The 24 Hours of Lemons series has been holding a springtime Sears Pointless race at Sonoma Raceway every year since 2010, and this year we added two things: the overwhelmingly entertaining HooptieCon and a puzzling sponsorship by Yokohama Tires. The racers added a bunch of new and interesting machinery as well, so let’s take a look at how all that action sorted out.
The members of Hella Shitty Racing, a multi-car team made up of goofy tech-industry types from Silicon Valley, have been competing in the 24 Hours of Lemons since the 2010 Arse Sweat-a-Palooza race. The team is best-known for such great/terrible machines as a 1975 Bricklin SV-1, a twin-control-equipped Volkswagen Super Beetle, and a Volkswagen turbodiesel-swapped Porsche 911, but Hella Shitty runs a pair of fairly quick BMW E30s as well.
This time, they got their first overall-win award to accompany their large collection of Index of Effluency and Organizer’s Choice trophies, beating the veteran Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente team— which runs a BMW E28 with a quickie Alfa-ization process applied— by 31 seconds at the checkered flag.
In Class B, another BMW E30 took the prize. This is an extremely unusual occurrence, since an E30 must be verifiably slow for many, many races— and the team must convince the very skeptical judges of the Lemons Supreme Court with proof of their slowness— in order to squeeze into the medium-fast class. The Paranoid Android 1987 325e team did just that, and they managed to beat the much quicker Mt. Tam Motors Racing Honda Prelude by a single lap, finishing 13th overall.
Since last year, we have had a pair of 1963 Volvo PV544s competing in the series, the Blue Swede car from Arizona and the ONSET/Tetanus car from California. Each has a tractor-grade pushrod Volvo engine and each has won an Index of Effluency trophy, but the Class C win had proven very elusive to the elderly-but-still-sporty Göteborg rivals. This race, ONSET/Tetanus finished 40th out of 173 entries, winning Class C by 15 laps.
Out of all 171 cars that turned at least one lap, the ONSET/Tetanus PV544’s best lap time was slower than 150 of them. Still, team captain Anton Lovett has more Lemons races under his belt than any driver in the history of the series, and the rest of the drivers aren’t far behind in terms of driving skill and experience. The tortoise beat most of the hares on the course at the ’18 Sears Pointless… including 11 BMWs, 7 Miatas, 3 Mustangs, 4 Porsches, all the other Volvos (five of them), and a Lancia Scorpion.
How? Clean, consistent laps and reliability. The ONSET/Tetanus team’s main Class C rivals were the Kim Jong Elantra of Safety Third Racing and the Jackalope Jockeys’ 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit, which explains a lot about why Class C gives Lemons fans the most exciting race action. We’re hoping to see a Volvo PV60 next.
As so often happens with Porsche 944s (actually, with nearly all Porsches in Lemons racing), the Porsche Honkeys exploded their car’s original four-cylinder Porsche engine. They had an old Chevrolet C30 pickup sitting in the yard, so they opted to swap in its 350-cubic-inch small-block V8. While they were at it, they added the entire front clip from the Chevy.
The end result was so impressive that the Lemons Supreme Court awarded a one-of-a-kind Most Sacrilegious Porsche trophy to the Porsche Honkeys. We’re all banned from PCA membership for the rest of our lives, we’re pretty sure, but it was worth it.
Our Vanagon-racing friends in Northern California (this particular bunch affiliated with Stephan’s Auto Haus in Sacramento) added yet another strangely quick van to the ever-expanding fleet of racing Vanagons, and it looked amazing on the track. This one was an alleged rollover victim from which all the tastiest parts were yanked, and it boasts Audi 1.8T power and an optic-nerve-damaging WUNDER Bread paint job.
You wouldn’t think it possible to outdo the Porschevy Stepside or the WUNDER Westfalia, but the Black Iron Racing guys— who took their first overall Lemons win all the way back in 2007, not to mention a People’s Curse “win” in 2009— did just that, with their team renamed The 70s Called and They Want Their RV Back. Just look at that race camper!
Their race car is a BMW E36 3-Series powered by a GM Vortec 5300 V8 torn from a decrepit 2004 Suburban. The team created the staggeringly beautiful Bavarian Brougham from this car in 2012, then updated it as the Bavarian Brougham d’Elegance for 2016. For the 2018 season, they wanted to get serious about their car’s theme, and that meant turning it into a camper that looked every bit as good as the legendary Pit Crew Revenge Mazda.
There’s only one drink that’s right after a hard day of El Dorado road racing: the one that comes from the land of sky-blue waters.
As is always the case with Detroit-V8-swapped BMWs in Lemons, the Bavarian Brougham wasn’t particularly successful on the race track; it could turn some pretty respectable lap times, sure, but then something always seemed to break. Nobody expected much on the track from the El Dorado this time, but it didn’t matter after this brilliant theme.
