Back in 2013, I came up with a metric called “Domination Factor” for comparing the relative performance of car types in Lemons races. We don’t bog you down with deatils, but the relevant piece of information was this: Volvo 240s and 260s fared better than any other car in Lemons, on average. Lemons has seen many Volvos come and go, but the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers have run their ugly old 245 Wagon in 28 races.
As many Lemons cars do, the Lebowskis’ 245 started out in Lemons as an ugly old box. The car featured the naturally aspirated, eight-valve version of the Volvo “Redblock” four-cylinder engine, which was good for about 110 horsepower at best. With more than 3,000 pounds of Swedish steel to punch around, it was never fast in a straight line, but it always cornered well and dealt with rainy tracks better than almost any other car. The team, based in the Chicago suburbs, ran the first race at the infamous Nelson Ledges race in 2009. A steady downpour punctuated that race and the team—called VolOwned at the time—came in second place in Class C.
The Volvo survived and came back in 2010 with a fresh Ghostbusters “Ecto-1” theme. Plastic bins and assorted dollar-store ephemera graced the car, which finished 10th overall at the first Lemons race at Gingerman Raceway, though it was only good for P3 in Class C.
The Ghostbusters theme lasted a year, but they came back in 2011 with the Volvo painted like a school bus that doubled as a fantastic “The Big Lebowski” reference. As you might guess from the top photo, taken in April 2018, they have not washed the car since painting it seven years ago.
The School Bus wagon picked up a Class B win at the snowed-out Gingerman race in 2011 and was promoted to Class A, perhaps slightly unjustly, with low triple-digit horsepower. Undeterred, the team racked up a series of clean races with long fuel stints that almost gave them two overall wins, coming up second place in back-to-back pieces.
A spate of Midwestern flooding and torrential downpours would surely be their chance to punch through at Gingerman Raceway in 2014, the team thought, but things went awry before they could even get to the track. The car and then tow rig both got stuck in the team captain’s flooded yard and the team missed tech inspection.
They passed last-second tech on Saturday morning with an optimistic gleam in their eyes. However, they were thwarted minutes before the race with a phantom electric problem that parked the car the entire weekend, earning them the I Got Screwed trophy for a miserable weekend.
They eventually diagnosed and fixed that, then ran several more naturally aspirated races. Finally in 2016, the Little Lebowskis upgraded to a turbocharger on their Redblock engine. It hasn’t been any more competitive with the turbo. In fact, they haven’t sniffed the Top 10 in a few years. However, the team generally have had more fun running in a quick Class A car and seem like they’re having a better time on a given race weekend.
As often happens in Lemons, the team owner accumulated several parts Volvos. All of those came on random sets of wheels with no-name 600-treadwear tires and rather than throw them away, the team captain stored them in his garage space. So at Autobahn Country Club in 2017, the Little Lebowskis cleaned out the garage and instead of spending $500 (or more) on race tires, they brought a dozen of the old wheels and tires for the race. They weren’t any faster, but the old all-seasons’ screeching was mightily impressive.
The car continues to race in the Midwest today. Its next race will be its 29th by our count, the second-most for any Volvo in Lemons behind the Bert One Volvo 262C Bertone Coupe.
The team captain told us in April that it’s starting to show some signs of old age and wear from probably at least 15,000 race miles, but we suspect the ol’ brick will be racing for at least a couple years to come.
The 24 Hours Lemons returns to racing at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan on June 30 and July 1. Read more Lemons coverage on Roadkill.com right here, then be sure to follow Lemons on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.