The Truth About Cars » Arse Freeze-a-Palooza The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:37:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Arse Freeze-a-Palooza Chevy 350-Powered Lotus Elite Fails To Dominate Race, Nobody Shocked Tue, 13 Dec 2011 22:00:10 +0000 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… Mon, 05 Dec 2011 03:14:02 +0000 We’ve seen a BMW 5 Series take the overall win at a LeMons race before, but that was about 50 races back. Today, the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk 525i put a big BMW back into the winner’s circle.
The members of IINPIJ paid their dues for race after race, adding a little skill and climbing a little higher in the standings each time. Last night, in keeping with the traditions of Le Mans of the mid-60s, they stayed up until 5:00 AM drinking Jack-and-Cokes and slam-dancing to the sounds of the old-school punk band they brought with them. This morning, they dragged their hungover asses out of their trailer and proceeded to maintain a two-to-three-lap lead over the field for the entire day. No black flags, no mechanical problems, all in all a perfect performance. Congratulations, If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk!

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Arse Freeze-a-Palooza LeMons Day One: E34 Leads, E30 and SE-R Close Behind Sun, 04 Dec 2011 06:09:04 +0000 The checkered flag waved, the sun went down, the traditional delivery of lost bumpers and mufflers got dumped off the safety truck in front of LeMons HQ, and the Buttonwillow paddock went into the usual LeMons Saturday Night party mode. With the top five teams all grouped into a three-lap spread, there’ll be a long night of beer-fueled bench racing ahead.
At the moment, the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk BMW 5 Series has a two-lap edge over the P2 car. This team has been climbing the ranks of LeMons contenders for a long time, and they came tantalizingly close to taking the overall win at the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 at Infineon Raceway. All they need to do to get the win tomorrow is avoid making even a single mistake.
If the Punks do make a mistake, the always-menacing POSRacing “F’ed Up Express” BMW E30 (which won the ’10 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza) will be right there to make them pay.
A single lap behind the F’ed Up Express, the Lipstick On a Pig Nissan Sentra SE-R will take advantage if one or both of the BMWs catches a black flag or bobbles a pit stop. This veteran team has been in the hunt many times in the past, but never this close to the lead after the first day’s race session.
The battle for the Index of Effluency seems wide open, with the four Class C machines of Spank’s “IOE Onslaught” (Austin America, Mini Moke, Turbo Mini, Simca 1204) making a real statement.
The IOE favorite when the green flag waved this morning, the B-Team’s Chevy-powered Lotus Elite, didn’t have a great day. In fact, the Chotus managed just two very smoky laps. At the time of this writing, they have their 350 scattered all over their pit space, hoping to solve the catastrophic oil-burning problem.
As for the Class C favorite, a Quad 4-powered Oldsmobile… well, it turns out that all those stories about Quad 4 reliability/wrenching-difficulty issues are true; the cylinder head got nuked after a dozen or so practice laps on Friday and the team spent all day today chasing parts and spinning wrenches. They swear they’ll be hitting the track tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll get to enjoy the sight of a Chevy-ized Lotus dicing with a crazily torque-steering Oldsmobile.

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

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Occupy Sesame Street, a Quad 4, and a Lotus Elite: BS Inspections at the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons Sat, 03 Dec 2011 06:33:01 +0000 Here we are in Buttonwillow, California, for the fifth annual Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons. The judges of the LeMons Supreme Court (that is, me and one of the guys you should blame for the Passat getting Car of the Year) eyeballed 130 or so race machines in various states of cheatosity today, and it’s quite a crop this time around.
After spotting a Quad 4-powered Olds Cutlass Calais in the junkyard last week, I started agitating for a LeMons team to race a Quad 4 HO Oldsmobile. Little did I know that a team with a Mormon missionary theme was preparing just such a car. This makes up for the Humber Super Snipe that was a no-show due to a thrown rod!
We also had our very first LeMons Lotus: this extremely wretched Elite. The team used to run a BMW E30, so we think they’ve made a wise choice.
The only way to make a Malaise Lotus any worse would be to install one of the least reliable engines in LeMons history: a small-block Chevy V8. That’s what the owner of this car did back in the Quaalude era, and we’re sure the swap made total sense back then.
The Elite went out for some practice laps this afternoon, and died about a third of the way around the track. Out of gas, claimed the team, but there sure was a lot of blue oil smoke involved.
As I write this, they’re deep in a feverish wrenching frenzy. They’re motivated, because they’ve got some tough Class C competition.
In addition to the Sex Pistons Triumph Spitfire (top), which blew up before the green flag waved last year, we’ve got this six-cylinder Ford Fairmont in Class C.
Speaking of non-Mustang Fox Fords, there’s also this Zephyr. It’s got a 302 and 5-speed, so we felt compelled to put it in Class B.
For reasons that probably have something to do with California’s Central Valley, we saw many, many Camaros and Porsche 944s. This IROC has one of the best themes we’ve ever seen on a Camaro.
The Geo Player Special, a two-race-winner CBR1000-powered Metro, threw a rod in spectacular fashion during practice. The rod ended up on the floor of the car.
Fortunately, the team has a spare engine on hand. All-night swap session!
Next door to the Geo’s pit space, we’ve got umpteen-race-winner Eyesore Racing’s ghettocharged Miata. They’ve gone with a very topical theme this time.
We’ve also got a team made up of Oakland police officers, so we’re enjoying the penalty possibilities involving an OPD-versus-Cookie-Monster clash.

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

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The 2010 Legends of LeMons: Ununquadium Medal Winners! Mon, 17 Jan 2011 07:00:34 +0000
You have no idea of the agony I went through, narrowing down the Legends of LeMons Unununium Medal winners down to just four recipients. The Ununquadium medal goes to those outstanding 24 Hours of LeMons teams that have attained near-Unununium Legend of LeMons status… and they’ll get their Uuq-287 medals just as soon as we find a way to deal with the 2.6-second half-life.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Eyesore Racing

The only reason that the 2010 Season Champions aren’t taking home Unununium for 2010 is the fact that they ran a Mazda Miata, a car that bores us almost as much as the BMW E30… particularly when the team captain is a Mazda engineer. Otherwise, Eyesore Racing has done everything right; they took first-place honors in two races and second overall in two more, they traveled thousands of miles from their Southern California homes to compete in the Arizona, Colorado, and Florida events, and they totally get LeMons racing.

Unlike most of the other teams that show up to a race gunning for the overall win, Eyesore goes all-out in the theme department, with top-notch car decoration and team costumes. Here’s their Alice In Wonderland theme from the Auction Weekend Gravel-Trap LeMons in Arizona.

For the Goin’ For Broken race, they went with a Star Trek theme.

They were willing to sacrifice some performance by adding the weight of the Enterprise to their car, because they knew it would look great on the track… but they’re also such geeks that they did virtual-wind-tunnel simulations to optimize the aerodynamics of the disc. That pretty much sums up Eyesore right there.

For the Arse Sweat-a-Palooza, they went with an Arabian Nights theme; they also added an extremely unreliable Prelude to their stable, with predictable head-gasket-blowin’ results. Still, the Prelude helped them gain the Western Region points they needed to win the tough West by 14 points over their nearest rival.

For the Buttonwillow race, I tried to talk them into converting their car into Norma Desmond’s Isotta-Fraschini, but they opted for a newer movie.

Fuck yeah!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Misfit Toys Racing

The winner of the Win-A-Wartburg Essay Contest got a ’58 Wartburg 311 and free admission to a future race, and Jim Thwaite of Misfit Toys Racing won handily.

We knew the car was in the right hands when we heard it was getting a rear-mounted Subaru boxer engine and would be entered in the “Trifecta of Crap” (24 Hours of LeMons, the BABE Rally, and the Grassroots Motorsports $2010 Challenge). You can follow the evolution of this amazing project on the LeMons forums and on the Misfit Toys site.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Pendejo Racing

Pendejo Racing has a thing for V12s, as we saw with their “$500 Mercedes-Benz S600″ in ’09. Their Jaguar XJ-S needed only gigantic tires to handle “like a 4,000-pound Miata” at Thunderhill. However, they got tired of changing head gaskets (a typical Jag V12 head gasket lasts about 4 hours on a road course) and decided to upgrade for the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza race.

And what an upgrade! A 1980 Maserati Quattroporte, sort of a semi-rough 100-footer but still bursting with Italian style and passion. Not only did Pendejo allow me and Judge Jonny to take it out on the track, they very considerately reinstalled the butter-yellow leather-and-wood interior after building the roll cage. This ensured that we experienced true Maserati luxury. As Pendejo Seth puts it: “Bragging about winning LeMons is like bragging that you’ve cleaned your toilet twice in one day.”

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Azz Backwards Racing

We were totally unprepared for the Azz Backwards F150 when it rolled up to the tech inspection at the Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez LeMons; something looked odd about it at first glance, but what? Then we realized that the “rear” wheels were turned, at which point we discovered that we were looking at a Crown Victoria chassis with backwards-mounted F150 crew-cab body on top. Then we discovered that Azz Backwards Team Captain Nick was the entire team, his flake-azoid teammates having ditched him early in the build process. Yes, he built and raced this mighty machine solo… and we have inside information that the Azz Backwards truck will be nothing next to what he’s building for the ’11 season!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Red Rocket Ratnest Revival

Only one team really challenged Eyesore Racing for the 2010 season points championship (and the free trip to Le Mans that went with it), and they drive a Taurus SHO. Think about that for a second: an example of the most explode-y, rod-throwin’-est, transmission-shreddin’-est type of vehicle ever to race in LeMons was totally sweating the seemingly unstoppable Eyesores, looming in their rear-view mirrors all season (figuratively speaking, of course; the Ratnests race in the Gulf Region and the Eyesores race in the West Region). Not only that, the Ratnests drove their SHO to the Texas races and they drive it on the street between races.

With two overall wins, one second-place and one third-place finish under their belts, the Ratnests went into the Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez race in November needing a top-three finish to have a shot at beating Eyesore for the trip to France. As it turned out, the SHO finally blew up, but their great M.A.S.H. theme shows that they’ve stepped up their game to Eyesore levels; we expect RRRR to be top contenders again in 2011.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Team Sleigher

There’s only one team that’s won the Organizer’s Choice trophy as many times as the Unununium Medal-winning Cannonball Bandits, and that’s these guys. In fact, they’re the only team to win both the Organizer’s Choice and the People’s Curse with the same vehicle! They showed up to the Detroit Bull Oil Grand Prix with the #666 car, and it’s always a good sign when you can’t tell what kind of vehicle a LeMons car once was (this is a Mazda MX-6).

