By on December 13, 2011

On paper, a super-lightweight Lotus with a genuine ’68 Corvette 350 and Muncie 4-speed ought to eat up a road course; just go onto any online forum full of self-proclaimed car experts and they’ll tell you exactly that. Reality, on the other hand… well, reality doesn’t always live up to the expectations of internet car experts.
24 Hours of LeMons aficionados have seen this played out many times (e.g., the terrible LeMons C4 Corvette and the even more terrible LeMons Subaru SVX), and so we all took a deep breath when we saw the B-Team’s engine-swapped Lotus Elite at the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza BS Inspection.
The B-Team goes pretty far back in LeMons history. They showed up for their first race in early 2009 with the type of car that bores LeMons organizers the most (BMW E30) and the 11th version of a way-overdone TV-show-based theme.
However, they executed their theme— unoriginal as it was— quite well, and they were reasonably clean drivers. We became accustomed to the B-Team as veteran, usually hassle-free regulars in the West Coast LeMons Region.
Then, early in 2010, they showed up to a race with a top-notch new theme: the Pussy Wagën from Kill Bill, complete with costumes. Since my street name is Phil— dating back to my days as “Warlord” for the East Side Alameda Locos— they called their team “Kill Phil.”
I liked the B-Team’s new look so much that I hung their portrait in my office, right next to the extra-unsavory LBJ campaign poster and behind the illuminated Opel Manta Leuchtbild. But still, much as I like this team, they were racing a Bavarian Boredomwagen.
Until weekend before last, that is. Sometime between the end of the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 at Infineon and the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza, the B-Team acquired an Elite into which some mid-70s mechanical genius had stuffed an allegedly Corvette-sourced 350 small-block and Muncie 4-speed. They managed to get a LeMons-legal cage into the thing (which is no small feat, given that the Elite has about as much substance as a gingerbread house), but they didn’t have time to get it, you know, running prior to the race.
Engines that sit for decades often don’t work so well when revived, and the small-block Chevy turns out to be particularly ill-suited to all-weekend-long road-race abuse. By the morning before the race, the B-Team had managed to get the “Chotus’s” engine fired up, sort of. All that oil smoke wasn’t a good sign, but they persevered.
They tried to take it out onto the track for some Friday prerace practice, but the car crapped out after a few hundred yards. No problem, though— that’s what all-night wrenching sessions are for!
Saturday morning came, and the green flag waved. Where’s the Chotus? Finally, the car clattered onto the track around noon. Hmmm… is it supposed to smoke that bad?
No, it’s not.
So, back to the pits for some more work.
To their credit, nobody on the B-Team was heard mentioning comparisons between the Chotus and their E30, in spite of the fact that the Pussy Wagën had been a consistent top-ten contender.
The engine was burning oil out of one bank while under load, which many paddock bystanders (myself included) told the B-Teamers was fairly strong evidence for bad oil rings on at least one piston on that side of the engine. However, the B-Team decided that the problem must be a bad intake-manifold gasket.
You know what? They were right! Once they fixed the gasket (and the distributor, and the carburetor, and the fuel pump, and probably several dozen other things), they managed to get the car onto the track on Sunday, knocking out a not-so-bad 68 total laps.
That was good enough for 117th overall (out of 131 entries), and the invented-for-the-occasion Least From The Most trophy (not to mention slam-dunk Legends of LeMons status, whenever I get around to doing the 2011 awards). You can read the B-Team’s story in their own words here. Good work, B-Team!

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34 Comments on “Chevy 350-Powered Lotus Elite Fails To Dominate Race, Nobody Shocked...”

  • avatar

    “Least From the Most”, love it!

  • avatar

    Well that was exciting. I especially loved it when they proved you wrong about bad rings, even though I was sure you were right. What a twist to that wicked (in the best Boston sense of the word) tale!

    But as for that car, Lotus E-what??? Shades of AMC in the back.

    Go B-Team! (the B could easily stand for Boston)

  • avatar

    So that would be an LSX FTL, then?

  • avatar

    It looks like most of these cars are WAY over the $500 limit.

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts exactly, that or the process goes as “Team owner buys the car cheap, than sells it to a team-mate for $500 and a few extras”, you can buy a pricey car but sell the parts to make it $500 worthy but come on, hows a barely working Lotus in that range?

      Either that or the car only has to be valued at $500, not neccesarily sold for $500.

      • 0 avatar

        Well first of all the list of items that don’t count is rather long. For example wheels, tires, brakes, safety equipment and steering components don’t count towards the $500 limit. Also y9ou are allowed to sell items off of the car to reduce the value (but not below $0) which you can then spend back up to $500. So assuming you can find a $1000 car, sell $1000 worth of parts (receipts are required) and then add $500 worth of improvements you could have a $1500 car depending on how you look at things. Throw in $2500 worth of safety items (cages are not cheap and often teams include a fire system rather than rely on one small fire bottle) and you could have $4000 in the car easy.

        This is all kept in check by the BS inspection however where you can be penalized for spending over the $500 limit at one lap per $10 or even appearing to spend over $500 if your car is too cheat-tastic. All this is done to ensure that your car is at certain level of crappiness that keeps the race competitive.

