We’re back from the 24 Hours of LeMons’ second-ever visit to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut, and the first GP du Lac Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. We’ll get to that name in just a second, but as has been at the last two LeMons races at Autobahn Country Club and Thunderhill Raceway Park, this race featured pretty extreme heat and a bit of exciting weather to boot that abbreviated the racing. Despite the trying conditions, however, East Coast LeMons racers were in top form for this one.
To gain goodwill with the LeMons Supreme Court, who put each car through a rigorous BS Inspection to ascertain whether or not a car is worth $500, many teams bribe the Supreme Court judges. While many pick high-end booze or craft beer, the Del Sol Train team brought two delicacies from their home state of Maine: Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy and Moxie soda. Moxie is apparently like New England’s Faygo while Mainers mix the coffee brandy with milk to make a regional cocktail known as a “fat ass in a glass.” No, we can’t make these things up.
Bribing the LeMons judges will gain you some small amount of favor but, more importantly, will net you a one-race-only commemorative “BRIBED” stencil. Many cars bear dozens of stencils from past races and this weekend’s stencil paid tribute to the race’s namesake, nearby Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Judge Rich Von Sneidern (and mostly his graphic designer wife, Mona) spent hours carving out the letters to the ChargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungaBRIBED stencil that now adorns hoods and trunklids of dozens of hooptie race cars.
Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg also hosted the 1964 Waterski Nationals, which drew a massive crowd.
New England team The Lemontarians picked up on this and naturally turned their horrendous, sounds-moments-away-from-exploding-but-never-does Chevy Citation X-11 into a vague replica of Miss Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg 1964’s Hydrodyne ski boat.
However, the Lemontarians’ greatest tribute to the Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg water skiing competition was this boat-car-skidloader mash-up that served as their actual paddock-skiing rig for BS Inspection. Basically, they pulled the decrepit boat hull from the New England woods and chopped out the bottom with a reciprocating saw.
They then dropped it on a home-built square-tube frame, which had a Chevette drivetrain powering a skid-steer setup using some kind of hydraulic logging motors. None of it really made any sense and the Hooptiness Index (HI) was through the roof on this one, but it moved and bucked around the paddock under its own power on tires that looked to have been manufactured around 1982. Properly hooptie!
The Blue Tang Clan BMW E36 also made a double-word score with their Finding Dory, which of course stars a blue tang fish named Dory. We’re not sure if the team member in ill-fitting Dory pajamas is supposed to be the LeMons equivalent of GZA or RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, though. They’re easily confused, those two.
Themes aside, the mechanical insanity featured some high-level and mind-boggling swaps. While the Lemontarians’ boat was powered by a car engine, the Circle Jerks Racing 1984 Chevy Corvette had the opposite setup: Under the fiberglass hood was a beat-up old marine MerCruiser V8, from which they got considerably more mileage than the original Cross-Fire Injection L83 engine in the car’s debut. So how bad is a $500 Corvette with a boat engine? The car finished 76th place overall and its fastest lap was more than nine seconds slower than the quickest of the race, set by the Team Pro Crash Duh Nation Alfa Romeo Milano.
From big engines to small, the Full Nelson Saab 96 has been around LeMons for several years. The team ditched the Saab two-stroke, three-cylinder engine early in its race car life for a 1.0-liter Geo Metro engine, to which they added a small Roots-style supercharger that a teammate’s friend found in a Taiwanese junkyard. When not running LeMons, this team spends the winter flinging this same car around in ice races.
This time around, however, Full Nelson gave up on the tiny blower setup and instead installed one of the small turbos from a totaled late-model, twin-turbo BMW 330. The old Saab seemed a bit peppier this time around and while the team spent much of the weekend chasing the gremlins of a first-time turbo setup, we expect they’ll be back with a pretty solid little car.
The last time we saw Sinical Racing’s Volkswagen Beetle, it had a guardrail imprint on its smashed-in nose. The team spent a couple of months pulling out the bodywork and grafting new, bigger fender flares to cover its now-wider front track. The unpainted new front end gives it an even more extreme FrankenBeetle look.
