TTAC Does the 24 Hours of LeMons. And Dies. Again.

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
ttac does the 24 hours of lemons and dies again

The weekend of October 24-25 was the third running of the 24 Hours of LeMons at Motorsport Ranch in Houston, TX. TTAC was there for the insanity. And it was the fourth time our LeMons race car, a 1972 Datsun 240Z hit the track. I was an honorary “penalty” judge this time ’round (props to Autoblog’s Jonny Lieberman and LeMon’s Founder Jay Lamm for that), so I did the best I could for my teammates when they got black flagged. But I’m no crooked judge, Jonny said I was too nice to other teams, too. No matter, it wasn’t enough for us to come close to victory. Then again, the Datsun Z is the butt of many a LeMon’s joke. What’s up with that?

How could a little sports car with a fully independent suspension and a healthy six-pot motor perform so poorly? More to the point, perhaps you remember some of the “cheating” we did to our LeMon’s ringer: a milled down stock flywheel, 280ZX long block and disc brake upgrades and a smokin’ deal on a coil-over suspension at a Z-club silent auction. Everyone expected Z-cars to perform well in these races, but no matter who runs the Fairlady from the Land of The Rising Sun, it all ends in Epic Fail. And so it was this time: our car performed well the first day of racing, with the power to pull hard on damn near everyone in the straights too. But the competition is even better than last year, and the Z’s temperature gauge was none to happy about it. By Day Two, the head gasket said sayonara. So we paused, re-thought our action plans and finally packed it up to plan for next February’s race.

While I know that Z-cars are doomed to mediocrity because E30 BMW’s, Toyota Corolla FX hatchbacks (yes, really) and Foxbody Mustangs have taken the checkered flag, Jay Lamm’s own words about the Z-car tells the sad truth: Datsuns are out of date and hopelessly uncompetitive against modern vehicles. That’s sounds like a challenge to me, and TTAC’s crew chief Troy Hogan knows it. Rest assured, his (insane?) dedication to the Datsun brand means that one day a Z-car will come up a winner.

Eventually. But these events are fun for racers, brand loyal fanatics, and anyone who loved these cars (mostly 1980s and 1990s iron) when they were new. And enjoy seeing them get a new lease on life, or a stay of execution. And much like TTAC, the 24 Hours of LeMons is all about the product, stupid. Much like C/D, the BMW 3-series comes up a winner far too often. But that’s not the point.

If you haven’t seen a 24 Hours of LeMons race, go to one of next year’s events. The series is growing every year, mostly because of word of mouth and an unbelievably low cost of entry, relative to SCCA and NASA sanctioned motor sport events. Even if you don’t race, you’ll be hooked after one lap of $500 heaps making an absolute mess (mockery?) of your local road course.

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  • Dolorean23 Dolorean23 on Nov 30, 2009

    Why not go with a '85-86 300ZX with the 3.0L six? For that matter, and if you simply have to have a Datsun/Nissan for this, why not utilize a '89-90 Maxima, the original 4doorsportscar? Or the 200SX of the same era? Seems to me you are determined to sew a silk purse from a pig's ear with the 240Z.

    • Troy h Troy h on Dec 14, 2009

      We started with the 240Z, cause I already had a documented car for $200. It had a lot of potential. In fact that's about all it had: potential. It's fairly light with a decent chassis. There are lots of easy mods too. The fact that it's one of the oldest cars in LeMons and puts down some of the fastest lap times says something. The Schwing FX16 Corolla is fast too. They are good drivers but it's a freakin' econo box for crying out loud! In my opinion, the Z31 is more of a touring sedan than sports car. They are heavy without as many easy junkyard mods as the earlier straight 6 cars. First gen 300ZXs, Z31's, seem cheap enough, I bought on for $150 the other day. They are relatively heavy and don;t have that much power but they are a decent candidate. They are more technologically advanced than the previous cars which often times translates into electronic challenges. I have a 4DCS, I like it and it could be a good LeMons candidate. Most cheap ones now a days are automiatics with bad transmissions. Like the Z31, the Maxima has the VG30 motor which is pretty durable. Just make sure you have a good timing belt. That said, VG30s have died at LeMons. There have been 200SXs in LeMons. They have some connections with the Z cars. They seem to be okay. The ideal LeMons car is one you are willing to waste invest excessive amounts of time and money on with no possible return other than to have an awesome weekend.

  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Dec 01, 2009

    Because LeMon's 300Zx's do no better than the 240, and we have a lot of 240 knowledge in our group. Call it stubbornness, but we're gonna make it work. And it's not all the car's fault, the teams that win are the ones that drive somewhat conservatively and don't get black flagged by the track staff. People make the difference more than the car...sometimes.

    4DSC's are too big, though they'd probably do just as well as the Taurus SHOs. That's not a compliment.

    • See 1 previous
    • Troy h Troy h on Dec 14, 2009

      It looks like we had some detonation which compromised the head gasket which further led to overheating. I may try drilling and tapping the head for additional cooling too.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.