The 24 Hours of LeMons has been coming to Carolina Motorsports Park in South Carolina since all the way back in 2008, which feels like it was so long ago that we were able to hear the sound of the cannons firing on Fort Sumter over the tinkle of connecting rods hitting tarmac. On our 17th CMP race, something took place that had never happened before in 150 LeMons races: a V6-powered Ford Mustang took the overall win!
Yes, the 3.8 liter Canadian Ford Essex V6 was installed in lots of 1994-2004 Mustangs and made close to 200 horsepower. LeMons racers at our Southern tracks love the 3.8-powered Mustangs (while, for some reason, the rest of the country ignores them), and they have had quite a few top-ten finishes. At the 2016 Southern Discomfort, a V6-engined Mustang finally got the most laps.
The Hard Parkers, with their great car-show theme featuring those creepy “Time Out” dolls and wax marks on their 1996 Mustang’s paint, ran a perfectly clean race and wound up winning by a massive 11-lap edge over the Irritable Dad Syndrome Mazda Miata (the Irritable Dads also had their best LeMons race weekend ever).
The Grim Reaper Racing 1994 Mustang really started the V6-powered Mustang trend in Southern LeMons events, with numerous top-ten finishes during their six years of LeMons racing. This time they finished in P3.
Another V6-engined Mustang started Sunday in P2 and finished the race in 7th overall, winning Class B in the process. If you want to be all nit-picky on the subject, yeah, this is actually a Ford Contour SVT, with a Duratec V6 driving the front wheels and a 1966 Mustang body welded on. We say it’s a genuine Mustang now.
The Knoxvegas Lowballers, winners of the 2015 Coppa di Bondo award and considered the current top team in all of LeMons racing by those in the know, built this beautiful replica of the Ken Block Hoonicorn Mustang, and then they ran away with Class B in it. Well done, Lowballers!
In Class C, the Idle Clatter 2 “Toyocedes SR55D” diesel pickup (a 1979 Mercedes-Benz W123 Diesel with Toyota Hilux body swap) vaporized their competition with a 46-lap margin of victory (that’s close to a two-hour lead at this track) over the Lunar Lemon 1986 Chevrolet Astro Van. Don’t feel bad for the Lunar Lemon team’s drivers, though, because they got the last laugh; we’ll get to that part of the story shortly.
What all this means is that we had two crazy body swaps and one allegedly hopeless engine choice as winners of our three classes. We suggest that you get a V6 Mustang and swap a ’54 Kaiser Manhattan body onto it— you can’t fail!
One team did, however, manage to fail in amazingly comprehensive fashion at the ’16 Southern Discomfort: Sputnik Racing. This bunch has been racing with LeMons for many years, and they have taken home many poods of trophies thanks to their adventurous approach to engineering. Perhaps not so strong on organization and planning, the Sputnikoids make up for those weak spots through hard work, persistence, and an appreciation for
chaos high spirits. This time, the team brought two cars: the veteran “TOO BIG TO FAIL” 1971 Plymouth Fury and the first Peugeot 504 Diesel in LeMons history.
We’d had a gasoline-powered 504 compete in LeMons, back at the 2009 New England race, but it managed to turn just 49 laps and finished third-from-last. When we found that Sputnik would be bringing a diesel 504 to the ’16 Southern Discomfort, we had high hopes for many stately, reliable French laps.
The problem was that the Pug wasn’t quite ready to go when the car inspections started on Friday. Nor was it ready to go when the green flag waved on Saturday morning. In fact, it never did get ready.
The cage wasn’t done, and the driver’s seat wasn’t mounted, and the suspension was bad, and the brakes didn’t work, and the clutch didn’t work, and the kill-switch wasn’t installed, and… well, you get the idea. Normally, Sputnik could have overcome all this and put the car on the track at some point on Sunday, but it turned out that virtually nothing from the parts car would bolt onto the race car (despite both being theoretically identical 1979 models), and you won’t be finding Peugeot 504 parts in South Carolina on the weekend.
However, Sputnik also brought along their Fury, which is a rock-and-stick-simple old-time Detroit car and should be pretty well sorted after two years of racing. This time, the team welded on some random body parts from the Sputnik-affiliate NSF Racing 1949 Nash Airflyte that came to a bad end at the Alabama race earlier in the year, just for style.
