24 Hours of Lemons South Carolina: The Winners

The 24 Hours of Lemons circus stopped at Carolina Motorsports Park way back in 2008, and since that time the autumn Lemons race at CMP has become a major event on the social calendar. The tenth Lemons South Fall event featured ancient Detroit cars, new Korean cars, trucks, broken parts, barbecuing, and a parade of execrable racing hoopties through a wholesome Southern town. Here’s how it went.

Starting in 2010, the city of Camden, South Carolina, has been inviting the 24 Hours of Lemons competitors to parade down Main Street before the fall race. At the end of the parade, there’s a huge street party, with car inspections taking place as the bemused locals listen to live music and check out the so-called race cars.

The War Boys, a Fury Road-themed rookie team with a Chevrolet S-10 done up as Furiosa’s War Rig, made a big impression during the parade and street party.

Once the racing started, the War Boys were shiny and chrome, avoiding the penalty box while riding eternal to Valhalla. When their truck broke, they fixed it without complaint. For these things, the judges of the 24 Hours of Lemons Supreme Court awarded the War Boys the Judges’ Choice trophy.

Team S.O.B. spent nearly a decade and 15 races attempting to get an overall win in their Volkswagen GTI, with plenty of top-five finishes but never a win on laps. Then, in May of this year, they brought a BMW E30 3-Series (done up as a “Gran Beemerino” with Starsky & Hutch colors) and won the Southern Discomfort race at CMP. Was that win a fluke, a one-time deal?

No, it was not a fluke. Team S.O.B. won the South Fall ’17 race by three laps over the Ford Taurus SHO of Theorectical Racing.

It wasn’t an easy win for Team S.O.B., however. Mere months after the Nemo Money Mazda MX-5 Miata came from nowhere and got the most laps at the Arse Sweat-a-Palooza in California this year, it appeared that Irritable Dad Syndrome Racing would do the same in their Miata at the ’17 South Fall race. These longtime Lemons veterans competed flawlessly during Saturday’s race session, and they started in P1 when the green flag waved on Sunday. Then disaster struck, with the ignition system in their Mazda going on the fritz and knocking the team out of contention. We think the Irritable Dads have figured out this endurance-racing thing, though, and we expect them to be tough to beat at the Road Atlanta Lemons race this December.

Winning Class B and finishing an impressive fourth overall, Interceptor Motorsports and their 1988 Ford Thunderbird. They beat the 1993 Honda Del Sol of Terminally Confused by three laps.

The battles for Class C, which we consider the most important Lemons class, proved very exciting this time. Early on, the Class C competition came down to three teams. Quickest of the trio was the RetroRacing 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. The members of this team have been racing their clattery air-cooled machine since the early days of the series, and a Class C win has— so far— proven to be an elusive goal for their nimble-but-reliability-challenged German sports coupe. This time, they turned 274 laps, staying close enough to the leader to keep things interesting for much of the weekend, but ultimately finishing 62 laps behind the class winner.

The Lemons newcomers of Unreasonably Hopeful Racing accomplished something amazing: they showed up with a completely stock 2001 Subaru Forester, complete with automatic transmission, and proceeded to circle the track 320 times during the course of the weekend. Nothing broke, the drivers stayed out of the Penalty Box, and Unreasonably Hopeful Racing stayed within reach of the class win for the entire event.

The Forester wasn’t quick by any stretch of the imagination, but— very much unlike most Lemons Subarus— it neither threw connecting rods nor blew head gaskets. The judges thought this was such an amazing accomplishment for the kind of car stereotypically driven (at least, in the view of many who live in places like the Deep South) by blue-state vegans that they awarded Unreasonably Hopeful Racing the special Hillary-Voter Car Just Schooled All Y’all’s Asses trophy.

Grabbing the Class C win by five laps over the Subaru and finishing 15th overall, the Quadrifoolios and their ratty 1973 Alfa Romeo Spider were quite a bit slower than the Super Beetle and just a tiny bit quicker than the Forester.

The Quadrifoolios exploded their engine during practice on Friday, knocking a big ol’ hole in the side of their engine block, and they somehow managed to find a replacement of unknown provenance and condition not too far from central South Carolina. Alfa Romeos tend to be all-or-nothing cars in this series; either they run flawlessly despite horrifying abuse, or they collapse into a heap of very stylish broken parts 20 minutes into the race. In this case, the Quadrifoolios’ car held together and their drivers stayed out of trouble.

All the way back in 2012, at that year’s Gator-O-Rama race at MSR Houston, the Green Cornet team brought a frighteningly rusty 1972 Dodge Coronet and won the Index of Effluency trophy. The car raced a couple more times after that, then disappeared from view for nearly five years. Finally, a new team obtained this fine racing machine, installed a manual transmission, applied the contents of a 55-gallon drum of Bondo and a king-sized bucket of purple paint, and called themselves Team Cornautski II.

The Cornautski turned out to be fairly quick for a near-half-century-old heap, perhaps on a par with a certain West Coast Lemons Mopar of similar vintage, and it made us very happy to see it on the race track.

Another nerve-wrackingly-rusty former Index of Effluency winner that showed up with a brand-new team, this much-Bondoized 1967 Pontiac GTO (actually a LeMans, but who cares?) was about 15 seconds per lap slower than the Coronet but still looked and sounded gorgeous. Under the hood, a tired Pontiac 350 replaced the annihilated 301 that resided there during the 2016 Lemons South Fall race.

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The purpose of the Most Heroic Fix award is self-explanatory, and many— most, in fact— of the General Motors vehicles at this race broke major components. The Punisher Chevrolet Caprice began competing in the 24 Hours of Lemons in 2008, at the very first South Carolina race, but the team had taken a sabbatical for a few years. Team Punisher’s glorious return to Lemons racing kicked off with the Caprice’s much-abused LT1 small-block cracking both cylinder heads early on Saturday, adding a nuked automatic transmission on top of that.

So the team drove hundreds of miles to pick up replacement heads and transmission, worked all night on Saturday, and got the car back on the track for Sunday’s racing.

Not many Kias compete in the 24 Hours of Lemons; we have a couple of Rios, a Sephia, and that’s it. Or that was it, until Mock Grass Racing— the team that campaigns an astroturf-covered Sephia— decided to take advantage of the Korean Luxury Class C Loophole and race a 2005 Kia Amanti.

With 200 horses and a great deal of opulence, the Amanti is a lot of car for the $200 price tag on the 200,000-mile example Mock Grass purchased. They spent another hundred bucks to get a 100-footer black paint job, polished the wood trim inside, and hit the race track in a Jaguar/Mercedes-faced machine suitable for Syngman Rhee himself.

Unfortunately, chronic overheating woes bedeviled the Mock Grass Amanti all weekend and the team managed just 56 laps, a few at a time. Because they bought the car based on my advice— which often leads to extreme(ly rewarding) challenges for teams— the members of Mock Grass (actually Mock Class in the case of the Amanti) received the not-exactly-sought-after I Got Screwed trophy for this race. We’re sure the Mock Class Amanti will be back, and we predict domination.

As the time for the checkered flag approached on Sunday, the judges had their eyes on two spectacular machines that had no business on a road-racing course but were performing beyond (very low) expectations. We decided that whichever of these two teams got the most laps would take home the Index of Effluency, while the other would get the damn-near-as-prestigious Organizer’s Choice trophy. The first gladiator in that struggle was the 1986 Pontiac Parisienne of NSF Racing.

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Florida-based NSF Racing, the members of which often join forces with the mad Russians of Sputnik Racing to create a sort of duct-taped Apollo-Soyuz of hooptistic synergy, specializes in dragging scrap-grade old American cars out of the swamp and racing them. NSF has four cars in the Greatest Lemons Cars of All Time list, for obvious reasons. The team members generally spend more on beer than on their race cars, they have a policy of running whatever oil comes with a $50 engine, and they are masters at keeping decrepit beaters alive on the race track long after most teams would have packed up and gone home.

