Ever since the Bavarian Ranchero team showed up with a 1973 Ford Ranchero body grafted onto a BMW 3-Series, the 24 Hours of Lemons’ organizers have fawned over body-swapped race cars. Even when it’s only partially complete swap with one or two panels, it’s a great thing. Last weekend at the “Kentucky Demo Derby” at NCM Motorsports Park, one former race winner turned their muscle car into the quickest road-racing Malaise-Era Cadillac you’ve ever seen.
For several years now, the Save the Ta-Tas third-gen Chevy Camaro has ripped past the Lemons field in the Midwest like other cars were tied to posts. That speed for several years primarily resulted in either a broken car or a spate of black flags that kept them from winning. However, in 2013—somewhere around 100 races into the series’ existence—they finally drove the first Camaro to a win in Lemons. They won a couple more, thanks to the “cheaty” 5.3-liter truck V8 and a T56 transmission. Of course, that combination also blew up as often as it won, so the volatility balanced out.
More recently, the Lemons Supreme Court grew tired of seeing the third-gen Camaro with the same paint its carried for nine years. Like the Done Racing Racing BMW Z3 (above), Lemons Supreme Court Justice Murilee Martin demanded that they do something outlandish, like rebody the car entirely to look like another car because—again like the Done Racing Racing “AMC AMX”—it would be more fun to see a “Chrysler New Yorker” win a Lemons race.
Save the Ta-Tas didn’t want a New Yorker, but they thought correctly that a bustleback Cadillac SeVille would be the ticket. So they acquired a haggard old Caddy and set off making a bizarre hybrid of Chevy Camaro and Cadillac SeVille. They ended up cutting the SeVille fenders and hood to fit while leaving some of the Camaro bits, like the windshield, A-pillar, part of the roof, doors, and more. I think we can safely say they did an incredibly convincing job.
Of course, the SeVille was only sold as a four-door sedan, but the Ta-Tas’ research dug up something incredible: a two-door SeVille design sketch. And dang if that doesn’t look almost exactly like what the Ta-Tas built, aside from the wire wheels.
Mechanically, the car is almost identical. The biggest change came when the team crafted a custom intake from a team member’s old tool box. The big Cadillac grille scoops up the air and routes it up into the inverted tool drawers that are welded together. Behind that intake still still the 5.3-liter V8.
Unsurprisingly, the SeVille set the fastest lap of the weekend and not unlike Speedycop’s Trippy Tippy Hippy Van, the lightning-fast Caddy didn’t quite register in your brain while you watched it rip down the front straight. This car may as well have come from an alternate universe where Cadillac built a Cadillac SeVille CTS-V in 1982.
Unfortunately for the Ta-Tas, their cheaty transmission didn’t help much. They spent most of Friday’s open Test ‘n’ Tune tinkering with a wonky clutch slave cylinder and its assorted hydraulic lines. That entailed dropping the transmission twice. For good measure, they took the transmission out on Saturday, too, when the clutch itself went bad.
Once they had that fixed on Sunday, they experienced fuel delivery problems. They’ve had periodic problems with the engine cutting out when the ambient temperature is high. Kentucky’s warm, thick summer air gave symptoms a lot like vapor lock and the engine wouldn’t stay running. With the V8 unhappy, they opted to pack up the SeVille, but we know it’ll be back soon.
Check back right here soon for more from Lemons’ “Kentucky Demo Derby” at NCM Motorsports Park.