and had her start looking to move our flights out of Charlotte from Tuesday to Monday. Success!
Just before 9:00 AM Monday, exactly 12 hours after beginning our journey (that’s an average speed of just over 74 MPH, including fuel stops and the traffic-slowed leg to Scranton), we arrived at Charlotte Airport. We had a few hours to kill before our flight, so we blew some of Jay’s cash on an airport hotel suite to shower and catch a few hours of sleep. Then we dropped off the Kia at the rental-car lot (it turns out that the rental companies waived the drop-off-at-different-airport fees for customers traveling from Sandy-affected areas) and settled down to wait for our flights.
By 3:00 PM Monday, I was on a Denver-bound plane, just six hours later than I’d have been if my Logan-DIA flight had taken place.

As for Jay’s idea to ride out the storm in Massachusetts… well, he tells his story in the official LeMons wrapup video (all the 2012 season’s wrapup videos may be viewed here).

Here’s my (probably) NSFW personal wrapup video of the drive.
As I contemplated rummaging through my troubled fellow passenger’s carry-on bag— yeah, it was very difficult in my sleepless, giddy state to avoid provoking an entertaining incident with Mr. DO NOT Touch— I thought about the 2012 Kia Sorento as high-performance hurricane-fleeing machine. Was its impressive high-speed performance all driver/no car (as was the case when we stuck Randy Pobst behind the wheel of a worse-than-stock MGB-GT at Charlotte Motor Speedway)? If we had it to do over again with a different vehicle, would we have taken the Crown Victoria or— shudder— the Mitsubishi Galant from the rental-car lot? The choice of the Sorento makes more sense when you consider the “what if” scenarios. Say, the nightmare 48 hours stuck in the vehicle when the highway floods and you need to sleep in the thing, or the highway gets covered in a foot of mud and only four-wheel-drive can get you unstuck; in those cases, the Sorento provides the right mix of decent speed and versatility that your discerning race organizer prefers. The Kia Sorento: It’s Reasonably Competent™!

19 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Nick Pon 01 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Nick Pon 10 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2010 Toyota HiAce  - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2010 Toyota HiAce - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - Jeff Glenn at Laguna Seca - Picture courtesy of Jeff Glenn Jay Lamm samples Pickle Vodka - picture courtesy of Judge Phil 19 - Psycho Kia Sorento Drive - Picture Courtesy of Google 20- Kia Sorento Drive - Picture courtesy of Nick Pon 21 - Psycho Kia Sorento Drive - Picture Courtesy of Google 22 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Hooptie Harley Adventures: Hell Project Shovelhead Hauls LeMons Judge To Road America In Style http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/hooptie-harley-adventures-hell-project-shovelhead-hauls-lemons-judge-to-road-america-in-style/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/hooptie-harley-adventures-hell-project-shovelhead-hauls-lemons-judge-to-road-america-in-style/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 14:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458060 When we speak of hoopties, we generally mean the four-wheeled variety. However, persuading a nowhere-near-complete Malaise Era Project Hell Bike to transport you to a race track 350 miles distant should, in my opinion, stretch the definition to include two-wheelers as well. My cousin Sam, aka Judge Sam of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, decided that he needed to hit the fast-forward button on his ’74 Shovelhead project in order to get from his home in Minnesota to the Chubba Cheddar Enduro in proper fashion. The bike wasn’t quite ready and the journey was an extremely arduous one, but it was worth it.
A little background is in order here. Sam was born about the time my parents decided to ditch Minnesota for California, and so I missed out on the biker culture of my relatives who stayed behind. Sam’s father/my uncle was the legendary Dirty Duck, shown here in his early 20s with the ’57 Plymouth Savoy that he used for the very lucrative Mexico-to-Los-Angeles reefer-smuggling trade in the early 1960s. The Duck taught me much of what I know about wrenching on cars, but I never did pick up any interest in motorcycles.

