24 Hours of Lemons: The Winner and More from Michigan’s ‘Cure for Gingervitis’

The 24 Hours of Lemons has been racing at Gingerman Raceway since 2010, but since running a muggy summer race at the Michigan track in 2011, it’s only been spring and autumn races. However, Lemons headed to Southwest Michigan for its first summer race, the Cure for Gingervitis, on June 30 and July 1. As expected, the weekend was a miserably sweaty affair.

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The heat meant many, many broken cars.

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However, the soaring temperatures meant it was a good idea to trot out the Sexy Car Wash penalty, in which team members  “seductively” wash their crappy race car. It also cooled off the team, which was pretty nice on a 90-degree day with 90 percent humidity.

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Not long ago, Tiki Time Racing’s four-cylinder Mustang looked poised to take a run at a Class B win. However, a series of befuddling issues left the Mustang stricken most of the weekend and the paddock subjected to some horrific engine noises as they tried to start the engine.

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For the first time in three years, the Gulp Racing Volkswagen Fastback turned up for a race. The car had been wrecked at Autobahn Country Club in 2015 and it took a few tries to figure out that the rear suspension had been bent more than originally thought. The Fastback didn’t fare much better this time out, finishing just 29 laps before an engine failure, but they’ll be back, the team said.

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Lemons racers may remember the Unit 32 Volkswagen Jetta for some bizarre helicopter noises at Gingerman a couple years ago. It turns out those results from a camshaft installed backward…that the VR6 engine worked at all was a small miracle. The team sorted that, finally, and decided to make more entertaining noises this race with a homebrewed turbocharger setup, complete with extremely noisy blow-off valve.

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It, uh, needs a bit of testing still.

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The Lemons rookies from Scrappers Delight turned this 2000 Mazda Miata into a credible Magnum P.I. Ferrari 308…if you squint from distance.

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Up close, the first-timer fiberglass work is a little rough.

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Dumpster Fire Racing remains one of the greenest teams of car guys we’ve ever seen. They weren’t handy with a wrench before coming to Lemons and thought they’d like to start with an Index of Effluency candidate…like a Triumph Spitfire. They grafted what was left of a Michigan-parked Triumph GT6 (i.e. the top bit) onto the Spitfire and then kinda stared at it for most of their first race in bewilderment.

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The team returned and kind of sometimes made the little British four-cylinder engine work. They were equally mystified by both the Spitfire’s (obvious) electrical issues and the multimeter to diagnose them, but the Spitfire and the team are starting to show some hope as semi-capable Lemons racers.

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We saw the N.A.S.A. (Nice and Slow Autosport) Saturn SC2 run at Autobahn in April after a Friday-night junkyard engine swap in the snow. That junkyard cylinder head, it turns out, was full of busted-up valves, so the team made a Frankenstein Saturn engine out of two bad ones. As you might expect, that engine also blew up.

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However, they noticed an ad in the Gingerman bathroom for an ex-SCCA Saturn SL2 for just $2,500. They called the number—it’s not usually advisable at racetrack bathrooms, we might add—put together the money and found themselves a backup with three more spare engines. Now they have a whole second Saturn race car!

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Class C – United Partnership of Pentastar Racers, Plymouth Sundance Duster
Normally, we’d start with the overall winner, but the winner in Class C was something special at this race. Very special. The United Partnership of Pentastar Racers has beaten their head against their horrible Plymouth Sundance Duster for years with the most calamitous results.

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On several occasions, the car has built up a tremendous lead of 40 or more laps and then blown up, losing Class C. Even after the Lemons judges let them cheat to a ridiculous degree—oil accumulator helping to lubricate a 250-horsepower late-model 3.8-liter 6G75 Mitsubishi V6—they still managed to break the car.

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Once again, the Duster built up a 40-lap advantage by the end of Saturday and everyone on the team held their breath, waiting for the axe to fall. Incredibly, it never did and the Duster won by a wide 42-lap margin to finish 9th place overall.

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Overall Winners – LemonAid Racing, BMW E30
As for the overall winners, LemonAid Racing pretty much had this race in the bag from mid-day Saturday. Heat knocked down most of their challengers while the Iowa-based team rolled on to their sixth overall win in Lemons, including three at Gingerman.

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Flying Pigs Racing’s Ford 302-swapped Mazda RX-7 came in second place, some seven laps behind LemonAid. The team’s Pink Pig Mustang won at Gingerman years ago and the RX-7 has now finished 2nd place a couple of times. They’ll get another win, eventually, we’re pretty sure.

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Class B – Team Orca/Space Force, Mazda RX-7
The third-place finisher was another V8-swapped Mazda RX-7, this one belonging to Team Orca. The team ran a monstrous Chevy Caprice for years painted like a killer whale, complete with waving tail and a functional blowhole. Over last winter, they transplanted the LT1 V8 and automatic transmission into the little Mazda sports car. At the car’s first race earlier this year, the team found the car completely undriveable.

