We’re just back from Motorsports Ranch Houston and the 24 Hours of LeMons “Texas Tippin’” race there. With a May race near the Gulf of Mexico, we were prepared for unbearable heat and humidity, but weather turned out to be perfect for a race with 56 crapcan teams. That field was chock full of quality and weird results, so let’s dig right into the winners and more from LeMons at MSR Houston.
We’ll start with a few honorable mentions from Texas Tippin’. The 24 Hours of LeMons has traveled to Houston since 2008 and many teams have come and gone in that time. Along with Tetanus Racing, however, Shelia & the Sheikhs have raced their terrible Ford Mustang since the series’ first foray into Texas. Same car, same drivers. It’s pretty remarkable for a car to remain running nine years after its first race and even rarer to retain the same crew.
We should also mention the bone-stock, automatic-equipped Toyota Corolla of Shots Fired Racing. Their weekend went askew with startling frequency. While their rear wheel took a knock from a spinning Class A car that set them back a couple of hours, some bent suspension parts were relatively small potatoes compared with the two times their engine caught fire.
We’ve seen The Resistance several times before and these Honda-philes brought a new Civic to this race. This second-generation Civic Wagon was the antithesis of fast, but its color lent it a fairly obvious poo emoji theme. We’ve seen enough—perhaps far too many—scat themes, but this one at least had a dopey grin and a giant roll of toilet paper that fluttered in the breeze louder than the miniscule Honda engine.
The overall winner on laps came from Ginger Racing, a growing team with 20 drivers scattered across four cars. Their pair of BMW 5-Series have always looked strong but had previously failed to run cleanly or without mechanical failures. This time around, the team’s #777 car led most of the race and managed to stay on the track without serious drama. Their nearest competitor finished five laps behind.
We’ll jump right to the Class C winner because, remarkably, the Zoom Zoom Mazda B2000 pickup beat every car in Class B. Not only that, but the truck also finished sixth-place overall. That’s astounding enough on its own, but we should throw in that the truck ran the 43rd-quickest lap (of 50 cars) and still beat scads of well-prepared Hondas, Mustangs, and BMWs.
We’d seen this truck previously with the SOHC Mazda 2.0-liter engine that shrugged out double-digit horsepower. Since we last saw it at Barber Motorsports Park in February, the team had dug up a later version of the Mazda F engine with dual-overhead cams and 128 (!) horsepower. The source for that engine? A Kia Sportage. Only in LeMons will you find a team upgrading their Mazda with a license-built Kia engine.
Class B turned out to be an incredible race of attrition with about three hours left in the race, Tetanus Racing’s Porsche 944 led by a whopping 10 laps. Without warning, however, the fragile Porsche transaxle went kaput and because that’s a 10-hour replacement, the team packed it up. Trailing them was the Team Too Soon Junior Volkswagen Jetta, which broke almost simultaneously with a failed wheel bearing, and Inglorious Bastards Honda Civic Wagovan, which got parked by LeMons officials for fueling violations.
That left Fruit Basket Racing, 25 laps behind Tetanus when they broke, to inherit the Class B lead with their Dodge Shadow. The Shadow does not have a particularly sterling reliability reputation so the win was never a sure thing, but Fruit Basket hung on to win Class B just six months after they had eeked out a Class C win in November.
Incredibly, Mixtape Racing’s Ford Taurus nearly ran down Fruit Basket for the Class B win, falling only one lap short at the checkered flag. We should mention this is no Taurus SHO; this one has the clanky pushrod 3.0-liter Vulcan V6 and an automatic transmission. Because it was essentially a rental-car spec Taurus that had driven to 9th place overall, the team took home the World’s Fastest Rental Car trophy specific to this event. Since the old axiom goes “The fastest car in the world is a rental car,” this is clearly the world’s fastest car. We’re also hoping this will be the first chapter in a fabled Dodge Shadow vs. junkyard-special Ford Taurus racing rivalry for generations of vintage racing to come.
That brings us to the Heroic Fix award, whose heroics could be argued in this instance. For FOG Racing and their Mitsubishi Mirage, their Heroic Fix trophy was more a soul-searching sojourn than an attempt to fix an ailing race car. While leaving tech inspection on Friday before the race, the Mirage and its swapped 2.0-liter engine from a Galant spontaneously failed to function.
The team tracked the cause, so they thought, to a bad ECU. One FOG Racing team member collects Porsche 914s, which would be an otherwise-extraneous fact to Mirage racing until the team decided to bypass the fuel-injection system altogether. They’d spend Saturday’s race day trying to rig up a fuel-delivery system using a Porsche 914 carburetor and an exhaust elbow-bend. Predictably, the half-stock, half-Porsche system gave them no spark.
No problem, they said, because they would find a new ECU and revert to fuel injection. Soon, they set off to the darkest corner of the Houston car-parts market, where one can scrounge up a Mitsubishi Galant wiring harness on a Saturday night at 10 p.m. The fewer questions asked about that, the better. However they came about it, the replacement harness and Galant computer turned out to need a matching key to work. They never found out if the ECU was any good as a result and the fuel-injection avenue closed to them again.
