Is The Man really sweatin' you on the job today? Don't let salt-mine toil break your spirit; instead, spend the next couple of hours debating the merits of these extremely reliable race cars!

As everyone who has been following the run-up to the 24 Hours Of LeMons Arse Freeze-A-Palooza- which takes place on the weekend after Christmas- the crop of Index Of Effluency contenders absolutely smokes anything we've seen at prior races (and, in the case of the British Leyland machinery, we mean the "smokes" part quite literally). The team that claims the Index Of Effluency trophy- which goes to the car that exceeds all expectations in the most glorious fashion- is the real winner of the 24 Hours Of LeMons, so we're gearing up for an all-time battle at Thunderhill (where, to nobody's surprise, the weather is expected to feature near-freezing temperatures and stinging horizontal sleet).

And because LeMons aficionados love nothing better than a debate on how fast- yet effluent- cars should perform when the real deal goes down, we're going to have a little contest here. Below are the 13 big-league Index Of Effluency powerhouses that will be running the Arse Freeze-A-Palooza- the "Lucky 13," as they shall henceforth be known. You need to estimate how many laps you think each of the Lucky 13 will complete during the weekend of racing, sharing your predictions in a comment in this post, for all the world to see. After the race (probably long after the race), I'll get around to doing the math and seeing who came closest overall (by calculating the difference between prediction and actual performance for each of the 13), and I'll send that winner a few team T-shirts and other LeMons goodies.

"But Murilee," you may be whining at this point, "I like the idea of blowing off work while I figure out the 13 lap totals, as my boss is a cruel, Simon Legree-esque figure, but I don't know where to start! How many laps would a not-so-effluent car manage in this race?" Not to worry! There's a new track configuration this year, with a total length of 1.9 miles (last year, it was more like 1.3 miles). Last time, the more reliable entrants managed to finish 400 laps or more, with the lap winner knocking out 461 total. With the longer track configuration, we can expect to see the cars that don't blow up, fall apart, or otherwise crap out to grind out totals somewhere in the 250 to 300-lap range. Some of the Lucky 13 are really fast cars, when working properly, and many of the teams are totally stacked with ace drivers, so we might just see some of these teams go on to totally dominate the race, leaving those boring Acuras and Mazdas to choke on their dust! Anything can happen out there! Here they are, in no particular order. Note: Because I was short on sleep when I calculated the lap totals in my estimates, I multiplied when I should have divided. Feel free to update your estimates if you made the mistake of trusting my numbers.

1. Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys, Peugeot 505 Turbo The Peugeot 505 Turbo is a powerful rear-wheel-drive machine, with performance that shocked many a BMW owner back in the 80s, and the Surrender Monkeys know what they're doing.
Strengths: High wrenching/driving skill levels on team, rear-wheel-drive, lots of power.
Weaknesses: Turbocharged cars usually blow up at LeMons, it's a Peugeot.
Murilee's prediction: 214 laps

2. Unsafe At Any Speed, Chevrolet Corvair We so want this car to do well, but ancient heaps that sat for years before being resurrected for endurance racing tend to fare poorly. Still, the Corvair is pretty simple, and ice racers can tell you they're great in low-traction slugfests; if the track ices up- which could happen- these guys could cruise to victory.
Strengths: Uncomplicated car, pretty decent power-to-weight, good ice performance
Weaknesses: Swingaxle rear suspension, drum brakes, car sat for years
Murilee's prediction: 70 laps

3. Eyesore Racing, Ghettocharged Mazda Miata The Ghettocharged Miata is one of those cars that should be very, very fast… right up to the moment when the engine starts launching rods in all directions. Eyesore Racing, winners of the People's Choice award at the LeMons SF '08 race, is staffed top to bottom with super-skilled drivers, but: KABOOM! And if the car doesn't blow up… well, memories of the Miata that got the People's Curse in Houston are still fresh. In my opinion, this car is legit, but the mob rules when it comes to the Curse!
Strengths: Great drivers, great wrenches, it's a Miata
Weaknesses: LeMons turbo cars blow up, funky fuel-delivery system, People's Curse bait
Murilee's prediction: 136 laps

4. Italian Stallions, Fiat X1/9 We were overjoyed to learn that seven Italian cars were coming to the Arse Freeze-A-Palooza, and one look at the Italian Stallions was all it took to make us decide the Fiat X1/9 is a perfect LeMons car.
Strengths: Good drivers, good handling car, Italian racing heritage must count for something
Weaknesses: Underpowered, it's a Fiat
Murilee's prediction: 27 laps

5. Famila Italia Advance Team, Fiat X1/9 We don't know much about the Familia Italia (I shot the photo above in a junkyard, and it's a good bet that the actual car is in similar condition), but they've got an X1/9 and that says a lot!
Strengths: Spirit of Umberto Eco will motivate team
Weaknesses: Fiat
Murilee's prediction: 19 laps

