We’re just back from a whirlwind couple of Lemons weeks. After a 24 Hours of Lemons visit to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut, we took off on the Monterey Car Weeeeak edition of the Lemons Rally. That rally visited Washington and just days later, Lemons headed back for the Pacific Northworst at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington. The Ridge remains a rather rustic setting, but the races are always full of great cars and teams. Here’s a bit of what we experienced at Pacific Northworst 2017.
We’ll start with some great cars that didn’t take home trophies but won our hearts.
You know what sounds like Scirocco? Sriracha. The 1980s Volkswagen’s spiciest moment came when it pitched its left-front wheel off, allowing the driver watched it bound away into the distance. The team fetched a replacement hub from the junkyard that’s literally across the road from the racetrack, a delightful convenience for Lemons teams.
We’ve come to expect some great themes from Salty Thunder Racing, a team with two V6 Pontiac Fieros. This time, they loaded up with a Lemons All-Star cast for a “2Fast 2Fieros” theme, and made a video of it, which has embedding disabled (Whyyyyyyyyyy?) but if you really want to see it, go HERE
The movie poster even paid tribute to this great cast with astonishing detail. Pay attention folks; this is how to make a really good Lemons theme. It’s all in the details.
Until this race, Salty Thunder’s Fieros have generally been reliable and avoided any “classic Fiero” characteristics like “being on fire.” Notice we said “until this race.” During test day, a short section of the #90 Fiero’s wiring loom caught on fire. “Well, now I’ve had the full Fiero experience,” the team captain said.
Last year, we saw the Maple Bacon team from Canada struggling mightily with their Chevy Caprice. We figured they’d have it all figured out after a year, but we found them pretty much as we saw them last year.
They blamed a parts store clerk telling them that 35 psi hose for a remote-mount oil filter was 200 psi for some of their woes. While the track staff cleaned up that mess, Maple Bacon then chased gremlins in the Caprice’s electrical system.
We’ve seen the Zitronen Kommando Volkswagen Vanagon, who know the Team Westafari guys well, several times before in Lemons. They had previously run the 3.3-liter Subaru flat-six engine from an SVX and discovered, as many SVX owners did, that it was utter garbage.
This time around, they slapped a turbocharger on a 2.0-liter Subaru four-cylinder engine to make a Lemons WRX(ish)…in a rear-engined van. The van nearly won Class B, finishing 10th place overall, and spent the weekend inducing Vanagon Rage™ as it strolled past BMWs and Camaros on the straights. Nobody likes getting passed by Vanagons.
We’ve seen a lot of Back to the Future Deloreans and we’re frankly a little bored of them. From the rear three-quarters and about 100 yards away, though, Back to the Finish’s SN-95 Ford Mustang looked almost a little convincing. The team built the time machine bits mostly of heavy plywood, too, which is always commendable in Lemons.
Let’s move on the race winners, shall we?
Overall and Class A Winner
The Turrible T and the Pinto Bean Bandits have been running the “Model T GT” in Lemons since 2010 and the old jalopy picked up its ninth overall victory at The Ridge. That’s second-most of all time in Lemons, trailing only Cerveza Racing’s 11 wins. The Model T’s rental crew drove cleanly and kept the 5.0-liter Ford V8 and T5 transmission happy enough to eek past two turbocharged cars.
The first of those turbo cars was Neon Pope. Their Dodge Neon narrowly missed Class B wins several times and once they scored that class win, they added a turbocharger to their front-drive Mopar. They finished second place overall, which is the best Neon finish in years.
Another recent Class B winner, Crap-Can Mixed Tape Dating Club, also ditched their Volkswagen Corrado’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter Volkswagen setup for a 1.8-liter turbo engine. They led much of the race, but a couple turbo plumbing failures meant they could manage only third place. Still, keep an eye on both of these turbocharged cars at later races.
Class B Winner
The Class B winner, Taco Ninjas, has proven the team’s ineptitude knows few boundaries. Their Honda Del Sol typically either racks up black flags or nukes half-shafts. This time around, they avoided both foibles and a perfect race earned them the long-sought class win.
Class C Winner
In this race, Class C turned out far different from Lemons judges’ expectations. Silversleeves Racing brought a trio of British cars to complete their Anglophile theme. The team’s “new” MG 1100—basically a slightly enlarged Mini—had scarcely ever run, but they wanted a shot at being the first and only team to finish 1-2-3 in Class C. The team’s other two cars, a Wolseley Hornet and an Austin 1800/Landcrab, had both won Class C previously.
Faced with a dilemma, the Lemons Supreme Court allowed all three cars in Class C, but they absolutely buried both the Hornet and the Landcrab with 35 Penalty Laps to keep from being repeat winners. Or so they thought. The Landcrab, as one might expect from such a crustacean, dug out of the hole and went on to win Class C. The car that they beat? Their own MG 1100, although the Hornet failed to complete the trifecta. Better luck
next time never.
The Heroic Fix at this race went to the truly hopeless Mr. Sparkle Super Race Team and their bad, bad, bad, supremely awful Ford Contour SVT, which showed up Friday night long after tech inspections had closed. When it finally came through for BS Inspection, the Lemons Supreme Court noticed the team of Lemons rookies had spent all of their preparation time on the fantastic The Simpsons-reference paint scheme rather than mechanical sorting. This is as it should be.
