24 Hours of Lemons: A C3 Corvette With…BMW Power?

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When 24 Hours of Lemons Chief Perp Jay Lamm held the first crapcan endurance race in 2006, he intended it as a good-natured thumbed-nose to established road racing. The very idea of sullying road courses with clattering Ford Fairmonts and Hyundai Excels is sacrilege to the gentlemanly pursuit of road racing. What Lamm didn’t intend—although it followed logically—was a tradition of Lemons cars built largely for sacrilege. You can read about many of those right here, but Low Road Racing’s 1976 Chevy Corvette debuted last weekend at The Ridge Motorsports Park as one of the pinnacles of Lemons sacrilege.

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If the Warsteiner-BMW paint scheme didn’t give it away, this C3 Vette (the first in Lemons) packs a BMW M50 inline-six engine. Corvette owners typically spring to defend the sanctity of their babies with fervor, so this was a particularly fantastic piece of sacrilege. Add to the fact that Lemons HQ’s permanent staff all worked on Corvette Magazine in the early 2000s and there will never be enough appreciation for this car in Lemons. This is a royal-level troll job that also—Sorry, Corvette owners—vastly improves the car.

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Naturally, the internet’s first “$500 CAR YAH RITE!!!” rained from keyboards within seconds of this car rolling into BS Inspection, but Low Road’s Aaron Brooks really did build the car for dirt cheap. He’d yanked the car for free from the deep woods, where he’d found it with no floor pans, 33-inch tires, truck suspension, and cut rear quarters. The owners were divorcing–wonder why?–and needed to clear the property; Brooks had a trailer and suddenly, a blank Lemons canvas.

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Low Road’s other two cars include a Pontiac Sunbird painted like a three-quarter scale Tim Richmond Pontiac NASCAR and a Rainier-painted Ford Mustang II. The team wanted another beer car and racked their brains for a fitting one during a late-night wrench session. They eventually passed on any kind of Corvette or American livery and said, “What about any beer-livery race car?”

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The Warsteiner BMW E30 from 1980s DTM came up and the logical next sentence was that they’d need a BMW engine if they were going to do that. “We looked each other for a second and then got the tape measure out,” Brooks said. Within a few hours, Brooks had picked up an E34 5-Series to donate the engine and five-speed transmission for $500.

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The BMW power was basically the only non-Corvette part on the car with Brooks fabricating many parts on his own. That took countless hours and Brooks pretty much lived in his garage for the final two weeks before the race.

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When it arrived in BS Inspection, the Corvette drew a huge crowd of onlookers and gawkers. Some were amazed that the Lemons Supreme Court awarded them Class A with zero penalty laps. Even though the BMW M50 adds 25 horsepower and subtracts at least 100 pounds from the original ‘76 Corvette engine, it still retains the fairly antiquated suspension design. 

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When it’s on the track, the Corvette boggles minds. The classic BMW inline-six sound emanates from a car that should instead belch out the classic Small-Block Chevy rumble. A broken exhaust manifold and some electrical niggles kept the car from running all weekend. However, Brooks said they were hoping just to shake it down and see how the car was on track at its first outing. At future races, it just might be competitive.

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For the delicious sacrilege, Lemons awarded Low Road Racing the race’s Organizer’s Choice trophy. That adds to the team’s impressive trophy case from their outings with the Rainier Mustang II and Old Milwaukee Sunbird. What will be next from Low Road next year? We’re not sure, but we can bet it’ll be good.

Watch Aaron talk about the C3 Corvette below and check out the great gallery with some fantastic photos by Hot Rod Magazine contributor and Roadkill friend Colin Hendry.

We’ll have more Lemons coverage from The Ridge Motorsports Park right here on Roadkill. If you’re in the South, be sure to check out Lemons’ next race at Carolina Motorsports Park, which includes a parade through Camden, South Carolina, to BS Inspection in the cozy little downtown.

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