That’s entirely sensible since the Sinical folks long ago discarded the air-cooled engine, first for a Ford Pinto 2.3-liter four-cylinder and later for the Honda J35 3.5-liter V6 from a Honda Odyssey minivan. For giggles, the team threw the car on the dyno, where the engine put 264 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels. They produced copious receipts and documentation showing that you can, indeed, buy a J35 without any issue for $200 in any junkyard. Add on some homebuilt zoomie-style headers and you’ve got a potent little pseudo-Porsche, right?
In theory, yes. In reality, that kind of swap leaves the car with all kinds of little issues to sort and Sinical spent much of the weekend ironing out. They only managed 107 and the car’s quickest lap time was slower than the turbocharged Saab’s. If and when they sort the Beetle, however, it’ll be a complete handful.
Unfortunately, inclement weather ended up cutting 3-½ hours out of the racing for the weekend. A summer thunderstorm boiled up both during the Friday inspection day and again during Saturday’s racing. Nearby lightning stopped the race to keep the corner workers safe and just when it seemed like there was a break in the storms that would allow another hour of racing before the scheduled Saturday checkered flag, more lightning flared up and halted attempts to get racing back on schedule until the final few hours Sunday afternoon.
When the race wasn’t halted by horrendous weather, the on-track action was very close in both the race for the overall win and for Class B. Before Thompson, Boston-based Massholes finished second-place three times and had eight Top 10 finishes in nine races with their Ford Escort ZX2. Running with a stock 130-horsepower engine and a stock fuel tank, they had neither the range nor the horsepower of most of their opponents, but the Massholes seldom get any black flags and this race was no exception. On Sunday afternoon, the Massholes because the first Ford Escort team to win a LeMons race.
It wasn’t a cakewalk, however. New Jersey winners One Tire Fire also have a totally stock car and their Datsun 280ZX 2+2 was gaining lots of ground on the Massholes, whose transmission was stuck in third gear in the last hour. However, the Escort miraculously found fourth gear again and managed to keep the Datsun about 30 seconds behind until the checkered flag.
Sorry for Party Racing were in the mix as well with their third-generation Pontiac Firebird, but a late fuel stop for their extremely thirsty F-Body dropped them off the lead lap. They came in a respectable third place, a single lap behind the two leaders.
Sorry for Party’s partners in afterhours paddock tomfoolery, Three Pedal Mafia, drove to their second consecutive Class B win. In New Jersey, the team’s Honda Civic hatchback won a nail-biter and this time around, their Toyota Cressida won by two laps over the Bazinga Racing Nissan 300ZX. At various times, the Seems Legit Racing Chevy Cavalier was in the mix, as was the Totally Consentual Acura Integra, but the 7M-powered Cressida held off all comers for the class win.
It wouldn’t be a LeMons race for Three Pedal Mafia, though, without an absurd theme. In an ode to their Sorry for Party friends, Three Pedal Mafia followed up their “Not Sorry for Party” theme from New Jersey with a “Sari for Party” theme accompanied by a Bollywood dance party during BS Inspection.
In Class C, which is reserved for slowest and/or least-reliable class, The Defeat Device’s 1979 Chevy Chevette absolutely crushed the field. This wasn’t particularly surprising; the Chevette is anything but slow, but the hodgepodge build is one of the zaniest things we’ve seen in a while. The only remaining bits of the original Chevette are the body panels and about half of the unibody.
Underneath the Chevette facade, The Defeat Device is actually a mid-engine beast. The burbling Subaru EJ flat-four engine spits flames from the short exhaust when it overruns and the suspension bolted to the entire Subaru front-wheel-drive subframe comes from an ATV. It sounds like a ramshackle setup and while it was certainly shadetree-style building, the work is actually of a pretty high quality. We look forward to seeing this car in Class B at future races.
Every LeMons race finds a number of teams fixing their ailing race cars in new and hopeful ways, but thehe Saabs of Anarchy Saab 9000 suffered from a world of bad decision-making that came to a head before they’d even put the car on the trailer to head for Thompson. Their engineless Swedish jet-borne sedan required a sleepless thrash for about three consecutive days just to get the car together.
They straggled into BS Inspection wearing their Saabs of Anarchy motorcycle gang vests and looking fitting haggard like they’d been on a two-week bender/cruise through the Mojave with only cigarettes and a flask for nourishment. In reality, they just hadn’t slept in 72 hours, but the car ran and passed inspection, allowing a good night’s sleep Friday for the first time in weeks.