Dirty Duck died in 1989, but I was able to capture one his his thousands of biker tales on tape. Here’s The Legend of Hoot’s Panhead, circa 1967.
Sam, meanwhile, stayed true to old-time biker traditions, but a lengthy stint working as a roughneck in the Wyoming gas fields led to him forsaking two-cylinder Milwaukee machines for various cars and trucks. Finally, back in Minnesota, he picked up this very rough Shovelhead, built during the AMF era.
These days, many of the grizzled outlaw bikers who came up in the 1960s and 1970s have switched to German and British machines, because Harleys have become toys ridden by office-cubicle types who feel like they’re experiencing “freedom” when they trade the Dockers for leathers and go for weekend rides with “Born To Be Wild” on an endless loop in their heads. The younger guys with self-applied tatts who rebuild motorcycle engines on the kitchen counter and think nothing of riding a 50-buck bike across the country tend to pick beater Japanese bikes, because they’re cheap and reliable. There’s not much place for a beater Harley that’s used for everyday transportation these days, but that’s what Sam had in mind for his Shovelhead project.
So, he’d been pecking away at the project for a few years, but decided a couple of months back that he would ride the thing from Savage to Elkhart Lake when it came time for him to judge the Chubba Cheddar Enduro, whatever it took. It has a lot of nice custom touches, influenced by his irony-laden Generation X background. For example, this railroad-style lantern has a light-up skull inside and serves as a taillight. No prairie-dogging cubicle slave ever took a break from his PowerPoint slideshow and imagined putting this sort of thing on his $30,000 bike.
The diamond-plate seat looks uncomfortable, but works fine for the first hundred miles or so. Then it’s very uncomfortable.
With time running out, a lot of the linkages ended up being rigged up with hose clamps, zip-ties, and worse. Sam had to be at the track by Sunday night, and left Savage Saturday afternoon. Things started going wrong right away; the bike developed an intermittent power-loss problem that no amount of carburetor and timing tinkering could fix. Every few miles, something would rattle loose.
Sam feels that motorcycle saddlebags are a sign of irreversible moral decay, which means all his tools had to share space with his other supplies in this bungee’d-down milk crate. It took him about six hours to traverse the first 50 miles. When darkness fell, he would park beneath a lone streetlight in tiny Wisconsin towns in order to spin some wrenches, which meant that he kept getting sweated by citizens unhappy with the appearance of what appeared to be the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse.
This nightmare journey continued through the night, with the Shovelhead continuing to sputter, crap out, and shed parts at regular intervals. Naturally, Sam had no GPS, no smartphone, and no light with which to read his paper map, so he ended up lost in a maze of tiny rural roads in western Wisconsin.
Some of the problems seemed to be electrical in nature, but Sam finally figured out that the carb’s super-rich condition was being caused by his knee blocking the air-cleaner-less carburetor’s intake. Once he adjusted his riding position to put some space between his leg and the carb, the bike ran somewhat better.
Even with all the problems, he kept inching southeast. After spending hours trying to find a cup of coffee in Eau Claire, he rolled into Elkhart Lake at 4:00 AM Monday… about five hours prior to the green flag at the race.
When he wasn’t disciplining miscreant drivers over the course of the weekend, Sam worked at fixing the fritzy wiring harness. Here we see him finding the source of his ignition-system problems.
Eventually, he tore out most of the wiring and started over. LeMons racers were very helpful, loaning tools and expertise, and the racers who knew Harleys— that is, the ones who rode relatively modern bikes— just shook their heads in awe at Sam’s accomplishment on a funky AMF-era Shovelhead.
Back in Savage, the surviving greybeards of Dirty Duck’s generation approve of Sam’s customizing touches, as do the 20-year-old rat-rod types with their primer-black Kawasakis.
When the race was almost finished and I got into the usual huddle with Chief Perp Jay Lamm to decide which team got what trophy, we had a helluva time figuring out who most deserved the Most Heroic Fix award. There were the usual engine swaps and suspension repairs, but nothing that really knocked us out. Then we took a look at Sam’s Shovelhead and decided to give him the Most Heroic Fix.