It would take me thousands of words to really do justice to the neutron-star-dense grade of awesomeness here. Just look at it! Perhaps the National Day Of Slayer folks might rent this fine machine for their celebrations.

Best of all, the Sleigher Sleigh is street legal and registered and got quite a few street miles prior to the race. Imagine seeing this thing in your rear-view mirror! Ho ho hail Beelzebub!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Rocket Surgery Racing

If you follow LeMons racing long enough, you’ll figure out that we love French cars and we love ill-advised engine swaps. Combine the two and you’ll have a great shot at Legend of LeMons status!

This project, which combined a 1956 Renault 4CV, BMW 1800 suspension, mid-mounted VW Rabbit engine, Audi transaxle, and center driving position, was on the batshit insane ambitious side, and so it goes without saying that the last couple of weeks before the race were a ball-busting, panicky thrash a bit on the stressful side for the Rocket Surgeons. Here we see Team Captain Rich wondering how he’s going to get it all done in time.

When the Rocket Surgery 4CV showed up at the B.F.E. Grand Prix LeMons in Colorado, it still needed about two weeks of work done before it would be trackworthy. That didn’t stop the Surgeons from putting together some excellent Napoleon costumes for the BS Inspection, and then they managed to beat the Renault into shape in several hours. Onto the track and straight to an Index of Effluency win!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Bastardos Too/Blue Oval Cult Racing

Speaking of Terrible French Cars With Ill-Advised Engine Swaps, how about a Renault Dauphine with a mid-mounted Ford Duratec V6? Los Bastardos figured, correctly, that upgrading from 32 to 200 horsepower would be a great idea for their Dauphine.

After a couple of Texas races, the Bastardos haven’t yet been able to get the Dauphine to live up to its potential on the race track, but we expect to see it haulin’ Lone Star ass in 2011. And just for laughs, the same crazy Texans went ahead and dropped a Taurus SHO engine in a Fox Mustang; sure, it blows up like clockwork, but once the bugs are worked out…

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Chris Overzet

Chris and his accomplices have been in LeMons racing since the earliest Altamont races, running a pair of ungodly terrible somewhat battered Hondas. He’s already a lifetime LeMons Legend, but he went Ununquadium last month. For the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza race, Chris brought true luxury to Buttonwillow Raceway.

That’s right, a full-stretch Lincoln Town Car limousine with bachelorette-party theme! Chris let all the LeMons HQ folks take the limo out onto the track, including Judge Jonny, and the Rolling Chicane Racing Lincoln managed to stay on the track for most of the weekend.

There’s also the Arnold’s HummerHonda, complete with real Hummer hood and cigar.

And the Lemon Demolition CRX, which has survived at least 10 LeMons races and is still— sort of— in one piece.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Speed Holes Racing

Bringing an AMC Marlin to a LeMons race catapults a team into stratospheric company, just from the choice of car. Dropping a set-back Chevy 454 and Jaguar rear suspension into a Marlin gets you instant Legend of LeMons status!

Much like their friends on the Rocket Surgery 4CV team, the Speed Holes crew ran the clock right down to the last few minutes before the race, but the car was ready to go when the green flag waved. I had the opportunity to drive this fine race car for a few laps at the B.F.E. Grand Prix and I knew Speed Holes had earned Ununquadium status at that moment.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Race Hard Race Ugly

Only three teams took the win on laps in two races apiece during the 2010 LeMons season, and two of them competed in the super-tough Gulf Region. Race Hard Race Ugly, a team with a pair of maddeningly identical-looking red BMW E30s, edged out Red Rocket Ratnest Revival for the Gulf Region championship.

The Race Hard Race Uglies always run a clean, nearly-black-flag-free race, and we expect them to battle with the Ratnests all season long for the 2011 Gulf Region championship.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Beverly Hellbillies/Death Cab V8olvo

Until the Hellbillies’ 1927 Model T GT showed up at the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza LeMons, the Rocket Surgery Racing 1956 Renault 4CV had been the oldest car in LeMons history. Not only did the T GT look great, it was incredibly quick around the track, setting the quick lap of the race (against 171 other entrants) and taking 8th place overall. That’s what you get when you combine the fabrication skills of old-time hot-rodders Dave Schaible and Fish with the driving talent of some of the top Spec Miata racers in Northern California. You can get the whole story of the Model T GT in my Popular Science piece.

Before there was the T GT, the same bunch of racing miscreants ran the infamous Black Metal V8olvo/Mustard Yellow V8olvo Doing 45 In the Fast Lane/Death Cab For Cutie V8olvo, which contended in every West Coast race during the 2010 season. What’s next for these guys? It’s a secret… but it should be right up there with the next Azz Backwards Racing creation in the awesomeness department.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Special Deliverance

We don’t hate all E30s in LeMons. All you need to do is follow Buford Hogswaller’s lead and build a Bavarian Ranchero!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: E30ata

Another approach is to combine an E30 with a Miata. That’s Ununquadium territory right there!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Charnal House

Ever since the CBR1000-powered Geo Metro Gnome roared right into LeMons Legend status in ’09, rumors have flown about other LeMons Metro-based engine-swap projects. It’s going to be hard to top the madness of the Team Charnal House Taurus SHO-powered, rear-engined Geo Metro, though.

