PCH, Thunderhill LeMons Edition: Protege or Neon?

The last time we felt the flames of Project Car Hell licking at our flesh, the 2002 Maserati Coupe was beating the 1985 Ferrari Mondial by about a 60/40 margin in the polls. What lessons may be learned from this remain uncertain, but what is certain is that I've got 24 Hours of LeMons fever and I've got it bad; I'm scouring Craigslist day after day, looking for the right car to run in the Altamont race in May (even worse, sellers know I'm looking). That can mean only one thing: a Choose Your Eternity poll covering the cars driven by the top two teams at the Thunderhill LeMons race!


We never would have considered the Mazda Protege a likely candidate to win the 24 Hours of LeMons, but Team Red Meat and Poontang showed us that a near-stock '99 can do the trick. The problem is finding a running late-90s example for under $500; Red Meat and Poontang did it by finding one with horrendous body damage, but it's not an easy task. However, it can be done; here's a '97 that can probably be had for well below the $500 asking price (go here if the ad disappears). It's got an automatic, which isn't ideal for racing, but maybe you could sell the transmission for enough money to buy a junkyard 5-speed. It lacks a hood, but who cares? Brakes... well, you'll probably want to fix those before you go racing. The hell part is going to come in when you realize you have like $9 to spend on upgrading anything- put in the cage, gut it, and go racing- hope it doesn't break!

The Neon is a strange car- on the one hand, it's a shoddy piece of throwaway Detroit junk, and on the other it's a potential race machine that can really tear up a track. That's great news for us, because the first part means you can afford the second part! The autocross-friendly ACR Neon is the one to bring to a LeMons race, but who can afford one? It's your lucky day- we've found this '96 Neon ACR (go here if the ad disappears) for just $250. Not only that, it comes with two engines, including a DOHC R/T unit! No word on whether either or both of them run, but you won't care once you see the swaybars (which may or may not be big aftermarket units) and Booger shifter bushings; if you don't believe you're getting genuine Boogers, just check the blurry photographs... hmmm, maybe the fact that the seller thinks the shifter bushings are the most important feature of the car tells us something about the deal.

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