Naturally, the 9000 turned 10 laps before its turbocharged 2.3-liter engine blew the hell up. We never got a straight story on it: One team member said the oil pressure regulator failed while another said that in their state of exhaustion, they had forgotten to put oil in the engine after getting it into the car. Whatever the case, the Saabs of Anarchy jovially started pulling out the seized-together lump.
A few hours into the swap, the rain and lightning rolled in, but the team never abated in the weather. They worked tirelessly again through weather and into the night on their spare engine, which was instead a 2.0-liter engine. By Sunday morning, they had themselves a functioning car again and were ready to go racing.
Sure, the Saab blew up that engine 16 laps later, but instead of getting upset or bawling—at least publicly—they just rolled the old 9000 onto the trailer and said they’d be grinning at the next race when they went through more engines. Because sleep is for the weak and wrenching with your dumb friends is fun, Saabs of Anarchy earned the Heroic Fix trophy.
The flipside of the Heroic Fix is the I Got Screwed award, which is presented to the team who by their own hand or by that of cruel fate, just can’t seem to get it together. This trophy was earmarked for Johnnie Walker Racing, whose Porsche 924 got absolutely clobbered on Friday during the track-hosted Test Day when a Toyota Camry Solara’s brakes failed. The hit was big enough and squared on the left-rear so that the back bumper actually crumpled all the way to the rear suspension. LeMons Tech declared the car unfixable for safety’s sake and Johnnie Walker were suddenly out of the weekend before it even began.
Most of the team bailed, but the one remaining team member, Jason Marks, had a replacement ride lined up on Saturday to salvage some seat time. Naturally, that car broke and he got no time in the car. Frustrated and a bit defeated, he headed for home Sunday morning. Since you must be present at the awards ceremony to win, Justin got doubly screwed with nothing to show for his weekend but a busted car.
The I Got Screwed trophy instead went to Hammerheads Racing and their Ford Probe GT, which they painted up to an almost-passable-if-you-squint-in-the-dark low-buck version of the Ford GT that won its class at Le Mans. Though it lacks the flying buttresses, the body kit on the car and even the name—minus Probe—work to that end. Probes have occasionally been quick in LeMons, but for the most part, the Mazda-sourced V6 has a tendency to blow up.
The Hammerheards’ car was no exception. The engine overheated at one point and seized. The teams’ fix for this was to dump everything they could into the engine to free it up: transmission fluid, penetrating oil, concession-stand coffee, and anything else laying around (Editor’s note: That’s a joke, don’t really pour coffee in your car). As the starter had burned out earlier, they then talked a track employee into helping them bump-start the Probe with the track’s Polaris staff vehicles. It worked enough to unseize the engine, which now fittingly sounded like a bag of claw hammers thrown into a tree shredder.
The Hammerheads diagnosed the problem in cylinder number six, which was getting no compression at all. Like any good-bad LeMons mechanics, they didn’t investigate why it was getting no compression, they just set to work deactivating it. Curiously enough, this had happened at a previous race and they’d deactivated that intake by blocking it with a steel plate (That manifold was still in their spares for some reason, see above). This time around, they took a shortcut and just stuffed shop rags into the intake while removing the spark plug. What could possibly go wrong?
The team prepared to put the car on the track with about 90 minutes left so that if it blew up, it wouldn’t completely torpedo the end of the race and infuriate Race Control. After a push-start, the five-cylinder engine clattered to life and headed for the track entrance.
Naturally, all the crap they’d poured into the engine to free it up came out in a James Bond-style smokescreen and fearing they would turn racetrack visibility to zero, they were turned away. After some negotiating, they said they’d take a couple laps around the paddock to clear the engine of its various fluids and it would go to the track without an oily vape cloud in its wake. The LeMons Supreme Court was dubious of this, but after two laps around the garages, nary a puff of smoke emitted from the tailpipe. Just as the team bumpstarted it one last time to get it on the track, the engine gave one final clunk and the Probe halted immediately with an engine seized for good this time. Screwed!
The I Got Screwed “winners” from New Jersey’s race in May were the Gadget Inspectors, who blew up two Nissan K-Series motors at that race. They put in a new twin-cam engine in this race that mercifully lasted the whole weekend. However, they deserve recognition not for that but for giving an award.
