The 24 Hours of Lemons property-devaluation machine has been clattering into Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington, since our first race there in the summer of 2012, and we have seen some great racing and beautiful hoopties at the Pacific Northworst events. The 2018 race, held last weekend, offered the closest competition in all three classes we’d seen at this venue, so we’ll start off with the class winners.
Hot rodders Dave Schaible and Fish Newman started their Lemons careers by building the Black Metal V8olvo, a Volvo 244 with Ford V8 swap, back in 2008. That car has changed hands many times since then (in fact, it competed in this very race), but most racers are more familiar with Schaible and Newman’s Model T GT, a road-racing street rod that amounts to a Fox Mustang with a mashup of Model A and Model T body parts grafted on. Not long ago, they sold the Model T GT to the guys of Silicon Junkyard Racing, who drove it to Class A and overall victories last weekend.
After the “Devil Camaro” of Team IWannaRoc blew up its engine on Saturday and the Nemo Money Miata drove its drivers crazy by refusing to run at all, the battle for Class A devolved into a three-way battle between the Model T GT, the Porsche 944 of Verti-Gogh Racing, and the Neon Pope. The 1997 Dodge Neon, unwisely featuring junkyard turbocharging, looked like the favorite for most of the weekend, but the T GT drivers reeled in the Dodge and got the checkered flag by about a third of a lap; the Porsche finished two laps behind.
Class B was tight for a while, but the strangely reliable all-wheel-drive BMW 325iX of Blue Balls Racing walked away from the rest of the B pack on Sunday and won by 18 laps. The only plausible ways to get your E30 into Class B (short of an awesome engine swap, such as a Chrysler Slant-6) are to run a sluggish automatic transmission or a failure-prone AWD setup, and the latter approach worked for this team.
Class C offered the most exciting racing, as is so often the case in this series, with three steady tortoises doing battle with a rabid, heart-transplanted hare. When the dust, oil smoke, and flying parts settled, the victor was the relatively youthful 1992 Mazda 323 of Team Sawzda, by four laps.
This car served as the faithful daily driver of one team member for 23 years before embarking on its second career as a mighty road racer, and its 82-horsepower engine was enough to deliver victory to the very skillful Sawzda drivers.
The Low Road Racing 1976 Pontiac Sunbird Sport Coupe boasts more than twice the engine displacement of the Sawzda and had quite a class lead for a while, but then its exhaust system fell off and the team couldn’t make repairs quickly enough to get the victory.
The big Class C story of the weekend was the Chotus, campaigned by the veteran Lemons racers of The B-Team— Just Plain Stupid. This is a 1974 Lotus Elite with Chevrolet 350/4-speed swap, a car that should be a great road-racer but has, in fact, sucked since 2011. The fair and wise justices of the Lemons Supreme Court took mercy upon the poor B-Teamers and put the Chotus in Class C. This would be their race!
For all of Saturday, the Chotus drivers were doing amazingly well, with their terrifyingly fragile car failing to break any parts for the first time in its long and painful career. By the end of the race session, they found themselves in P5 overall and with about a two-hour Class C lead.
On Sunday… well, the Chotus reverted to typical Chotus behavior. The left front hub, wheel bearings, and brake caliper— all components cobbled together out of affordable junkyard bits, because Colin Chapman’s components added a lot of cheapness but not much of anything else— failed in a spectacular and undiagnosable cascade of misery. The team thrashed away for most of Sunday and got back on the track after much knuckle-deskinning and cursing, but the drivers had lost so many laps that they were beaten by a 26-year-old Mazda econobox by 37 laps. For this, and all the other times the Chotus has stomped on their hearts with its hobnailed boots, the B-Team received the I Got Screwed trophy.
In addition to the ’76 Sunbird, Low Road Racing brought a ’74 Ford Mustang II, complete with Cologne V6 and automatic transmission. They’d paid a transmission shop to rebuild their slushbox between races, so of course it failed catastrophically on Saturday morning.
