The 24 Hours of LeMons has been coming to Gingerman Raceway in Michigan since the first Detroit Irony race in 2010, and last weekend’s Cure For Gingervitis race had the nicest weather and the biggest turnout of any of our usually-butt-freezing Michigan April races. We saw plenty of great American cars, plenty of blown-up engines, and plenty of fast driving. Here’s what happened.
The BRIBED stencil used by the LeMons Supreme Court depicted Iggy Pop, one of Michigan’s favorite sons (we also did a Ted Nugent stencil a few years back). We knew that plenty of teams would have to Search and Destroy in the local junkyards, so Iggy seemed like the right choice.
Even before the car inspections on Friday could begin, the Simpsons Monorail-themed, supercharged, 5-speed-equipped Chevrolet Lumina APV minivan of Chicken & Waffles Racing nuked its engine in practice. There was much anticipation of this team shocking the racing world by getting their minivan in the highest reaches of the standings, based on the amazing performances Chicken & Waffles got out of their wretched Volkswagen Quantum Syncro in earlier races, so losing this entry so early was saddening.
However, we still had another GM Dustbuster minivan in the lineup, so the race took place as scheduled. It’s not a Michigan race without at least one Dustbuster.
Normally, we don’t care much about who gets the most laps (particularly when that team runs a BMW 3-Series), but the Wisconsin Crap Racing Class A and overall wins made for a feel-good story. This team has been competing in Midwestern LeMons races since way back in 2010, and they had never been anywhere near an overall win prior to this race.
WCR has one of the best team shirt designs we have ever seen.
Not only that, but after 149 LeMons races, no BMW E36 3-Series had ever taken a win on laps. The BMW E30 3-Series, sure, and even the big E28 and E34 BMW 5-Series cars had some wins in our series, but none of the many dozens of LeMons E36s had managed the feat… until this bunch from Janesville drove an amazingly clean and breakdown-free race and racked up a big 8-lap edge over the P2 car by the time the checkered flag flew on Sunday.
Speaking of amazingly clean races, the elder statesmen of
black flags automotive journalism on the Car and Driver 1988 Honda Prelude Si team, well-known by Gingerman LeMons racers for their aggressive driving style and frequent penalty-box visits, stayed out of trouble and found themselves in contention for the win. Their second-place finish is by far the best in LeMons history for a team comprised of car writers, most of whom tend to get stomped by 50-year-old British station wagons.
Class B had a lot of Volkswagen-on-Volkswagen action, with the lead swapping between several Wolfsburg machines during the course of the weekend. In the end, it was the All Most Racing 1997 Golf taking the win, two laps ahead of the V8-swapped Placebo Racing Merkur XRTi.
The 24 Hours of LeMons offers what we call “Class C Loopholes,” in which we promise that a type of car will go into the most important class. The Chrysler LH is such a car, as are the Cadillac Allanté and Hyundai XG. It should go without saying that the Dodge Mirada, sibling to the downsized early-80s Chrysler Cordoba, can be driven through the Class C Loophole with room to spare, and the Team Sheen ’81 Mirada somehow managed to win the class.
The Mirada had been racing for a half-dozen races on its rackety old 318-cubic-inch Chrysler V8. When that motor finally exploded, the Team Sheen guys headed to their nearest U-Bust-Ur-Fingers junkyard and picked up a fuel-injected Magnum 5.9 V8 (aka Chrysler 360) out of a jillion-mile Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. This engine was rated for 230 horsepower when new, which was quite an upgrade over the we-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it miserable power from a Malaise Era 318.
However, the increased power tempted the Team Sheen driver ferrying the car to the track (their Mirada is fully street-registered) to mash the gas pedal and peg that Jimmy Carter-approved 85 mph speedometer for the first time in the car’s life… which, of course, resulted in the Mirada’s tasteful fiberglass-and-vinyl landau roof tearing off and flying hundreds of feet through the air. It turns out that Chrysler went with the low bidder for their landau-roof adhesive back in the early 1980s, as they did with so many other components.
No problem! The Team Sheen crew picked up some of Walmart’s finest lag bolts and fender washers, reattaching the roof and restoring the Mirada to its original beauty. The LeMons Supreme Court justices have already authorized Team Sheen to obtain a junkyard NV3550 truck 5-speed for their run at Class B in a future race, so look for more Malaise Mopar Madness from these guys.
Speaking of Malaise Mopars, Burnt Rubber Soul Racing decided that they wanted to add such a car to the Mercury Cougar-ized Ford Probe they already had in their race fleet, so they went classy and put together this glorious 1981 Imperial. The 2016 Cure For Gingervitis was the Burnt Rubber Soul Imperial’s debut race, and it won the Judges’ Choice trophy due to sheer grandeur.
Under the hood, a “318 Sludge” V8 clattered, wheezing out something around 130 horsepower.
It was just like a Plymouth Road Runner, only better!
Burnt Rubber Soul had every detail covered, from “Hot Air Intake” badges on the air cleaner to these flattened-roadrunner decals on the rear quarters.
With super-steep highway gears in the differential, the Burnt Rubber Soul drivers felt that they ought to show off their car’s low engine revs to drivers stuck behind the Imperial. So, they installed a functioning tachometer on the trunk lid.
Midwestern racers are the cleanest drivers in the LeMons world, but that doesn’t mean that they never spin out, crash, drive off the track, or otherwise break the rules. That means fun, time-consuming penalties imposed upon bad drivers! Judge Eric Rood stopped at the thrift store on the way to the track and picked up the materials for the Reenact the Romance Novel Cover Penalty. Here’s “The Pregnancy Negotiation.”
The Most Heroic Fix award goes to the team that overcomes the most adversity in repairing their broke-down race car during the weekend. Apocalyptic Racing, a team well-known for creating, then solving impossible problems at the race track, fixed their
hopeless extensively modified Celica a few times last weekend, sure, but they also fixed the cars of three other teams.
A first-time team can’t get their Supra to pass the tech inspection due to massive roll-cage problems? Apocalyptic Racing welded for many hours and fixed it. The 1961 Race Rambler has several major structural failures and can’t race? Apocalyptic Racing welded for many hours and fixed it. And so on, all weekend long.
The F-ing New Guys team brought their very nice-looking (pay no mind to the rust spots, because this is Michigan) 6th-gen Chevy Monte Carlo to the race, and all of the team’s drivers felt sharp indeed on the race track in their damn-near-new 2001 Monte.
Shortly after that, the driver of the Volks Swaggin Harlequin Jetta made an unwise late pass to the inside of the Monte, spun out, and did a lot more that-won’t-buff-out damage to the once-handsome Chevy.
At that point, the F-ing New Guys’ car became a punching bag for the rest of the otherwise clean-driving field, getting hit a few more times, and the poor Monte Carlo looked ready for The Crusher at the end of the weekend. For this, we awarded the team the not-very-coveted I Got Screwed trophy.
Meanwhile, the Race Rambler continues its tour of the country, being handed from team to team in the manner of the disastrous-yet-inspiring K-It-FWD Plymouth Reliant during the 2013 season. It started in Northern California, drove to the Arizona race, blew up on its way to Texas and got a major drivetrain/suspension transplant for the Dallas race, and will be heading to this weekend’s South Carolina race next. There are still quite a few bugs to be worked out, but the Rambler finished 58th out of 76 entries at Gingerman and managed to turn a quicker best lap (about 2/10ths of a second quicker) than the Burnt Rubber Soul Imperial.
Most 24 Hours of LeMons racers will tell you that their favorite Roadkill episode (that doesn’t involve a LeMons race) is the General Mayhem ’68 Charger build, in large part because gutting a biohazardous motorhome engine-donor is the sort of thing that LeMons teams do all the time. The first-time LeMons racers of Rot Rocket Racing must have watched the General Mayhem episode about 25 times, because they found a one-owner 1993 Buick Park Avenue Ultra, complete with supercharged 3800 V6 engine and a great deal of Detroit luxury, and turned it into a frighteningly accurate replica of the Roadkill Charger. Meet Grandpa Mayhem!
For showing up to their first race with such a perfect-for-LeMons car and honoring our media sponsors so well, we awarded Rot Rocket Racing the Shameless Pandering To the Series Sponsor award.
At most LeMons races, the spectacular Grandpa Mayhem would have grabbed the Organizer’s Choice trophy for sure, but unbeatable competition for that prize showed up, in the form of another first-time team and their heavily customized 1997 Plymouth Neon. This was Jackleg Racing and their absolutely perfect replica of Doobby’s Taxiola from the film “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”
Doobby’s Taxiola, a menacing 1968 Pontiac Bonneville taxi that appears for barely one minute in the movie, is one of the most obscure movie-car references we have ever seen in our race series. That makes the Jackleg Racing theme better— according to our twisted priorities— than all the “Back To the Future” DeLorean themes combined.
At the inspections on Friday, they had Doobby and his ominous Wichita pompadour behind the wheel, dead-accurate striping and lettering on the car’s sides, and the correct terrible 1980s song playing on the radio.
In fact, the Jackleg Racing Doobby’s Taxiola had every possible tiny feature glimpsed in the dimly-lit sequence of the car in the film, suggesting that the team probably locked themselves in a fetid basement in Wichita and watched the scene repeatedly for a week straight. For this (and for placing a very respectable P21 overall, which is great for a rookie LeMons team), we awarded Jackleg Racing a much-deserved Organizer’s Choice trophy.
The top prize of LeMons racing, the Index of Effluency, goes to the team that accomplishes the most with the least race-appropriate car. This time, there was little doubt that the agonizingly slow 1990 Geo Metro of Team Mity Metro had done just that. Featuring a 53-horsepower three-cylinder engine— that’s right, fifty-three horses— and miserably stock suspension, the Mity Metro clawed its way all the way up to 25th place, despite having a best lap time that was slower than all but six of its competitors (that’s including competitors who limped around for just a couple of laps with blown head gaskets).
At one point, the left rear wheel fell off the Mity Metro as it was driving through the paddock. Without missing a beat, the team sat a few guys on the right front fender to lift the wheel-less corner off the tarmac and continued on their way.
We’ll be returning to Gingerman in October, and we’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 24 Hours of LeMons at that race. Be there!