Since the dawn of recorded time, television and the glitterati of Hollywood has brought us legendary cars that have become characters in their own right. Your Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs, your My Mother The Cars, your Batmobiles, and your Arrested Development Stair Cars.
But few of them have ever hit the track. All that's changed now that a budget racing team has built a stair car of their own to dominate motorsports. Is this a genius idea or has someone made a huge mistake?
For those of you unfamiliar with LeMons, it's an endurance race series for goofy fellas with a penchant for going fast on a ridiculously small budget. Like $500 small. Then they go to the track, race, and serve outlandish penalties for awful driving and bits falling off their poorly built, budget machines. Many of them even have a crazy theme for the cars that they're driving.
It's a riot.
The stair car, which was tipped off to us by old friend and LeMons lover Ms. Murilee Martin and built by Brooklyn-based Nutjob Racing, is the culmination of four years of work trying to find the ultimate way for their Civic to finish somewhere in the top 100 at a LeMons race.
We spoke to the team, a rag tag bunch of spunky New Yorkers, to see how they got to making what we are just now declaring the greatest and most iconic race car of all time.
Team member Jeff Hendricks told us that their Lemons itch actually started a few years earlier:
We had started in '08 by entering the Connecticut race with a same year Civic hatchback that was made up as a Mr Softee Ice Cream Truck. It wasn't street legal so we had it parked in a grocery store parking lot in Red Hook Brooklyn to work on and then rented a u-haul box truck and car transport to get to the track."
And in that true LeMons spirit, where every team with a theme takes it as far as humanly possible (and then some), Nutjob Racing gave away 500 free Haagen Daaz bars at the track. They sold the car for $200 right after the race so they didn't have to haul it back. They had an offer for $300, but Jeff said "our last driver smashed up the front end and our buyers smelled a bargaining opportunity."
That set off a lightbulb in their heads: Instead of having a car that had to be hauled to the track, why not drive each way? They got a 1991 Civic Wagon and set to work.
What's amazing is how they race prepared it. "We stripped it in Red Hook and then did all the roll cage fabrication on the street in Park Slope," Jeff said. "We had extension cords running from my third floor apartment to the welder out on the street."
Now, before it was a stair car, the Civic went through many lives. Most notably, they mounted a six-foot replica of the Empire State Building on the roof, as one does, and drove it from New York to Florida. Cause, y'know, that's what normal people do.
But LeMons racers aren't normal people.
For the Joliet LeMons race, they once again rebuilt the car, and this time it took on the motif that symbolized the former wealth of the Bluths, the OC's (please don't call it that) most controversial family.
The Stair Car is not what most would consider a viable design for a racing vehicle. With a heavy staircase over the cab, you aren't going to be going fast unless you jam on the gas for about a minute, and then immediately get back on the brakes to slow it down.
If you go slowly, you're gonna get some hop ons.
But how did they get the idea to build a stair car? There seems to be some dispute within the team. Team member Tommy Cho told us that the idea came to him when he broke his leg. "I was stuck in bed with nothing to do, and was given the DVDs of Arrested Development." Then an idea hit him like a smack of ham: The stair car would make a kick ass race car.
Tommy also said that team member Armando Gonzales believes it was his idea that he planted earlier with the team. No matter who thought of it, it's off the hook, much like the prospect of unlimited juice.
Before it left for Joliet, the stair car was parked on the street. Jeff told us the stairs are "full-on usable and a pleasure to walk up. And down." That's right. People that had a few too many Virgin Marys or people looking to save a tree (ahem, Johnny Bark) could theoretically climb the Civic.
They drove the stair car from New York to Joliet, raced it, and finished 59th/5th in class (which Tommy actually had to look up and email to us, shows how important results are in LeMons!), and drove the car back to upstate New York.
That's where it sits now, in a team member's mom's yard. And it's going to be scrapped.
Repairs and constantly tearing it down and rebuilding it with awesome themes has made the stair car very expensive for all of them to maintain. In a matter of weeks, the stair car will go off to the used car lot in the sky.
We want the Civic to know that we'll be bringing it some salmon rolls real soon!
Photo Credits: Jeff Hendricks, Andrew Bayley