BMW and Dodge Best, Worst Makes in 24 Hours of LeMons 2015 Season

With 20 races in 12 states and two countries, the tenth season of the 24 Hours of LeMons has come to a close. We saw Star Wars cars, ancient cars do well despite never belonging anywhere near a race track, and ill-advised engine swaps galore. Now we will honor the car companies that were the most successful and most heartbreaking during the past year, then bestow the much-sought-after Coppa di Bondo award to the top team of the season.

BMW Class A Win
2015 Constructor Championship Winner: BMW
We have many BMWs in the 24 Hours of LeMons, and some of them are raced by competent teams that do pretty well. Every time a LeMons car finishes in the top ten of the standings at a race, that marque gets points (10 points for a P1 finish, 9 points for a P2 finish, and so on), and enough BMWs pulled off this top-ten feat to give those Bavarians 224 championship points and a big edge over second-place Ford (with 114 points).

BMW Class B Win
We saw three Class A wins by BMWs in 2015, two by E30 3-Series cars and one by an E28 5-Series. In addition, BMWs took home Class B and Class C trophies; above is the John Galt Racing BMW 2002, which had been pursuing a win in the medium-fast LeMons class for years and finally got it done at the Utah race. The “One Piece At a Time” BMWhatever E36 3-Series (which features about a half-ton of body parts from a ’51 Plymouth, a ’42 Buick, and a ’49 Dodge) also took the Class B prize at the Fall South Carolina race.

BMW Class C Win
A BMW in Class C? Yes, it does happen every once in a while. We’ve placed the occasional E23 7-Series and even the Worst 8-Series In the World into Class C, and an E30 3-Series with Chrysler Slant-6 power and pushbutton-shift automatic transmission definitely belongs in the most important LeMons class. The Team E30/6 car made its debut way back in 2011 and finally eked out a Class C win at the South Fall race.

As for the other marques that made a strong showing in the 2015 Constructor’s Championship points race, the top five:

BMW, 224 points
Ford, 114 points
Nissan, 106 points
Honda/Acura, 101 points
GM, 78 points

2015 Deconstructor Championship Winner: Dodge
Every year, the LeMons HQ staff members choose the vehicle manufacturer whose products have caused the deepest headaches for the LeMons teams that had the misfortune to race them. Sure, Finnegan and Freiburger had a great time with their Hellcat-engine-into-1969-Charger swap, but Dodge-driving LeMons teams in 2015 didn’t fare quite as well.

The Dodge that really nailed the lid onto the Deconstructor Championship coffin was this 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T of the Sugar Skulls. The Spirit R/T was the fastest mass-production four-door sedan you could buy in 1991, and so you’d think it would be an ideal endurance racer, right?

Having seen ample proof that Chrysler K-platform-related cars tend to do poorly in LeMons, we decided to issue a Class C Loophole for the Spirit R/T a couple of years back: show up with a Spirit R/T that’s pretty close to stock, and we’ll put it in Class C (we also have similar Class C Loopholes available for the Hyundai XG, Chrysler LH, and Merkur Scorpio).

The Sugar Skulls had been racing a reliable-but-boring 7th-gen Honda Civic (painted up like Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356) for a couple of years in the Midwest, and they were ready for a challenge.

So, they found a cheap Spirit R/T, with its incredibly nervous 224-horse 2.2-liter engine, and proceeded to spend about a year beating their faces against the brick wall that is life with a worn-out front-drive Iacoccan Chrysler product. They fixed stuff, broke stuff, fixed more stuff, broke more stuff, and cleaned out every junkyard with any 2.2 Turbo parts within hundreds of miles.

Finally, race weekend arrived and the Sugar Skulls’ Spirit R/T was ready to own Class C!

Nope. The team spent the entire weekend spinning wrenches and searching for parts, and just couldn’t get the car to stop gushing oil out of every orifice (including a few not installed by Chrysler). Number of laps turned: zero.

Also contributing to Dodge’s dubious victory in the 2015 Deconstructor Championship was the 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z of Futility Motorsport, which has eaten about 25 engines and several tons of other parts during the team’s four-year quest for something slightly better than, say, abject failure.

There were a few ups and countless downs in the Futility Motorsports saga, and you can read the whole depressing story on the LeMons Forums if you have a good mood that needs ruining, but the upshot is that the team sent their miserable Daytona to the crusher after the ’15 Halloween Hooptiefest race and will be building a new racin’ machine for the 2016 season.

IOE Other Stude
Unexpectedly Great Constructor of 2015: Studebaker
This isn’t an official LeMons award, but the performance of the two Studebakers that made their LeMons debuts in 2015 really impressed us. First, the NSF Racing 1959 Studebaker Silver Hawk won the Index of Effluency at the ‘Shine Country Classic in Alabama.

Later in the year, the completely stock Premature Combustion 1960 Studebaker Lark ran shockingly well at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, winning the IOE at the Return of the LeMonites race there. Congratulations, Studebaker!

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2015 Coppa di Bondo Winners: The Knoxvegas Lowballers
The Coppa di Bondo goes to the LeMons team that we think was the greatest of the entire season, and for 2015 there was no argument about who most deserved the award: the Knoxvegas Lowballers and their Ford Duratec V6-powered racing empire.

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The Lowballers (from Knoxville, Tennessee, of course) burst onto the LeMons scene in 2013, with their flaky-looking Geo Metro equipped with the drivetrain from a Ford Contour SVT stuffed in the back.

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At the Lowballers’ first race, they nuked their engine (this is a common problem with big engine/tiny car engine swaps)… and got back onto the track by cannibalizing one team member’s daily-driver Contour.

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Then, in 2014, the team leaped right into the LeMons big leagues by converting their Geo into a staggeringly beautiful replica of The Snowman’s 18-wheeler from Smokey and the Bandit at the ‘Shine Country Classic.

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They added a Contour SVT to the team’s fleet, stockpiled yet more Contours as drivetrain donors, and re-themed the Geo as the Happy Toyz truck from Maximum Overdrive.

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All this time, the team members were sharpening their fabrication, wrenching, driving, and organizational skills. At each successive race, they got a bit quicker, and the cars got a bit more reliable.

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For 2015, their fleet had grown to three Duratec V6-engined vehicles, and they’d decorated each one as a completely credible 1970s-style custom van, complete with handmade lemon-shaped bubble windows. Their original Metro won Class C, so we moved it up to Class B… which it won. We grudgingly put the car into Class A, knowing that such a machine had no chance of competing in the fastest class, and the Lowballers stunned the LeMons world by grabbing the overall win at the 2015 Fall South race. This is the first LeMons car to win all three classes and the Index of Effluency, an accomplishment nobody believed possible.

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Most teams that take overall LeMons wins are hard-pressed to do it with a factory-built ordinary car with a quickie rattlecan paint job, but the Knoxvegas Lowballers put together massive body modifications, team costumes, and managed to build this abomination masterpiece of a Mazda MPV minivan.

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Two Contour SVT Duratec engines, two 5-speed transmissions (connected to a single shifter via a terrifyingly elaborate linkage mechanism), all-wheel-drive, and a custom-van theme that would be not at all out of place in 1977. The Double Trouble MPV isn’t as well-sorted as the other twin-engined LeMons cars yet, but we expect this 400-horsepower beast to accomplish some great things in 2016.

On top of all that, the Lowballers throw great paddock parties, drive around on a motorized picnic table, and generally help make every event more fun for all the teams at the track. You’ve earned this Coppa di Bondo, Knoxvegas Lowballers!

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