The build quality was a bit, er, rushed, but the Charnal House Metro held together way better than anyone expected. We’d like to see this beast go head-to-head with the Bastardos Dauphine in ’11.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Phoney Express

Covering a ’76 Lincoln Continental with fur and installing a giant horse-and-rider on the roof seems like just the ticket for an endurance race, especially when the car gets driven to and from the track.

This car looked great at the Sears Pointless race, too.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Toxic Asset Racing Program Clown Car

I’m scared of the Clown Car. You should be, too.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Italian Stallions

Why not stuff a Moto Guzzi 1000cc motorcycle engine into your Fiat 600 race car? Index of Effluency for the Stallions!

It had a few overheating problems, but it sounded great and stayed on the track for most of the weekend.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: FireKatz

While we’re on the subject of engine swaps, what would any sane person say to a Pontiac Firebird with an L28T engine out of a Datsun 280ZX Turbo? Who cares what they say— I say it takes home the Ununquadium!

Oh, sure, the FireKatz lived up to their team name, but sometimes earning Legend of LeMons status comes at a price.

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Rust In The Wind

It’s hard to top the FireKatz’s engine swap, but Rust In The Wind may have done so with their Saab Turbo B installation in a Nissan 300ZX, complete with handmade adapter plate and train-whistle blowoff valve.

The Rust In The Wind folks made a nice documentary about their car, just in time for this post!

Ununquadium Medal Winner: Big Ghetto Skank Tank

Instant Legend of LeMons status for this Caprice.

OK, that’s it for the 2010 Legends of LeMons Ununquadium Medal winners. Next up: Ununhexium medals!

Uuq-Wartburg Uuq-Eyesore-ArseSweat-track Uuq-Eyesore-AZ Uuq-Eyesore-FuckYeah Uuq-Eyesore-FuckYeah-Track Uuq-Eyesore-SP Uuq-Eyesore-TH Uuq-Eyesore-TH-Track Uuq-Fiaguzzi Uuq-FiaGuzzi-Engine Uuq-Firekatz Uuq-Firekatz-burning Uuq-GeoSHO-engine Uuq-GeoSho-track Uuq-Marlin Uuq-Marlin-Engine Uuq-Overzet_Limo Uuq-Overzet-Cigar Uuq-Overzet-Demolition Uuq-Overzet-Tattoo Uuq-Pendejo_Jag Uuq-Phoney_Lincoln-Buttonwillow Uuq-Phoney_Lincoln-Infineon Uuq-Quattroporte Uuq-RHRU-FL Uuq-RHRU-NO Uuq-RRRR Uuq-RRRR-MASH Uuq-Saab_300ZX Uuq-SHO-Stang Uuq-Skank_Tank-driver Uuq-Skank_Tank-track Uuq-Sleigher Uuq-Sleigher-Close Uuq-Sleigher-Track Uuq-4CV-Garage Uuq-4CV-Team Uuq-4CV-Track Uuq-Azz_Backwards Uuq-Bavarian_Ranchero Uuq-ClownCar Uuq-Dauphine Uuq-Eyesore-ArseSweat Ununquadium-520px Uuq-Wartburg-rear Uuq-e30ata ModelTGT-V8olvo ModelTGT-Track ]]> 5
Solo Road Trip Heroism: San Diego To Miami In a Caged $500 Citroën Sun, 26 Dec 2010 17:50:14 +0000
Readers of On The Road gush about the incredible asphalt journeys taken by the book’s protagonists, but they did most of their driving in a brand-new Hudson and a brand-new Cadillac limousine. Here is a truly heroic road trip: a solo San Diego-to-Miami drive in a basket-case Citroën ID19 that ran for the first time in 25 years when it clanked a single lap around the Sears Point paddock and then headed onto the track.

Meet Mike Spangler, the man behind the Lunar Rover Mini Moke and turbocharged ’62 Austin Mini race cars. He decided that it would be fun to drive the Citroën— veteran of two incredibly punishing 24 Hours of LeMons races— nearly 3,000 miles to the season-ender LeMons race in Miami.

A single LeMons race generally kills most cars. Honda Civics? Toast. Fox Mustangs? Crusher bait. The Citroën hadn’t even had an oil change since 1985, so Mike decided he’d do some routine maintenance before leaving on his lunatic journey. You know, tune-up, adjust the valves, that kind of thing. Whoops, busted rocker pedestal!

After much thrashing, the car was ready to go this morning at 7:30 PST.

He’s been rolling east for two hours now and the Déesse appears to be running well; he’s made it across the mountains and out of the wet weather. Text message from a minute ago: “4k @ 70mph. climbed into mtns over 4k elevation gain in the rain no prob. Babying throttle because clutch slipped under uphill throttle test last night b4 departure.”

I hope to see the man and the car when I show up in Miami to judge the race. Wish him luck!

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What’s Wrong With This Picture? Thu, 23 Dec 2010 14:00:27 +0000
In this vivid demonstration of how steel differs from aluminum, we see how a junkyard-turbocharged Mitsubishi V6 eats one of its own pistons.

This Dodge Shadow, which won the coveted Index of Effluency trophy at the ’09 Goin’ For Broken 24 Hours of LeMons race, showed up to the Buttonwillow event with a hooptily installed remote-turbocharger setup (complete with intercooler in the passenger-seat area) force-feeding its Mitsu V6. It worked just fine… for several hours.