6. Motoring J Style, Isuzu I-Mark RS We didn't make any secret of the fact that the Jalopnik crew was totally rooting for the Fiat of Japan at the Arse Freeze-A-Palooza '07 race, and they were contending for the lead… until a failed wheel bearing made it a 3-wheeler. You'd think the I-Mark RS would do pretty well, what with the "Lotus tuned" suspension and a team full of expert Motoring J Style wheelmen… but Isuzus have never failed to disappoint at LeMons.
Strengths: Lotus suspension, good drivers, 125-horse engine
Weaknesses: It's an Isuzu
Murilee's prediction: 275 laps

7. Metro-Gnome, CBR900-Powered Geo Metro The motorcycle-engined Geo Metro stirred up some excitement a while back, and we're all eagerly anticipating its appearance on the racetrack. Those who have seen the Metro-Gnome in action say it's very fast, but that toilet-plunger differential seal doesn't appear to be made for the long haul. Then there's the chain-drive thing; light as the Metro is, that chain is made to move about 1,000 pounds less weight.
Strengths: Ridiculous power-to-weight ratio
Weaknesses: Motorcycle transmission, chain drive, toilet plunger seal, evil Metro handling
Murilee's prediction: 19 laps

8. Lou Brera/Blue Planet Society, Jaguar XJ-S We applaud Armand Bengle's team for bringing perhaps the ultimate Index Of Effluency machine to Thunderhill: a genuine V12-powered Jaguar XJ-S! Rightfully fearing the Lucas fuel-injection system on their engine, the Safari West crew decided to convert it to a carbureted setup. Right, fabricate some kind of intake adapter and drop a good ol' Holley 600 on top and you're done… only it appears that someone dumped a 55-gallon drum of BZ in their water supply, because they've rigged up a sextet of SU carbs on their race car. What could possibly go wrong?
Strengths: Powerful engine, IRS, big brakes, high wrenching/driving skill levels
Weaknesses: Joe Lucas, British Leyland, SU carbs, I could go on and on
Murilee's prediction: 4 laps (including partial laps behind tow truck)

9. ZZ Uber II, Volkswagen Corrado G60 Woohoo, supercharging! A blower-equipped car should totally kick ass at a road race! For some reason we can't explain, however, the ZZ Uber G60 Corrado visited the pits early and often at the LeMons SF '08 race. Perhaps nothing will break this time around!
Strengths: Supercharged power
Weaknesses: Kaboom!
Murilee's prediction: 224 laps

10. Wedginators Redux, Buick V6-Powered Triumph TR7 You figure replacing the crappy Triumph engine in a TR7 with an unkillable odd-fire Buick V6 should really pump up the car's reliability, but such was not the case with the Wedginator at the SF '08 race. The Scratchy Bottom crew- which includes regular Jalop commenter Superasiaone- has been thrashing away at those pesky fuel-system demons that attracted tow trucks like ants to candy at Altamont, and maybe this time Things Will Be Different!
Strengths: Good power-to-weight, reliable engine
Weaknesses: British Leyland, Joe Lucas
Murilee's prediction: 99 laps

11. Cape Coventry, Triumph TR7 We don't know much about this team, other than the fact that they've got a TR7 and they hail from behind the Orange Curtain. I'm using this Flickr user's photo to represent the probable condition of this fine piece of British automotive engineering.
Strengths: Good handling car
Weaknesses: British Leyland, Joe Lucas, underpowered
Murilee's prediction: 20 laps

12. Pendejo Engineering, Alfa Romeo Alfetta Although the Pendejo Engineering Alfetta lasted just a couple of hours before a connecting rod made a break for freedom outside the restrictions of the engine block last year, the team joined forces with the California Mille Alfetta team to make one good car out of two bad ones. Alfettas are seriously fast on the race track, and one that doesn't break has a shot at the checkered flag. Could it be the Pendejo guys?
Strengths: Very fast car, great handling
Weaknesses: It's an Alfa
Murilee's prediction: 144 laps

13. California Mille, Alfa Romeo Alfetta The California Mille Alfetta was one of the race leaders for quite a while at the LeMons SF '07 race- running as high as 5th place well into the second day of racing- but that darned leaky head gasket knocked it out. That story has been repeated at all the California LeMons races since then, but maybe this time they've got all the bugs worked out! The car is very quick and the drivers are very good (and they've actually got a second Alfetta entered in this race, but I have no photos of it and we're just going to go with the lap total whichever one of the two does the best, as we know one of the two will be a parts car before the race is over).
Strengths: Great drivers, fast car, great handling
Weaknesses: It's an Alfa
Murilee's prediction: 283 laps

OK, that's it! What do you think? Remember, your predictions must be in a comment in this post in order to be considered!