After the awards ceremony, of course, Sam had to get ready to ride back to Minnesota. The primary drive belt had a pretty bad nick and was making an ominous noise, but nothing could be done about that. He buttoned up the rejuvenated wiring harness and did what adjustments he could.
His new trophy got bungee’d onto the handlebars.
Wednesday morning and time to head west. The trip home was far easier, with most of the bugs having been worked out on the ride out and during further tinkering at the track. Sam made it home in about seven hours, and now he feels confident that the Shovelhead can take him anywhere. Say, for example, to a California LeMons race!

20 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1974 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Toyota MR2: Fear the Robot Eagle! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-mr2-fear-the-robot-eagle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/toyota-mr2-fear-the-robot-eagle/#comments Mon, 25 Jun 2012 16:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450172 Members of the MR2 Jihad generally refer to the creature on the hood emblems of their cars as the “Screaming Eagle,” but I say it’s a stoic, tight-beaked Robot Eagle. I hadn’t paid much attention to this emblem, since it’s quite small and mounted on a car snout that sits quite close to the pavement, but then a 24 Hours of LeMons team composed of Toyota engineers created a gigantic Pontiac Trans Am-style decal version for the hood of their MR2. Robot Eagle!
The dragon (or boat, or dragon boat, or whatever it is) emblem on the early Celica was cool, but you won’t see this creature on the domes of the Sakichi Toyoda Memorial Mars Base in the year 2077. The MR2 Robot Eagle, on the other hand, will be plastered all over future galactic installations.
Note the mechanical, right-angle-based grasping talons, which enable the Robot Eagle to dock with its charging station when it isn’t squeezing the giblets out of the wimpy horse on the Porsche emblem.
Imagine the meetings in Tokyo, during the design phase of the original MR2, as variations of the Robot Eagle were shown to the Toyota suits. Did the original have laser eyes and bolt heads on the wings, only to be watered down by conservative salarymen? We may never know.
LeMons racers have always loved the Pontiac Screamin’ Chicken, seen here as the extremely frightening Bob Ross Screamin’ Chicken on the hood of a fourth-gen Firebird. Other teams simply buy knockoff Screamin’ Chicken decals and slap them on their Saturn SC2s and Nissan 240SXs.
I think it’s time for the Robot Eagle to challenge the Screamin’ Chicken for icon status. Who will fight for the glory of the Robot Eagle?

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Meet TTAC: Coast To Lake Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/meet-ttac-coast-to-lake-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/meet-ttac-coast-to-lake-edition/#comments Wed, 20 Jun 2012 16:19:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449559

Interested in meeting your least favorite TTAC author? Perhaps you’re a fan of my unique lyrical styles, or you’re a lonely female journalist stuck on the West Coast with a boyfriend who plays Goth music through a Les Paul that isn’t even from the f**king Custom Shop. Maybe you’re one of the GM forum loons who nearly crashed your ’96 Grand Am GT automatic into a Jersey barrier when you saw that my awesome article on the Crapillac ATS was translated into German, complete with fun illustrations, and now you want to choke me with the power of your massive, Cavalier-tattooed biceps. Failing all that, perhaps you’d like to appear in the next TTAC video?

Good news! I am doing an international tour during the next two weekends!

This upcoming Monday, June 25, we will be shooting the long-awaited sequel to our Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Track Test video at Toronto Motorsports Park. What are we testing? Well, disclosing the test car in advance is a bit of a scary notion, and I don’t know if I should reveal the secret or not. Come on out, meet the crew, and become famous!

Just four days later, Friday, June 29, at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, I will be working with the editors of Hooniverse to create an interesting story about doing racetrack instruction in, shall we say, an unexpected vehicle. After that, I’ll stick around to run the 24 Hours of LeMons in the Neon pictured above. I have every confidence that we will win by at least the 52-lap margin I put on Car and Driver’s cheating-ass, dirty-driving, low-talent team of inbreds back in ’07.

