Texas LeMons weekends are often plagued with some kind of weather-related hardship. It’s 100 degrees and raining, it’s not raining but is 120 degrees— or, as was the case at our first Texas race in 2015, it’s a full-blown ice storm. So, when we arrived for the Gator-O-Rama at MSR Houston, it was a nice surprise to find scattered clouds and temps in the mid 60s.
The unusually civilized weather was actually bad news for longtime LeMons competitors Team Blue Goose, who have been long convinced that their key to victory is inclement conditions—in that instance, the superior traction of their AWD Audi 4000 would give them an insurmountable advantage.
Of course, in LeMons, having an extra .01g of grip on wet pavement matters a whole lot less than, say, not blowing up or sucking at driving. Which are two things that Blue Goose wholly avoided at MSR—thus, they won the race going away despite a total lack of raindrops.
A lot of first-timer teams showed up to MSR, which we love. Over the years, a pattern has emerged where successful pro drivers do well in LeMons, and total newbies do well in LeMons— it’s the guys who go out there thinking “I AM A RACING CHAMPION” that have the most issues.
One of the rookie standouts was Team Lowball and their excellent AMC Gremlin.
This ’74 example (a factory Gremlin X with Levi’s package) was returned to the dealer around 1980 as a trade-in on a new car (presumably a Spirit AMX). Apparently the nearly-new Gremmy was not exactly a must-have for the used-car clientele, and it languished on the lot for some time. Until, well, recently, when the Lowball guys dragged it away to make a LeMons car out of it. Sporting a stock 232 six, the Gremlin didn’t set any lap records, but it was steady enough for a solid mid-pack finish.
The #808 McNasty Motorsports Ford Ranger was another newbie entry, and this former daily driver was turning surprisingly competitive lap times right off the bat. Well, competitive with the Gremlin, anyway.
#98 Team Radicus, Olds 98: Power steering box leak.
#973 Rollongberts Racing, Ford Probe: Bad wheel bearing.
#771 Orca Racing, Porsche 914: Whatever happens on a 914 that results in the ENTIRE team lying dejectedly in t’dirt.
#95 Busted Racers, Porsche 944: Busted head gasket.
#80 The Resistance, Acura Legend: Blown clutch (Hey, cool, a manual transmission Legend! Oh, wait.)
#88 Team Alfanstein, Alfa Romeo Spider: It’s a $500 mechanically-injected Italian sports car from the ’70s. This should be flawless, so we’re not sure what’s going on there.
#2 Unknown SuperGuys, Mazda Miata: Overheating.
#972 Intrinsically Unsafe, Mazda Miata: SDOJS. (Stone Dead On Jack Stands.)
#6 Mysterious Racer X, Mazda RX7: Something with the pistons or valvetrain, probably.
#38 Team JB Weld LeMon Cab Co, Pontiac Grand Prix: Burst into flames.
#1 Despicable Racing, VW Bus: It’s running! UPDATE: It’s dead.
Some of these guys got back on track—the Orca 914, for example, snagged some parts from the dead VW Bus to get back in the running (earning a Judges’ Choice Award for their efforts)—but on the whole 25% of the field was probably conked out by the time the checkered flag fell. Maybe because this was a group of cars that needed VW Bus parts to improve their situation.
On the subject of improving one’s situation, the Sticky Bandits (another group of first-timers) showed up at tech inspection in a Cutlass Supreme with possibly the most badly-constructed roll cage LeMons inspectors have ever seen. Though valiant, the team’s attempt to leap into the world of cage fabrication by relying solely on YouTube and a Harbor Freight bender were less than successful.
But, unlike some teams that fail tech, the Sticky Bandits didn’t whine or give up— they spent the night after tech and most of the day Saturday working with a more experienced local fabricator to bring the Cutlass up to spec. Impressed by the team’s relentlessness, the LeMons staffers gave them the Heroic Fix trophy, which probably offset all of the time, money, effort, and sleepless nights spent on an ’80s Cutlass Supreme.
Other trophy winners included the I Got Screwed award, which went to Ratsun Racing and their amazing Datsun “B210ZX”— basically a period fiberglass body kit on a B210 Honey Bee—which is about as awesome as one would expect. The part where they got screwed was twofold: 1. The B210ZX actually ran this time, which is a departure from the norm; 2. Their other team car was that Grand Prix that burst into flames.
The grand Index of Effluency Prize went to previous IOE winners NSF Racing and their slow, smoky, and utterly terrible Chrysler Sebring convertible. The car was originally built for the 2014 LeMons race at Sebring Raceway— where LeMons offered free entry to Chrysler Sebrings— and for the past year-and-a-half since that event, the car was likely parked in a snake-infested swamp. During the evening between NSF’s actual race sessions—where they somehow drove the Sebring to a top-25 finish—they visited a local strip club which had the varied benefits of being full nude, being BYOB, and featuring small-statured performer Bridget Powers. In case you hadn’t already figured it out, NSF is from Florida.