Over the weekend a gaggle of sign-toting individuals assembled at the Detroit Renaissance Center to demand General Motors restore the long-defunct Saturn brand. While we would wager that there were a few earnest individuals keen to see the return of “ A Different Kind of Company,” the event was actually a last-minute goof put on by attendees of the Michigan Concours d’Lemons — America’s favored auto show for bizarre or impressively awful vehicle designs.
Someone forgot to tell the media, however.
Jeff “Speedycop” Bloch is arguably the most famous competitor in the history of the 24 Hours of LeMons. Not because he wins the race (although he does have one overall win to my knowledge) and not because he’s been my teammate on a few occasions, but rather because of the unique “Class C” cars that he builds. From an “upside-down” Camaro to the infamous Spirit Of LeMons, Speedycop is always looking for a way to race something that’s never been raced before.
His latest announcement won’t disappoint his fans in the slightest.
In my life, I’ve officiated exactly two LeMons races thanks to the good graces of Murilee Martin. At those races, I’ve watched tech inspectors go over seats, belts and harnesses with more scrutiny than border guards in Israel. To be sure, it’s astounding to me how much safety needs to be welded, worked and crammed into a “junker” from the outside — most people never see that. But even I wondered sometimes why tech was so hard to pass.
There are myriad things that can go wrong on a racetrack. However, there are only a few things that can save lives when those things go wrong. For those lifesaving devices, there’s no substitute or corner-cutting, and there are reasons why good teams spend more on a cage and brakes than they ever spend on an engine.
Case in point: Coming up on a blind crest and running face-first into the rear of a stalled car and everyone is OK after.
In honor of Miller Motorsports Park’s glorious sale back to the people, fellow auto scribe and LeMons chief judge Murilee Martin, Cheat Sheet Managing Editor Andrew Ganz and I made the people’s journey Thursday across the [s]wasteland[/s] wonderful state of Wyoming to judge the proletariat’s race. (I’ll have a story on that later.)
The annual Return of the LeMonites will have a decidedly “red” feel this year, thanks to Murilee’s savvy Alibaba skills and dirt-cheap shipping costs from China.
This isn’t my first rodeo as LeMons judge — but it is my first tour for the best race series on the planet back in the Beehive State. I went to school at the University of Utah (AP No. 10, Coaches No. 12, ESPN No. 9) and Utah is my second home for many reasons. Basically, I’m saying I’m comfortable enough here to make terrible drivers go get me Beto’s if they drive like assholes.
I like the unusual when it comes to cars — as must be quite clear from the pieces I’ve written over the last few months. However, my current fleet is quite mainstream, consisting of a Chrysler minivan, the wife’s Chevy Trailblazer, and a first-generation Miata. Perhaps that explains my wandering eye.
Over the last couple years, I’ve developed an appreciation for Fiats that is nearly inexplicable, and potentially unhealthy. I’ve even caught myself ogling Yugos in junkyards. I’ve said it before; I’m a sucker for a great exhaust note, and somehow even this single-cam four cylinder sounds amazing.
Rust, of course, is always an issue with anything built in the Seventies. This 1981 Fiat X1/9 isn’t immune, and it appears to have some of the typical surface rot in the sills. The seller claims that the paint is mostly original, so it shouldn’t be hiding anything.
He also says it’s unmolested. I hate that term.
Transparency in Motorsport… (photo courtesy: Murilee Martin)
A friend and I want to get into LeMons racing, but neither of us has much cash to throw at a hooptie or experience working on cars. I’ve changed oil, tires, lights, and brake pads but done little else.
I guarantee that every brand loyalist will have a reason to hate me after reading this article.
Every manufacturer sells a shitty car or two and then hides those defects behind a not-so-small army of lawyers, dealers, and corporate employees.
It’s the corporate American way. In our legal world, the power of denial can save you billions of dollars if you have the right army to fight your battles.
Every manufacturer plays this game. Every… single… one…
The fine folks over at The Atlantic (yeah, the fancy magazine) have posted a 5-minute short film on the experience that is LeMons. We love it.
(Spot fellow TTAC scribe Murilee Martin in the robe at 1:45.)
For the uninitiated, it’s a expertly captured glimpse at the personalities that make home-grown racing the best kind of racing. For the car nut, the film serves as motivation to get out and work on your race mongrel — now.
It is the Mustang that could help students become future astronauts, however.
Ford announced Wednesday the one-of-a-kind Apollo Edition Mustang that will be auctioned July 23 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to benefit the Experimental Aviation Association’s Young Eagles program, a youth flying education program.
On top of the Saturn V-inspired paint, the 2015 Mustang GT goes like a rocket: 627 horsepower and 540 pound-feet of torque.
Were you ever taught something you already knew, something you normally teach others? That moment of surrealism came for this regional LeMons Judge while attending the Newbie School in a new racing series called the World Racing League. Baruth already gave you a tease: I set aside the idiotic ironic Indian Chief hat of LeMons for a weekend stint as a racer/pit crew/errand boy with the same team that brought you the iconic Ford Fairmont Wagon: now with more Granada.
Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash. As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…
…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip. And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you. The Poorvette is proof positive.
Racing is more than the story on track. If there’s thing I’ve learned in the last few years of rassin’ adventures is that the real battle in racing is the one leading up to getting the car on track. Not just the mechanical struggle of preparing a car to drive in conditions its creators had never anticipated, but in the personal struggles the teams could never had anticipated, too.
Some may have noticed we’ve been quiet on our Lemons exploits last fall, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Plain and simple, the deal for our 450SLC fell apart in such spectacular fashion that we decided to tactfully push it under the rug and move on with plans for our own in-house team. Sure, we’d wasted a ton of money, travel, and time off work, but what would the point be of publicly humiliating the person who had let us down?
That was our opinion, anyway. But Brandon Spears, owner of the Syndicate Lemons team, “builder” of the 450SLC we’d arranged to rent, and the letter-downer in question, had a different opinion about letting sleeping dogs lie.
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?
Yeah, I opened this up for the screen shot, but I had been listening
You have heard it before, you’ll hear it again. Probably soon, probably better and probably from Louis CK, in which case it will definitely be funnier.
But what an age we live in! Literally, a mere 10 years ago my wife sat at home hoping my once a week phone call from Africa would actually connect. Today, I am texting her as she has lunch with her little brother in Virginia. But what’s more impressive is that I am doing that while watching real time race updates as my buddies the Three Pedal Mafia and their beater Rolls Royce battle Speedycop and his amazing upside down racecar at on the 24 Hours of Lemons at NJMP. The mighty K Car wagon is there as well.
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- MaintenanceCosts Compromised safety test results and minivans do not go well together.A shame as the looks are neat (the last interesting van) and the CVT/V6 powertrain is better than a lot of people give it credit for.
- Tassos Oh yeah! Great Catch! All my life I was looking for such an UTTER PIECE OF CRAP from the CRAPPY 70s and 80s, when ALL Cars were Crappy... at least all DOMESTIC cars were. Seriously?Maybe next time you will outdo yourself and dig up the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses the Second.
- SCE to AUX If Lexus badge-engineered a Camry in 1977, this is what you'd get.27 HP/liter - wow... my new 2.5T has 112 HP/liter and many engines are much higher. Malaise Era, indeed.GM died by a thousand cuts, and this car is definitely one of them - 100% mediocrity.
- CoastieLenn I like the ergonomics and the looks of this better than any other minivan of it's day, but I can hear it's CVT failing thru the pictures.
- Tassos I'll give it a look but doubt it will even come close to the EQS.