By on October 6, 2011

Before packing up the Impala and leaving Georgia in the fall of 1996, I took the car to Atlanta Dragway and ran some semi-disappointing low-17-second quarter-mile passes. Back in California, I resolved to make some improvements to the car’s running gear. After 15 years as a cheapskate, junkyard-centric gearhead, I was finally willing to spend substantial cash for new aftermarket performance parts. The main question was: what kind of engine would I build? (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2011

“We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the Juke’s unexpectedly sporty nature. But despite the argument that “there’s a history of Nissan engineers driving the business,” let’s be clear about one thing: Nissan’s involvement in this project is all on the marketing side. Once upon a time, Nissan’s engineers might have built a little monster like this out of sheer passion, in their spare time. Today, though, the work gets outsourced to specialty race engineering shops, RML in this case. It’s not a knock, that’s just how the world works anymore.

By on October 1, 2011

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

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By on September 19, 2011

The rules for the Billetproof show are simple: Nothing newer than 1964, no trailered vehicles, no post-1960s mag wheels, no fenderless cars with independent front suspensions, and— above all— no billet anything! I flew out to California Saturday to check it out. (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2011


While today’s Arse Sweat-a-Palooza winner on laps is indeed the same Honda-motorcycle-engined Geo Metro that won the 2008 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza, it’s really a much different car now. In ’08, the Geo Player Special (then known as the Metro Gnome) had the CBR900RR engine driving the front wheels, via an ingenious chain drive that used a toilet plunger as a grease seal. Since that time, the engine— now a CBR1000— has been moved back and now drives the rear wheels. (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2011


The Speed Holes Racing AMC Marlin took home the Organizer’s Choice award at last year’s Colorado 24 Hours of LeMons race, because A) it has a 454 yanked from a wrecked GMC truck set back about three feet from the Marlin’s normal engine location, B) it has a Jaguar XJ6 rear suspension and differential, C) it has hundreds of speed holes punched into the body and, most of all, D) it’s an AMC Marlin. The Marlin wasn’t exactly fast (the tall Jaguar gears and very tired 300,000-mile EFI small-valve engine didn’t make for great acceleration out of the turns), but the handling was surprisingly good for such a big car. For the 2011 B.F.E. GP, Speed Holes Racing decided that more power would be needed. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2011


When I bought my Impala, I knew that its 300,000-mile 283 engine wasn’t long for the world, what with the near-nonexistent oil pressure, clouds of oil smoke under acceleration and deceleration, and fixin’-to-toss-a-rod sound effects. Still, due to thin-wallet limitations, I was determined to squeeze one last year of property-value-lowering 283 driving before obtaining a junkyard replacement engine. This plan went well until I decided to seek chemical assistance for the oil-burning problem. (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2011


“How will you sync the engines?” whined the naysayers when they heard about the plan to weld an ’89 Corolla front half to an ’87 MR2 rear half. “How will you cool it? The handling will be terrible! It’ll never work!” If there’s one thing that 24 Hours of LeMons racing has taught the automotive world, it’s that the experts’ preconceptions can be thrown right out the window when it comes time to drop a cheap race car into the crucible of an all-weekend-long road race. For example, who would have imagined that Chevy small-block and Honda B engines would turn out to be among the most fragile in the crapcan endurance racing world? And who would have imagined that the DoubleSuck MR2olla would do so well at the notoriously car-killing Reno-Fernley Raceway?
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By on April 27, 2011


We’ve seen a fair number of outstanding engine swaps in 24 Hours of LeMons racing— the Saab B Turbo-powered 300ZX comes to mind— but most such projects tend to have reliability and/or performance issues in the car-slaughtering arena that is LeMons. At the frozen Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis race a couple weeks back, the much-anticipated radial-engined MR2 ate its drivetrain after a single lap, but there was one outlandishly butchered machine that actually contended for the overall win: the Alfa Romeo quad-cam V6-powered Bertone X1/9 of Team Launcha Splatos. (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2011


When you’ve got a team of LeMons veterans who have been racing a Volvo 245 wagon since the earliest days of the 24 Hours of LeMons and you want to add a second car to the stable, you’re going to face stern disapproval if that second car happens to be a BMW E30 or a Mazda Miata. Those choices lack imagination! There must be some way to make a Miata fit Bernal Dads Racing’s Volvo-wagon ethos… but what could it be? (Read More…)

By on March 23, 2011


Those of you who follow 24 Hours of LeMons racing know the tale of the One Lap Integra, an Integra GS-R that got knocked down to LeMons price range because it had been rolled into a ball by a leadfooted previous owner. The car was hopeless, but the 170-horse B18C1 engine and transmission are in good shape… and now I’ve bought them for my beater ’92 Civic DX. (Read More…)

By on March 10, 2011


The crazy thing about 24 Hours of LeMons racers is that they actually follow through with their terrible ideas. Maybe it’s the urgency of the deadline, or maybe it’s the peer pressure to keep one-upping the last ridiculous project. Last month we admired the radial aircraft-engine-powered MR2, and now we’ve got another MR2-based team taking on one of the long-discussed LeMons Holy Grails: the twin-engined sub-$500 race car! (Read More…)

By on February 16, 2011


The thing that got me hooked on LeMons racing was the mentality that makes a statement such as “Hey, I’d like to install a 540-cubic-inch, five-cylinder radial aircraft engine in the back of a Toyota MR2, then try to make it run all weekend in a grueling endurance race” seem totally sensible. The craziest most devoted racers find themselves locked into an arms race for the Unununium, and this is the result. (Read More…)

By on January 28, 2011


This 1985 Volvo DL was the first race car I ever worked on, and it had a storied history during its two-year run of 24 Hours of LeMons races. Now that much of its running gear has been transplanted into the 1927 Model T GT, the ol’ race Volvo is free to a good home (sort of). (Read More…)

By on December 18, 2010


Some folks will tell you that you need a big ol’ truck to haul a grimy cast-iron V8, but those folks are wrong! My beater ’92 Civic, which stood up well when compared to the Audi R8, not only sports a trailer hitch (no doubt suitable for hauling popcorn carts weighing up to several hundred pounds) but the cargo-area capacity to take a disassembled Chrysler LA engine. (Read More…)

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