        Have people cheated in the past? Sure but #1 that doesn’t always help as much as you’d think and #2 karma usually comes back to bite those folks that do, either by crushing as the “people’s curse” or by on-track incidents where the drivers of said cheating car don’t have the talent to keep it on the track.

    • 0 avatar

      It is a loose rule sonny.

      Hell, they will let you race a 2011 Prius if you wanted because the rule is forgotten upon cars that have no chance of winning.

      If you drag a valuable wretched vehicle on wheels and it looks like only God himself can push it past the 100 lap mark, I can pretty much guarantee that you will not get any penalty laps.

    • 0 avatar

      You have to get creative to find cars like these. The typical craigslist “Miata” [price under $500] doesn’t do the trick.

      More like you have to drive around sketchy industrial sections and try the buy the dust-caked hulk out of the back of their lot. You have to be clever enough to recognize 1 or 2 parts on a crappy rare car might be worth as much as the purchase price.

    • 0 avatar

      What happened to the ‘People’s Curse’? That’s the only thing that kept teams from going too far past the $500 rule

    • 0 avatar

      Rules…? They’re more like guidelines you see.

    • 0 avatar

      1. Brakes/tires/safety equipment doesn’t count.

      2. Teams get a residual value assigned to their car after every race, which gives them a little money to play with and fix the car. Lots of these cars are multiple race veterans and over time have been able to upgrade.

      3. Take a look at many of these cars up close. They’re good from a-far, but far from good.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking about that. If genuine those wheels alone are about $500 each. If not all four are worth about that new.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious as to why a lot of people think a car like this violates the $500 limit. It’s an UGLY, old, fleabag, unloved model, hell project that needed A LOT of work from an experienced fabricator/mechanic to even have a chance at moving under it’s own power. The fact that it’s a Lotus means nothing. I’ve seen Ferraris within reach of making budget. Try this, go on Crazedlist for your area, cars under $1000. Enter “project”, “sitting”, “storage”, “mechanic”, “barn”, “for parts”. See what you find. It might surprise you. If you can part out the value of any rolling shell down to $500, you’re in good shape. A running drivetrain donor is much easier to find for around $300-500. With the price of scrap these days, you can have that drivetrain for basically no money. Before you know it, you have a Rolls Royce (yes, I have found them for near nothing before) lemons car powered by a FWD 3800 V6 from a wrecked Grand Prix for $500.

      As somebody who has built something as crazy as this to run in the Lemons series, I can tell you the worst thing anybody can say about your car is that it’s a cheater. These cars are worthless, but rich in team effort to prepare.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Lemons should change the official rules to “$500 or suitably terrible as deemed by the judges”

      I mean something like a $800 Maserati Biturbo or TR7 technically breaks the rules, but they aren’t going to win and they are crazy enough that they should be allowed to race.

  • avatar

    Will someone call Lotus quick, there are still hope for Lotus to run with a big American Vee 8, just like the jensen bros, ISO, De Tomaso, Monteverdi did then.

  • avatar

    Hopefully someone races a Moskvitch Elite with a V8 conversion some day. It couldn’t be much worse.

  • avatar

    It’s a crappy, bizarro C4 ZR1! However, IIRC, the 350ci wasn’t put into a Corvette until ’69. The ’68 still used a 327.
    Also take note that the 301ci Pontiac engine in the SpeedyCop Bonneville made it through its whole race and finished in the top half of the field.

  • avatar

    So what is it that makes a SBC bad for endurance racing? Poor oiling? These engines are legends of durability on the street, just like slant sixes and many Toyota 4s…yet all of them have the durability of a potato chip in a hurricane under LeMons conditions…GM small blocks live for many hours in marine applications, though they are no doubt built for sustained high rpm use???

    • 0 avatar

      Chronic overheating seems to be the big problem. They do OK for about four hours, and then the trouble starts.

    • 0 avatar

      You have to remember that these are junk yard engines we’re talking about here. Given what Murilee says about overheating I’d guess that the coolant passages on most of them are full of the kind of rust and crud only a neglected engine that has been hooned to within an inch of its life can develop.

      • 0 avatar

        No, I’d say that the majority of LeMons small-blocks have been opened up and gone through- keep in mind that the majority of team members running one is a dyed-in-the-wool Chevy fanatic and knows the hardware inside and out. The real problem is that teams can’t resist adding more cam, higher compression, etc, and then revving the piss out of the engine. The handful of small-block Chevy (and Ford Windsor) engines that have held together for race after race have been kept on a strict sub-4500-RPM regimen.

  • avatar
    Steve W.

    Ok, so I’ll admit that that this car wasn’t quite $500, but it was way less than you guys expect. Amongst other things, it wasn’t a rolling chassis when we got it. The parts were there, just some of them were in the boot. Also it wasn’t entirely a cash transaction. The seller got a 10 year old fridge as part of the deal…

    Love the writeup Phil, we’ll make sure the bribes keep flowing.

    Steve W, B-teamer

    • 0 avatar

      That makes sense, but $500 or not thats a pretty cool rat-rod (in a sense of a real rat rod, not some primered VW) Lotus you got there.

      Think you’ll paint it like the Gadgetmobile?

  • avatar

    I’m sorry, but after looking at this Lotus for a day or two, all I can come up with is that is one ugly car. Phooey.

  • avatar

    you have an office?

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