24 Hours of LeMons: The Twin-Engine 1971 Cadillac Eldorado With 16 Cylinders and 1,000 Cubic Inches

Most people who run the 24 Hours of LeMons for more than a couple races start scheming at some point. Scheming about “the best car” or “the nuttiest idea”—often the same thing to many—and wondering “What if…?” LeMons organizers are happy to oblige and let people’s creative streaks run wild and while the series has had a few twin-engined cars like the MRolla/FX32 and Speedycop’s 16-cylinder Lincoln Continental, the holy grail has remained a twin-engined Cadillac Eldorado with a pair of Cadillac 500 cubic-inch engines. Last weekend at LeMons Decade of Disappointment 10th Anniversary Race at Gingerman Raceway, Morrow’s Racing at last ended the 1,000-Cubic-Inch Quest.

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Now we know that Fred from Dirt Every Day just built his own 1,000 cubic-inch Eldo to go offroading, but Dave Morrow and his ragtag crew of Pennsylvania racers have been scheming for years to build a multiple-engined vehicle. The team’s original plan, as emailed to LeMons HQ, involved a six-wheeled GM Dustbuster van powered by three Buick 3.8-liter V6s, but he scrapped that to just run one supercharged 3.8. If that sounds crazy, it is a bit nuts, but the Morrow’s crew is no stranger to general insanity. Their build history includes a twin-turbo, mid-engined GMC Van and a hacked-together “Pontiac Banshee” using a BMW E36 shell, Opel GT bodywork, and a Pontiac OHC-6 inline six engine.

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Eventually, Morrow was looking for a Spec Land Yacht entry for this race and Judge Phil (aka Murilee Martin) suggested a twin-engined Eldorado would be perfect! Dave set to work finding one and came up with a front-wheel-drive ‘71 Eldorado. Its Cadillac 500 V8 made around 345 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque and the team drudged up a later ‘76 Eldorado engine donor for the rear axle whose emission-choked engine made only 190 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque. Putting them in the same 20-foot chassis, then, made it a 500 horsepower machine with more than 850 lb-ft of torque. Besides the seven horns mounted under the hood, what could possibly be more American?

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Because the Eldorado was front-wheel drive, all Morrows had to do was drop the ‘76 donor’s subframe and mount it behind the driver. OK, it’s not that simple at all and required months of weekend work to get right, but the rear engine went in and a firewall was built both in front of the engine to protect the driver and behind it to protect the trunk-mounted fuel cell.

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With tall springs in the back to accommodate the weight, there were only a few giveaways from outward appearance at its 1,000 cubic-inch nature. The side scoops were functional and the two exhaust systems were noticeable. From up close, you could see the 500’s air cleaner through the house registers on the rear deck. And that was about it.

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The shift linkages were shared on the column shifter and with two front subframes on the car, the beastly Eldorado had four-wheel disc brakes!

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Despite its considerable heft—More than 5,000 pounds, which required a weight waiver and considerable communication with leMons HQ—the Caddy went pretty well on both engines in a straight line. Cornering prowess was cruise ship-esque somewhat limited.

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That glory was short-lived. After a first stint in which 1,000 cubic inches drank up 22 gallons of gas in an hour, the front engine tossed one of its substantial connecting rods through the engine block. It killed the starter and ripped up the transmission bellhousing on its way out.

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Surely, the car could soldier on with only a rear engine, right? Well, not really. The front engine had been supplying power brakes and, more importantly, power steering. While Morrow thought he could rig up a power-brake system, nobody thought it a good idea to drive a 5,000-pound car with no power steering. This was also compounded by the difficulty in cooling the self-contained rear engine. The solution, clearly, was to take the rear engine out and put it in under the hood.

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If that sounds like an ordeal, it was. The rear subframe had been installed by lifting the car’s rear and rolling it under, but because they needed the subframe intact and only needed to pull the powertrain, things became much more complicated. The clearances were too tight to swing it out through the trunk and they weren’t going to cut off the roof, so the Morrow’s Racing crew had spent hours and hours disconnecting everything, hoisting up the car, and then somehow finagling the engine off the subframe with the rear of the car in the air.

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It took them more than 24 hours to get everything back in, but a later Sunday start meant they could race three or four hours of racing in their half-power Caddy. Unfortunately, the rear springs had been so long and compressed so much by the rear-mounted 500’s weight that the tail of the car sat about a foot higher than the front. With no weight now behind the driver and the car’s exaggerated rake, the Eldorado exhibited some “interesting” handling characteristics.

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The single-engined Cadillac finished the race without much further drama, save for one driver forgetting just how wide the Eldorado is and dropping a couple of wheels off the track. We took some measurements while it filled the Penalty Box and determined it is One LeMons Racer wide.

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For embarking on a silly quest (at LeMons judges’ urging), blowing up their project, and then spending most of the weekend making it go again, Morrow’s Racing took home the not-so-coveted Heroic Fix trophy at Gingerman Raceway.

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We’ll have more from this race right here on Roadkill with a full wrap-up soon. See more twin-engined Eldorado photos below in the gallery.

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