Near the shores of the picturesque Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (a.k.a. Webster Lake, but c’mon, who would want to call it that) sits historic Thompson Speedway. Since 2015, when the 24 Hours of Lemons became one of the first big races to run on Thompson’s revamped road course, the venue has been a favorite of northeastern Lemons racers. A first-time winner grabbed the overall honors at the 2018 event, and the grand Index of Effluency prize was snatched by a first-time PARTICIPANT. Here are the rest of the awards highlights:
Overall/Class A Winner: Misfortune Cookie, Honda Civic
As with most overall Lemons winners, the Misfortune Cookie Civic hatchback flew below the radar for most of the weekend with one notable exception. In a case of some of the worst luck Lemons has ever witnessed, the Misfortune Cookie led after day one and took the checkered but then immediately caught up to lap traffic while they completed their cooldown circuit. One of the lap cars—maybe driving wide to allow the leader through (or maybe just taking a familiar Lemons line through the dirt)—got two wheels onto wet grass and immediately careened back across the track, precisely tagging the leader in the rear wheel-well.
That seriously crumpled the Civic’s fragile rear suspension. With help from the also-contending Three Pedal Mafia, who have a same-generation Civic, the Misfortune Cookie team borrowed enough spare bits to get the car ready for day two. They didn’t face any wayward competition for the rest of their run and captured their first Lemons win.
Class B Winner: Team Mallet Heads, Volvo 240
The Mallet Heads ran an even more invisible race than the winners, capturing a Top 10 overall finish and an easy Class B trophy in their unassuming Volvo 240. The Volvo 240 has long been the Lemons connoisseur’s pick for unexpected performance, especially in the Northeast where several successful teams have campaigned them for years. Despite that, there’s always a moment of “Wait, THAT thing?” when you see one at the top of the leaderboard.
Class C Winner: Great Globs of Oil, Buick/Opel/Isuzu
In an instance of convoluted and poorly conceived badge engineering that would have made Chrysler proud, General Motors once sold Isuzu-built, Opel-badged cars through Buick dealerships. That kind of crap provenance makes such a machine perfect for Lemons and the series has witnessed numerous (two) examples compete in the series over the years. One was even the factory diesel version. This Class C-winning example, as you may have guessed, was NOT the factory diesel version, but that also doesn’t make it a GOOD car. The C-Class win was hard fought and well deserved.
I Got Screwed: Garage Heroes, Ford Capri/Ford Mustang
The two-car Garage Heroes effort made a splash at tech inspection with a very well-executed superhero theme. When both cars were later marooned in the paddock, staff and fellow competitors were disappointed at their mechanical misfortune. But the problem wasn’t mechanical at all. Rather, a team member’s mother drove off in the team minivanto get mid-race supplies . Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except it was being used at the time as dry storage for all of the team’s safety gear. When the team attempted a frantic call for her return, they found the team mom’s cell phone still sitting in their paddock space. Oops.
Most Heroic Fix: Garden State Goons, Ford Windstar
There have been a LOT of minivans in Lemons. In fact, after doing a quick inventory of major minivan manufacturers, Lemons has seen all of them save one: Ford. There could be a good reason for that—a Windstar mention on Lemons social media sparked a string of comments, many of the “This is the worst van ever” variety. The Garden State Goons’ woes began before even scratching the surface of the allegedly problematic Windstar’s potential shortcomings, however. Like many past rookie teams, they attempted to shortcut the rollcage build by adapting an existing one from another car—in this case, an ARCA stock car. Amazingly, a tube-frame circle-track car and a 20-year-old Ford minivan have some minor dimensional differences, so the team was sent away to make adjustments before being allowed to race.
Finishing the safety tweaks in impressively short time, the team returned to tech only to suffer complete brake-system failure on the way there. This led to endless hours of de-fragging the overcomplicated ABS system—all of this while the rain and mud steadily increased. By day two, the team hadn’t turned a single lap, and their unpaved paddock space resembled the aftermath of Woodstock. They did finally hit the track and were awarded the Heroic Fix for their efforts.
Judges’ Choice: Team Regressive, Porsche 944
Sometimes, a rookie team shows up and immediately “gets it,” and this New Hampshire-based team impressed the judges with their attitude, somehow-reliable Porsche 944, and nicely executed Progressive Insurance-parody theme—complete with costumes.
Best Appalachian Theme Done by Scandinavians: The Rowdy Rednecks, Volvo 850
This group of northern European Volvo racers somehow elected to do a full deep-woods hillbilly theme for this event and showed up at tech with a side-porch-with-banjo-player attachment on their 850 sedan. Although the porch had to be removed for racing, a roof-mounted loudspeaker serenaded fellow competitors with old-fashioned country pickin’ all weekend.
Organizers’ Choice: FMC, Volkswagen Fox
It’s oddly common at a Lemons race for someone to show up looking for their friend’s team but to not know that team’s name, car type, or contact information. A fan of FMC fell squarely into that category and after racking her memory, she told Lemons staffers that the team was racing a Volkswagen Rabbit. After some digging, Lemons staff revealed the horrible truth: The car was, in fact, a Volkswagen Fox. Despite this realization, the young lady still expressed a desire to meet up with them and promptly found them where they’d been most of the weekend: wrenching endlessly in the mud. The Fox was done up in an excellent Monday Night Rehabilitation theme from the movie Idiocracy (although in the film, the car is actually an example of the far-superior Ford Festiva). Eventually, the good theme/terrible car combo juddered its way on track to the delight/horrification of all.
Index of Effluency: Ranger Train, Ford Ranger
Much internet ado has been made of the Lemons $500 cap or lack thereof. Although the source of much of this “$500 my ass” vitriol is from the type of expert that rarely exits their wifi-equipped basement let alone participates in a Lemons event, it’s certainly true that many Lemons cars at least appear better-prepped than a $500 budget would suggest. But some still don’t. When this stock, beige ’95 Ford Ranger—complete with weeds stuck in its door sills—showed up, the team captain’s explanation that the truck had been bought two weeks before for $500 was quite believable. Maybe even a little overestimated. And, while some internet experts take to online comment sections to trumpet the unfairness of Lemons budgetary rules, this team took the alternate path of bringing a weed-dragging pickup and summarily waxing half of a 120-car field with it. That approach appeals much more to the Lemons trophy committee, and the team was rewarded with the top prize in their first-ever race.
Read more about the 24 Hours of Lemons in the Roadkill archives here and be sure to follow Lemons on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Lemons next races September 14-16 at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina.