In the parlance of 24 Hours of LeMons racing, the word dominate can be deployed in many different ways. A fast team that runs away with the overall win might be dominating, but the term is more likely to be applied to, say, a team with a Renault Fuego Turbo that requires a frenzied, coffee-chugging overnight trip three states away in order to score some unobtainium part from a heavily armed Renault parts hoarder. The ERM Racing 1952 Chrysler New Yorker managed just 77 laps at the 2016 Halloween Hooptiefest in New Hampshire, competing in a race in which the winning car turned 510 laps, but we say that was a dominant performance.
ERM Racing, based in New Hampshire, started their LeMons career back in 2013 by “going plaid” with a Spaceballs-themed Datsun 280ZX. The next year, they went all Mad Max, dropping the 280ZX’s engine into a Fox Mustang and converting it into a very credible Road Warrior Falcon XB replica, complete with real right-hand-drive. For the 2015 Hooptiefest, they transformed the Mustang into a spectacular(ly loud) Fury Road Doof Wagon. The Racing Doof Wagon is now for sale and can be yours for a mere 800 bucks; email me if you’re interested.
Why, you ask, would any race team want to sell their high-performance Doof Wagon? The reason is this beautiful 64-year-old luxury Chrysler, a 1952 New Yorker discovered in forsaken and engineless condition by ERM Racing team captain Dave Burden.
Dave rounded up an unwanted early-1970s motorhome that had been festering for decades in someone’s yard, and the team extracted a 413 Wedge engine, Torqueflite 727 transmission and RV shifter, a big radiator, and some other pieces. Sound familiar?
The 413 engine is in the same big-block Chrysler family as the better-known 383 and 440 RB engines and it makes plenty of power, but this one is the “industrial” type designed for running irrigation pumps and so forth. The team ran short of time (preparing a race car always takes a lot longer than you expect) and rigged up a complex Rube Goldberg arrangement of radiator pipes and hoses.
In the back seat, the skeleton of Miss Daisy.
This car came from the factory with a 3-speed Fluid Drive transmission and 331 Hemi engine, and the team kept the cool-looking Fluid Drive column shifter while installing the engine-donor’s automatic shifter next to the driver’s seat.
The New Yorker passed the Friday tech inspection easily enough, and it hit the New Hampshire Motor Speedway track on Friday morning with the other 116 entrants at the ’16 Hooptiefest.
Because the team ran out of time before the race, their New Yorker had never been bug-tested. This meant that all the little problems that pop up when you revive an ancient car with an engine swap kept forcing the ERM Racing drivers to pit for repairs and adjustments. The elderly Winnebago radiator exploded, so the team found another radiator and kludged up some new water lines for it.
They couldn’t get the engine timing set right, until someone realized that the distributor turns backwards on the industrial 413 engine and they were retarding when they should have been advancing the New Yorker’s timing.
When the checkered flag waved on Sunday afternoon, ERM Racing had completed 77 laps. This wasn’t quite up to Index of Effluency standards (the Bad Decisions Racing 1948 Plymouth may have raised the IoE bar at the previous race), but the team took home the extremely prestigious Organizer’s Choice trophy.