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Hurricane Irma tore the roof off the NSF warehouse, a few days before the race, and so the team had to weld up the roll cage in the driveway. As part of this process, Hurricane Sasha tore the roof off the Parisienne as the expression of an incomprehensible Sputnik Racing tradition.

Miraculously, the Parisienne— which, because neither NSF nor Sputnik team members can spell, was entered as a “Pontiac Parsiline”— passed the tech inspection on the first try. Would this car be reliable? Hell no! The water pump on its Chevy 305 failed within the first few minutes of racing, but the driver kept going.

The engine was already a quadrillion-mile wheezer with a rod knock before it ran dry, and so its deteriorating condition set the stage for a weekend of the usual NSF/Sputnik wrenching magic (i.e., using junkyard parts, Soviet/Floridian ingenuity, and zip-ties to keep a junker running, sort of).

Still, the Parsilene kept clattering along, grinding out intermittent, grotesquely slow laps one after the next.

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Meanwhile, the pleasingly shortened 1978 Lincoln Continental of the Knoxvegas Lowballers stood as the Parsilene’s fearsome competitor for Index of Effluency glory.

If you’re reading this, you’re a Roadkill fan and know all about the Missing Linc. On the tiny chance that you don’t know the origins of this fine racing automobile, however, I am including Roadkill Episode 63 here, to enable you to get up to speed.

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At the very end of the Retreat From Moscow Lemons Rally, Freiburger and Finnegan auctioned off the Missing Linc to the highest bidder, with an arm-wrestling tiebreaker giving the win to the Knoxvegas Lowballers. The Lowballers have built more amazing Lemons cars and won more trophies than we have space to describe here. They have won every single trophy available in Lemons except for the I Got Screwed— including wins in all three classes— and they spend race nights circling the paddock on their motorized picnic table. This team can build anything and make it work well…

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…which is a good thing, because all they had time to do when race-prepping the Missing Linc was to gut the interior, cage it, and rig up a Craigslist-score GT500 Mustang supercharger atop their smog-era 400M engine. It turns out that most owners of GT500s upgrade the blower right away, so there’s a glut of these things out there. What could possibly go wrong?

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They also CNC-machined a gigantic Continental hood ornament.

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The oversized luxury hood ornament has become a Knoxvegas Lowballers trademark, ever since they made one for their Retreat From Moscow Mercedes-Benz 200D.

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They kept the knobby Cooper Discoverer A/T off-road tires that Finnegan and Freiburger bought for the Rally. Sure, grip was a little compromised at the limit, but the Lowballers drive very well.

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Even with good road-racers behind the wheel and a blower poking out of the hood, the Missing Linc was slow. Real slow. In fact, it was the slowest car on the track, with a best lap a full nine seconds slower than the Parsilene’s best lap (and 41 seconds slower than the winning BMW’s best lap).

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Stuff started to break right away. Early in the going, overheating problems burst the radiator open, requiring a major soldering job. Then a backfire caused a supercharger explosion, shooting metal shrapnel from the handmade sheet-aluminum intake plenum into various important underhood components. Then the MSD ignition failed, and one of the rocks left in the engine compartment from Finnegan and Freiburger’s quarry-hoonage adventures fell into the open distributor hole and required many hours to fish out.

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While the team worked on repairing the blower intake, the car ran in naturally-aspirated mode.

The two cars ran neck-and-neck for a while, but the Parsilene proved better at running like crap than did the Missing Linc. The Pontiac finished 152 laps, while the Lincoln finished 139. Index of Effluency to NSF Racing, Organizer’s Choice to the Knoxvegas Lowballers!

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The Missing Linc will be competing at the Road Atlanta Lemons race in December, so be sure to make plans to witness its greatness there. For you West Coast racing hoodlums, the Button Turrible 24 Hours of Lemons takes place at Buttonwillow Raceway Parka at the end of September. For the complete gallery of photos from the 2017 24 Hours of Lemons South Fall race, go here; for all your Lemons news and features, check in at the Roadkill home of Lemons action.

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover