24 Hours of Lemons Cars Go Drag Racing

Race cars are fast, right? That means that the race cars in our series ought to do pretty well when they live life a quarter-mile at a time. Of course, Internet Car Experts™ will tell you that “pretty well” means “single-digit quarter-mile times,” but we set the bar a bit more… realistically. I met up with a few Lemons teams at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado last week, and we showed those square cats with the Demons and GT-Rs a thing or two.

To really understand Lemons drag racing, you’ll need to play some early-60s surf/drag tunes. Here’s a good one.

NO09-NP-_MG_8575The first time a bunch of Lemons cars went drag racing, we were at No Problem Raceway in Louisiana, for the very first Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez race, in 2009. On Saturday night, after the checkered flag waved on the road course, the track opened up their dragstrip for Test-&-Tune Night. The wise and fair justices of the Lemons Supreme Court offered Get Out of Penalty Box Free cards to any teams willing to take their cars down the quarter-mile.

NO09-MM-9255-88As it turned out, Lemons cars tend to be fairly slow in the quarter-mile. Most of them ran between 16 and 20 seconds; here we see the Cajun Jihad Mitsubishi just squeaking under the 19-second barrier.

NO09-MM-9303-17_BABEWe returned to No Problem the following year, and many teams enjoyed the drag racing so much that they did it again. Yes, that’s an amazing 25.766-second quarter-mmile time for the RX-7 with the just-about-dead engine; later in the evening, this car was beaten by a moped.

This was the race at which Team Sensory Assault (of rotary-powered moonshine-still fame) developed the incredibly sketchy Lemons Line-Lock and did the all-time best burnout in Lemons history.

Some Colorado Lemons teams brought their cars, including the Speed Holes Racing 1966 Rambler Marlin, the Blue Flag Special AMC Pacer, and the Sordik Racing Renault Le Car, to Bandimere a few years back. The Marlin features 454 Chevy power and managed a best time in the high 14s, while the Renault got well into the 15s and the Pacer ran 17s.

LNOF10-Nick-207We never kept detailed records, but most Lemons fanatics believe that the incredibly hooptified Police Brutality (later Speedycop and the Gang of Outlaws) Lincoln Continental Mark VIII holds the Lemons record for best drag racing ET: somewhere in the 13s at No Problem in 2010.

20180711_174352Of course, that was at sea level, or maybe even a bit below sea level. The air is a bit thinner at Bandimere.

20180711_183337After watching the Petrosexual Racing Miata and its goofy Cadillac High Technology 4.9-liter V8 engine swap set the quickest lap time of any Lemons car in the history of High Plains Raceway last month, we were curious about how well such a car would perform at the dragstrip. So, the Petrosexuals— now based in Colorado after years in Michigan— dragged their car up to Bandimere.

_MG_0003Waiting for that first pass, the Lemons racers present speculated on how quick a 200-horsepower Cadillac-ized Miata shooting brake would be. 16 seconds? 15? 14?

_MG_0083As it turned out, the Trashback Miata ran a best of 15.143 seconds, which is very good for a naturally-aspirated car at high elevation.

_MG_0068Then the Dodge Dakota 5-speed transmission, meant for use behind a 2.5-liter Chrysler four-banger, blew up, and that was the end of the drag racing for this car… for now. The good news is that junkyards are well-stocked with those transmissions.

_MG_0092Planeteer Racing, veterans of a dozen Lemons races in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and Utah, brought their 1987 Honda Prelude out for some quarter-mile action. One of the team members brought his street-driven Jaguar XJ-S, and the two went head-to-head.

_MG_0113The Jag beat the Prelude by about a third of a second.

20180711_212026Then, as you might expect, the Jaguar had to be trailered home, because that single quarter-mile pass shredded the alternator belt.

20180711_185635The Rocket Surgery Racing 1978 Checker Marathon rolled up to tech inspections with the Sordik Racing Van-O-War Dodge. The Van-O-War is an early-70s Dodge Tradesman with 440-cubic-inch V8 and 4-speed manual transmission, not a race car but a critical support vehicle for several Lemons teams.

IMG_2082When drag racing, a luxurious interior like the Van-O-War’s is a must-have.

18 - Buster Brown Bandimere - 10The taxi and the Van-O-War squared off at the Christmas tree, and I was there to capture the moment with my 1910 Ansco Buster Brown film camera.

_MG_0250The Checker started out in reverse and the van dropped its muffler halfway down the strip, but otherwise a flawless pass for both.

_MG_0330A little later, the Checker blasted out a 17.287-second pass, triumphing over the Van-O-War.

18 - Buster Brown Bandimere - 4The Blue Flag Special AMC Pacer (now known as Team Driving Without Intent) wasn’t running, so team captain Brett Holdaway brought one of his hot-rodded street Datsuns: this heavily modified 240Z.

20180711_201558We love Chevettes in Lemons, and this future Lemons Chevette has been under construction for quite a while now.

IMG_2122It features a turbocharged Volvo B23 engine in place of the Opel/Isuzu powerplant that once lived in the engine compartment.

IMG_2107The fuel-delivery system still has some bugs to work out; for now, a co-driver working a laptop is required to keep the car running.

_MG_0318There’s still a lot more performance potential to be unlocked with this car, and we look forward to seeing it at the Get Yer Phil 500 race in October.

_MG_0170This Integra, also in the process of becoming a 24 Hours of Lemons race car, ran a couple of passes.

20180711_212858We’ll be returning to Bandimere soon, and we’ll keep working on Sonoma Raceway about letting Lemons cars run at their dragstrip at night during a Lemons race weekend.

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover