Every year, the 24 Hours of Lemons tries to add a new venue or two to the calendar. This year, Lemons ventured to Kentucky for the first time to NCM Motorsports Park and despite sweltering Southern humidity, the race was a raging success. We’re still waiting to hear back from NCM whether or not we polluted their paddock and racing surface with too many Lemons-related fluids—usually best not to specify—but the twisty track and its pristine grounds served as a nice contrast to a weekend of hooptie racing.
The “NCM” in the track’s name stands for “National Corvette Museum” and as you might guess, the museum itself resides across I-65 from the racetrack. Most of the Lemons staff took a visit to the land of fiberglass and Tommy Bahama shirts, which sports an impressive collection of America’s classic sports car.
And also what seems an unhealthy obsession with The Sinkhole.
To pay homage to both the Corvette and the Sinkhole, this Lemons correspondent whipped up a hastily made commemorative “BRIBED” stencil honoring both the American sports car and the hole that swallowed up a half-dozen of its most-famous examples.
We’ll get to the award-winners in a minute, but let’s talk about some of the other great (and un-great) stuff that didn’t come home with hardware. While nobody raced an actual Corvette at this race, three teams opted for Corvette “replicars.” We’ll get to the other two momentarily, but Bad Decisions Racing turned their 1990s Pontiac Trans Sport minivan into a Velocity Yellow “Covfefe Racing” C7.R just like the ones that race at the “24 Hours La Mens.”
This van has even in the past sported glowing brake rotors like those other endurance-racing Corvettes. They’d be pretty hard to tell apart sitting next to each other.
Bad Decisions didn’t bring the only minivan to race. The Knoxvegas Lowballers’ twin-engined Mazda MPV also came to play with a great fidget-spinner theme. We don’t always get contemporary pop-culture references in Lemons, but the oversized fidget spinner on the roof made from plywood was tough to miss.
The Lowballers experienced some issues with the Ford Duratec V6s in both ends of the minivan. The rear engine might have blown a head gasket, as evidenced by gushing water out the tailpipes when starting the engine. The front engine—nicknamed “Toasty” by the team for reasons that will soon be evident—ended Saturday’s session in a spectacular cloud of oil smoke.
One team member said the tell-tale sign of their biggest problem with the Duratec, pressurizing the crankcase, is that the oil cap blows straight off the engine. This oil cap saw a bit of duress before making a leap toward horrifying freedom.
We’ve seen some hooptie Lemons-car trailers in our time, but we’ve never seen an art piece quite like this. The TRD team haul their fast-but-fragile Toyota Celica in this giant hauler that also doubles as sleeping quarters. They paid an artist a few bucks to go wild on a two-sided Orca mural.
Question: What do you call a Gremlin with wiring issues? (Answer: A Gremlin.)
The race wasn’t all broken engines and Corvette replicas, however. On Friday night, several teams banded together to feed the paddock with a great potluck. That included everything from chips-and-queso to pork dumplings and even ice cream in a freezer.
Lemons racers love few things better than bench racing trackside in the evenings, but Escape Velocity Racing’s homemade oversized game that used stacking wooden blocks (and totally isn’t Jenga™) was a big hit during the potluck.
When it came time to race, Done Racing Racing’s “AMC AMX” racked up its second overall win. We use quotation marks because the car is actually a BMW Z3 that the team snagged on Copart. They then made fiberglass molds of AMX body panels and then fit those to the Z3 in a way that only the most adamant AMC zealots would notice. Done Racing Racing ran a clean race with consistently quick lap times and no black flags. That’s hard to beat.
Chasing them and finishing just three laps behind in second place, however, were the Rod Throwin’ Fools and their Toyota MR2 with the 3.0-liter V6 out of a Camry. We’re used to seeing this team run about two-thirds of a good race only to have their MR2 burn through brakes or suffer catastrophically huge head-gasket failure. This time around, everything went perfectly and the Indiana-based team could very well be a new contender among Midwestern teams.
Last fall, we marveled at Boondoggle Racing’s “Stingata,” a fantastic Corvette Summer replica built on a first-generation Mazda Miata. They returned to race a second time, fittingly, at the Corvette Museum. At this race, the Lemons Supreme Court put the Miata in Class B, one of maybe two or three such Miatas ever to run in the class. They spent most of the race third in class behind a Saturn SL2 and an early ’90s Toyota Celica. However, both fell prey to mechanical trouble, allowing Boondoggle to sweep in for the class win.
Overnight on Sunday, someone jacked their car and resprayed it. Or the team just repainted it with nude-colored body paint from the local skeezy adult bookstore to replicate that pivotal part of Corvette Summer.
The long, twisted tale of 1980s Chryslers in Lemons involves a lot of masochism and heartache. However, this Dodge Daytona belonging to a team simply named Ya’ll managed to keep their turbo 2.2-liter engine alive for a whole weekend without stumbling. This exact car was, of course, raced by hair-metal
legend star person Don Dokken in the ‘80s as part of some second-rate Toyota Pro-Am Celebrity race knockoff by Chrysler. The team also own a second such car, raced by Ricky Schroeder, that will debut at next year’s Colorado race.
The Heroic Fix at this race comes in an epic tale so weird and terrible that it deserved its own post. You can read that whole sordid tale right here, but we do feel it noteworthy that the Chevette Grand Sport of Zero Budget Racing rounded out a fantastic trio of (mostly) tongue-in-cheek “Corvettes” at NCM.
