The types of cars that really dominated at the Thunderhill 24 Hours of LeMons weren't quite the same as the ones we saw owning at the October race at Altamont. With the track's long straights and the new hardass, black-flag-o-riffic policy about aggressive driving (not to mention the outlawing of nerf bars), straight-line power and sturdy engine internals were far more important than the sticky grip and ability to take repeated impacts that proved so crucial at Altamont. We saw Detroit iron making a far more respectable showing, while the Bavarian Bullies no longer ruled the race. Make the jump to see how things sorted out by the time the Flag That Is Checkered made the scene...
We'll have in-depth coverage of many of these vehicles in the days to come; for now, we'll just provide the occasional note and/or hyperlink the names of those teams we've covered already.
1. Red Meat and Poontang
Yes, a Mazda Protege- with catalytic converter and license plates still attached- won it all!
2. The Latch Key Kids This is the Neon that had the best overall lap time at the Flat Rock 24 Hours of LeMons. That's right, these madmen came out from the Midwest to feed the LeMons monkey on their backs!
3. RotorRevenge In very stark contrast to the Altamont race (where RX-7s died horrible broken-control-arm deaths courtesy of beefy Detroit machinery), rotary Mazdas did just fine at this race. This team had some serious expertise going on, both in the pits and behind the wheel.
4. Fantasy Junction/Inaccuracy
5. Krider Racing/Team O'Slack This Nissan was fast as hell, as you'd expect from a real SE-R. However, the known difficulty of finding cheap SE-Rs coupled with the nice paint job (applied by a painter buddy) resulted in some suspicion that the spirit- if not the letter- of the $500 limit had been violated. We didn't care, though- your roving Jalopnik correspondents loved seeing this car in action.
6. The PBRPD Another Wankel in the Top Ten!
7. Eyesore Racing You want consistency? This car finished 7th at the Altamont race, and now (with a new paint job and a bumper-car-inspired sparking power pole on the roof), it has finished 7th at Thunderhill.
8. Punk Racing Yes, that's three RX-7s in the Top Ten. This car was put out by the same bunch that was running the #3 finishing Mazda.
9. Two Wheels Too Many The reason I did the Top 44 Lemons of LeMons for the Altamont race was that I couldn't find any action photos of the car that finished 45th... this Chevy Cavalier wagon (I felt extra bad about my omission after finding out that our own Xargs was on the team). This car was sidelined after a nasty oil-pan-ectomy administered by a tractor tire at Altamont, but its torquey V6 and wagonly goodness served it well at Thunderhill. Hooray, a Detroit machine in the Top Ten!
11. W.S. Auto Crash Test Dummies We ran into a couple members of this team at the motel bar the night before the race; it was good to see a couple of racing first-timers do so well. Most successful BMW at Thunderhill!
12. Size Matters Chrysler The oldest car at the Altamont race was third-oldest at Thunderhill, after the '65 Mustang and '65 Mercedes-Benz. At this track, V8 torque and Mopar reliability carried the Fury to a very respectable finish.
13. Team Size Matters Sacramento What are the odds that two teams with "Size Matters" in their names would finish in consecutive spots? We saw this CRX at Altamont, where it finished... 13th. Another consistent CRX!
14. Snowspeeder Pilots Association 18th place at Altamont, 14th here. Apparently that PVC pipe was a ram-air induction device.
15. Drift RWD Sport
16. Holy Shit It's Cold A very aptly named team; with daytime temps in the 30s on Saturday, that open cockpit might have been less than comfortable.
17. Team Festivus We're not sure what the pole on this car was for- another bumper-car power connector?
18. Saabs Gone Wild Those crazy Saab guys were back, this time with just two turbocharged Swedish screamers and a strong Top Twenty finish. Hey, they beat all the Volvos: Erky derk!
19. ZZ Uber Das Driver It was good to see some GTIs duking it out on the track with all those other German cars.
20. Dirty Drifters We were really rooting for these guys after their heroic all-night engine swap on Friday, and they piloted their Corolla to a spot in the Top Twenty. We've been promised some cool in-car video from the Drifters, so stay tuned!
21. The Rockford Pile This car wouldn't have been noticed at the Pumpkin Smash enduro, but it attracted plenty of attention- and fear- on the track at Thunderhill. The engine sounded mighty good out there. This is actually a Firebird with Camaro body parts grafted on; we've got lots of photos of this machine to show you later.
22. Escape From Detroit Racing
23. Team LeMon Martini Racing A Porsche 914 on the track! This team was the first to run a Porsche at a LeMons event, way back in the day, and they're continuing the tradition here.
24. Silver Fern Racing
25. Mach Schnell This BMW finished 28th at Altamont, and would have even better than 25th at Thunderhill if it hadn't grenaded its gearbox on Sunday.
26. DILLIGAF Here's another Altamont-vet CRX; they finished 14th there. The team's name is an acronym for a question that starts: "Do I Look Like I Give A..."
27. Team Nerd Herd
28. Team Field Find This '65 Benz was the obvious crowd favorite, for reasons we're sure we don't need to explain here.
29. In The Red Racing
30. Hall N Assassinators The hood scoop made from a gas can was a nice touch.
31. Team Rice & Bean
32. Team DDT This Z woulda been a contender, but one wreck on Saturday put it out for crucial hours and another on Sunday knocked it out for the duration. It was one of the faster cars on the track while it was running.
33. Bernal Dads
34. Team Armageddon Yes, folks, you're looking at a '65 Mustang. This one ran into some overheating problems, but managed to hang in there and finish the race.
35. Team Everlast A mid-90s Caprice; we didn't get a chance to talk with this team, but we assume the car is an ex-police vehicle.
36. Old Dogs New Tricks This Chevy-powered Jag placed 12th at Altamont, but its Quadrajet apparently realized it was under a British bonnet and decided to go all British Leyland on the team at the Thunderhill event.
37. Return of the Hungry Hula We saw the Tiki Tercel at Altamont, but the clutch failed and couldn't be fixed in time to finish the race. At Thunderhill, however, the gods smiled on their grass-skirted warrior!
38. Racing With The Devil
40. Cops Gone Naughty
41. Team TURD After placing 17th at Altamont, Team TURD's excessively exuberant driving style led to a lot of unhappy messages spelled out in black-flag semaphore. When it wasn't being docked laps, this Supra was pretty quick around the track.
43. Motoring J-Style We were really rooting for the I-Mark to win one for Isuzu fans everywhere (there are Isuzu fans, right?), but it was not to be; mechanical difficulties trumped Handling By Lotus.
46. Team G.I. SHO This team, comprised entirely of serious Taurus SHO aficionados, weren't able to convince the judges that they got this car for under $500, but they didn't let that stop them from making a valiant attempt to make up all the penalty laps with their hoontastic Yamaha-powered front-driver!
47. Pit Crew Revenge This Civic- in full CalTrans regalia, including signs- blew its transmission on Saturday, but a junkyard run and some frenzied wrenching got it back in action for Sunday's race.
48. FreeMW Part Deux Can you really get a 2002 for under $500? These guys did! This car was fun to watch on the track, with plenty of high-drama oversteer and great exhaust sounds.
49. BM Trouble You
50. Carpet Pissers Yes, the Carpet Pissers abide! After their Altamont CRX was completely destroyed at Altamont, they picked up another one for Thunderhill. This time they added more Big Lebowski quotes and a plethora of stuffed marmots. Don't fret, Carpet Pissers fans- more coverage coming soon!