By on July 16, 2011

By the end of the day’s session at Gingerman Raceway, fewer than half the entrants’ cars were still moving under their own power. Hot weather and a punishing race course spelled doom for head gaskets, transmissions, brake calipers, and other critical components, while dehydration and fatigue led many drivers to make errors in judgment that sent them straight to the LeMons Supreme Court Penalty Box. A few teams are now poised to take advantage of the harsh attrition rate, both for the win on laps and the Index of Effluency trophy.

When the green flag waves on Sunday morning, the race leader will be the Skid Marks Racing Dodge Neon. This team, winner of last year’s Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500, hasn’t seen the LeMons Supreme Court’s Penalty Box since… well, ever. They threatened to win the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis, held here in April, and there’s no doubt that they’ve become the team to beat in the Midwest region.

To get an idea of what it’s going to take to catch these guys tomorrow, watch a bit of in-car video from April’s race.

However, the LeMons veterans in the Free Candy Racing Civic are just a few laps back of the Neon, and they don’t appear to be fading away. One stumble by Skid Marks and— fragile Honda head gasket willing— the Pedobear-themed Civic will take over. Meanwhile, the Teutonic E30 hordes aren’t far behind the top two.

Of course, LeMons aficionados know that the real prize is the Index of Effluency, and the Chevette Diesel made quite a strong IOE statement today. This thing is by far the slowest thing on the track, yet its startling reliability has it starting tomorrow’s session in mid-pack. GM cars always have an Index of Effluency advantage, particularly when their British Leyland competition nukes its engine (as occurred with the James Bondo TR7 early in the day).

We can’t say what will happen with the IOE race tomorrow, because some hitherto overlooked hooptie might outshine the Chevette. We can’t count out Speedycop and his Gang of Outlaws, because their ’65 Impala wagon finally made it onto the race track and looks pretty good out there. The morning dawned with the cage not ready, the roof off the car, and no driver’s seat or harnesses installed.

I set up a timelapse camera in the Speedycop pits to record the action; this sequence compresses about eight hours of work into a few minutes.

This mighty wagon looks glorious out there. Powerglide, 283, four-wheel drum brakes, and a trail of rust flakes in its wake. The dead-stock Impala is passing cars out there, including the Chevette, and it may just be able to climb the standings into IOE territory on Sunday. How high in the standings is that? There’s no formula!

The Impala wasn’t ready until late in the day, but it was much more reliable than anyone expected. The only problem was a strut rod that tore out of its rusty moorings. The owner of the car (who is renting it to Speedycop for the weekend) showed up and helped fix the problem with the help of the gas-axe.

The LeMons Supreme Court was kept busy for much of the day, with numerous recidivists getting sidelined for three-hour sentences for getting three black flags. It was too hot to dish out the disco-dancing Macho Man penalty, but we did break out our grimy Teletubby costumes for the Skid Row Teletubby penalty.

We introduced the Sandwich Board Penalty today. The miscreant dons a helmet equipped with a Taiwanese National Anthem car-alarm siren and a sandwich board, then marches around the paddock to the derisive hoots of other racers.

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11 Comments on “Detroit Irony Day One Wrapup: Neon Leads, Chevette Diesel Still Running, Rent-An-Impala Hits Track...”

  • avatar

    Seeing the banner pic of the 1980 Fiesta leading the pack does my heart good and all I can think is “Go Little Bobcat, GO!”

    btw, the ’65 Impala, like the Fiesta in it’s original config, never had side-marker lights (these only came along with FMVSS in Sept 1967)… so that car may be the only one of its kind! Would love to know the back-story of why someone felt compelled to install them!

    • 0 avatar

      Side markers are probably there in response to some overly-officious vehicle inspector. Installing side markers is cheaper than taking the thing somewhere else to be inspected by someone who knows what they’re talking about.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting theory, but I’m not convinved. FMVSS was not a retroactive law; no inspector at any level should have been able to compel their installation.

        btw, the Fiesta is a very special one, it is the top-trim Ghia model.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to go with crash damage repair with fenders that were already punched for the side marker lights. Though that certainly looks like a 65 fender. The other theory is just that the owner, or his wife wanted them. My great grandma had a 66 T-bird with a Lincoln hood ornament. My dad, who has the car now, says his father put it on there to help her aim the car down the road with the cross hairs.

  • avatar

    What sorts of infractions would land one before the Supreme Court? (and what do you have to do to earn the Teletubby penalty?)

  • avatar
    Andy D

    drum brakes , single piston MC, motor mounts bolstered by cables. Go Chebby

  • avatar

    My friend and I had rented a NEON when on vacation years ago. He kept “manually” shifting the thing, redlining it to fuel shutoff for 5 days. I was worried that the engine would grenade itself. After watch the video above I guess I should have not worried…

  • avatar

    Having owned a 1989 Ford Fiesta Ghia and a 1988 Saab 900 Turbo, This photo brings back many memories of good and bad times!! Fiesta was a great car btw,traded in for 1994 Suzuki Swift GT. Loved the 900 but every hour driven equalled 2 more in repair!!

    • 0 avatar

      Early Fiestas had only 3 short-comings … sticking-prone front calipers (if you lived in a salt state), water pumps that eventually leaked (and were a major bitch to replace), and a rear-window defroster switch with no timer that would eventually melt itself (if you forgot to turn it off) … otherwise, they were really quick and quite indestructable… (every hour in repair meant 1000 hours on the road.)

  • avatar

    Attended my first LeMons race yesterday. Had a great time, and enjoyed talking to a few of the participants. The Fiestas looked good on the track, and the Skid Marks Neon seemed to always be on the track, just taking care of business. The Chevy wagon looked cool out there — leaning it’s way through the curves. After reading about the number of 3-hour penalties, I now understand why there were such long periods of time that I didn’t see certain cars on the track.

    I’m in the initial stages of getting a car and crew for next year. Can’t wait to join the other morons on the track…….

  • avatar

    Its always nice to have an update on the weeks Lemons craziness before going out to work on the car I am prepping for the Buttonwillow race in December. If anyone in Los Angeles is looking for a team to join get in touch.

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