New England has hosted 24 Hours of Lemons races for 10 years now, starting with tiny Stafford Speedway in 2008. Last weekend, Lemons visited another Northeast “roval” course, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, for Halloween Hooptiefest. While NHMS reserves the mile-long oval for NASCAR, the tight road course built on the grounds also produces close racing and entertaining Lemons lore.
Several rookie teams really caught organizers’ attention at this race. The group of younger dudes from the aptly named Make the Team Name Awesome appeared to have simply borrowed mom’s Volvo S60 and put numbers on it. While we appreciate a wild theme, the straight-off-the-street look can be just as effective. We particularly enjoy the headlight-wiper being used to hold the Volvo’s tow strap.
Similarly, the Days Asunder Mazda MX-6 was absolutely, completely stock. It was not quick by any means, but the team stayed out of trouble. We also found them mid-day Saturday following the ages-old endurance-racing tradition of “taking a break for lunch.” We appreciate that kind of non-competitive attitude rather than teams who overtax themselves and make big mistakes on the track.
While a Mazda Miata doesn’t smack of originality, the Guy Fieri theme of Diners, Drive-In, and Divebombs was pretty on point, including chicken-wing bribes and a sculpted FLAVORTOWN sign above the windshield for BS Inspection.
Halloween Hooptiefest naturally serves as Lemons’ unofficial Halloween race, so the fresh-faced Boivin Racing team and their Volkswagen Scirocco looked great with the autumnal backdrop.
The carbureted Volkswagen engine was less happy about it, but we are sure they’ll be back for more.
As for the winners, Scooby Doobies’ turbocharged Audi Coupe Quattro finally took home their first overall win. The team has come close many, many times only to fall prey to some minor issue. This time, their fragile turbocharged five-cylinder held all its connecting rods in and the Motorsports Mystery Machine is at last a Lemons winner.
The runners-up from Mome Rath Racing (formerly the Finding Nemo-themed Blue Tang Clan) led much of the race, but two black flags and a bad wheel bearing were just enough to leave their BMW E36 in second place.
Incredibly, the SillyNannies Audi S6 also found its way into the overall mix for most of the race. The team and all three of their cars—including a Miata that finished in the Top 10—have been black-flag magnets for years in Lemons. At some point, they finally got the memo because their three cars amassed exactly zero black flags all weekend, although brake problems took them out of victory contention late in the race.
In Class B, Three Pedal Mafia’s Mazda RX-7 put a hurting on the rest of the class with a sixth-place finish overall. The team long ago threw out the unreliable-in-Lemons rotary engine and instead run General Motors’ ubiquitous 3.8-liter V6. Is that better than the Wankel? Who knows, but it’s good enough for Class B.
Hit ‘Em With the Hein Racing’s Ford Ranger was one of about a half-dozen pickup trucks—increasingly a common sight in Lemons racing—and they were the best of the trucks. The V6-powered Ranger won Class C by a handful of laps over The Lemontarians’ Cadillac DeVille.
Rusty Tear Racing’s Pontiac Fiero has what passes for Lemons’ Provenance, having been raced at the final Lemons race at Altamont Speedway in 2008 (and a couple more) by current Hagerty editor Mike Austin. Mike had some measure of success with it, but Rusty Tear Racing has managed to squeeze a couple dozen races out of the very, very haggard mid-engined Poncho that wears classic rallying paint schemes. Along the way, they upgraded the engine to the bigger 3.4-liter version of the Fiero’s original V6 and had, until this weekend, never had to perform a trackside engine swap.
Unfortunately, all good things usually come to an end and the ol’ V6 gave up the ghost. The team spent all night swapping in a replacement, only to discover the transmission reinstallation had gone wrong. That gave them the chance to do it all over again. Once they had that sorted, they only broke the throttle cable twice and managed to melt a brand-new rental transponder with their exhaust.
Like Rusty Tear and Scooby Doobies, Team Bent Over are longtime staples of East Coast Lemons races. After a solid six years of trying, they’d finally sorted their BMW E36 and were running 8th place—by far the best they’d ever been—at the end of Saturday. Just three turns from the checkered flag, however, the driver felt a bang and heard a cacophony of “done-blowed-up” sounds. The damage was…significant. The head had dropped a valve into the cylinder, obliterating both the valve and piston.
The team had, it turns out, sold the car overnight on Saturday to some poor bastards (more on that momentarily), but they pushed it to Sunday morning’s Top 10 grid and sprayed the remains of their E36 with champagne. Not a victory, per se, but one of two big send-offs for the weekend.
What’s more: They had bought another team’s former race-winning E36 for the small sum of $5,000 ($500 plus $4,500 in safety equipment…the usual way to buy a used Lemons car). For their expensive weekend’s ending after looking to be within shouting distance of a win, Team Bent Over took home the I Got Screwed Trophy.