The counterpart to the Heroic Fix is the I Got Screwed trophy. This race, that award went to ThinBlueSwine, a group of mostly police officers who also run a barbecue joint of some sort. As they are cops, most of them know only how to break cars rather than build them (their words, not ours). So when they blew up the 3.8-liter V6 in their Ford Thunderbird, they turned to the team’s one mechanic for advice.
That sage mechanic advised that the easiest way to get a replacement engine was to find a complete running car. The team hesitated at that, since the time-suck on building a Lemons car had already strained some relationships with team members’ significant others. How much trouble would they be in if they hauled home a second (non-running) car? After much debate, they decided to find out and bought a running engine donor.
They pulled out the “new” Thunderbird’s engine (along with its giant religious statue and rosary) for the race car, then tried to manhandle the V6 in to line up with the left-in-place automatic transmission. They struggled to line it up right and somewhere in that process, the engine smashed the team mechanic’s thumb.
After a visit to the onsite medical office—NCM has an onsite medical office with nurses, by the way, which is great—he was stitched up and trying to guide the work. Just as they bolted the engine up at last, the torque converter fell loose inside the bellhousing. Because pulling the whole transmission—which would make the engine-transmission mating easier—meant removing the driveshaft and removing the fuel tank before that, they had insufficient time to put the car back together before the checkered flag.
For heading home with two non-running cars, a gacked thumb, and a host of potentially irate spouses, ThinBlueSwine took home the I Got Screwed trophy.
At every race, Lemons hands out a region-specific trophy that pays tribute to some as-yet-undetermined event. This time around, Lemons organizers felt that the Wheel Team 6 BMW 740iL deserved what was essentially a second I Got Screwed award, though Lemons Chief Perp Jay Lamm coined it the “This Was Supposed to Be the Safe Part Award.” The team is comprised of a group of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who are slated to deploy soon.
They planned to race as a fun little shindig before heading off to really serious business, but things got a little dicier than they’d planned. Trouble with the car’s rollcage builder kicked off the madness, which required a frantic last-minute rework of the cage. That meant they couldn’t get into tech inspection Friday and when they were inspected at last, the cage was still woefully short of the series’ minimum requirements (Above is the “before” picture). Chief Perp Jay Lamm laid out how they could rework the cage to pass tech and they spent all of Saturday fixing it.
They completed those fixes and made it through tech late Saturday. On Sunday, everything was going great until one driver noticed a car that was usually much quicker keeping pace him around the track. That car’s driver was waving frantically and the Wheel Team 6 member calmly checked the temperature gauge, shrugged, and drove a few more feet before checking his sideview mirror.
Naturally, that mirror was filled with a total conflagration. Ordinarily, most Lemons drivers would panic and fall over themselves getting out of the car. This is a Special Forces member, however, and we expect he simply shrugged and said, “Oh, not again.”
When safety crews showed up, they found the driver standing next to the still-burning car with his fire extinguisher emptied. We expect they’ll be back racing eventually, although their 7-Series is finito.
The Judges Choice gets handed out for a variety of reasons and at this race, Past Due Racing earned it for seeing the error of their ways at a previous Lemons race. Formerly, they had raced a supremely cheaty Corvette that had earned them a pile of penalty laps. They had obviously added all kinds of speed parts to it and as usually happens with supremely cheaty Lemons cars, it broke terminally moments into its first race anyway. With a race at the Corvette Museum looming, they did what anyone else with a cheaty Lemons Corvette would do: They sold it to a team in another racing series.
To replace it, they went to what we are sure is a fine and upstanding used-car lot called 3rd Chance Auto Sales.
There, they found a totally non-descript Kia Spectra that the dealer was eager to get rid of. What could possibly go wrong?
When it was all said and done, they drove the Spectra off the dealership lot for $339 with taxes, fees, and whatever else the state of Kentucky requires for you to own an automobile.
Did they add speed parts? They did not, for that would entail the existence of Kia Spectra speed parts. Instead, they showed up having added absolutely nothing but the required safety equipment. Despite some issues with the clutch slave cylinder, they made laps most of the weekend, beat a couple dozen teams, and had an absolute hoot wailing on this utterly forgettable Korean appliance. There’s a lesson in there, we expect.
We’ve covered the Organizer’s Choice in a separate post because the Save the Ta-Tas’ Cadillac SeVille deserves its own content. If you’re looking for a Cadillac anything on the car (besides body parts and badges), you won’t find it. Underneath is the quickest third-generation Chevy Camaro in Lemons. They did an incredibly convincing job on the bodywork; click here to read the full story.
That brings us at last to the Index of Effluency, which went yet again to Speedycop and the Gang of Outlaws. The team’s Trippy Tippy Hippy Van—a Volkswagen Camper van mounted on its side over a Volkswagen Cabrio—dazzled and impressed all weekend long while hammering out enough laps to beat 17 other teams.
That’s a win in our book and should be in yours, too. Click here for the whole story on that van and a load of photos plus video.
Check out the gallery below for more photos from this weekend and go to Murilee Martin’s website for 1,000 more. As always, you can find more 24 Hours of Lemons content here on Roadkill. The next race will be at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, near Chicago on July 22 and 23. If you aren’t registered to race in that one, get the details here and come check it out as a spectator.