The Truth About Cars » Goin’ For Broken The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:26:26 +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 » Goin’ For Broken When You Have More Balls Than Sense: Road Racing a Dead-Stock 1971 Simca 1204 Fri, 20 May 2011 02:00:01 +0000
When you’ve driven your $500 Citroën ID19 race car from San Diego to Miami and raced a Mini Moke-based Apollo Lunar Rover, where do you go from there? Why, you buy a furiously underpowered, 40-year-old Chrysler of Europe product and race it for 24 straight hours at a high-altitude road course packed with BMW E30s and V8 Detroit bombs. What else could you do?

The Henri ‘Cuda started out life as a 1971 Simca 1204. Chrysler, unable to manufacture a Detroit-designed subcompact that anyone in America would buy, was busy importing rebadged Mitsubishi Colt Galants and Hillman Avengers at the time, but they decided to throw some Simca 1100s onto American showroom floors as well. Simca wasn’t quite a household name in North America at the time, and sales were weak to put it mildly. The ’71 Simca 1204, as the American version was badged, packed 62 horsepower in a 1,204cc front-wheel-drive package (yes, MG fans, that’s the exact same rating as the 1,800cc engine in the ’71 MGB) and sold for $1,693. That was $139 more than the 1971 Fiat 850 sedan, but 222 fewer bucks than the ’71 Plymouth Cricket. Even a Pinto would set you back $1,919 in 1971, so the Simca was quite a deal.

However, the Simca was also a genuinely terrible little car, making even the purgatorially bad Pinto seem solid and luxurious by comparison. That means, of course, that a Simca 1204 starts a LeMons race with a huge advantage in the Index of Effluency trophy race; all a Simca team needs to do to grab LeMons’ top prize is to finish in, say, the top half of the field.

At the Sears Pointless race in March, the Henri Cuda took quite a while to get through the tech inspection and hit the track a bit late in the game. To be honest, it hit the track during the race’s final lap. Spank and his crew had high hopes for the Goin’ For Broken race.

Since it’s not possible to get any replacement parts for a Simca 1204, the Henri Cuda still had its 30-year-old ignition points, factory shocks, and everything else. In fact, other than the addition of a roll cage and a kill switch, the car was painfully, gloriously stock. That meant that the car was going to have a few reliability issues during the course of 24 straight hours of racing. Shift linkage problems and electrical woes required the services of the wrecker on occasion.

Eventually, the Race Director got tired of dropping full-course yellow flags in order to drag the Simca back to the paddock, and issued an ultimatum at about 2:30 AM: One more tow-requiring breakdown and that’s it. Spank and his crew decided to bench the car for a while, but eventually convinced the man in the tower to let the car back out.

It was by far the slowest thing on the track (its quickest lap of 3:44 was nearly a minute slower than the Killer Bees MGB’s best lap, so we’re talking serious slowness), but it also got the most respect from the crowd. Only 35 laps total; not enough for an Index of Effluency this time, but we can count on a strong IOE performance at the next race, now that most of the Henri Cuda’s bugs have been worked out. Well done, Team LeMopar SIMCAcuda!
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Twin-Engined Toyota Racer Works Fine, Confounds Self-Proclaimed Experts Wed, 18 May 2011 14:00:45 +0000
“How will you sync the engines?” whined the naysayers when they heard about the plan to weld an ’89 Corolla front half to an ’87 MR2 rear half. “How will you cool it? The handling will be terrible! It’ll never work!” If there’s one thing that 24 Hours of LeMons racing has taught the automotive world, it’s that the experts’ preconceptions can be thrown right out the window when it comes time to drop a cheap race car into the crucible of an all-weekend-long road race. For example, who would have imagined that Chevy small-block and Honda B engines would turn out to be among the most fragile in the crapcan endurance racing world? And who would have imagined that the DoubleSuck MR2olla would do so well at the notoriously car-killing Reno-Fernley Raceway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I was off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And the Real Winner Is… Sun, 15 May 2011 20:22:35 +0000
Is it possible for a Jeep Cherokee with a 60s-technology AMC power to finish in the top fifth of a race on a crazy road course full of off-camber turns and dizzying elevation changes? No, it is not possible. And yet…

Petty Cash Racing somehow finished 14th overall, out of 72 entrants. These Seattle madmen have been running their Jeep for quite a while now, and with each race they find a way to make their big ol’ truck a little faster and a bit more reliable. This morning, it all paid off: Index of Effluency. Congratulations, Petty Cash Racing!

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And the Winner Is… Sun, 15 May 2011 20:12:32 +0000
For most of the ’11 Goin’ For Broken race, the battle for the overall win seemed to be all about the Spin-N-Out Burger E30 and the Model T GT… but a lot can happen over the course of 24 nonstop hours of road racing. We had snow, gusty winds, dust storms, wild horses, and— eventually— a whirlwind of mechanical problems and black flags that knocked out the top two contenders. You don’t dare make any mistakes when you’ve got the winningest car in LeMons history looming in your rear-view, and Eyesore Racing’s ghettocharged Miata made its move at oh-dark-thirty this morning.

During a drinking bout with Judge Jonny a couple weeks back, several members of 2010 season champs Eyesore Racing indicated that they’d be re-theming their Miata with a full-on Manson Family decorative scheme. “If you don’t paint the car in full Helter Skelter mode,” we warned them, “you’ll be getting 100 penalty laps!” Thinking we hadn’t been serious about the Manson Family thing, Eyesore showed up at Reno-Fernley Raceway with their old Charlie Sheen theme from their last race. Big mistake! Facing those 100 laps, the team bought paint at Wal-Mart and spent the night painting revolutionary slogans and White Album lyrics on their car. I still gave them a few BS laps on general principle, but not enough to keep them from beating the Spin-N-Out BMW by 3 laps. Congratulations on your fourth LeMons victory, Eyesore Racing!

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Goin’ For Broken LeMons Halfway Done, Night Racing Madness In Full Effect Sun, 15 May 2011 05:41:50 +0000
The 2011 Goin’ For Broken 24 Hours of LeMons, which takes place in Nevada’s Reno-Fernley Raceway, is a true 24-hour event. The green flag waved at 10:00 AM this morning, and we’re just about halfway done now. RFR features thin air, crazy elevation changes, off-camber turns, and (starting a couple hours back) pitch darkness. The racers love it, but it kills their cars.

The race leader at the moment is the Model T GT, but the T just nuked its transmission a few minutes back and appears to be headed to DNF-land.

That means the lead will soon pass to the two-time race-winning POSRacing “Spin-N-Out Burger” E30. This team has two rookie drivers and isn’t running their usual absurdly quick lap times, but (unlike the other top contenders) they’ve remained absolutely black-flag-free.

My internet connection here is a super-flaky tethered-cell-phone setup, so I may not be able to post regular updates. If nothing else, LeMons fans will get a winner post after the checkered flag drops. Check in later!

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Twin-Engined MR2olla Makes Debut, White Trash Barbie Goes CHP: BS Inspections of the Goin’ For Broken 24 Hours of LeMons Sat, 14 May 2011 05:54:40 +0000
Many of you said a twin-engined Toyota race car would never work, but the Doublesuck MR2/Corolla combo (automatic transmission in the back, manual in the front) went out onto the Reno-Fernley Raceway track for some practice laps today and did just fine!

West Coast teams tend to come up with the best (or, in this case, most disturbing) themes for their race cars.

Since this is Nevada, many of the teams decided they’d pack heat to the race. Sorry, guys, no shooting each other in the paddock!

White Trash Barbie And Ken brought their matching pink P71 Crown Vics, which picked up some BS laps due to their 3:90 gears and 5-speed transmissions. They’d have done worse, had their CHP costumes not been so great.

Matt Farah was there with Adam Carolla and an unnamed NBA player, shooting some sort of TV thing for Speed. Yes, a 7-foot-tall guy can fit in a caged 300ZX. More info on the show when I learn more.

The Dust-n-Debris Dodge Shadow got destroyed when it bashed the wall at Infineon a couple months back, so the team swapped the running gear over to a 90s Plymouth Duster. This will be a true 24-hour race: green flag at 10:30 AM Saturday, checkered flag at 10:30 AM Sunday. How many of the 80 entrants will be running by Sunday morning? Who can say?

To get an idea of what find racin’ machines passed through the hands of the LeMons Supreme Court today, here’s a video showing seven hours of inspections in a couple of minutes.
Music: Bennie Krueger, “Don’t Bring Lulu”, 1925
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Two Engines Equals Twice As Good: Toyota MR2olla! Fri, 11 Mar 2011 00:00:47 +0000
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!

The Volatile RAM MR2 has been racing in West Coast LeMons events since the 2007-08 Altamont era, and the team must have decided that all that wrenching in the pits (the MR2 has proven itself to be one of the less reliable LeMons cars) would be more fun if they vaulted to the ranks of the Legends of LeMons and took on the twin-engine challenge.

Conventional wisdom says that a twin-engined race car with four-wheel-drive and two separate transmissions will be a spinning nightmare on the track, will blow up for sure, will overheat, and is morally wrong besides. However, conventional wisdom also suggests that Toyotas should be reliable in low-budget endurance racing, and reality has shown that Saturn SL2s and Alfa Romeo Milanos are much more reliable LeMons cars… so go ahead and throw all your misgivings about the MR2olla right out the window! Yes, MR2olla; the team will be welding the front half of a 1989 Corolla to the rear half of a 1987 MR2. What could possibly go wrong?

“Aha!” you say, “The Corolla and the MR2 both use Toyota A engines and identical transmissions, so all you need to do is rig up some kind of Rube Goldberg transmission-cable linkage and the driver will be able to drive it like a regular car.” Not so! What the Verbose Beater team is doing involves an automatic transmission in the rear and a manual up front. Feel free to enumerate all the ways this will go terribly wrong; I’m reserving judgment until I see it on the race track. Actually, I’m not reserving judgment at all; if this thing makes one lap it will be a stunning, LeMons Legend-worthy succcess! We’ll see how it all sorts out at the Goin’ For Broken race in mid-May at Reno-Fernley.

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for the biggest 24 Hours of LeMons race of all time, at Sears Point in a couple of weeks. In fact, with 180 cars it’s possible that the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons race will be the biggest road race in history. See you there!

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