At long last, we have found a nice, cool place to remove all the sand and dust from the 2018 Monterey Car Weeeeak Lemons Rally, which is the roadgoing counterpart of the 24 Hours of Lemons. This was the third edition of the California rally and it incorporated many similarities with the very first Hell on Wheels Rally through Death Valley in August 2016. This one sent teams south from Seaside to San Pedro, then down to San Diego before two days in the desert via Yuma and the absolute middle of nowhere. The Rally then ran back to Santa Cruz and Seaside to close the loop in conjunction with the Concours d’Lemons Monterey.
This was a relatively small rally with many teams saving up time for the long-haul Route Sucky-Suck Rally (aka Route 66) in October, but the 21 cars that turned up were all absolutely spectacular in their own ways. Here’s a rundown of the 10 trophy winners, but you can see much, much more of the action from the rally by searching #LemonsRally on Instagram.
Dishonorable Mention – Highway Patrol Hillbillies (1959 Volvo 544)
This may have been a relatively small rally, but three fantastic Swedish machines showed up of the 21 cars. This rusty old Volvo is completely and totally everything we want to see on the Lemons Rally: A nicely designed mid-century car in a state that will lower property values.
The Hillibillies, a father-daughter team, spent much of the first day tinkering with the engine before a wheel bearing failure in the middle of absolute nowhere put them behind after Day 2. Somehow, two different shops had the right pieces to make one good bearing and the Volvo trucked on to the finish and a Dishonorable Mention trophy.
Dishonorable Mention – Sjogren Ford (1974 Saab Sonett III)
The second Swedish machine? Yes, it’s a Sonett, one of Saab’s weird little Ford V4-powered two-seaters. Dan Nelson and his son ran the 2017 Car Weeeeak Rally in a 1975 Plymouth Duster, which required a mid-Rally fix in rural Washington. This time, Nelson made his son do all the wrenching on the car before and during the Rally.
Maybe it’s ironic or maybe it’s just what a roadtrip should be, but the Lemons Rally has become a source of family bonding (or strife, depending on who you ask). And the little Sonett trundled along the full pull and then back home to Seattle.
Dishonorable Mention – Team Roadrage (1982 Chevrolet Chevette)
In 1982, the Chevette was the absolute cheapest American car you could buy, which makes it amazing that this beige one survived at all. This is pretty much the very picture of a disposable Malaise Era appliance and the Team Roadrage team managed to keep this one chugging along in no big hurry.
Magnificence, thy name is Chevette.
Dishonorable Mention – Team Dodgy-Ban (1995 Dodge B2500 Van)
We’ve thought before that we should make mirrored ceilings a requirement on Lemons Rally, but that’s just not practical. Thankfully, Team Dodgy-Ban’s absolutely bitchin’ custom van took up our slack with mirrored ceilings, shag carpet, and fender flares. Those are really all the hallmarks of real vannin’.
Winner on Points – Moostang 2: A Saab Story (1958 Saab 93b)
What can we say about the oldest of the three Swedes? Not only was this the ugliest car on the rally, it might actually be the ugliest car we’ve ever seen. There’s an awful lot of bodged-together bodywork along with a wheezing two-stroke engine.
The team cobbled together enough mileage from improvised materials to gain tons of points for roadside fixes. There was also an ill-advised trip to Mexico and an extraordinary amoung of misadventure. Through it all, the Klien Brauner Benz team bailed them out time after time and they deserve at least partial credit for getting the Saab to the finish line.
Things broken this trip: air cleaner, Mech fan, Electric fan, brake light switch, Belt, radiator, and the floor pan is tearing away from the firewall. Things we have spares for: transmission, carburetor, starter, tire. #hooptiescenes #lemonsrally #mureythemoose #ifitaintbrokedontfixit #cantstopwontstop
Regardless, this is pretty much the formula for a “successful” Lemons Rally: Really old, crappy car in terrible condition. You won’t sleep much, you’ll wrench in uncomfortable places—possibly including the back of a Volkswagen)—and you will fix the car with literally anything you can find. Congrats and well done!
Second Place on Points – Bologna Pony (1979 Ford Pinto Pony)
Next best was yet another beige version of the cheapest American car sold in its particular year. The Bologna Pony Pinto lacked air conditioning–absolutely not an option on the stripper-model Pinto–and with three guys in the small all-original car, we weren’t about to stick our noses anywhere near the interior of it by the Rally’s end.
But hey, the Lemons Rally isn’t supposed to be pretty, clean, or easy.
Third Place on Points – The Pirates Land (Rover) Ho! (1996 Land Rover Discovery)
The Pirates took home the Random Acts of Stupidity Trophy last year with the Volkswagen Bus that has driven all over the country. This year, they brought a Gambler 500-surviving Land Rover, which they converted into a pirate ship. It ran like absolute crap when it showed up and we figured it would display its Lucas Electrics guts at some point, but it never finally bit the bullet.
More importantly, the Pirates stayed in character with the garbage-bag flag, contact-paper “hull,” “Photo Bomb” cannonball, and simply the perfect fun-loving attitude for the Lemons Rally.
Lemons Should Hire This Guy – BoomBox (1999 Ford Econoline “Quigley” 4×4)
We’re all pretty excited about Quigley 4×4 Ford Vans, but three-time Lemons Rally runner David Rigmaiden had a surprise inside his: a 70,000,000-Watt (rough estimate) stereo system with a PA and a stage. And when the Rally participants camped in a lonely area of Johnson Valley, California, there was absolutely a full-on 150-decibel party in the middle of complete and utter nowhere.
Oh, and he put the stage out to host the Rally awards. Doing organizers’ job better than the organizers could? That’ll get you a trophy.
Random Acts of Stupidity – Santa’s Slay (1984 Mercedes 190D)
When we ran across these three guys in the California desert on a 110-degree day, we found Santa driving the car in full costume. The window motors were also all broken and so was the Merc’s air conditioning (although the sunroof worked enough to let in a little bit of air).
That wasn’t the only thing that qualified them for our favorite award of the Lemons Rally, but it sure indicated the level of absurdity to which they’d go to enjoy themselves. Or maybe that’s just normal for them. It’s probably the latter.
Organizer’s Choice – D2K Motors (1954 Nash Ambassador)
Rally Boss Steve McDaniel has earmarked this trophy for the one car on the Rally that he’d gladly take home. It was a really tough choice this time around, but he ultimately went with the not-really-finished-yet 1954 Nash Ambassador.
Long-gone was the original flathead engine and in its place was the turbocharged Ford four-cylinder engine like that used in the Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe or the Merkur XR4Ti.
Of course, the D2K team–who had run the Mirthmobile AMC Pacer last year–showed a full day late because they had been sleeplessly thrashing to finish the car. When it was all said and done, the Turbo Nash was a favorite among Rally contestants themselves and who could ever resist a classic piece of early post-war design that makes awesome turbo noises?
Next Up: Route Sucky-Suck Rally
That’s right, this is the full length of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica from October 27 to November 2. It’s a long rally, but what could be better than several dozen crapcans rusting along the Mother Road in real time? Get the full details and sign up here, then be sure to follow Lemons Rally on Instagram and on Facebook.