24 Hours of LeMons Northern California: The Winners

The primered-out ’86 Chevy Celebrity Eurosport wagon that is the 24 Hours of LeMons organization has been lowering Thunderhill Raceway‘s property values since 2007, and it returned to Glenn County, California, for the seventh annual running of the Vodden the Hell Are We Doing 24 Hours of LeMons race, and it was a triple-digit-temperature festival of thrown connecting rods and fast driving on Thunderhill’s glorious five-mile course. Here’s what happened.

Why do we call this race the Vodden the Hell Are We Doing? This unusual race name is intended to honor David Vodden, the CEO and manager of Thunderhill Raceway, for his love of frequent, lengthy speeches broadcast over the track’s elaborate and penetrating public-address system. Racers sweating over their disassembled transmissions in the paddock are treated to recitations of the products sold by the Thunderhill Pro Shop, musings on the differences between various grades of gasoline, and even weather reports for Hammerfest and Kuala Lumpur. At this event, however, the racers offered to round up a $1,200 donation for the track’s favorite charity, in exchange for a promise of a weekend-long PA-system silence from Mr. Vodden. The hat was passed at the drivers’ meeting on Saturday morning, and it took about 45 seconds for the take to exceed $1,600. Blissful PA silence ensued for the remainder of the weekend.

Class A 1
Cerveza Racing, with this M50 M30B35-swapped BMW 533i, owns more overall-win trophies than any team in 24 Hours of LeMons history. At the ’17 VTHAWD race, the Cerveza drivers got their eleventh LeMons Class A win. Cerveza Racing has now grabbed the win on laps at every single Thunderhill LeMons race since the 2012 VTHAWD.

Class A Pursuer 2
As is typical for California LeMons races, the “ghettocharged” Mazda Miata of Eyesore Racing spent the entire weekend locked in a close battle with the Cerveza BMW. In fact, the Mazda crossed the finish line before the BMW, but the Eyesore driver had been black-flagged for passing under a caution flag in the waning minutes of the race and was docked a lap.

Class A Pursuer 1
Meanwhile, the Sour Aviation Mustang, also in the thick of the weekend-long lead-swapping struggle with Eyesore and Cerveza, finished on the same lap. A race in which the top teams drove for nearly 1,100 miles apiece, decided in the end by a matter of a minute or two.

Class A 2
Typically, the top few teams in one of these big California races will run black-flag-free for the entirety of the event (the dreaded black flags are thrown for offenses such as spins, offs, contact, pit speeding, and other no-nos), but this time we saw Cerveza, Eyesore, and Sour Aviation several times apiece in the penalty box. Not one of the other quick teams— there were a half-dozen who had a shot— was able to step up and take advantage of the big dogs’ mistakes this time, although the Nemo Money Miata team came close.

One previous-race-winning car that could made a run for the overall win was the Ruf Porsche 944 (Ruf as in the sound a dog makes, not that other Ruf). The reason that Ruf finished sixth also gained them the Most Heroic Fix award.

Fuel consumption/capacity becomes one of the key factors, if not the key factor, in winning LeMons races. The Ruf guys didn’t want to mess up the perfect 50/50 weight balance of their superior Teutonic racing machine by adding a big fuel cell, so they decided to (break the LeMons safety rules and) remove all the safety baffling and emissions-related hardware in their 944’s factory fuel tank, freeing up space for a precious pint of additional fuel. The resulting cascade of dissolved sealant and loose bits in the tank doomed them to a 20-hour thrash, highlights of which included breaking off an EZ-Out in the nearly-inaccessible shift-linkage pin and then disassembling the car down to the tiniest nowhere-near-the-fuel-tank components. We awarded the Ruf team the Most Unnecessary Heroic Fix trophy (plus a command to de-ruin their fuel system in permanent fashion) for this fiasco.

Class B 1
Ever since the 2013 Sears Pointless race, when the Neon Pope team made their LeMons debut dressed as nuns and with their Dodge Neon done up as a Popemobile, this team and their single-cam ’97 Neon have been pursuing a Class B win. On their 19th race, after having come in second in Class B twice before, they finally did it: Class B victory by eight laps over the Abominable Abomination Ford Crown Victoria, in ninth place overall. The LeMons Supreme Court will now grant the Neon Pope a residual value that will permit them to choose from any one of the 150 twin-cam Neon/PT Cruiser engines now residing in any junkyard in the country, so that they can compete in Class A at future races.

Class C 1
In Class C, the Ran When Parked Racing 1976 Oldsmobile Omega won by two laps over the Re-Start Racing 1991 Ford Ranger.

Class C 2
The Omega was the Olds-badged version of the Chevy Nova, and thus an excellent choice of car for our series. We have yet to see an example of the Buick-badged Nova (the Apollo) in LeMons, but we have experienced the Cadillac Nova.

