For years, Škoda was seen as a joke in the car world; an Eastern Bloc export crapcan in the vein of the Yugo. VW decided to turn the company around in the mid 2000s, and they needed a way to dramatically prove the new cars weren’t shit.
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?
We've seen quite a few varieties of Mercedes-Benz on the LeMons circuit, and it probably isn't fair to lump a 300D in with a 190E, but that's the only way we can include the Benzes in this analysis. Overall, Mercedes-Benz LeMons cars have done pretty well, though the small number of middle-third cars indicates that…
OK, Taurus fans, we're not saying the SHO isn't fast. It's very fast, we're the first to acknowledge. The problem is that your beloved Yamaha V6 tends to 'splode on a race track, and if it's not the engine it's the transmission. Still, we love LeMons SHOs, so keep it up!
Here's some advice for you prospective LeMons racers: don't buy a Camaro! If LeMons ever branches into drag racing, the Camaro will be an excellent choice, but the small-block Chevy engine has proven to be nothing but trouble in weekend-long endurance races.
Miatas hold the record for most People's Curses (three), and we've probably handed out sufficient BS Penalty laps to Miatas to knock some of them down into the bottom third of our groupings… but still, the main reason you're seeing so many middle-third Miatas is that cheap Miatas break!
A great part of the Saturn's LeMons success comes from the mighty Cali Cajuns/Cajun Coonasses, who travel the continent racing a bullet-riddled SC2, but the S Series would still be a serious top-ranker even without the Cajuns' help. For reasons we don't understand, the Saturns have been extremely solid endurance…
We can't say that we were surprised by the abject horribleness of the Pontiac Fiero in the 24 Hours Of LeMons, what with the car's tendency to overheat, excessive weight, and indifferent 80s GM build quality. What does surprise is is how quick the Fiero is when it's not in a million pieces and/or being stripped as a…
Like the Porsche 944, we were surprised by how poorly many RX-7s fare in the 24 Hours Of LeMons (though the succeed/fail breakdown seems to be an all-or-nothing sort of deal, with few falling in the middle third of the standings). Fuel system ailments and fragile suspensions seem to be the weak points.
On paper, the 944 looks like it should utterly dominate low-budget endurance racing, what with its perfect 50/50 weight distribution and sophisticated suspension setup.
Given the Volvo 240's excellent LeMons performance, you might assume that all Volvos would do well. Not so! The 740s and 940s and other brickish machines haven't fared particularly well, in spite of sharing plenty of components with the 240s. Why? You tell us!
Based on anecdotal evidence, we assumed that the P71 Crown Vic would be one of the top five most reliable LeMons cars, because that 4.6 Modular engine never breaks, but in fact it came in 13th place out of 38.
The Caprice has a lot more engine power than its Crown Victoria rival, but the LT1's reliability hasn't been quite as good as the Modular 4.6's on the LeMons track. Still, the Caprice handles pretty well and manages to look reasonably nimble out there.
What's the most reliable LeMons Ford? The Escort, which (just barely) beat out the Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Though its ranking here got knocked down by the large number of bottom-third failures, you've got an excellent chance of driving all weekend when you go with the little front-drive Ford (and, yes, we're…
Most Mazda racers enter Miatas or RX-7s, but you're actually better off- statistically speaking- with a Protege, 323, or other Mazda. 626s haven't done so well, but otherwise Mazdas have done great.
Check out that near-perfect three-way split for the VWs! That means you just never know how you'll do when you bring a Golf or one of its cousins to a LeMons race. Will it grenade the engine? Maybe! Will the electrical system poop out? Could be! Or will the car keep buzzing around the track all weekend? It's happened!
"But, but-" you're probably saying about now, "The Prelude and Accord are different cars!" Not for our purposes! Subject to all the head-gasket maladies of their smaller Civic siblings, but without the nimble handling, the Prelude and Accord have been notable mostly for LeMons mediocrity so far.
You'd think that the front-wheel-drive Celica, with its Toyota build quality and reliable A or S engine, would do pretty well in a punishing endurance race. You'd be wrong!
The Sentra SE-R is one of the few cars in this analysis that had its results skewed in a big way by BS Penalty laps. That's due to the huge rash of SE-R cheating we've seen in the last year or so. Still, Sentras have been pretty good at busting suspension parts and nuking engines.
We've seen plenty of Saabs, thanks to the folks at Saabs Gone Wild, and most of them have two things in common: they're fast… and they blow up!