They award LeMons race manager Kim Harmon with the Fans Choice award. Kim does a lot of logistical work behind the scenes with travel and staffing and also manages the LeMons HQ at races. Suffice to say, she has a lot to do with making races happen and we were glad to see some racers acknowledge that.
For the regional award at this race, this Acura Integra team has gone through a number of incredible themes that has included Game of Crumplezones and 50 Shades of AAA. This race found them with a fresh “Pill Cosby” theme, complete with “Quaalude 500” windshield banner, potent pudding shots with marshmallows in them, Jail-O sponsorship, drivers dressed in drag, and a passed-out female team member on the roof.
We won’t say it’s the classiest theme we’ve ever seen and while the world of social media got a bet testy about it, rest assured the team were in no way endorsing the alleged actions of the comedian. Parody is a tricky thing to understand sometimes, but for their part in going right to the internet’s sensitive underbelly, LeMons gave Totally Consensual Racing the made-up-for-this-race Never Too Soon Award.
This race also saw the return of the Rad Racers’ V8 Mercedes CLK430. The team tends to get itself in trouble on the racetrack with a lot of car to handle, but for the second race in a row, a team member chainsawed and painted a block of wood into a rough-hewn, car-shaped trophy for the LeMons Supreme Court to give out. There were a few splinters waiting to happen, but it was otherwise exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a LeMons team to come up with so it was dubbed the Outstanding LeMons Craftsmanship Award.
This totem naturally went to one of the most mystifying builds in the whole field. The Long Driver’s 1995 Subaru Impreza sounded at first like a turbo whose impeller was on its last miles, but when the car rolled up to BS Inspection, the source of that high-pitched and unsteady whine became apparent: The team had made the lowest-rent WRX possible by slapping the Eaton M90 supercharger from a Pontiac Grand Prix GTP onto the stock Subaru engine.
Sure, the Subaru’s five-ribbed belt didn’t quite fit on the six-rib supercharger pulley. And maybe instead of any kind of sane fuel management system, the team instead drilled out the fuel injectors so the engine wouldn’t idle at all. And it’s also possible that the injector “modification” would also make the engine burn through a tank of fuel in 30 minutes. But that didn’t stop them from putting the car on the racetrack with its horrendous sound of imminent engine failure.
LeMons judges put the over/under on total failure at about 20 laps, but the supercharged engine ran nearly all Saturday until it blew up the engine at last just before the rainstorm. The team swapped in the 1.8-liter version without the supercharger, which promptly vaporized its internals in an burning-oil fog on the front straight. However, the team have promised to rework the supercharger for the next race.
The Judges Choice at this race went to The Nut Jobs and their Volvo 760 GLE. The Swedish-car aficionado will know that the GLE’s standard engine was the joint-venture PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) 2.8-liter V6, best-known as the terrible engine put into Deloreans. This group of circle-track racers debuted at New Jersey in May with this car, which had previously belonged to a team member’s girlfriend. She had racked up more than 200,000 miles on the PRV and it unshockingly cooked itself after about six hours.
Volvo purists will know what The Nut Jobs did next: They found any of the thousands of Volvo four-cylinder engines laying around any New England junkyard and had themselves a reliable replacement engine. Easy as pie, right? Except they didn’t do that at all. Instead, they found another PRV with only 110,000 miles on it at the junkyard and they bought it. Not only did they do that, the junkyard from which they bought it gave them a three-month warranty on one of the worst engines of the last 30 years. That’s the kind of con LeMons judges can get behind it.
When those kinds of things happen, of course, the engine tends to hold together better than it has any right to. While the Volvo was certainly not fast, it just ran like a train all weekend, finishing second in Class C without any major hiccups from the engine or anything else in the car. Maybe a low-mile PRV is the trick to Class C domination!
Over the nearly 10 years of LeMons races, dozens of teams have attempted Blues Brothers themes, usually with ex-police Crown Victorias and Caprices, but occasionally with other, less-logical cars. Before Thompson, nobody had brought a proper Bluesmobile, but Interceptor Motorsports at last brought a near-perfect replica of the car from The Blues Brothers.
OK, it’s not an exact replica of the Bluesmobile so let’s get that out of the way for the Mopar purists in the crowd. Instead of a 1974 Dodge Monaco, this is actually the Monaco’s C-Body platform mate, the 1976 Plymouth Grand Fury, with the front clip from a Dodge. Nevertheless, in LeMons’ realm, this is as close as anyone’s likely to get to Bluesmobile perfection.
Finding the car at all was not easy. The Pennsylvania-based team took their trailer setup all the way to Iowa to pick up the car, where they picked up the Sioux Falls-sold car for
a microphone cheap. Anybody willing to undergo the kind of dedication that requires towing 4,000 pounds of car 700 miles home needs serious mental help gets heaps of recognition from LeMons.
As it was a non-cop car originally, it didn’t come with cop shocks or cop tires, but the Interceptor Motorsports crew did put in the 440 cubic-inch plant from a motorhome—possibly belonging to the Good Ol’ Boys’ ride—into the engine bay.
Of course, no Bluesmobile is complete without proper attire and not only were Jake and Elwood present, so too were The Penguin, Trooper Daniels of the Illinois State Police, and Tucker McElroy from the Good Ol’ Boys.
The “Monaco” didn’t turn up for tech inspection until Saturday afternoon, but when it was finally on the track, the 440 actually scooted the car down the straights pretty well. Cornering speeds weren’t great, but who cares? Its magnificence is its greatest quality.
By coincidence, there was an orange Pinto—again, not a red Pinto wagon, sorry purists—also in the race so the LeMons Supreme Court lined them up to start the race at the front of the field on Sunday. This was a nod to the famous Illinois Nazi chase scene from the Blues Brothers, of course. Unfortunately, the Bluesmobile had a flat battery when it came time to go and the Pinto had to head off alone.
For their absolute ownership over the long-awaited Bluesmobile theme—which will surely never be topped—Interceptor Motorsports took home a slam-dunk Organizer’s Choice trophy.
This brings us to our final and most-prestigious award, the Index of Effluency. LeMons gives out this trophy, which includes $601 and a free race entry, to the car that does the most with the least. Before we get to the IOE winner, special mention should be made of Great Globs of Oil and their Buick Opel Isuzu thing. The slow, tired old car has run almost flawlessly its only two races and they’ve been snubbed for the IOE both times.
At New Jersey, Three Pedal Mafia’s Citroen SM took top honors, but the the Opel team were absolutely at the top of the discussion at the GP du Lac Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg for Index of Effluency. In the IOE discussion amongst the LeMons Deciders, an impasse was reached: Both the Opel and another car were neck-and-neck in the standings and both were punching well above their weight. Since they were both about the same speed, it was decided that it would be a heads-up race between the Opel with the wood carburetor spacer and the other car.
In the end, the Opel finished a single lap behind but 53rd overall. Unfortunately, not even the LeMons bribes of flowers and chocolates for the judges could sway them and they went home again without an IOE trophy.
That other car was the Sabrina Duncan’s Revenge Ford Pinto that, although it looked clean, was a buffed-and-shined turd. It was certainly not quick in a straight line, but just like the Opel, it turned lap after lap, though it logged exactly one more than the Great Globs of Oil.
Ford’s go-to 2.3-liter Lima four-cylinder wasn’t primed to set any landspeed records, but as these engines tend to do, it just trudged on and on.
The team also showed up with their street-car Pinto, a totally unrestored Cruising Wagon complete with the holy trinity of late 1970s car enthusiasm: bubble window, multicolortape stripes, and window louvres. While the paddock at Thompson at various times included the Lemontarians’ boat-car-skidloader and a Lotus Evora, nothing drew as much attention as the Pinto Wagon.
And even though Sabrina Duncan’s Revenge left the Sunday grid without the Bluesmobile, they managed to find the big Mopar and stick with them for a few laps of photo opportunities, which slowed them down immensely waiting for the Dodge to drag its two tons around the corners.
In the end, it was a glorious Index of Effluency win for the creamsicle Pinto. Well done, Sabrina Duncan’s Revenge!
Come back to Roadkill for more 24 Hours of LeMons coverage here, including features, advice, race coverage, and more. Go to Murilee Martin’s site here to see more photos from this race.