We haven’t had many 1940s cars compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons, partly because such cars have rusted to nothingness in large swaths of the country and partly due to an undeserved racer bias against flathead engines. There’s the 1949 Nash Airflyte of NSF Racing and the 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe that competed this month at the Decade of Disappointment race in Michigan (however, two 1950 model-year LeMons vehicles have raced: the NSF Racing Mercedes-Benz 170 and the Grumpy Cat Racing Dodge pickup). The Bad Decisions Plymouth not only won the prestigious Index of Effluency trophy at its very first LeMons race, it ran flawlessly all weekend.
Under the hood, a completely stock 217-cubic-inch Chrysler flathead straight-six, a legendary Detroit powerplant that was manufactured from the 1920s through the 1970s. This engine has proven to be very reliable in our series, based on its performance in both the Bad Decisions ’48 Plymouth and the Grumpy Cat ’50 Dodge.
The Bad Decisions crew bought this car for $1,100 as an abandoned restoration project. The team sold off the interior, glass, and most of the trim (much of it to me, for my 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe project), then scavenged up a Ford Explorer rear axle and front spindle assemblies. This gave the Bad Decisions team a car with suicide doors, 95 flathead horses, a three-on-the-tree manual transmission, and four-wheel disc brakes. The final cost after accounting for parts sold and budget-exempt parts? 510 dollars, and the team insisted on getting the single penalty lap called for by the $10 overage.
Most LeMons cars suffer from at least a couple of mechanical problems when they first encounter a race track, and this includes modern 21st-century cars. This ancient Plymouth ran perfectly all weekend, though, finishing 72nd out of 108 entries. Along the way, the Bad Decisions Plymouth pilots beat two Mazda RX-7s, two BMWs, a Toyota MR2, a Mustang, a Taurus SHO, a Firebird, three Volkswagens, two Civics, a Neon, and a supercharged Lumina APV minivan. What does this mean? When you’re shopping for a new race car, go for something with factory Chrysler flathead power!