Stop by and say hello!

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Piston Slap: LeMons racer seeks Minivan Normalcy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-lemons-racer-seeks-minivan-normalcy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/piston-slap-lemons-racer-seeks-minivan-normalcy/#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2012 12:04:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=433629

 

Brian writes:

Sajeev,

Heeding the call for silly, not-really-that-good letters…plus I wrote you a while back about my Freestyle.  Since then, my wife actually sat in a minivan, and that’s the direction we are heading.  We are looking at replacing it quickly so that she can take the three kiddos to Grandma’s house while I enter Lemons South this March. 

Her peace of mind at Grandma’s house is well worth my ‘not-having-the-phone-ring-contantly’ while at the race, so I agree with her timeline (she doesn’t trust the Freestyle enough to make the trip – she had good ears and hears something bad in the transmission already at 10k on the latest reman unit).  So here is the thing: in 2011, Dodge went to the Pentastar in the minivan.  I am of two minds regarding my decision of a 2008, 2010 or a 2011 (Karesh will love the fact that Truedelta eliminated 2009′s for me – gotta love actual data!).

Pentastar: New, efficient, clean, powerful, 6 speed auto

3.8/3.3: Well known, service proven, 4 speed auto

At first I was reluctant to get a Pentastar, but since it’s going to be the only V6 Chrysler makes, chances are the flaws will be fairly well worked out, and since they started putting it in cars in 2007, it has been along for a while.  The older engine has been around FOREVER, which is pretty nice, although the fuel economy and performance will suffer.  Sounds like the 6 speed transmission is mostly based on the four speed, so I guess I should not be worried about that, but feel free to chime in here as well.

What say you?

Sajeev answers:

Wait, you are a LeMons racer? No wonder you actually considered the CVT to 6-speed swap on your old Freestyle! You are nuts!!!

Wait, that’s being real mean: I meant to say that people like you aren’t normal.  I should know, as I listen to your collective bullshit on a regular basis as a LeMons judge in Texas. That said, it’s nice to see that you and your wife have agreed on something far better for your situation.  Minivans rock.

Except they are all under-transmissioned for the loads carried in them. And while Chrysler’s transaxles are legendary for their LeMons-like durability in pure street circumstances, we might not have enough data to verify the new 6-speed’s worthiness in modern Mopar Minivans.  Cue Michael Karesh!

I would buy the new model simply on performance alone.  Modern close ratio 6-speed gearboxes are absolutely wonderful for launching oversized beasts while retaining decent highway cruising. If anything, the new technology will be more durable simply because they move a van more effortlessly, less stressfully.

My advice is always the same for all Minivans, as they all have the same Achilles’ heel: flush the transmission fluid every 1-3 years (depending on mileage and the weight of your cargo) and install the biggest damn transmission cooler you can find.  Run it in series with the factory radiator/coolant system, if applicable.

Do it and you’ll never feel like you’re Freestylin’ ever again.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Danny writes:

I am looking to buy an RX-7 (FC) convertible. I currently own a hand me down 2000 Honda Accord V6 from my mother in law. this car drinks WAY too much gas. 20 dollars in 89 octane gas DAILY! my commute is about 50 miles round trip. but I always loved Mazdas my dad had a 1984 323 with a 1.3, a 929 with the V6. I grew up playing with FDs in Gran Turismo. now that I can buy a cheap used car I was thinking about an FC convertible. BUT the major problem that I have is my job, I work for a Chevy dealership as a salesman. The GSM and the SM fired a guy who bought a Toyota Corolla S brand new.

I don’t wanna lose my job but I LOVE the FC and will not buy anything else, I know rotaries are as unreliable as an iron duke but that doesn’t matter. I have access to a repair shop so free labor is there. the parts might be a problem, though i think there are plenty of them in my local junk yard. so please help me figure out my dilemma I Don’t want to drive that POS accord in the summer heat, because it has no A/C, brakes are almost shot.

