Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that's the coolest... and the most hellish! Last time we simultaneously crushed and seared our fingers in the red-hot vise of the Hell Garage, the Shelby-ized Dodge Omni beat hell out of the Shelby-ized Dodge Shadow in the poll. Today, with the New England 24 Hours of LeMons race coming up in just a few days, we're thinking about the kind of car it takes to win the most prestigious trophy of the event. No, that's not the one that goes to the so-called "overall winner" (although a team does get some heavy-duty bragging rights by taking that honor). We're talking about the coveted Index Of Effluency trophy, the one given to the team that achieves beyond all reasonable expectation in a seemingly hopeless "race car." You contend for the IOE by showing up in a looks-fast-on-paper car that everyone knows is going to blow up for sure (e.g., Maserati Biturbo, Merkur XR4Ti, Pontiac Fiero, etc.), or by clattering onto the track in something ungodly slow yet totally lovable (see Tunachuckers) and then keeping that crappy heap on the track for hour after punishing hour. We're going with a mix of both approaches in today's Choose Your Eternity matchup!
You know you're looking at a car deal that should make you
run away in terror make a bombshell offer right away when the seller takes the time to pound out a lengthy stream-of-consciousness tirade about the car's problems, then doesn't bother to rotate the photos 90° prior to uploading them. And when you're searching high and low for a nimble mid-engined handlin' machine to disintegrate on totally own the racetrack, you can forget all about the boring MR2 or the way-too-reliable Fiero. Yes, forget 'em! What you need is something Italian, like this 1981 Fiat X1/9 (go here if the ad disappears). Asking price is $600, but the seller has an air of desperation and junkyards only offer $200 for a small car's scrap value, so there's a good chance you'll be able to turn a profit by selling off excess parts… leaving you money to rig up the world's most redneck junkyard-turbocharged Fiat, which should boost engine power from the factory 75 horses up to a block-ventilating track-dominating 150! The engine and transmission allegedly work, and the seller claims there's "plenty of rust but the chasssity of the car is solid!!!" It runs, the chasssity is solid, and the price is right- we can't see a single flaw in this plan!
The X1/9 is a fine LeMons choice, no arguments there, but you can kiss that Index Of Effluency trophy goodbye if some team out-huevos yours by keeping a British car alive for at least half the race, particularly if they manage the feat in a tiny 70s British Leyland sports car. We like the Triumph GT6, the TR7 should come equipped with built-in yellow flags, and you often see Sprites available for dirt cheap… but imagine the glory of
getting towed off the track every five laps roaring past the competition in this 1972 MGB-GT (go here if the ad disappears)! You got your Lucas Electrics, your lever-action shocks, your finicky SU carbs, your 50s-vintage pushrod four, and- best of all- that legendary British Leyland build quality, all in one gorgeous Pininfarina package! This one is 600 bucks, but the devoted eBay seller should be able to get back quite a bit of that. You get a "trunk full of parts" and the seller claims the car "has not been started in several years," which might imply that it's capable of starting again. Maybe you'll have enough money left in the budget to put some big swaybars on it, thus avoiding unsightly asphalt marks on the door handles!