Hey, what’s that terrible noise? Better come in for a pit stop!

When the team got the head off, they discovered that the #6 piston was just gone. The rod and wrist pin were still there, but the aluminum piston got vaporized. Hey, maybe it ran a little lean?

The only remnants were some tiny metal particles on the other pistons. Yes, racers, ghettocharging your engine can result in unpleasantness when your kludged fuel-delivery system doesn’t work exactly right.
MissingPiston-1280px-6 MissingPiston-1280px-1 MissingPiston-1280px-2 MissingPiston-1280px-3 MissingPiston-1280px-4 MissingPiston-1280px-5 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Apollo 18 Mini Moke Set To Dominate Lunar Grand Prix Thu, 16 Dec 2010 02:00:54 +0000
As we saw in the prerace sneak preview, the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons featured a brain-dissolvingly great assortment of entries, so impressive that one of the greatest of all time may have been lost in the frenzy: the Apollo 18 Mini Moke.

Yes, it’s possible to find a Moke for under 500 bucks in the United States… provided you’re willing to accept endless a few mechanical show-stoppers issues. Here’s the starting point for LeMons Legend Spank’s Apollo 18 Lunar Rover race car.

Spank, a San Diego-based lover of terrible classic British cars, is the West Coast’s answer to the crazed Maryland-based Speedycop; he finds weird-ass vehicles that no sane person would ever in a million years think of putting on a race track, thrashes on them in a frenzy that’s still going on when the green flag waves, and manages to keep them on a punishing LeMons track for most or all of a weekend. He won the Index of Effluency trophy— LeMons’ top prize— at Sears Point with his ’72 Citroën DS, which ran for the first time in 30+ years when Spank took it one lap around the Infineon paddock and then right onto the race track… where it suffered from nothing worse than a blown radiator hose all weekend.

That wasn’t Spank’s first IOE trophy, however; back in the ’09 Buttonwillow Histrionics race, he managed to run all weekend with a 998cc Austin Mini assembled from a heap of parts found rusting in a drainage culvert somewhere; note how the Mini is being dwarfed by a monstrous Mazda 323 in the photo above. Of course, Speedycop raised the bar for the Most Foamy-Mouthed Madman In LeMons Racing title when he made a FrankenScorpion out of the dismembered corpses of a Lancia Scorpion and a Toyota MR2, and that was before Pittsburgh-based LeMons Legend Dave Morrow ran a Wasserboxer-powered Bradley GT in the October Detroit race; how could Spank possibly match those downward spirals of sanity accomplishments?

Right, by taking the World’s Most Terrible Mini Moke™ and converting it to a highly credible replica of an Apollo Lunar Rover, that’s how!

When Spank showed up at Buttonwillow Raceway for the BS Inspection (the ritual by which the LeMons Supreme Court, of which I am a member, determines the cheatosity of all 24 Hours of LeMons entries), he’d brought three vehicles, none of which were ready to move under their own power at the time: the Citroën, the Mini (which had been upgraded— if that’s the word— with the addition of a blow-through turbocharger setup force-feeding the SU carbs), and the Moke.

As if that wasn’t enough work, Spank had some sort of association with the team of nutcases running a Type 3-engined Beetle (more on that car later) with an blow-through carbureted turbo setup even hooptier than the one on the Mini. Here we see the Mini suffering from a minor oil-burning problem while the Beetle sits dead after the cylinder head nuts spun off.

Eventually, all four machines were baling-wired into some kind of quasi-running condition, and the Apollo 18 Lunar Rover rolled through the tech-inspection area. Space suits, foil heat insulation, dish antenna, white helmets for the drivers— hey, this thing really does look like it belongs on the moon (though we were disappointed by the lack of aluminum-mesh tires).

Out on the race track, the Lunar Rover wasn’t exactly what you’d call blindingly fast, but its best lap time of 2:29.394 was quite respectable (by comparison, the best lap for the Maserati Quattroporte was 9 seconds slower) and its drivers were able to squeeze through some openings that were too small for bigger, more powerful machines.

At any normal LeMons race, the Apollo 18 Lunar Rover would have swept the Organizer’s Choice, Judges’ Choice, and probably the Index of Effluency awards… but this was no normal race. The Org Choice had to go to the stretch Town Car limo, the LeMons Supreme Court felt compelled to hand over the Judges’ Choice to the Maserati (which we were permitted to take out for a few laps during the race), and how could we deny the IOE to a Moto Guzzi-powered Fiat 600?

Still, Spank took home a major trophy for the Lunar Rover, joining the ranks of Heroic Fix winners with his mid-race frame repair. See how the Moke’s scary-rusty rear subframe has broken in half, right where the rubber rear spring stresses it most? In a couple of hours, Spank welded up a helper subframe that worked well enough to keep the car going for the rest of the weekend. Congratulations!