Sajeev answers:

So let me get this straight…your POS Accord drinks too much gas and you want to replace it with the bastion of efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness: an old RX-7? Really???

You just complained about getting kicked in the stomach, and subsequently ask to get kneed in the nuts. Because someone who doesn’t want to fix a somewhat old Accord (even with free labor) and wants to buy an ancient RX-7 is asking for said attack on one’s crotch. I would say that you should wear a cup, but that won’t help. The knee will hit with way too much force to your crotch. I mean wallet.

I like the part where you mentioned your dealership fired someone for buying a Corolla. While owning a Corolla is (often) punishment in itself, getting fired over it is a good reason to get a lawyer. Obviously you have to document every interaction where said employee was harassed for their car. Print out emails, wear a wire, write a journal with all the details, etc. That could be kinda fun. And hey, we all know that salesmen do have fair bit of downtime after the holidays!

I’m not kidding, after getting fired for a similarly idiotic reason a few years back. Plus, now I know what to do. And I might even have fun with it, if it happened again. Regarding your severely misguided passion for RX-7s, I suspect you’ll only learn from your mistakes by burning your hand on the waffle iron.  Enjoy the pain, but try to find a kevlar-reinforced cup.

 

 

Steve answers:

At first I thought you were plain nuts. But then I saw your French email address and figured that unreliable cars may just run in your blood.

Yes, the Accord is a truly terrible vehicle… if you’re one of those who fears ‘overquality’. What you need is a car that has the turn stalk on the wrong side, a powertrain that’s guaranteed to break sometime around Bastille Day, and an interior that biodegrades over time.

I do know of at least 3 Peugeot 405′s that have remained untouched since I harvested them for parts back in the late 90′s. But you are hungering for power instead of pauper. What can moi offer you?

Well, I took my family to a bowling alley earlier today, and there in all it’s glory was a red 1975 Ford Granada with the Cleveland V8 engine. The vinyl red interior is still completely intact and the manager told me that it’s only been sitting there for four months.We call that ‘free pickins’ here in Georgia; especially since cars older than 1986 don’t require a title here.

This would the perfect car to bring to your dealership. Just rip off the Ford emblem, replace the ‘Granada’ emblem with ‘Grand Am’, and you’re set. Now onto the RX-7.

 

They’re cheap at the auctions. Dirt, dirt, cheap. You can get an inoperable one for around $1000 and then buy a nice spare engine at car-part.com. Ummm… well… forget that actually . There are no replacement engines for the last Gen RX-7. Murilee and his damned LeMons racers destroyed them all.

I’ll tell you what though. Go to Carmax and tell them of all the woes this cretinous Honda has inflicted on you. Whatever they offer, I’ll beat it by $200. Between now and then, look at Craigslist and keep abreast of what salvage auctions such as Copart and Insurance Auto Auctions have to offer you.

Good luck!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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Lower Your Workplace Computer’s Property Values With Thrown-Rod Desktop Wallpaper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/lower-your-workplace-computers-property-values-with-thrown-rod-desktop-wallpaper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/lower-your-workplace-computers-property-values-with-thrown-rod-desktop-wallpaper/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2011 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423359 After officiating at 24 Hours of LeMons races for three years now, I’ve seen every possible style of escaped connecting rod. Through the oil pan, out the side of the block, out both sides of the block, engine internals ground into random metallic hash, you name it. There’s something weirdly beautiful about the sight of an engine that gave its all on the race track, and so I’ve photographed as many thrown-rod victims as possible. What to do with those photos? Why, make them into computer desktop wallpaper files, in all the most common monitor resolutions!
They’re free, and I’ve probably got the right size for your computer (unless you’re still running a 286 with CGA display). Just go here, pick your resolution, and right-click/save the images you want. If that’s not enough, you can also get some of my favorite Junkyard Finds images as wallpaper files here. Enjoy.

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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 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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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