The team’s leadership cadres have decided to make the Fury into a One Piece at a Time car, so prior to this race they installed the doors from a Grand Cherokee Laredo on the left side. Unfortunately, there were many safety problems with the car (that had been overlooked during previous race inspections, because we were so busy making the team fix the other failures), and so the team had to spend most of the weekend welding and grinding on the roll cage.
When the Fury finally made it onto the track, the suspension was too janky for it to race safely. After witnessing several slow-motion Fury spins, the LeMons Supreme Court— that bunch of humorless apparatchiks— decreed that the Fury would be removed from the track for the rest of the weekend. For all this suffering, much of it self-inflicted, Sputnik Racing added an I Got Screwed award to their collection of LeMons trophies.
Speaking of One Piece at a Time, we issued a special “Speedycop Sold Me a Lemon” trophy to the Psychobilly Crapcan team and their One Piece At a Time “BMWhatever” car, which is a BMW E36 318i with body parts from a ’42 Buick, a ’52 Plymouth, and a ’49 Dodge attached. Speedycop, needing to thin his herd of cars, sold this one to the Psychobilly Crapcan guys a few years back. 10-4, Cotton Mouth!
The BMWhatever took the Class B win at the 2015 South Fall race, which meant that we’d make the Psychobilly team compete with the fast cars in Class A after that. We offered the team a Class B Loophole, however: finish the theme by covering the anachronistic-looking BMW bodywork at the rear of the car with panels from a 1940s or 1950s Detroit car, and we’d keep the car in the medium-fast class. The team ran out of time and built some sort of wooden truck bed— cool-looking, but not what we asked for. Thus, buried by 25 laps in Class A, but with a trophy to take home.
The Most Heroic Fix award went to Squatting Dog Racing and their beautiful Slant-6-powered 1970 Plymouth Valiant. Things were going well for the Squatting Dogs on Saturday… until their engine exploded, shooting a couple of connecting rods out the bottom of the oil pan.
Wisely, the Dogs had brought along a spare engine, a Craigslist-obtained 225 in allegedly good-running condition. Within minutes of the car being dropped off by the wrecker, the team had the old engine out and the new one on the way in.
The Buick V6 in this Monte done blew up late on Saturday, and the GS Motorsports guys spent all night on the phone trying to persuade local Craigslist sellers to stop being flake-Os and please sell them an engine. This effort was not successful. The next morning, they drove to Columbia to be at the U-Pull when the gates opened, but couldn’t find an intact engine to buy. We liked the car choice and refusal to surrender exhibited by these guys, so the LeMons Supreme Court issued a Judges’ Choice trophy for their efforts.
The BRIBED stencil used by the LeMons Supreme Court at this race depicted NASCAR legend Wendell Scott, who put up with a great deal of hardship during his career because he loved racing so much. This stencil proved to be a hit with the Southern LeMons racers, who take inspiration from Wendell Scott’s story.
Also inspiring was the story of the Mustang Express rookie team. Put together by the auto-shop students at a Charlotte, North Carolina high school, this bunch of teenagers and a few very patient adults picked up a 1977 Chevrolet C10 pickup and prepared it for its first race.
Featuring Wheeze-O-Matic™ 305 V8 power, Wal-Mart’s cheapest tires, and this extremely patriotic American-flag cowl-induction hood scoop, the Mustang Express pickup fit right into the Class C field.
Every time we saw the truck in the paddock, it had between 10 and 20 very enthusiastic kids riding in and on it. Charlotte is the raciest city in the raciest state in the raciest country in the world, and this bunch proved it.
For the top prize, the Index of Effluency, IOE powerhouse General Motors triumphs again with a win for the Lunar Lemon 1986 Chevrolet Astro Van. This is the 34th Index of Effluency for a GM vehicle, by far the most for any manufacturer.
At the Alabama race in February, the Lunar Lemon team took home the Eternal Optimist award for bringing a van that was nowhere near ready to race and getting it onto the track late on Sunday. This time, the Astro ran all weekend.
Next weekend, we head to the Northeast for the Real Hoopties of New Jersey race, which should feature the debut of the world’s first road-racing helicopter. If you can’t get there in person, be sure to check in here for all the latest LeMons news.