JC 1
The “Devil Camaro” of IWannaRoc Racing was driven so aggressively on Saturday that the judges of the LeMons Supreme Court were forced to offer counseling to the team’s drivers. On Sunday, the once-Satanic IWannaRoc drivers had calmed down to such an extent that they earned the Judges’ Choice trophy.

Region History 1
All the way back in 2008, at the final LeMons race held at the about-to-be-shuttered Altamont Speedway, Delinquent Racing brought their 1996 Ford Taurus SHO (the generation of Taurus SHO with V8 engine and automatic transmission) for their first 24 Hours of LeMons race.

Region 3
Now painted up in skunk livery, complete with fluffy black-and-white tail, the Delinquent Racing SHO still competes in California LeMons races. There have been some setbacks along the way, but this veteran team has kept their Ford in the thick of California LeMons action for nearly a decade.

Region 4
This race, they brought two 16-year-old drivers, ink not even dry on their street driver licenses, and sent them out in the Taurus. Here we see one of those young drivers painting happy little skunks on the car hood, as part of the legendary Bob Ross Penalty for drivers who get too many black flags.

Region 2
For seeing the veterans and newcomers driving a terrible Detroit car together after all these years, we awarded Delinquent Racing the Hope For the Future award.

OC 3
Vehicles competing in the 24 Hours of LeMons must have a wheelbase of at least 82 inches, which rules out the MG Midget, the Subaru 360, and the Autobianchi Bianchina. A small-and-LeMony car that does meet that requirement is the Nash Metropolitan, with its gargantuan 85″ wheelbase, and everyone at Thunderhill felt joy to see the first LeMons Metropolitan preparing to race.

OC 2
The Metropolitan was built in England by Austin, and used BMC running gear. CheesyBeard’s Racing picked up a 1956 model, bolted in the 1.8-liter version of the pushrod B engine used in later MGBs (in place of the original 1.2-liter B engine originally used by Nash), caged the car, and were ready to race.

OC 4
Well, not exactly ready. A new race-car build always has some problems, and the CheesyBeard guys had to do a lot of fabrication and repairing before they could take their Metropolitan onto the race track.

OC 1
It suffered from overheating and power-loss problems and never managed to complete a full lap under its own power, despite many trips to distant wrecking yards and parts stores during the weekend. We look forward to seeing how the CheesyBeard’s Racing Metropolitan does on the race track when working properly, and we gave the team the Organizer’s Choice award this time, for general awesomeness.

The Index of Effluency is the top prize of LeMons racing, awarded to the team that accomplishes the greatest feat with the most unlikely car. An ordinary bad car, say a Toyota Tercel EZ, must place in the single-digit part of the standings to get the IOE, while a team with an excruciatingly bad car— for example, a Renault Fuego Turbo— can take home the trophy by just finishing near the middle of the standings. This time, Pony Keg Racing got their 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham up to 74th out of 129 entries and won the prize in decisive fashion.

IOE History 2
The Pony Keg Olds made its first LeMons appearance at 2013 Vodden the Hell Are We Doing race. The Oldsmobile’s fur was fresh and clean then, and the drivers were optimistic.

IOE History 1
For the first nine races of Pony Keg Racing’s Oldsmobile adventures, the car set a new standard of awfulness for reliability in our series. We stand by our opinion that the K-It-FWD 1986 Plymouth Reliant-K station wagon is The Worst Car In LeMons History (and maybe in world history), but even that car has seen a few not-so-bad races. Prior to the ’17 VTHAWD LeMons race, the Pony Keg Cutlass Supreme racked up an awe-inspiring record of misery and failure that, we think, made it The Biggest Lemon In LeMons.

IOE History 3
Let’s take a look at the Pony Keg Oldsmobile’s racing history prior to the ’17 VTHAWD:
VTHAWD 2013: 178th of 184, 23 laps
Sears Pointless 2014: 144th of 167, 129 laps
VTHAWD 2014: 189th of 228, 56 laps
Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 2014: 143rd of 175, 127 laps
VTHAWD 2015: 188th of 188, -1 lap
Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 2015: 177th of 178, 2 laps
Sears Pointless 2016: 138th of 147, 51 laps
VTHAWD 2016: 88th of 108, 93 laps
Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 2016: 112th of 183, 222 laps

At last weekend’s race, the Pony Keg Cutlass Supreme finished 74th out of 129 entries, turning 134 five-mile-long laps in the process. Sure, it broke a few times, but the team persevered and kept putting the car back into action. Pony Keg’s performance was so inspiring that the team earned one of the most well-deserved Index of Effluency trophies in recent memory. Congratulations, Pony Keg!

Top 2
For the Head-On Photos gallery of the 2017 Vodden the Hell Are We Doing race, go here. For the photos shot by the LeMons Supreme Court, go here. For all the latest 24 Hours of LeMons news and features, go here. Our next race takes place June 3-4 at High Plains Raceway in Colorado, and we hope to see you there!

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover