With 21 LeMons races in the books, we've learned a few things about which vehicles can take the torture. We've analyzed the LeMons records of 38 vehicles and ranked them according to performance. How does your car measure up?
You see, the results of all those races, each with 50 to 150 competitors, gives us a real-world look at which vehicle types can hold together under some of the worst full-throttle, panic-brakin', suspension-bendin', rod-throwin' conditions found anywhere on the planet. All the single-interest car guys in the world can get on their respective car forums and throw out unverifiable statements such as "FAGSTANGZ ARE TEH SUCXKKK!!!1! CAMARO OWNZZ!!!!!!1!" all day long, but only the student of 24 Hours Of LeMons racing can point to the numbers… which show that Mustangs hold together quite a bit better than Camaros under truly punishing conditions (though even the Mustang comes out looking pretty miserable, according to our analysis).
What about this analysis? Where do we come to the insane conclusion that the Alfa Romeo Milano is a much better $500 race car than, say, the Toyota Supra or BMW E21? What we did was go through each LeMons race from 2008 and 2009 and divide the standings into thirds; every vehicle is placed in the top, middle, or bottom third of its respective race. We're looking at reliability more than anything else here, because even the slowest car on a LeMons track will finish in the top third of the standings if it never breaks; penalties aren't a large factor here in most cases, because even the most black-flag-prone team will almost always crack the top third if their car keeps driving all weekend. As for the bottom third, the only way a LeMons car ends up in the bottom-third dregs is via mechanical woes that knock it out for at least six hours (or if the car gets zapped with vast quantities of BS laps, which doesn't happen frequently enough to make a real difference in our analysis).
Because teams that spend a good chunk of their race weekend wrenching on their broken car have a lot less fun than those who get to do more driving, we've weighted failure more heavily than success in our breakdown. Those of you who geek out on stats are free to download my spreadsheet here and recook the books any way you see fit (and if you can find a way to present British LeMons cars in a less-than-sucky light, please do).
Speaking of British cars, you'll note that we've done a certain amount of arbitrary lumping-together here. To be considered for this list, a vehicle had to have racked up at least 10 car-races (one car, one race; a unit much like man-hours), so we ended up grouping all British cars together. Same goes for Audis, Mercedes-Benzes, non-240 Volvos, all pickup trucks, and so on. We're also considering the Civic/CRX/Integra to be the same car for our purposes; we did likewise with BMW E24s/E28s, Toyota Supras/RWD Celicas, and Nissan 200SX/240SX.
For those of you who don't feel like clicking on the thumbnails below, which are arranged in order of least to most sucky and feature pie graphs indicating top/middle/bottom-third breakdowns, here are the big winners and losers:
1. Volvo 240
2. Alfa Romeo Milano
3. Saturn S Series
1. British cars
2. BMW E21
3. Pontiac Fiero
OK, here's the complete analysis. Feel free to scream in the comments about how your favorite car got totally hosed by our obviously rigged analysis; we'll enjoy it!