The 24 Hours of LeMons series has been coming to Northern California’s Thunderhill Raceway since way back in 2007, and the newly expanded track means we can fit outlandish quantities of so-called race cars on the tarmac. Last weekend, we had 188 teams manage to persuade their hoopties to finish at least one lap, and there were plenty of highs, lows, redemption stories, and general lunacy. Let’s hit a few of the high points.
Rods were thrown. Transmissions were nuked. Suspensions were shattered. Food was grilled. Junkyard runs were made. Cars were cruelly violated with puzzling and ill-advised modifications.
Of course, when you have nearly 200 teams competing, one of them is going to get the most laps. This time— and in quite a few times in the past— that team was the make-it-look-easy smooth Cerveza Racing and their BMW E28 5-series. All the Cerveza drivers have an uncanny sixth sense for trouble developing halfway around the course, which means they’re backing out of the throttle at the very moment that other drivers are getting collected by a spinning Cadillac ETC or tearing off their oil pans on a starter dropped by an Infiniti Q45.
For much of the weekend, the Bunny With a Pancake On its Head Volkswagen Rabbit (which features a VR6 swap) led the field. This car (like all LeMons Volkswagens) is quite fragile, and the BWAPOIH crew did a lot of nail-biting, waiting for that wheel hub to melt or main bearing to spin. In the end, the Rabbit held together quite well, but the Cerveza BMW squeezed past late in the going and took the overall win by a single lap.
We were very excited about the battle between the Del Camino (a Honda del Sol with heavily modified El Camino bodywork), the GMObiles’ beat-to-hell 1970 El Camino, and the Special Deliverance Bavarian Ranchero. In the end, the Del Camino finished 97th, the El Camino finished 179th, and the Bavarian Ranchero finished 136th. So, the El Camino-ized Honda beat the Ranchero-ized BMW and the genuine Chevrolet El Camino.
The big story of the weekend involved the LeMons Legends of Hella Shitty Racing and their staggeringly wretched Bricklin SV-1. To the most fanatical in the LeMons community, the pinnacle of achievement is to get the worst possible car and get it out there on the race track. The Bricklin SV-1 (brought to you by the man who gave us the Yugo) is about as LeMony as you can possibly get, so we were all very excited to hear that Hella Shitty Racing had managed to obtain a numbers-matching, AMC 360-powered SV-1.
As you might imagine, this is a tough car to cage, and it wasn’t ready in time for the green flag. In fact, it didn’t hit the track until fairly late on Saturday. When it did hit the track, suspension problems, catastrophic brake fade, and engine-overheating woes limited stints to a few laps at a time. In the end, though, the Hella Shitty Racing Bricklin finished 49 glorious laps and ended the weekend in 169th place, beating three Mustangs, three Nissan Z-cars, and a Jaguar X-type. For this triumphant performance, Hella Shitty Racing took home the Most Heroic Fix trophy.
The top prize of LeMons racing is known as the Index of Effluency, and it goes to the team that accomplishes the most with a car that never belonged anywhere near a road course. In this case, the easy IoE win went to Ran When Parked Racing and their 1976 Oldsmobile Omega. Essentially a Chevy Nova with Buick 350 engine and laughably loose suspension, the Ran When Parked Omega somehow circled the five-mile-long Thunderhill course 148 times, finishing in 85th place and well into the top half of the standings.
The very tired Buick V8 wasn’t thrilled by this treatment, but it kept going in spite of the abuse. This team won the Index of Effluency at Sears Point last year with their pink ’61 Rambler Classic, so now they’re on a roll. Congratulations, Ran When Parked Racing!
It was a fine weekend for Buick fans. Not only did the Index of Effluency go to a Buick-powered car, the 1979 Buick Skyhawk of Planned Obsolescence Racing grabbed the Class C win, after many years of trying.