Nearly all of the alleged brains behind the 24 Hours of Lemons race series are current or former automotive journalists, which means two things: we drive badly, and we love seeing race cars that allow us to have fun writing their stories. For this reason, we create lists of cars that have never appeared in a Lemons race, and teams that bring those cars will be treated better by race officials than those who bring cars that bore us. Earlier this month, Judge Eric suggested six fine racing machines for your consideration, and now I’m back with five more.
Remember when Americans could buy new Suzuki cars? Those days ended in 2012, but we in the Lemons Supreme Court haven’t forgotten the Suzuki Aerio. Known elsewhere as the Liana (you may remember a Liana as the original Top Gear UK Reasonably Priced Car), the Aerio sold for the 2002 through 2007 model years and most came with 5-speed manual transmissions. Depreciation has been rough on the Aerio, with plenty of good runners getting crushed instead of finding glory on our race tracks. This is bad news for Aerio owners, but great news for Lemons racers.
Speaking of depreciation, let’s talk about apocalyptic depreciation. Big, powerful German luxury cars sell for satisfyingly fat prices, but start leaking value like the Zimbabwean dollar once they go off lease and reach their third or fourth owners. With no German car does this process take place as starkly as with Audi’s flagship, the mighty A8. A new one starts at well north of 80 large, and it comes stuffed full of futuristic technology and sumptuous materials. A 15-year-old A8 also comes with futuristic technology (some of which remains relevant and/or functional today) and somewhat-distressed-but-still-sumptuous materials, and the price tag will be remarkably similar to that of a Daewoo Lanos that reeks of junkie urine. I see them at U-Wrench-It yards in large quantities, which means parts won’t be impossible to find. Power? Hell yes, the A8 has power; 310 howling V8 horses in 2003, with even more in later models. You could be a real budget devil, buy an insurance-auction 2009 model and sell off a bunch of parts, then chuckle in disdain as you watch those fools in their S-Classes and 7-Series disappear in your rear-view mirror (in the paddock, where all of you will be spinning wrenches and learning how to curse in fluent German).
DKW (any model)
You say you like the idea of racing an Audi, but the A8 has too many scary computers inside? DKW, also known as Dampf-Kraft-Wagen was one of the original Auto Union companies and is represented to this day by one of the rings in the Audi logo, and we find it incomprehensible that no team has had the smarts to race a genuine DKW in our series. You can find
basket-case TLC-needing examples of the 3=6 and F102 for cheap on Craigslist; we feel a special love for the 3=6, because it’s the only car ever sold in America with an equals sign in its name. These cars have two-stroke engines, but we’d be all right with (sufficiently ridiculous) engine swaps.
We love the 1990s attempts by General Motors to compete with European and Japanese luxury sedans, taking on effete overhead-cam engines and leather with good old Detroit pushrods and the finest half-inch-thick velour-like fabrics the petrochemical industry had to offer. The top-of-the-line 1992-1999 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight was the LSS (which stood for Luxury Sport Sedan), and later versions could be had with a supercharged V6 rated at 240 horsepower. Naturally, we prefer– in fact, we insist— that any Lemons LSS run the supercharged engine.
On the subject of defunct American marques, Packard and Studebaker have been gone for more than a half-century, but something magical happened in the decade before Studebaker sold its last Canadian-built 1966 Cruiser: Studebaker merged with the Packard Motor Car Company and began building Packard-badged Studebakers with the faces of catfish and none of the prestige of once-swanky Packard. As one might expect, these 1957-1958 “Packardbakers” get little love from Packard zealots and Studebaker militants today, and you can get great deals on rough ones (though the Lemons Supreme Court will be very unlikely to care how much you spent on a race Packardbaker.
We’ll be giving you more Lemons Wish Lists in the near future. For now, go ahead and contemplate our Late Model American Car Wish List… and start shopping for a Ford Five Hundred.