That screwing, however, paled in comparison with the story of the Shake and Bake Subaru Legacy team, who earned the special-for-this-race Most Expensive Swap Meet trophy. The team didn’t know how to build a rollcage, so they bought a kit and hired someone to weld it. That person couldn’t get it done, so they went to someone else with a hefty chunk of money, the cage kit, and a very compressed timetable.
Unfortunately, the rollcage featured bends that had wrinkled and stretched the tubing in so many ways that rendered it utterly unfixable. “Not to worry,” said the fresh-faced new team, “we can cut it out and reuse some of the good tubing plus new tubes to make a rollcage.” Nevermind that none of them had any idea how to do any of that, we liked their pluck.
As it so happens, the Magic School Bus Racing Team Subaru Forester had unfortunately crashed earlier in the day. The damage was limited entirely to the subframe and the engine, which meant the cage was still good. Since the Magic School Bus was going to be retired at season’s end anyway, they offered to cut out the Forester cage for adaptation into the kinda-similar-sized Legacy.
What could go wrong?
Smartly, the Forester team got the hell out of town, but before they did, they left their removed rollcage and their rented garage for the Legacy team. The Shake and Bake members set to work removing extraneous cage nubs and installing new spread plates.
They didn’t get far, however. It became pretty clear soon that the cage build would be entirely too time-consuming to complete. What they did come across, however, was Team Bent Over’s blown-up, I Got Screwed-winning BMW E36 for the princely sum of $500. And the Shake and Bake captain had an engine for it in an E36 parts car back at his house if he could just send his teammates to fetch it. The end writes itself, right?
Well, not exactly. Instead of magically showing up with an engine and swapping it in, the dispatched team members stuffed the rental tow rig into a guardrail. It was still driveable, however, and they reached the team captain’s house. They struggled to load the parts car onto the open rental trailer, so they did what anyone would do: They borrowed the team captain’s street-car BMW to push it onto the rental trailer. And in doing so, they both burned up the street car’s clutch and failed to load the engine donor onto the trailer.
When the dust settled, Shake and Bake’s tale of woe included two unusable race cars, two unusable rollcages, an unusable street car, and very likely a large repair bill waiting for them from the truck-rental company.
The Judges Choice at this race went to Brett Meservey and E-Lemon-ator Racing. The BMW 5-Series tribute to Hoonigan’s Shitcar was, it turns out, Brett’s high-school senior project.
As is often the case with student-built Lemons cars, this one was not only documented hundreds of times better than the typical Lemons team’s, it was also well driven. to top it off, the 380,000-mile E34 ran like a train all weekend. Well done, Brett!
The Organizer’s Choice represented kind of a legacy award for Full Nelson and their Saab 96. One of the most popular cars in the Lemons paddock, the sharp-looking Saab featured a 1.0-liter Geo Metro three-cylinder engine that was first supercharged and later turbocharged. And this Halloween Hooptiefest—seven years after the car’s first Lemons race—was its last as the family who owns it told us they’d be retiring it from Lemons. However, the car’s history is a rare one in Lemons that predates crapcan racing by a wide margin.
@24hoursoflemons Thanks to the Lemons community. I never worked so hard, failed so hard or laughed so hard as racing 34 Later at Lemons. Ice racing in mid 80's and typical pre-race prep. pic.twitter.com/EgDNNvBRkF
— eric nelson (@ericnel86284896) October 23, 2018
The Nelson family have ice-raced the old Swedish front-drive machine for decades. There’s something just perfectly cool about that. While we’d love to see it continue racing in Lemons, we’d also love just as much for it to stay around the Nelsons as the kind of heirloom we’d all love to have passed down in our families.
That brings us to Lemons’ top prize, the Index of Effluency. This went to the absolute slowest car in the race, Top Off Racing’s Volkswagen Cabriolet Diesel. The astute Volkswagen fanatic will remind you that the Cabrio never came with a diesel engine. And they’re right.
For reasons we will never be able to explain, Top Off threw out the 90-horsepower gas engine in favor of a 1.6-liter Rabbit Diesel swap. For those counting at home, the 1.6-liter diesel made—if it was running right—52 horsepower. In other words, Top Off purposely reduced their power output by half and guess what?
They beat nearly 50 teams with lap times measured on a geological timescale. Well done, Top Off Racing.
The 24 Hours of Lemons returns to racing with the Hurricane Florence make-up race at Carolina Motorsports Park on November 3 and 4. The Route Sucky-Suck (Rt. 66) Lemons Rally kicks off this Saturday, October 27, and sends teams down the length of Route 66 in just seven days. You can follow along via the Lemons Rally Instagram and by searching #LemonsRally on Instagram.