Judge Phil, also known as me, has been a Lemons official for a full decade now and he lives in Denver, so the Lemons HQ brass decided that the second Colorado race of 2018 would bear his name: the Get Yer Phil 500 24 Hours of Lemons. 44 hardy teams showed up to endure the chilly late-October weather at High Plains Raceway, and 24 of them managed to race for at least 500 miles (which amounts to 197 laps on the HPR course). Here’s what happened.
This was the 200th 24 Hours of Lemons race, sharing that honor with the simultaneous Halloween Hooptiefest in New Hampshire (nitpickers may say that the Hooptiefest, which started two hours earlier, was actually #199). The BRIBED stencil for the occasion commemorated that milestone.
The Gunbarrel Cobras dropped a Toyota 1UZ-FE engine out of a Lexus LS400 (or maybe an SC400) into their Volvo 940 wagon for the B.F.E. GP race in June, and it worked pretty well with a homemade intake manifold topped with a couple of motorcycle carburetors. This time, they decided to take inspiration from the Tri-Power triple-carburetor setups of DeLorean-era Pontiacs and rig up a similar system using about $19.99 in junkyard parts and a lot of ingenuity.
Behold the “Try-Power” 5-barrel intake! Two 2-barrel 1980s Ford truck carbs on the outside and a single 1-barrel 1965 Mustang carburetor on the inside.
Denver U-Wrench junkyards have an excellent selection of cheap vintage carburetors, and the Gunbarrel Cobras found a numbers-matching 1-barrel on the 200-cubic-inch straight-six in this Mustang.
With an automatic transmission made from a mashup of Aisin Volvo and Toyota transmission bits and the Try-Power fuel-delivery setup making “some horsepower,” the Gunbarrel Cobras finished 16th out of 44 entries, beating all the other Volvos (another 940 wagon). This carburetor rig looked so much like something out of a Dr. Seuss book that the wise and fair justices of the 24 Hours of Lemons Supreme Court created the Three-Nozzled Bloozer trophy for the Gunbarrel Cobras.
Speaking of the kind of engine swap we like to see, the name of this Chevette team tells the whole story: Why Would You Do That? (racing).
Starting when he was still in high school a couple of years ago, WWYDTR team captain Hank Aurand began the process of swapping a turbocharged Volvo B23 engine into his rattletrap Chevette. Everything in this car is homemade and/or sourced from the junkyard (probably on All You Can Carry Sale Day), and it took Aurand a great deal of trial-and-error to get it to run well enough for road racing.
We’re not saying that the Turbo Volvo Chevette didn’t have any problems, of course. A cascade of increasingly smokey failures led to the removal of the turbocharger, followed by a thrown rod on the checkered-flag lap on Sunday.
But the Why Would You Do That? (racing) Chevette turned 81 laps, good enough for a P39 finish and a well-deserved Organizer’s Choice trophy.
The Grumpy Cat Racing 1950 Dodge pickup, complete with 230-cubic-inch Chrysler flathead straight-six out of an old Stapleton Airport tug, returned after a racing hiatus of a couple of years and beat 16 teams (including numerous BMWs, Mazdas, and Porsches). This included time out to fix a blown head gasket.
While all the interesting engineering and sturdy vintage technology battled for Class B and Class C supremacy on the track, the Zoom-Zoom Kaboom Mazda Miata quietly ran away with Class A, taking the overall win by 12 laps. This fast-driving team, based out of Renegade Hybrids (a Las Vegas shop that builds LS-swapped Porsches), started competing in Lemons with a Chevy Aveo at the 2012 Chuckwalla race and spent six years racing at all the western Lemons venues before getting this hard-earned Class A win. Congratulations, Zoom-Zoom Kaboom!
The Class B battle was one of the hardest-fought we’d ever seen, with Dump In a Box Racing finally triumphing in their Ford Escort. The team showed up with a great Tommy Boy theme, then proceeded to run an extra-clean race.
The Suzuki Swift GT (the factory-hot-rod, Suzuki-badged sibling of the better-known Geo Metro) of Elephorce Racing has been a regular at all the Colorado Lemons events since back in 2012, mostly getting placed in Class B due to the allegedly speedy performance of the Swift GT (especially after the team swapped in the engine out of a Canadian-market Pontiac Firefly Turbo). The problem with this car has always been its tendency to break parts, sometimes by exploding transmissions or engines but mostly by snapping CV axles.
This time, the judges put the Elephorce car in Class C. The team still snapped axles, but the Elephorcers have become so skilled at replacing them that each busted axle cost them just 20 minutes. When the dust settled, Elephorce Racing had taken their first class win, beating the Gunbarrel Cobras’ Volvo by six laps and going home with a Class C trophy.
The Run Ralphie Run Porsche 944 was doing pretty well on Saturday… until the fuel rail sprang a leak and caused the car to go up in flames. The driver got out safely (you can see him running away from his blazing Stuttgart thoroughbred in the photo above) but the car didn’t fare as well.
Most of the delicate Porsche components under the hood and just about every inch of wiring in the entire car got burned to a crisp, but the members of Run Ralphie Run refused to surrender. Instead, they hauled another Porsche 944 to the track and proceeded to swap in dozens of major components, from wiring harness to windshield. Much of this work took place in 35-degree weather on Saturday night, while a big potluck party raged around the Run Ralphie Run pit space. With a few minutes to go before Sunday’s checkered flag, the team pushed the car out and managed to get the engine to crank over. To us, that was good enough for a Most Heroic Fix trophy.
They were in luck, though, because I happened to have a good-running Honda D15B7 engine just 60 miles away, plucked from my hooptie 1992 Civic and waiting for a good home. In theory, a D15 should be swappable into a ’90 Integra, so the Dropped Packets guys drove to my garage in Denver and picked up the engine and lots of extra parts.
In practice, it turned out that this swap was just too daunting with the limited time remaining in the race, and the Dropped Packet crew ended up with the I Got Screwed award.
Ever since the Crapple Wapple Do Dang Gang appeared at the 2013 B.F.E. GP with their rally-ized 1970 AMC Gremlin, the Lemons officials have been in something of a dilemma when it comes to classing this car.
It features a Jeep 4.0 straight-six engine and AX15 manual transmission. Both are dime-a-dozen items at any Colorado junkyard and are near-bolt-ins for a Gremlin, but the car was quick enough to be put into Class B… where it tended to get smoked by Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and other cars a full quarter-century younger.
This time, the team showed up with a great Lucky Charms theme, under the name Magically Delicious. They finished in 7th overall and a few places back in Class B, and the Lemons Supreme Court judges decided to hand them the prestigious Judges’ Choice award.
Some of you may have noticed something incongruous in the description of this race’s Class B competition: a Pontiac Fiero contending for a win in the second-fastest Lemons class. We’ve had plenty of Fieros compete in the series, some with pretty hairy engine swaps, ever since the earliest days of the series. The one thing Lemons Fieros have had in common is poor reliability… except for the two Fieros campaigned by Utah’s Salty Thunder Racing.
The #90 car, a 1985 model with the stock 2.8-liter V6, won Class C a while back, and no sane person expected this car to be a threat in Class B. They were wrong; the Salty Thunder Fiero climbed as high as P2 in the standings during the Get Yer Phil 500, and only missed the class victory (by a single lap) due to fuel starvation during the final minutes of the race.
In addition to that amazing performance, the team executed a spectacular Great Mid-Engined Swindle theme, staying in 1976 punk-rock character all weekend.
Index of Effluency for Salty Thunder Racing!
Go here for high-resolution versions of the photos of this race, here for official timing-and-scoring results, and here for the official race-wrapup video. Our next race takes place at Carolina Motorsports Park in South Carolina. See you there!