Battling angry wasps and 99° heat, they removed the transmission and torque converter from the truck. By the way, the black-and-white photographs used here were shot with a 1910 Ansco Buster Brown No. 2 Folding camera.
It worked! The Low Road Mustang got back into the race and finished 50th out of 64 entries. For this, the Most Heroic Fix trophy.
For the past three Pacific Northworst races, the crazy Canadians of Maple Bacon Racing have been bringing their fully depreciated 1987 Chevrolet Caprice down from British Columbia, to go toe-to-toe with other wretched hoopties on the field of racing battle.
In the 2016 Pacific Northworst race, Maple Bacon took home the I Got Screwed trophy for the kind of broad-spectrum mechanical/electrical woes normally reserved for the likes of Audis and BMW 7-Series, the team’s drivers getting maybe two hours of racing time. The following year, the Maple Bacon Caprice ran just long enough to pump out all its oil onto the track (among other failures), turning a mere 45 laps.
This race, Things Would Be Different for Maple Bacon racing, and maybe they were; the team managed to turn 120 stately laps, a few at a time. The Caprice’s V8 engine ran on between two and five cylinders, depending on its mood, and the team’s wrenching frenzy went on 24/7, all weekend long. We were so awed by the comprehensive badness of this car that we awarded Maple Bacon Racing a special trophy, which we predict will be regarded as highly in Canada as the Stanley Cup: The Worst GM Car… In the World award.
Bne3GT Racing campaigns this 1988 Pontiac Firebird, which is a supercharged, high-performance machine with lots of billet hardware.
We didn’t worry about possible stretching of the $500 Lemons budget, however, because this car has both an automatic transmission and the same 2.8-liter 60° V6 found in Fieros and Cimarrons, equipped with a junkyard supercharger out of a 3.8-liter V6. Team captain Nicholas Jordan is some sort of genius machinist, and he fabricated a custom blower housing and all the other components necessary to get this rig to work in the Firebird.
Admittedly, the Bne3GT Firebird was neither quick nor reliable, but the drivers paid full attention to our harrowing warnings against pit speeding in a paddock full of more feral children than usual and crept around at the safest speeds we’d ever seen. For this, the Judges’ Choice award was theirs.
The Transcontinental Drifters rank among the greatest/looniest fabricators in the series, having built the Jagvair (a Chevrolet Corvair with Jaguar XJ-6 powertrain, among other modifications) and the Subarute Toyota Previa pickup (which won the Index of Effluency at last year’s Pacific Northworst race). Now they have a new car: a 1959 Jaguar Mark 1 Saloon.
You can read the build histories of all three of these fine racing machines right here, if you want all the details. The Jag wasn’t quite ready to go for the Friday inspections; in fact, it didn’t reach the track until after the green flag on Sunday morning, and it wasn’t ready to race until a few hours before the checkered flag.
The car needs a bit more work to be fully race-ready, but it went around the course 26 times. To us, that was enough for an Organizer’s Choice award. We look forward to seeing what this car can do at its next race.
The first time Judge Phil (one of my many aliases) donned the sacred robes of the Lemons Supreme Court was exactly ten years before this race, at Carolina Motorsports Park in South Carolina (back when we were dumb enough to race in the Deep South in July). To celebrate this milestone, I made a special commemorative BRIBED stencil. Collect them all!
For the top prize, the Index of Effluency, a dead-stock 1964 MG 1100, complete with trouble-prone Hydrolastic suspension and a 1.1-liter engine rated at 54 horsepower, gets the prize when it beats two-thirds of the entrants (all of which had more horsepower and electrical systems not made by The Prince of Darkness) in a race. That’s how this business works.
The Silversleeves Racing 1100 (the MG-badged version of the car better-known in this country as the Austin America) beat four BMWs, three Miatas, a Porsche Boxster, six Volkswagens, three Hondas, and a Merkur XR4Ti.
We’ll be returning to The Ridge for the Smells Like AMC Spirit race in October, and our next race will be this weekend in Connecticut. We hope to see you at either or both of them. For all our photos of this race, go here.