Oh, and did I mention that Spank plans to enter the Citroën in the PAINFULLY BLAND BOWL OF THIN LUKEWARM OATMEAL THAT CAN NOT POSSIBLY OFFEND ANYONE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY ENJOY BEING OFFENDED, 24-HOUR SEASON ENDER 24 Hours of LeMons (formerly known as the “Cuba Del Norte LeMons,” until Glenn Beck blew a head gasket after seeing the Che Guevara image on the event patch) in Miami at the end of this month? And he won’t be towing it; he’ll be leaving on Christmas Day, behind the wheel of the Citroën, and he’ll be driving it from San Diego to Miami. Solo.
Thanks to Nick Pon for photographic help.
Photo by Nick Pon Apollo_18_Rover-Earthrise-1280px Photo by Nick Pon Citroen_Sears1 Citroen_Sears2 Citroen_Sears3 LBW10-Moke-01 LBW10-Moke-02 LBW10-Moke-03 LBW10-Moke-04 LBW10-Moke-05 LBW10-Moke-06 LBW10-Moke-07 LBW10-Moke-08 LBW10-Moke-09 LBW10-Moke-10 LBW10-Moke-11 LBW10-Moke-12 LBW10-Moke-13 LBW10-Moke-14 Mini_Buttonwillow09 Mini Moke on Buttonwillow Raceway, photo by Nick Pon Mini_Dwarfed_by_323 ApolloMoke-before Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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And the Real Winner Is… Mon, 06 Dec 2010 08:00:32 +0000
The Index of Effluency, considered the top LeMons prize, goes to the team that accomplishes the most with a car that never, ever belonged in the same time zone as a race track. A Fiat 600 with 1000cc Moto Guzzi motorcycle engine swap? Effluent and then some!

The Italian Stallions used to race a Fiat X1/9, but that car was just too reliable for their taste (chew on that for a while, you racers who feel that the universe of available LeMons cars includes nothing but the RX-7, E30, and Sentra SE-R). A 1964 Fiat 600 seemed like just the ticket, but why not hot-rod the thing with a big Moto Guzzi powerplant? Sure, great idea! As it turned out, the “big” motor tended to overheat in a hurry when pushed on the race track, so the team’s drivers spent the entire weekend driving by the cylinder-head temperature gauge; when it hit 450 degrees, they slowed down. That meant that the tiny Fiat spent hour after hour creeping around the track while cars scaling in at five times the Stallionmobile’s weight roared past. Countless Crown Victorias, a ’76 Continental, a Maserati Quattroporte, and a freakin’ full-stretch Town Car limo menaced the 600 for hundreds of laps, but the Stallions just kept the car out there. Congratulations, Italian Stallions!

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And the Winner Is… Mon, 06 Dec 2010 07:30:45 +0000
The fourth annual Arse Freeze-a-Palooza is over, all the heaps have been dragged onto trailers and onto I-5 for the trip home, and a team that has flirted with victory for race after race has finally taken the win on laps in the 24 Hours of LeMons.

The POSRacing F’ed-Up Express BMW E30 has entered in all four California LeMons races this year, and the team placed 10th, 3rd, and 2nd in the first three (and spent a significant amount of time as the leader in each case). Finally, everything went right, and the team’s super-clean driving and reliable car enabled the F’ed-Up Express to cling by its fingernails to the slimmest of leads; in fact, the fuel-consumption calculations were cut so close that the engine started crapping out from fuel starvation during the final lap… with second-place Eyesore looming in the rear-view mirror a half-lap behind. Congratulations, POSRacing!

Meanwhile, the Eyesores are plenty happy with their second-place finish, because they have now clinched the 24 Hours of LeMons 2010 National Championship. The prize? A trip to some race in France!

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Arse Freeze-a-Palooza Day One Over, F’ed-Up E30 Battles CBR1000-Engined Geo For Lead Sun, 05 Dec 2010 06:30:05 +0000
We didn’t have quite the 180 cars that signed up for the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons at Buttonwillow Raceway Park— only 162 were ready when the green flag waved this morning— but it was still the biggest field in LeMons history. With the first session done and the racers in a frenzied all-night wrenchathon to get their heaps together by Sunday morning, we can tell you that the always-contending POSRacing F’ed-Up Express E30 sits in the lead… barely.

POSRacing has been the only team to even come close to challenging mighty Eyesore Racing for the LeMons Western Regional championship, and they’ve been within a few laps of an overall win several times. However, they’ve got seven other veteran teams sitting within a mere five laps of their 325iS and a long, long day of M20-killin’ racing tomorrow. This ain’t gonna be easy!

In second place, just yards behind the F’ed-Up Express, sits the ’08 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza winner, the Honda CBR1000-engined Geo Metro of Team Sweet Little Ladybug. The Sweet Little Ladybug was a totally different machine for its first win, back when it was the Metro Gnome; it had a CBR900 engine and front-wheel drive (with toilet-plunger grease seal) in those days. Nowadays, it boasts a monstrous mid-mounted CBR1000 and rear-wheel drive; check out Dave Coleman’s excellent article for more information on this sick and twisted little machine.

Speaking of Mr. Coleman, we find that the team of the famous automotive journalist and Mazdaspeed engineer now has the third position in the standings, a mere one lap behind the Sweet Little Ladybug and F’ed-Up Express. Do some feel that a turbocharged Miata-based team has an unfair advantage with engineers from Mazda and Garrett on board? We think Eyesore does so well because they don’t make mistakes, but LeMons conspiracy theorists believe otherwise.

