Hey, SPOILERS AHEAD!
If you haven’t already watched Roadkill episode 59, you might want to wait before you read this post. Although, really, how much of a spoiler can you get on any of our episodes? Guys buy cars. Guys have ambitious goals. Goals fail. Cars break. Story ends with donuts in a gravel drainage wash somewhere in the desert. Guys have wonderful time despite crushing failure. Right? I mean, that’s sort of our thing. Anyhow, you’ve been warned. Now let’s look at some of the behind the scenes action from the Laphonda vs RX7 challenge.
This episode started because Roadkill fans always ask to see a competition between Freiburger and Finnegan. The idea was to have each guy buy a car for $1,500 and enter the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Las Vegas. The catch was that the cars could not be American-made. Finnegan ended up with a 1974 Honda Civic—now known as Laphonda—and Freiburger had to go rear-wheel drive with a rotary-powered 1985 Mazda RX-7. Neither of the guys were particularly familiar with the cars they bought, although Freiburger did a bit more research into his which resulted in at least knowing what engine was in it. This information will be relevant later.
If both cars had been in perfect running order, Freiburger’s 12A rotary engine would still have been twice as powerful as the 50hp 4-cylinder in the Honda. Of course, neither was in perfect running order. That didn’t stop the guys from hitting the road, taking a section of Route 66 past the Elmer Long Bottle Tree Ranch. The ranch is one of those fun bits of roadtrip weirdness that you get if you leave the main highway. It was started in 2000 by Elmer Long, who needed something to do with all the bottles his desert-dwelling father had collected over a lifetime. You can visit the ranch yourself, it’s in Oro Grande, California kinda near Victorville.
If you decide to take Route 66 out to Vegas, we recommend you don’t ask Fin to borrow the Honda, ’cause it blew up. Hole in the engine block and everything.
The lovely people of the internet came to aid the Roadkill boys, offering shop space and even a new engine. This engine was of course, the wrong engine, because Fin didn’t know what kind of car he had bought. “The methhead told me it was a CVCC,” he says in his defense, proving that you should never believe anything told to you by someone unloading a $1500 car.
With a full night a fabrication, many helping hands, and the sacrifice of a fender-stand, the Honda was repowered with the 1500cc engine. Did this mean it could participate in the the Optima event? Bear in mind that the Optima Invitational is where some of the nicest, fastest, most high-tech custom cars in America come to show off their builders and drivers. So, yeah, no.
In the end, it was burnouts in the gravel, as the Roadkill gods intended. That’s a lot of fun for $3,000 worth of cars. Roadkill is sponsored by Lincoln Tech, CRC Auto, Optima Batteries, Pioneer Car Audio, Jegs, and Cooper Tire. If you have Motor Trend on Demand, go watch it now. If not, you’ll see it on YouTube in January. Scroll down for more photos from the roadtrip, engine swap, and Optima (and Sloptima–we would have gone with Floptima) competitions.