“We’ve still got this,” FOG Racing said. They’d somehow assembled a small machine shop in their paddock space and the 24 Hours of Grinding, Cutting, and Welding continued on as they made mounting brackets for the Pertronix distributor for a 914. Unfortunately, the open-air machine shop lacked enough precision to keep the mounted distributor from wobbling.
Every attempt to try cranking proved unsuccessful, but for their heroic—if perhaps misguided efforts—FOG Racing took home the Heroic Fix.
With a relatively small field, some teams like TARP Racing felt they had a feal chance at winning. They looked close enough to make it count early in the race, but the transmission soon took exception to success. That left them with only fourth gear and that failure was followed shortly by non-working power steering and anti-lock braking system for good measure. They toyed with replacing all of those things on Saturday, but instead just swapped in a new slave cylinder and a power-steering pump that failed immediately, leaving them without power steering again on Sunday.
TARP soldiered on in their Hatsune Miku-themed BMW on Sunday with only fourth gear and no power steering. They looked all set for a third-place finish with a half-hour remaining until the driver radioed the team to say “I think the seatbelt broke.” Upon further inspection, the seat and its belts were fine. Instead, the seat mount had broken completely through the floor. Not only did they lose a third place, the car is also probably completely toast. TARP Racing took home the I Got Screwed award as a small consolation.
Houston’s car culture includes the art cars galore with an annual art-car parade and the famed Art Car Museum (which we featured here on Roadkill recently). However, the SLAB—Slow, Low, And Bangin’—remains one of the most auspicious pieces of car culture. The evolution of “Elbow” wheels and “Swangin’” has everything to do with local hip-hop culture and, despite what you may think of such custom cars, many are extraordinarily well built. Yet somehow, in nearly 10 years of visiting Houston for races, LeMons had never seen a SLAB-themed car. The very first LeMons SLAB instead came last fall at Gingerman from Cincinnati-based Zero Budget Racing’s SLABdoba.
To encourage local racers to SLAB-up their rides—at least for BS Inspection—LeMons HQ renamed the race “Texas Tippin’” and three teams heeded the call. The series rarely gives out shared awards, but the Negotiator Acura Integra, Spin It to Win It Toyota MR2, and Hungry Pillagerz Buick LeSabre all built makeshift SLABs of their cars. Each of them took home a share of the Judges Choice trophy from Texas Tippin’.
Houston native, LeMons Supreme Court justice, and automotive writer Sajeev Mehta got into the SLAB spirit, too. Like a proper Swanga, he had a makeshift trunk sign in his 1989 Lincoln Continental and donned the Purple Drank shirt sent to him by Murilee Martin.
The Organizer’s Choice at this race went to a first-time team that went above and beyond the call to bring a perfect LeMons car. Holy Crap Racing not only brought out a spotless 1995 Cadillac DeVille, they also cranked up the sacrilege with messages like “Powered by Holy Water” and “Twerkin’ 4 the Lord.”
Each corner had alarmingly low-profile “HOLY ROLLER” tires.
Under the hood was a gold-painted, 32-valve Northstar V8. While these engines have gobs of horsepower, the average life of a LeMons Northstar engine has been about 12 race miles. Somehow, Holy Crap Racing kept theirs running for an entire weekend, which is surely a record. Sure, it was the slowest car on track (by about 10 full seconds), but the team looked comfy in their plush ride all weekend.
Finishing 30th overall of 50 cars with such magnificent pokiness put them in the discussion for LeMons top prize, the Index of Effluency, although it ultimately went to a different Cadillac. You can bet Holy Crap Racing will be in contention for an IOE at later races, however.
That Index of Effluency-winning Cadillac turned out to be ORCA Racing’s 2003 Cadillac CTS. We know what you’re thinking: How can such a new, modern car with a performance version win the IOE over a front-wheel-drive DeVille? Well, friends, this might very well be the World’s Worst CTS. ORCA Racing have struggled to get the CTS just to the past races’ beginnings, but they managed an impressive 7th place overall. That was good for second in Class C and put them ahead of the Class B-winning Dodge Shadow.
Still, shouldn’t a “modern” 3.6-liter V6 like those found in the base CTS be in Class B? Yeah, probably it should. However, ORCA got fed up with that engine long ago and instead bolted in the clanky old 4.3-liter V6 from a Chevy pickup with a carburetor on it. Yes, this marvel of GM engineering from the early 2000s is powered by a butt-turrible, super-rough, wheezing Chevy V6 with its own long history of LeMons reliability issues.
Nevertheless, everything came together for ORCA this weekend. While we don’t expect they’ll do any better any time soon, they earned the IOE—as anyone with a car this new should—by setting the entire car back at least two decades. Well done, ORCA Racing!
The 24 Hours of LeMons is back in action this weekend for the “Real Hoopties of New Jersey” at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Be sure to follow LeMons on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for periodic updates from the track and don’t forget to subscribe to the LeMons YouTube channel for wrap-up and #LemonsWorld videos. As always, check back to Roadkill’s home for the 24 Hours of LeMons right here for more stories.