Autobahn Country Club near Chicago has become an annual stop on the 24 Hours of Lemons’ whirlwind tour of crapcan endurance racing. Naturally, the Midwest gave Lemons racers the whole palette of summer weather conditions for “Doing Time in Joliet.” The blazing sun, oppessive humidity, and freak storms all kept staff and racers on their toes for three straight days. In the end, it turned into a heck of a weekend with some unlikely winners and a lot of the creativity that has defined Midwestern Lemons racers for years.
If NASCAR had The Intimidator, then Lemons has The Imitator (or rather several Imitators). Parody tribute liveries are nothing new and the fabulous Geo MetSHO—a Geo Metro with a twin-turbo, mid-engine Ford Taurus SHO V6—came back with its Apple Porsche 935 Tribute for more. After some teething troubles in its first race last fall, the “Awful Computer Porsche” threw down the second-quickest lap of the race after the team knocked the boost up to seven pounds. We’ll have a little more on this car soon.
The only car that went quicker was also not what it seemed. Just two weeks after debuting at National Corvette Museum, Save the Ta-Tas turned around their “Cadillac Seville.” However, the bodywork is just a ruse; underneath the front-wheel-drive Malaise Era facade sits one of the quickest cars in Lemons: a third-gen Camaro with a robust 5.3-liter Chevy Truck motor.
But that’s not all! The Mulsanne Straightjackets brought their tribute car out to play. While it looks a dead ringer for a classic Alpine A210 from the 1960s, the “Alfine” is instead a rusty Alfa Romeo Spider wearing some of the most beautiful bodywork you’ll ever see in Lemons.
Not every bodywork change was dramatic, however. Ho Ho Ho Racing “repaint” their mid-’90s Honda Civic with fresh wrapping paper at every race. After years of struggling with a pile of D-Series Honda engines and their quick-to-go head gaskets, they switched to a B18 four-cylinder from an Integra.
After racing all Saturday as a Civic, however, they swapped on an Integra front clip overnight for Sunday and added fresh wrapping paper. Like all swap-related things with Honda, the internet will explain that “everything just bolts right up.” Ho Ho Ho Racing will quickly call bullcrap on that, having first struggled to get their B-swap running and then straining the bounds of sanity to line up the Integra front clip. They managed a 20th place finish, which is far better than the D-Series’ reliability had allowed them in the past.
Earlier this year at Gingerman Raceway, Ultra Depends Racing won the Index of Effluency with their 305-powered, dirt-oval-veteran Chevy Monte Carlo. They gave it fresh paint this time around and added a zip-tie to the driver’s side mirror. Why would they do that? “It’s a speedometer,” they explained. “When it lays all the way back, you’re going too fast.” Zip-ties: Is there anything they can’t do?
The dedicated Mitsubishi 3000GT following will decry the existence of a $500 Mitsubishi, but MST3000 dug this one out of a field with the engine mostly disassembled in the back hatch. After buttoning the motor back up, they took it autocrossing to test it out. Naturally, the 3.0-liter V6 developed a jackhammer-style rod knock after about five 45-second runs.
After a second rebuild, they managed (barely) to get to Autobahn. The reliability of Mitsubishi V6s has been, well, suspect so the Lemons Supreme Court gave an over/under of about 12 laps before the engine went kaboom again. While the 3000GT eventually developed the exact same rod knock it had while autocrossing, the Mitsu team had managed an incredible feat of more than 70 laps.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mow ‘Em Down debuted this lawnmower-themed 2004 Acura TL. With 270 horsepower from a 3.2-liter V6 and a story of acquisition riddled with Mitsubishi engine-block-sized holes, they earned themselves 25 penalty laps to start with. As it turns out, the team were either hopelessly slow or woefully inept at controlling the car that the 25-lap hole wasn’t nearly as punitive as their own self-induced failings.
Lemons has seen a few SUVs, but the Ate Mile Motorsports Chevy Blazer looked like it might be the right kind of sleeper. The Detroit-based team dropped in a discarded Small-Block Chevy, which we all know litter vacant lots around the Motor City like so many McDonald’s bags.
The four-barrel Holley carb—also findable in vacant Detroit lots—probably upped the L65 Small-Block Chevy’s original 145 horsepower count, but a bevy of clutch-related problems prevented them from making use of any power gains. The whole build was compressed into just six weeks, which is no time at all for a new team. We look forward to seeing this manual-transmission Blazer running after the team take some time to sort it out.
As for winners, Team Sheen ran a flawless race in their Acura Integra to take the overall and Class A wins. They are never the fastest car in the field, but the team made the most of a wet track at the beginning of both race days. In a race chock full of black flags, Team Sheen drove a perfectly clean race. Even so, they needed a little help from their main competition, but when it was all settled, they won their second race overall as a team.
In Class B, Team Orca and their “Big Willy” Chevy Caprice finished an impressive eighth place overall with what was likely the biggest car at the race. They just edged past the Poorza Motorsports Toyota Cressida for the class win thanks to clean, consistent racing.
Things haven’t always been easy for Team Orca. Through the car’s first eight or so races, they killed about a dozen 4L60E automatic transmissions. For a year or two, you could count on finding the team under the hefty B-Body at some point, turning wrenches. This time, the old gearbox held together for an entire race. Congrats, Big Willy!
After a celebrity-race Dodge Daytona won at NCM two weeks ago, Team Anarchy followed it up with their Dodge Shadow. This car has raced Lemons for six years and until this weekend, had only made it to the end of a weekend one time. Their lead in Class C was at times as many as 35 laps, although they coasted to the end, more or less, with “only” 25 laps over their nearest competition.
Despite a smaller-than-usual field, several cars suffered catastrophic failures. All of those failures were significant enough that those teams just trailered their cars home early in the weekend. That left Heroic Fix to be slightly unorthodox at this race and it went to Moonboostin’ and their Hyundai Scoupe.
You may remember this team for their general inability to fix anything on their car ever and this fix was mostly self-inflicted. Two hours of racing was enough torture on the 1980s Hyundai that the brake pads melted away and the team clobbered a Toyota MR2 in a corner as a result. Aside from a crumpled door, the MR2 was mostly OK, but the Scoupe required a complete front-end rebuild.
As you might guess, few parts stores keep Hyundai Scoupe parts in stock, so the team spent more of their weekend traveling back and forth to parts stores than they did on the track. Somewhere in the midst of this, one team member sliced open his arm on a rusty fender and had to get a tetanus booster. Eventually, the brake system worked enough that they were able to put together more than 120 laps. For their brake-and-vaccination-related trouble, they took home the Heroic Fix.
The I Got Screwed trophy represents the Heroic Fix’s counterpart and the Rod Throwin’ Fools earned this one. Their Toyota MR2 finished second place at NCM and was leading this race just two hours from the checkered flag when they pitted with a flat right-front tire. No bother; they’d replace it with a brand-new spare and the healthy pace of the MR2, which sports a 3.0-liter Camry V6, would keep them close to Team Sheen’s Integra.
Unfortunately, they didn’t look closely at the cause of the flat tire until the MR2 was already back on the track. Only then did they notice a perfect circle grooved into the inside of the tire. How could that have happened?
Before they could call their driver in to find out, the MR2 had soon destroyed the brand-new tired in the exact same way. The culprit? The right-front spring had broken and the protruding sharp edge had dissected a pair of perfectly good tires. Not only were they out of the race from the lead with no spare spring, the Rod Throwin’ Fools had also annihilated two expensive pieces of rubber. Screwed!
Every race brings a regional or a race-specific award. Owing to Autobahn Country Club being a proper country club with powerful members and so forth, Lemons organizers thought that a high-brow racing car deserved to take home the Most Member-Like Car trophy. The Screwederia very badly want their bone-stock Acura Integra to be a Ferrari Formula 1 car and they’ve added F1-like bits over the course of several races.
This time around, they tacked on a nose much like the current abominable F1 proboscises. That would make their car dominate. As the F1 construction was made of plywood and some hardware-store brackets, Lemons organizers didn’t allow them to race with the nose on. The car did turn a couple of pace laps on Sunday at the front of the field. We’re not sure if Kimi Raikkonen’s next contract might involve racing for The Screwederia, but we hear that Luca Badoer has asked if the Integra needs a test driver.
The Judges Choice at this race went to S.T.T.B. Racing and their “Safetysaurus Rex” Mercedes 300CE. We’ve seen this story before: Mercedes techs buy a customer’s car that is chock full of problems and say, “How hard could this be?” The answer usually requires disassembling the entire car trackside.
We don’t really know or even care how the car did because everything else about it was entertaining. The whole concept of Safetysaurus Rex made little-to-no sense and seemed, at best, to be an inside joke. Baffling themes are always great and the weirder the better, as far as Lemons is concerned.
Even better, one team member spent most of the weekend in one of those bubbly Tyrannosaurus Rex suits. Given that the entire weekend was a muggy 90 degrees, the Lemons judges admired the dedication to the theme, whatever the hell it was.
Team Shell Shocked took home the Organizer’s Choice by racing one of the very cars that Lemons’ Chief Perp Jay Lamm had in mind when he came up with the series in 2006. Their 1976 AMC Gremlin looked like a proper race car, even: disc-brake swap, V8 engine, and a bit of lowering, perhaps.
The team had found the car just a few weeks before the race. Its previous owner had intended to flip it but had no ability to do that, it turns out. Spotting an easy path to domination, the Shell Shocked crew swept in and instead proceeded metaphorically to smash their heads over and over again on a basketcase Gremlin.
As it turned out, the V8 was a low-compression 360 from an early ‘80s Jeep, the disc-brake bias was skewed about 80 percent to the rear, the exhaust belched thick smoke, and the team spent the rest of Saturday chasing electrical gremlins when it kinda ran without fogging most of Northeast Illinois.
However, the team finally sorted the car by Sunday and were well on their way toward an Index of Effluency when a spate of costly pit speeding infractions caught up with them. Nevertheless, the Gremlin is exactly the car that will never get old in Lemons. Ideally, there will be a Lemons race someday with cars only from AMC, France, and French AMC. Until that day, Gremlins will continue to be among organizers’ favorites.
That brings us at last to the Index of Effluency. Seldom does one team dominate Class C enough to take home the IOE as well, but Team Anarchy’s convincing win also earned them Lemons’ top prize. That came not just on the merit of finishing 26th place overall but also because this car’s race has typically ended about 45 minutes in when the Shadow’s boosted 2.2-liter engine has thrown a connecting rod into the next county. Well done, Team Anarchy!
Lemons returns to action this weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park in California for the series’ annual Arse-Sweat-Apalooza. If you aren’t registered to race, you can still head to Willows, California, to watch the race. And if you’re not in California this coming weekend, be sure to stay updated on all the action right here on Roadkill and on the 24 Hours of Lemons’ Facebook and Instagram pages.