Post-Race Engine Post-Mortem: What Blew Up?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
post race engine post mortem what blew up

Because most of the Saturday race session at the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis took place in rainy and/or snowy conditions, drivers couldn’t flog their engines as mercilessly as they had at the rod-throw-a-palooza Real Hoopties of New Jersey the week before. The sun came out on Sunday, however, and that’s when the casualties started to mount.

A few of the Detroit entries suffered from non-spectacular engine failures, stuff like timing chains and oil pumps, but the engine-carnage party didn’t really get going until the Landshark MX-3 came limping off the track in a cloud of smoke, accompanied by terrible clattering noises. The timelapse camera on the Chicken and Waffles Quantum Syncro caught the Mazda’s final lap.

That engine-block hole with smoke and oil gushing out can’t be good.

This shard of the block was found lodged in the radiator.

Check out the radiator bulge created by the impact of that metal fragment! Given the violence of the connecting rod’s failure, we were all impressed that the Mazda managed to leave the track under its own power.

This Jetta managed to eat its engine bearings during practice on Friday, but the engine didn’t actually seize up until the kill-switch test portion of the inspections.

All those metal chunks in the oil pan can’t be a good sign.

The Team Euro Trash guys didn’t give up, however; a Craigslist-obtained replacement engine went in Friday night and the car ran most of the race… and then the bearings failed in the second engine, late on Sunday (this happens frequently with VW engines in LeMons). Euro Trash took home the Heroic Fix trophy their first time out, so it was a happy ending for them.

The BMW M20 engine is no stranger to the thrown rod, as most LeMons E30 racers can tell you, and that’s what put the Swiss Racing 325e on the trailer.

Most of the time, an M20 rod seeking escape goes out through the block. In this case, it went for the exit route preferred by Ford Windsor rods: through the oil pan.

The Soviet-themed Byte Marks Racing Ford Escort GT wasn’t very quick, but it held together pretty well Saturday and most of Sunday.

Unlike its MX-3 cousin, the Escort GT wasn’t able to limp off the track under its own power after the engine blew up. Plenty of oil on the track now!

The Wisconsin Crap Racing “Not An SE-R, Really” Nissan 200SX was another late-Sunday casualty.

When the track speeds go up at a LeMons race, you see this sort of thing every hour or so. Still, with only a few hours of pedal-to-metal dry weather for the weekend, the rate of engine failure was lower than usual. For the first time in, well, ever, not a single small-block Chevy or Ford Windsor puked its bottom end onto the track in a 24 Hours of LeMons race. USA! USA!

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  • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Apr 21, 2011

    I was hoping there would be something about the MR2 with the radial engine. I read that they had to do a transmission swap, then it made one lap and ate its custom-made gearbox.

    • Neil Neil on Apr 21, 2011

      I chatted with the builder about it briefly. It was a sheared-off input shaft, I believe (gearing came off the end). I was a bit confused, but it looked rather severe. If that part (which was super-high-quality) did not die in that way, then it would have eaten through the gears on there in a few more laps--they were not 100% aligned with one another in some way or another. In other words, 600 ft lbs of torque is REALLY hard to handle on an improvised engine configuration! The engine was awesome, but the transmission could not handle the awesomeness.

  • Neil Neil on Apr 21, 2011

    What, no coverage of the diesel Chevette engine? Let me do that now: The head gasket waited 27 years to instantly and completely dissolve into diesel exhaust. The radiator went through all of its water in about a lap. It was deader than dead.

  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.