In fourth, we’ve got another perennial contender, a car that’s placed in the the top five at several tough West Coast LeMons races but has never grabbed its team a Winner On Laps trophy: the Team Help Dubai Porsche 944. No Porsche has ever taken an overall LeMons win; in fact, the 944 sits at the top of the list of Most Heartbreaking LeMons Cars. 944s tend to be pretty quick on a road course, but maddeningly unreliable and difficult to repair when the inevitable engine and/or transaxle and/or brake and/or electrical failure occurs. The Help Dubai 944 has been the best of the bunch, so if any Porsche can break the curse it’s probably this one!

A BMW E28 has claimed a LeMons overall win before, with a dramatic victory at the Fall ’07 Altamont race, but many LeMons fans felt that win was a fluke. The Most Interesting Car In The World, a Dos Equis-themed 533i, has a shot at being the second-ever 5 Series to win a LeMons race; if the team— which had a strong fifth-place showing at the super-competitive ’10 Arse Sweat-a-Palooza — can gain three laps on the leader and then hold off the pack of challengers gunning for it.

But all that stuff about race leaders and overall winners is actually pretty boring, compared to the real LeMons action that’s taking place. This bunch of cars is just staggering! Ever wanted to see an Apollo Lunar Rover duking it out with My Little Pony? Sure you have!

Judge Jonny got back from some baksheesh-laden Austrian trip for some magazine or other just in time to rejoin the LeMons Supreme Court for some Penalty Box action. Naturally, he had to suit up and take the Rolling Chicane Racing stretch Town Car limo out for some laps. We’ll let Herr Lieberman tell the full story of his limo-racing adventures himself, no doubt in the next MT issue.

Meanwhile, something like half the vehicles that managed to clank onto the track done blowed up today, and the teams had varying degrees of success duct-taping them back into quasi-running condition. We saw the Mitsubishi Starion’s unbroken run of miserable LeMons failure continue, with the Team Hot Dogs Starion (actually a Conquest) nuking its transmission in the morning; the Hot Dogs, however, have managed to get a very impressive (by Starion standards) 39 laps under their belt today; this may well be a record! Please, Starion LeMons racers, trade in your cars for the far more reliable Jaguar XJ6!

Since we’re on the subject of Chrysler/Mitsubishi misery, the former Index-of-Effluency-winning Dust & Debris Dodge Shadow managed to consume one of its V6′s pistons this afternoon; all that’s left is a wrist pin, some ugly cylinder-wall gouges, and a fine sprinkling of aluminum powder all over the engine’s innards. Everyone who saw this engine (which may have developed a hunger for its own guts due to the super-redneck rear-bumper-mounted turbocharger installation causing a catostrophic lean-out condition) was quite impressed. Not to worry, Shadow fans— Dust & Debris has a stockpile of replacement Mitsu engines ready to go!

We love ghettocharged LeMons racers, of course, but such a setup can have a deleterious effect on reliability. Say, for example, the -ing With Bad Ideas VW Beetle, which features a draw-through turbo setup on a Type 3 engine. This Volks was doing pretty well for a while, but then something (perhaps excessive cylinder pressure?) made some of the cylinder head nuts back off, which caused a base gasket (or whatever VW geeks call the gasket between the cylinder and block) to blow. We’re hoping this fine race car will rejoin the fray tomorrow morning.

Yes, the -ing With Bad Ideas team is made of stern stuff!

The LeMons Supreme Court debuted a new penalty today: the Totally Sketchy Administration (TSA) punishment! Miscreants must assume the role of “screeners” who ensure that passengers are exposed to maximum danger!

Make sure those “boarding passes” are obvious fakes, folks! And you don’t get on the Totally Sketchy airplane unless you’re packing at least ten banned items— gas cans, axes, straight razors, even nail clippers!

Another fiendishly entertaining penalty for bad driving: AMC Flash Cards. Miscreants must identify year and model of various line drawings of Malaise Era AMC vehicles. You may think it’s a ’74 Ambassador, but it it’s a ’73… keep trying! All right, it’s time for me to crash out and rest up for another grueling day in the Penalty Box; I’m including a few gallery photos from yesterday’s BS inspection to keep you entertained for now. Check in tomorrow afternoon for the traditional winner post!
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Quattroporte, Stretch Limo, Model T, and More: The Greatest Gathering of LeMons Cars In History! Fri, 03 Dec 2010 15:30:53 +0000
With nearly 180 entries, the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza will be the biggest 24 Hours of LeMons race in history, and it also promises to have the highest concentration of never-belonged-on-a-road-course awesome machinery ever gathered in one location. At this moment, I’m wearing the LeMons Supreme Court judicial robes and busting cheaters, which means that I’m finally allowed to share some of these fine machines with you and not ruin their grand entrances at the track.

We’ll start with a car we’ve been waiting for years to see at a LeMons race: a Triumph Spitfire. The going rate for a LeMons-grade Spitfire currently stands at about negative 200 bucks, but for some reason no team has been willing to run one… until now! Yes, the Sex Pistons will be running their punked-out ’80 Spitfire this weekend, and they haven’t even swapped out the Triumph Slant Four with a– how shall we put this nicely?– less terrible engine.

We’ve already made it clear to the Sex Pistons that they’ll need to blast the X-Ray Spex in addition to “Never Mind The Bollocks.” In fact, let’s hear some Spex now!

We’ve also been waiting quite a while for our first LeMons Mini Moke, and now it has finally happened. The two-time Index of Effluency-winning madman behind the Air Prance SChitroën and the Mr. Bean Austin Mini (which will feature blow-through turbocharging this weekend) has obtained the World’s Most Horrible Mini Moke and converted it to– get this– a replica of the Apollo Lunar Rover. Could it get any better than that?