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After a bit of sorting, they found whatever it was they were missing and the RX-7 romped away to a Class B win. The team’s Space Force theme was, like so many great themes, thought up the night before BS Inspection and pulled off with a couple rattle cans of paint and a trip to Wal-Mart.

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Heroic Fix – #123 Polka Kings, BMW E39
The Polka Kings turned up last year with a clean-looking BMW 5-Series and had run several races with their “new” Lemons car without any issues at all (aside from their poor driving). However, everything caught up with them at the Cure for Gingervitis. Minutes after unloading, the punched a tiny hole in the windshield.

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Oil pressure issues came next, followed by an overheating BMW engine-control unit (aka engine computer). They rigged up fixes for both, only to suffer a clutch failure not long after. They spent all of Sunday swapping in a replacement, only to discover the clutch slave cylinder had also gone bad.

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Paddock mates Wisconsin Crap Racing jumped in with some spares off their BMW 3-Series and a couple extra sets of hands.They finally buttoned it up just five minutes before the checkered flag and came in with two final “victory” laps, good enough for the Heroic Fix.

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I Got Screwed – Bad Company Endurance Racing, Acura RSX
We’ve already shared the whole tale of Bad Company’s extraordinarily expensive weekend right here, so check it out.

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Straight Outta WalMart – #227 Sparkleturd Racing, Honda Civic
If the Bad Company RSX represents the extreme performance for Hondas in Lemons, then first-timers Sparkleturd Racing show the exact opposite. Their 230,000-mile Civic sedan looked like it had pulled out of the shopping-center parking lot down the road from Gingerman.

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The team had done basically nothing to the car. The car still had its catalytic converter, even, and they’d slapped on numbers, installed the safety equipment, and gone racing. It was stealthy, but more importantly, it ran unhindered all weekend and the first-time team visited the Penalty Box zero times.

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The car still wears a valid license plate and nobody batted an eye when they drove it down the street to Wal-Mart for an errands run after racing all day Saturday. For showing up with a dead-stock mundane car for their first race—not a given with rookies, as we’ll see—the Sparkleturd team took home the event-specific Straight Outta Wal-Mart Trophy.

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Judges Choice – #81 The Cleveland Crash, Dodge Charger
And then we swing the pendulum back to the other extreme. This team of Cleveland-area Chrysler techs scored an ex-police 2006 Dodge Charger with a blown Hemi V8 engine for $900. They swapped in one of the Dodge truck Hemis, which turned out to be a massive undertaking with mismatched electronics.

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However, the team had exchanged many, many emails with Lemons organizers that seemed to probe around the idea that these asphalt-oval racers thought they were sneaking in a machine of road-racing domination. Given that rookies who show up with powerful modern cars tend to spend most of their weekend in the Penalty Box, the team seemed like nothing but looming trouble.

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So what should BS Judges do with a modern-ish Chrysler product? Knowing that Chrysler quality may not have been leading the quality-control world in the mid-2000s, they were tempted—even with what looked like truck tires with a big, flexible sidewall—to put the incredibly bulky Charger in Class C with no laps. Instead, they put it in Class A (for cars with a Prayer of Winning) with 20 penalty laps.

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It turns out that most of the fears were unfounded. The Charger turned the 55th-quickest lap time (of 74 cars), but they only got two black flags for the whole weekend. The car held up all weekend, however, so for exceeding all of their expectations—good and bad—the Cleveland Crash took home the Judges Choice Award.

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Org. Choice – #120 Ho-Chunk Jeep Cherokee
We’ve already written about the “Jeexus” here on Roadkill. Simply put, this is one of the best body swaps we’ve seen in Lemons.

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IOE – #94 Rust Belt Racing, 1977 Toyota Celica
We arrive at Lemons’ top prize, the Index of Effluency, at last. Rust Belt Racing brought this 1977 Toyota Celica to the Yokohama Joliet Prison Break in April. It certainly looks like it was once a proper race car, but the Celica’s best days are behind it.

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Rust Belt Racing pulled it out of a backyard after its retirement from years as a state-of-the-art SCCA racer. It had originally been built for racing in the 1980s and then campaigned for a decade or so.

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The Celica still wears all of the original SCCA stickers on it and while Lemons has very little reverence for club racing, it’s pretty cool to see a car that was someone’s weekend toy decades ago. Aside from safety updates, the car races exactly as it did in its heyday down to the antiquated and rust-coated performance parts. What does that get you? Well, it gets you lap times in the bottom third of a Lemons field.

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Nevertheless, the Rust Belt team kept the finicky (in road racing anyway) 20R engine alive and finished a respectable 29th place. That was good enough for the IOE.

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The 24 Hours of Lemons returns to racing at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington, on July 27-29. Follow Lemons on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube for updates, entertaining crap, and information.

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