When they tried to pass tech, their killswitch failed to kill electrical power. Faced with major electrical fixes, one team member tried to leave tech inspection only for the shifter mechanism to explode, scattering parts all over the interior.
After about six hours, they fixed their killswitch and passed tech. They spent another hour getting a driver into the car, including a visit to have gear inspection while wearing all of his gear. This can be done, mind you, if you don’t mind tech inspectors looking at your crotch in form-fitting Nomex underwear.
When the car finally got on track, the team waited eagerly for it to come around the track. It did this, eventually, behind a tow truck. The team fiddled with the ignition and maybe questionably hot-wired some stuff, which finally earned them one trip all the way around the circuit. Did they make another lap?
They did not. The team spent all of Saturday night fixing the issue and slowly but surely, the car seemed operational. It might have been in limp mode or maybe the fresh drivers just had no idea what they were doing; either way the Contour SVT—which internet car experts will insist should DOMINATE Lemons races—turned 10s of laps on Sunday.
Just when things began to go well, the hood flew up and smashed the windshield with only about one hour of racing left. The Mr. Sparkle crew set to work vacuuming out the broken glass and they installed a bit of steel mesh borrowed from another team just in time to take the checkered flag. Self-inflicted? Probably! Heroic anyway? You bet!
I Got Screwed
The flipside of the Heroic Fix is the I Got Screwed trophy. Ordinarily, Lemons awards this to a team of schlubs whose car breaks in terrible ways or to a team whose trailer catches fire or something else catastrophic. Unfortunately, most of the cars that broke instead packed up and left. Since you must be present to win, that means no teams screwed because their engines called it a weekend early. Instead, King Henry V8th had the race of their lives with their bejeweled Chevy Nova, an icon of classic American muscle. The Nova ran better than it ever has and it was even, for once, passing other cars.
Unfortunately, Henry V8th got screwed because the best the car and team could manage fell woefully short of lesser cars. Yes, their Nova with a Small-Block Chevy was soundly beaten by three tiny British cars, a bone-stock 1984 Toyota Celica, and an all-wheel-drive minivan.
Regional Award – Danny Trejo ‘Dang, That Guy is Everywhere’ Trophy
Each Lemons event brings a race-specific award and this time out, race organizers rewarded a team that shows up everywhere. The Camaro Islanders run maybe the pinnacle of “bad Camaros,” which is a very low (or very high) bar of crappiness, in general. However, the team always shows up, has a good time, and seldom complains even when race organizers demand they make their V8 much quieter.
For their commitment to having fun and showing up everywhere, the Islanders took home the “Danny Trejo Dang, These Guys Are Everywhere” award. Even if you don’t know who Danny Trejo is, you know who Danny Trejo is. And he’s everywhere and he’s awesome. Like these guys.
Judges Choice at this race went to Like a Bat Outta Shell and their 1984 Nissan 720 pickup truck. Like most great Lemons cars, this team of younger dudes didn’t need any theme, but they added a pretty good Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme to match the truck’s colors.
Did we say “match the truck’s colors?” We sure did, because when a team member bought this truck as a daily driver, it already wore OG 1990s minitruck graphics. It also appeared to wear some vintage 1990s tires that were shoved onto the narrowest wheels we’ve seen—outside of a classic Mini or a Ford Festiva—in Lemons.
The truck was incredibly slow, but who cares? In a perfect world, every Lemons race would have at least 30 minitrucks with period-correct graphics like this.
We’ve covered Low Road Racing’s C3 Corvette with BMW power already on Roadkill. You can read that right here, but the blasphemous take on “America’s sports car” easily earned Low Road the Organizer’s Choice.
Index of Effluency
That brings us at last to the series’ top prize and this was a no-brainer for the Transcontinental Drifters Toyota Previa All-Trac. Like a modern supercar, this first Previa in Lemons has a mid-mounted engine, all-wheel drive, and a factory dry-sump oiling system for its 2.4-liter (non-supercharged) four-cylinder engine.
You may remember the Transcontinental Drifters from their old car, a Chevy Corvair that they “fixed” by putting a Jaguar inline-six engine under the hood. Like the Rocketsports Jaguars that lent the livery to the Corvair, this “Jagvair” never worked quite right.
Needing a break from that crazy mash-up project, the Drifters decided on a lark to bring a Previa. They cut the roof off ostensibly to lower the center of gravity but probably just because sometimes you get bored and have a plasma cutter. They then added an overbuilt rollcage that offered much-needed reinforcement for the now-floppy chassis.
The team only made two major mechanical upgrades: a cooler for the automatic transmission and a head gasket on the engine. Because of the engine’s extremely inconvenient location, the latter took about 30 man-hours of labor to complete.
When it was done, the team expected it would run about 25 minutes at a time and then need to cool off. Instead, the minivan ran like a train all weekend with scarcely an issue. They finished 25th place overall with the 55th fastest lap (of 60 cars). That made the IOE decision awfully easy.
Lemons will next visit Carolina Motorsports Park on September 16 and 17. That race will feature a Lemons-car parade through Camden, South Carolina, for BS Inspection in the quaint downtown. If you’re in the area, drop in to see the madness. Get the full info on the 24 Hours of Lemons website and check back here on Roadkill for more Lemons content.