The 24 Hours of Lemons is home to many of the world’s strangest—and occasionally strangely competent—road-racing cars in the world. At a given Lemons race, you’re likely to find anything from a Volkswagen Van “tipped” on its side to a host of garage-built BMW 3-Series. Somewhere in between the weird and the wonderful, again “strangely competent,” lies the pull-start two-stroke Mazda Miata known as “Balto.” Our friends at TrackTuned put together this great profile of Balto and it really captures what makes Lemons, well, Lemons.
The idea for Balto came from Scott DeWinterand John Pagel, who later became Lemons’ chief tech inspector. Pagel, DeWinter, and Grant Conley had built dozens of Spec Miata cars in California for Evil Genius Racing. When they came across this beat-up Miata with a blown engine, they took a radical approach: Throw out all the Miata’s heavy original drivetrain and replace it with a bantamweight snowmobile engine.
That shaved probably 500 pounds from the Miata. As a result, the high-revving sled engine with a continuously variable transmission drove the roadster like a go-kart as a result. Watch the video below to get impressions from several drivers and crew, including multiple overall race winner (with a different car) Mike Taylor, who explain how all of the pieces of Lemons—from crazy builders to serious racers to party animals—complete a race weekend as a whole.
Recently, Balto changed hands and we’re hoping to see it back on the racetrack soon. Be sure to follow TrackTuned and with any luck, this Lemons writer will get to one of their associated events, #GRIDLIFE, before the year is up.