Normally, such a feat would be impossible. However, at this race even a Mini Moke Lunar Rover can’t be assured of a slam-dunk Organizer’s Choice award, not when it’s facing off against the likes of the Fiaguzzi Fiat 600, which features a Moto Guzzi 1,000cc engine swap. Yes, the legendary Italian Stallions have replaced their X1/9 for a much cooler Fiat, and they’ve done this to it:

There’s nothing wrong with the 600 that nearly doubling the displacement can’t fix, right? Let’s see how it looks at a recent Thunderhill track day:

If there’s one thing we love in LeMons racing, it’s Italian cars. And the more needlessly complex an Italian car is, the more we love it! That’s why the Maserati Quattroporte has long been one of our Holy Grails, and Pendejo Racing has brought one this weekend.

You may remember Pendejo Racing as the team that brought the most radically depreciated LeMons car in history to the last Arse Freeze-a-Palooza; they claim the inflation-adjusted purchase price of their ’80 Quattroporte beats even the S600. All we know is that this car makes us deliriously happy.

Can you think of any reason that a full-stretch Lincoln Town Car limousine doesn’t belong on a crowded road course? Neither can we! The veterans who have been running the Lemon Demolition CRX (and the People’s Curse front-end loader) since the early Altamont races have caged this beast and painted it pink for its bachelorette-party theme. Best of all, I’ll be suiting up and driving the Rolling Chicane Racing Town Car this weekend, because members of the LeMons Supreme Court have a standing invitation to take the wheel of this excellent race car when and if time allows.

Prior to this weekend, the oldest 24 Hours of LeMons car was the Rocket Surgery Renault 4CV (unless you count the ’51 Chrysler Saratoga– a Carrera Panamerica car we allowed as a last-second replacement for a dead LeMons car in Lousiana– which we don’t). That record was annihilated at the ’10 Arse Freeze; make way for the Beverly Hellbillies’ ’31 Ford Model T! Assembled by Black Metal V8olvo crew chief Hellhammer, who knows a thing or two about cheap Model Ts, has horse-traded enough parts to squeeze a ’31 T body, a Model A frame, a Pinto suspension, and a Ford 302 into a LeMons-grade $500 budget. The team will be stacked with the same Spec Miata demons who drove the V8olvo to victory at the last Buttonwillow race, so this glorious heap might actually have a hope in hell of contending! Even if it falls apart on the second lap, it will all be worth it.

We’ve seen the Angry Hamster Honda Z600 before, but enough has changed between its last thrown-rod-a-minute race experience and today that we consider it a new car. The best-engineered LeMons car in history now has a Honda CBR1000 engine in place of the series of extremely fragile Honda V65 Magna engines it once ran. Will the Hamster finally live up to its incredible power-to-weight potential? We shall see.

There’s more! Sharing the track with the Quattroporte and the limo will be this black-bumper MG.

And this Shelby Lancer! I’ll try to post the usual timelapse video of the BS Inspection tonight, if the effort of inspecting 180 cars hasn’t made me completely incoherent by that time. Check in later!

LBW10-Preview-01 LBW10-Preview-02 LBW10-Preview-03 LBW10-Preview-04 LBW10-Preview-05 LBW10-Preview-06 God Save Our Spitfire! LBW10-Preview-08 1980 Triumph Spitfire 24 Hours of LeMons race car LBW10-Preview-10 LBW10-Preview-11 LBW10-Preview-12 Fiat 600 with Moto Guzzi engine swap LBW10-Preview-14 LBW10-Preview-15 LBW10-Preview-16 LBW10-Preview-17 LBW10-Preview-18 LBW10-Preview-19 LBW10-Preview-20 LBW10-Preview-21 LBW10-Preview-22 LBW10-Preview-23 LBW10-Preview-24 LBW10-Preview-25 LBW10-Preview-26 LBW10-Preview-27 LBW10-Preview-28 Town Car Stretch Limo 24 Hours of LeMons race car LBW10-Preview-30 LBW10-Preview-31 LBW10-Preview-32 LBW10-Preview-33 LBW10-Preview-34 LBW10-Preview-35 LBW10-Preview-36 LBW10-Preview-37 LBW10-Preview-38 LBW10-Preview-39 LBW10-Preview-40 LBW10-Preview-41 LBW10-Preview-42 LBW10-Preview-43 LBW10-Preview-44 LBW10-Preview-45 LBW10-Preview-46 LBW10-Preview-47 LBW10-Preview-48 LBW10-Preview-49 LBW10-Preview-50 LBW10-Preview-51 LBW10-Preview-52 LBW10-Preview-53 LBW10-Preview-54 LBW10_Preview-Moke-01 LBW10_Preview-Moke-03 LBW10_Preview-Moke-02 LBW10_Preview-Moke-04 LBW10_Preview-Moke-05 LBW10_Preview-Moke-06 LBW10_Preview-Moke-07 LBW10_Preview-Moke-08 LBW10_Preview-Moke-09 LBW10_Preview-Moke-10 LBW10_Preview-Moke-11 LBW10_Preview-Moke-12 Mini Moke 24 Hours of LeMons car LBW10_Preview-Moke-14 Beverly Hellbillies Ford Model T 24 Hours of LeMons race car Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 11