Then something strange happened: the El Dorado climbed to the highest reaches of the standings on Saturday and stayed there for most of the weekend, even taking the P1 position for a while on Sunday. It turns out that camper-izing a V8-swapped E36 solves its reliability difficulties!
Sadly, a late-innings crash took the El Dorado out of contention for the overall win, but the 70s Called and They Want Their RV Back ended the race in tenth place overall. For all of this team’s greatness, we awarded them a thoroughly well-deserved Organizer’s Choice award.
Just a few weeks ago, we put the word out that we really wanted to see a Suzuki Aerio on a Lemons track. Little did we know that the members of Team Lost Gear were preparing a 2004 Aerio for its Lemons debut at that very moment.
You might know the Aerio better by the name it bore outside of North America: the Liana. Yes, this is the original Reasonably Priced Car from Top Gear UK, and Team Lost Gear had some Liana badges shipped over from Europe, for obvious reasons. The team finished 145th due to clutch failure, but we expect great things from this car at future races. Remember, the Class C Loophole is still available for the transverse-straight-six-powered Suzuki Verona!
During Saturday’s race session, the Rotary Rooter Mazda RX-7 had a dispute with some concrete barriers and got squished into such an unrecognizable shambles that the EMTs insisted on taking the driver to the hospital (he was fine). It looked like a case of “next stop, crusher” for the team’s veteran Mazda, which had finished many races in the single-digit part of the standings, but the Rotary Rooter guys straightened the car out enough to install replacement junkyard subframes, and they took the checkered flag on Sunday. For this, they received the Most Heroic Fix trophy.
As you may know, the 24 Hours of Lemons has sold out to the man, signing up with a tire sponsor. We’re still not sure what Yokohama hopes to get out of this arrangement, but it does mean that Lemons teams will get some sort of a (so far unspecified) good deal on tires. For the Sears Pointless race (the full name of which was Sears Pointless at HooptieCon, Confusingly Presented by Yokohama), the Yokohama crew showed up with a gigantic tire-changing operation and proceeded to offer free mounting and balancing to all comers, regardless of their tire brand. Since this kind of racing eats up tires like crazy, this service was a smash hit among the racers.
That was hella sweet, but the Yokohama staffers also handed out sets of tires to the Index of Effluency and class winners, plus some other teams that happened to be pitted near the Yokohama tent. And what do they get for all this? Hell, we have no idea… and for that, we awarded Yokohama the I Got Screwed award for this race.
In honor of Yokohama’s trophy, we now present the only song we could find with a Yokohama Tires reference.
Buffs Racing is a team made up of engineering students at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Many students. Last summer, they had their debut Lemons race at the B.F.E. GP in Colorado, winning the Judges’ Choice trophy for their struggles with one of the worst Chevy Cavaliers we’ve ever seen. They scrapped the Cavalier and got a Mazda Miata instead, hauling it and their entire crew the thousand miles to Sonoma Raceway and then dragging it into the inspections while wearing togas. Optimism was high.
At this point, the organizational weaknesses of a team comprised of 35 engineering students became apparent, with waaay too many cooks dumping the broth all over the stove and then smashing the stove with big rocks. Was it a blown head gasket? A cracked head? Evil spirits in the car’s phlogiston decouplers? Nobody could say, and not even the advice of the Mazda engineer pitted nearby seemed to help.
Then, salvation! Chris Overzet, captain of the Pit Crew Revenge team, heard of the Buffs’ plight and gave them the use of his 1988 Honda Civic Wagovan race car for the rest of the weekend.
The only condition for the loan was a “You break it, you bought it” deal, which was free of charge and done out of the goodness Overzet’s heart and his love of Lemons racing, and the Buffs Racing drivers got their seat time after all (in fact, the Wagovan proved to be quicker around the track than had the Miata). For this generosity, the Lemons Supreme Court issued the latest in a long series of Judges’ Choice trophies to Pit Crew Revenge.
In honor of Radwood, which was the star attraction of the HooptieCon, the BRIBED stencil for this race incorporated the ubiquitious-during-the-1990s Jazz Solo Cup design. This made us thirsty for some Crystal Pepsi.
Nostalgia for the 1980s and 1990s is all right, but the 1970s gave us some of the most endearingly terrible cars of the entire 20th century. One of our Malaise Era favorites is the General Motors H-Body, and Pontiac’s version was the 1976-1980 Sunbird. Low Road Racing won the Organizer’s Choice at the 2016 Pacific Northworst race, thanks to their Tim Richmond-themed 1976 Pontiac Sunbird Sport Coupe.
With odd-fire, smog-ified Buick V6 power and haphazard Watergate-era GM build quality, the Low Road Sunbird would be expected to finish down in the mud of the standings, but such was not the case at the 2018 Sears Pointless at HooptieCon, Confusingly Presented by Yokohama. Low Road Racing was in P66 when the checkered flag waved, nearly cracking the top third of the standings in a very tough field. This achievement earned the team the prestigious (we’d like to think) Index of Effluency trophy and a set of new Yokohama tires.