The 24 Hours of Lemons series keeps getting invited back to the upscale Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, for reasons we don’t claim to understand, and last weekend the fifth annual ‘Shine Country Classic was held there. We watched the three racing classes won by a Camaro-turned-Seville, a Ford-badged-Mazda-turned-Cougar, and a diesel-engined Porsche 911, and if that doesn’t sum up the series we’re not sure what does. Here we go!
Save the Ta-Tas Racing began their 24 Hours of Lemons career back in 2010, when their 1984 Chevrolet Camaro appeared at races in Illinois and Michigan. GM F-Bodies didn’t have a particularly good record in the series (and still don’t, for the most part), but the Ta-Tas managed to get an overall win in 2013 and became one of the more successful teams in Midwestern Lemons races, following a “blow up or win” pattern. The Lemons Supreme Court justices got to sweating the team pretty hard about the budget specifics of their Vortec 5300 engine and T-56 transmission, though, and the Ta-Tas finally asked, “What do we have to do to make you approve of our car?”
Obviously, the answer was convert it into a Bustleback Cadillac Seville. The team found a basket-case Seville and spent months grafting much of its body onto the structure of the Camaro’s chassis, making the car a bit heavier and much cooler: the only Coupe Seville in Cadillac history. This car won the Organizer’s Choice trophy at the Kentucky Demo Derby race last summer, and the Ta-Tas drove their Cad to the overall and Class A wins at the 5th annual ‘Shine Country Classic as well.
The Ta-Tas’ serious competition black-flagged and/or crashed out of contention, and the team’s margin of victory was a big six laps over the LemonAid Racing BMW E30. We may demand that the Ta-Tas convert their car to an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser next year.
The Burnt Rubber Soul 1995 Ford Probe— a Mazda MX-6 sibling once intended to be the 1989 Ford Mustang— underwent a conversion into a 1967 Dan Gurney Edition Mercury Cougar years ago; and the team pursued an elusive Class B win for seven long years before getting that win last weekend in Alabama.
The Burnt Rubber Soul “Cougar” beat the TRD Toyota Celica by ten laps, earning a permanent promotion to Class A in future races.
The Class C victory went to one of the greatest purist-enraging vehicular abominations in racing history: the 1983 Porsche 911 of the Super Happy Fun Club. How is it possible for a genuine Porsche 911 to squeeze under the Lemons $500 budget limit? More importantly, what kind of madness prompted the Lemons Supreme Court to place this thing in the slowest class? Read on.
Many years ago, the members of Hella Shitty Racing in California (a team made up of Silicon Valley code nerds) decided that they wanted to stuff a Porsche flat-six engine into a ratty Volkswagen Type 4. They picked up a smashed-to-hell rollover-victim ’83 Porsche 911 title for a couple grand, extracted the engine, and sold off the interior and trim parts for twice what they paid for the car. Then they gave away the un-engine-swapped VW 411 (which became a legendary Lemons car last year) and decided to make a Lemons car out of the 911. Hmmm… what would be the ideal engine for this car?
That’s right, a 300,000-mile Volkswagen TDI turbodiesel ripped out of a used-up Jetta. A mere 91 horsepower, but lots of oil-burning torque. Thus was Ferkel the Nein-11 born. Hella Shitty Racing campaigned Ferkel in California, eventually beating a straight-six Ford Fairmont for a Class C win. Last year, Hella Shitty Racing sold Ferkel, shipping it to…
…a man named Tsoggy, an
Ohio Pennsylvania racer who loves horrible French cars, horrible diesel cars, and cooking bacon (mostly the latter). Tsoggy had already purchased a California Lemons car, the only Simca 1204 in the series, and has entered it in many a Midwestern race.
Tsoggy isn’t what you’d call a stern taskmaster as a race-team captain; he puts most of his energy into cooking mountains of thick-cut gourmet bacon at races and feeding it to everyone. He bought Ferkel the Nein-11 as much for street use as for racing, and he now daily-drives it.
He wasn’t paying much attention to the standings at Barber, being too busy with bacon-related tasks, so it came as something of a surprise to learn that Ferkel had beaten another German turbodiesel for the Class C win. Welcome to the impossible struggle of winning Class B with a 91-horsepower bent-up Porsche!
For repairing what seemed like every single component on their 1991 Ford Thunderbird, the Inglorious Bastards earned the Most Heroic Fix trophy.
A group of Toyota engineers who work at TMMK in Kentucky put together a race team, Toyota PE Motorsports, and compete in the 24 Hours of Lemons and the One Lap of America (not with the same cars, sadly). Their 1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S has been racing in Lemons for many years, and Toyota helps the team out with race suits and expenses.
That sounds great, but then somebody at Toyota USA corporate headquarters decided to hire a film-production crew to make a documentary about the team, not informing the Toyota PE Motorsports guys about this decision until just before the race. That meant that they spent the entire weekend being shadowed by a big group of cameramen, sound technicians, production assistants waving clipboards, the whole megillah.
The team finished in 17th place, which is respectable for a 31-year-old econobox, and they seemed to take the presence of the film crew in stride. We think they’d have had a much better time without the cameras being shoved into their snoots all weekend, so we awarded them the I Got Screwed trophy for the event.
Another team received a sort of I Got Screwed Honorable Mention, the I Screwed Myself award. Team Smells Like Midlife Crisis obtained a 300,000-mile 2002 Toyota Solara from one member’s mother (who bought it new and babied it for 15 years of trouble-free driving). When they brought it to the race, the roll cage failed the tech inspection on every possible count. The team brought it back to the cage shop, forced the employees to build a new cage overnight, then hauled the car back to the track in time for the green flag on Saturday. Seven laps later, the engine disintegrated. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
The guys from TredWear, makers of stick-on tire letters, have been racing a tanked-up Fox Mustang in Lemons for a couple of years. That wasn’t enough, so they opted to drag an ex-dirt-track Ford Pinto out of the Alabama woods, give it a real roll cage, and race it at Barber.
For the Judges’ Choice trophy, the Lemons Supreme Court was so overwhelmed with joy at the sight of the Super Happy Fun Club Porsche 911 parked with all of the much less interesting track Porsches that we double-stacked this trophy atop Tsoggy’s Class C award. Wouldn’t you? Best of all, no knee-breakers from Stuttgart showed up to make us pay for this sacrilege.
The Old Dudes Ranchero has a well-built 302-cubic-inch V8 and Toploader 4-speed, plus suspension upgrades that would have been considered serious in about 1968. We knew they’d blown well past the $500 budget, but the very wise Lemons Supreme Court couldn’t bear pounding the Old Dudes with penalty laps. We stuck the Ranchero in Class B on the (correct) assumption that it never would beat the Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and D-engined Civics in the medium-fast class.
After several years of watching the Old Dudes race this cartruck at our Southern events, we realized that a machine this cool deserves a heavy-duty Lemons trophy: the Organizer’s Choice award.
The Wonderment Consortium specializes in racing highly Lemony machinery, including a Hyundai Scoupe and a Volkswagen Quantum Syncro. For the ‘Shine Country Classic, they towed their Dodge Conquest (aka Mitsubishi Starion) down from Illinois. Naturally, the Conquest’s engine exploded during practice on Friday, so the team had to hightail it to Georgia and buy a replacement from a Starion hoarder they found on Craigslist. Miraculously, this new-to-them Astron worked, and the car was ready in time for Saturday’s green flag.
Mitsubishis in general and Starions in particular have something of a dismal record in Lemons racing and the Wonderment Consortium’s organizational structure tends to resemble that of the Keystone Kops, so we were expecting something like an 82nd-place finish for them at this race.
While it’s true that the Wonderment Consortium drivers got a few black flags here and there, the car didn’t break, the pit stops took less than 45 minutes apiece, and the car spent the entire race in the top half of the standings. At the end, the Wonderment Consortium stood in P39 out of 91 entries, an impressive achievement and one deserving of the highest award that the 24 Hours of Lemons has to offer.