24 Hours of LeMons: Maybe a Saturn Engine in a Porsche 914 Isn’t That Crazy

If you feel so inclined, there are tons of ways to race a Porsche in the 24 Hours of LeMons. We’ve witnessed the heartbreak of the “high-performance” liquid-cooled Porsches before, but the Porsche 914 remains the easiest way to defame the legendary sports car builder through crapcan racing. The bastard stepchildren 914s have raced in LeMons since its earliest days with a multitude of sputtering and coughing air-cooled engines . Racers have sought refuge from those terrible motors in several ways—including Golf four-cylinders and even a Mazda rotary—but few engine swaps have been as puzzling as when the California-based Sheepshaggers’ powered their 914 with a Saturn Twin-Cam engine.


The Sheepshaggers are a team that includes Kiwi Steve Davies—the Chief Inspector for the Southern California Timing Association (who run Speed Week at Bonneville)—and the rotating cast of Sheepshaggers vehicles has been anchored by this third-generation Chevy Camaro.


They also tried (and failed miserably) to run an Oldsmobile 442 W41 for several races, but the high-strung Quad 4 engine was having none of it. Over two races, the Olds managed a grand total of six laps.


Eventually, the Sheepshaggers got their hands on a tired Porsche 914. Somehow, they arrived at the decision to power the mid-engined Porsche with the 125-horsepower, 1.9-liter Saturn Twin-Cam four-cylinder from a 1990s Saturn S-Series, turned from its normal transverse mounting to a longitudinal direction. You might call that a bold choice.


When it turned up to Sonoma Raceway in March 2015, the engine swap left LeMons staff completely puzzled. With more efficient and, historically speaking, more reliable four-cylinder options on the table, why would anyone go with the Saturn engine? Just way, the Sheepshaggers said. You’ll see.


Unfortunately, all the 914 saw at that race was the tow strap and, subsequently, the trailer.


However, they returned in December 2015 with the same setup and this time would be different, they said. Because they’d taken an unreliable engine and put it into a crappy platform, the LeMons Supreme Court put them in Class C, expecting the engine to throw connecting-rod pieces all over Wine Country.


What happened instead was little short of stunning: Despite running the 89th-quickest lap in the 178-car field—exactly in the middle—the Saturn-powered 914 stomped its nearest Class C competitor by 18 laps on the way to an astonishing 25th place overall.


We haven’t seen the Porsche since that race, but the class win from such a bizarre engine swap remains one of the most surprising things we’ve seen in LeMons. Or maybe the Sheepshaggers good ol’-fashioned hot-rodding background just means they’ve assembled the pieces better than anyone else.

The 24 Hours of LeMons returns to Sonoma Raceway for the last race of 2016 from December 3 to 4. You can get more information on that race here and be sure to check back here on Roadkill for more LeMons coverage.

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