Vellum Venom Vignette: Art and Design at The 24 Hours of LeMons 2013

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

My worst moment at the College for Creative Studies was during Portfolio Review: a presentation of one’s body of work since the beginning of the semester. So it comes as no surprise that my favorite parts of a LeMons race is judging the artistic(?) themes of the cheaty $500 race cars in attendance. Let’s combine the two for this quick vignette into an alternate world of automotive design: come up with a moderately creative theme, say or do something idiotic, make me laugh and perhaps I’ll forget about that fancy header…or those super cheaty shocks that supposedly “came with the car.”

Did you really think that car design ends in the studio?

A 1990’s Pontiac Trans Am is a great canvas. This aftermarket(?) hood works well with the warning sign cribbed from an OSHA-compliant industrial zone. It’s mounted and cut in a way to harmonize with the body’s cut lines…for a reason…

Right. A toxic waste of a machine. Also note the sweet T-top covers.

Major props for the Terminator 2 style dying hand in a pit of goo! This was a great theme that made good use of the Firebird’s real estate. This was a short and sweet Portfolio Review, also because F-bodies are so horrible in LeMons!

The Tow-Mater themed Miata is a local favorite. “His” eyeballs went up for this LeMons race, as it was a full 24 hour running. While not as cute with those square headlights in play, this team did a fantastic job impersonating the vehicle of many a kid’s fancy: check out the weathered paint on the door! And since this Miata is only moderately cheaty with good-natured racers in tow, well, it’s hard to hammer them too hard during their Portfolio Review.

Yup, Escort Service. You just know these guys will fare well in their Portfolio Review. Because this is probably painted on a…

Ford Escort. While this platform has uber LeMons potential with enough cheating and a decent crew, many an E30 must die in the paddock before it’ll ever win. Combine that with the truly tasteless (yet clever) theme involving the famous Escort name…yeah, they got off easy. Ish.

This Shelby (yes, Shelby!) Daytona Z made plenty of friends at the race. Usually Engineers aren’t the most creative with themes…but…

Okay, this isn’t especially clever, but mechanical engineering formulas/jargon on a car tuned by Shelby himself is entertaining. Because we all owe so much to Nikolaus A. Otto!

Supposedly that’s the formula for an automobile’s exhaust composition. Some of the elements look right to my unverified eyeballs, but it didn’t help this Shelby. It barely ran long enough to produce said byproduct of the Otto Combustion Cycle.

Beaker from the Muppets sealed the deal: this Shelby sailed through its Portfolio Review easily. Great theme on a horrible K-car! How could it NOT dominate the slowest class in LeMons??? (It didn’t, remember it’s still a K-car.)

I had to dress up for my Portfolio Review, so I appreciate it when racers do the same. Kudos to the flying sausages!

Great artwork too, by the way. Someone definitely listened to Rob Zombie when they attacked the hood of this Porker.

Ditto this Toyota Supra with the Texas flag on the hood, made out of Shiner Beer bottle caps. Passed Portfolio Review with flying colors!

They say it’s Chuck Norris, I think it’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad! Plus it’s an E30, so this Portfolio Review might go poorly!

This Buick Century was “hand painted” in support of a local charity in Austin. Part horrible Art Car, part horrible LeMons racer. I LOVED IT.

How can you say no to a vehicle with this much style? With a suspension so soft that the rear sloshes in harmony with the front when you push down on the front bumper? It literally felt like a water bed with no internal baffles. Sailed right through the Portfolio Review!

Pretty obvious, but totally worth a laugh on inappropriateness alone. But this was (IIRC) a super-cheaty Integra, and no amount of low-brow humor can overcome that!

A brilliantly executed theme on a VW you’d otherwise forget.

Slapping a mannequin onto a Honda Civic does not a good theme make, but seeing the underwear’s collection of track filth netted a hearty laugh.

Plus it’s a Honda Civic, so it’ll be driven waaaay too hard and the head gasket will go explodey…Portfolio Review, Passed!

One of my favorite cars is next. This Ford Probe is an eye catcher in the world of crap cars for a good reason! Note the attention to detail in the paintwork and the craftsmanship in the spoiler made of license plates.

Retaining the (rather cool when new) Probe SE graphic in your custom LeMons mural? Brilliant!

Even their name has some style…even if “some other guys” kinda ruined it.

Considering Houston is the home of the Art Car scene, this Probe does a good job mocking the genre. Or is it paying homage?

And lastly, the Probe’s roof. Michaelangelo would be proud…except not.

If Upton Sinclair ever ironically drove a Dodge Neon race car in the Land of Steakhouses…

A truly horrible theme for an increasingly less horrible LeMons racer. At least the team (all two of them) dressed to match the Gas Monkey thing. This Datsun roadster is all-electric, and considering its terrible (but ever improving) on-track performance, “aping” a horrible TV show that grows on you…well, it totally made sense. What’s that sound that Richard Rawlings always makes? Wow-ooooh!

Because Barbie always wanted a GMC Caballero. Did they ever make a Ken doll with a mullet?

Another winner in this race for losers, they sailed through the Portfolio Review on theme/vehicle choice alone. They offered to bribe and we told them it wasn’t necessary!

And with that, an apology: I’m sorry to soil your finely honed eyeballs with these horrible excuses for car design. I promise to do better next time. But thanks for reading…and I hope you have a lovely week. Still!

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • 08Suzuki 08Suzuki on Oct 22, 2013

    I have to admit, this year's portfolio seems universally awful, the Toxic Trans Am and Tow-Miater being the only exceptions.

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Oct 22, 2013

    This is the best thing I've seen in TTAC in ages!!! Lets have more portfolio reviews!!! Damn, I am so going to a LeMons. But help me here, SAjeev: what kind of car is the Barbie Corvette?

    • See 1 previous
    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Oct 23, 2013

      Correct, it's the GMC version of the Elky. Thanks for the kind words, David.

  • 1995 SC On the plus side, I found a sedan I want to buy
  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.