After the thrice-Cursed Black Widow Miata team fled the People's Curse at the 24 Hours Of LeMons New Orleans, LeMons fans have been going through an Agonizing Reappraisal of the whole crush-a-car-at-each-race idea.
There's been a huge shitstorm of controversy about the Black Widow Crisis on the 24 Hours Of LeMons forums, complete with conspiracy theories (in which yours truly is alleged to have been one of the Black Helicopter pilots involved in the cover-up) and attempts to make the rabble see reason. Of course, the People's Curse is here to stay- it's just too damn much fun- but we're definitely due for a history lesson here. After that, you can take the How Cursed Is My LeMons Car quiz and determine your Curse-O-Meter™ reading.
Altamont '06: Oldsmobile Aurora
This was the very famous Car And Driver Aurora, and it earned the Curse by virtue of its newness and V8 power, plus its perceived bigshot backers; in the words of LeMons Perpetrator Nick Pon: "Car and Driver backing perceived to be Yankees-esque stacked-deck-playing (when in reality the C/D offices might be even more ghetto than ours). They voted for themselves (which makes the C/D guys A-OK in my book)."
Altamont '07 I: Chevrolet/Pontiac CamaroBird
According to Nick: "Half-Camaro, Half-Firebird creation made liberal use of the PIT maneuver in this early Altamont free-for-all. Made few friends on track, and made even fewer off track as a result of a smoking brake stand in the penalty box."
Detroit-ish '07: Chevrolet Caprice
The Rubber Biscuit Caprice survived the Curse and has since appeared in both LeMons South races as well as the New Orleans race (it caught on fire in each of the first two and blew its transmission last weekend, but it's fast while it runs). Nick: "Most congested track in LeMons history—not a good environment for a bubble-body Caprice 9C1. While the Mythbusters proved that a bull in a china shop is not as smashy as you'd think, the old adage about a hopelessly outdated Yank tank on a rinky-dink road course full of Mazdas is highly accurate."
Altamont '07 II: BMW 740i
When you work at a BMW shop and a customer skips town without paying his repair bill, why not talk your boss into giving you the car for use in a 24 Hours Of LeMons race? That's what happened with this E38 7 series, and it all seemed like a great plan… until the other racers got a look at the shiny-looking late-model V8-powered BMW on the track. It was too big and unwieldy to be particularly fast on the demolition-derby-style confines of Altamont Motor Speedway, but that didn't matter to the Curse voters: time for a date with The Crusher! The Poly Orchid Racing team members were nice, non-whiny guys and they had a good sense of humor about it all. For this, the operator of The Crusher took a modicum of mercy on their car, and it was able to return to the track in drivable- albeit thoroughly mashed- condition and keep racin'.
Thunderhill '07: Mazda 626
The 2007 Arse Freeze-A-Palooza 24 Hours Of LeMons was one of those in which everyone knew who the Curse front-runner would be. The Mazdasaurus Wrecks Mazda was an ex-ITC racer that the Fantasy Junction crew had obtained cheap- maybe even 500 bucks cheap- but the People's Curse is all about perception, and all anyone had to do was listen to its awesome-sounding engine wail and compare it to the rod-knockitty sound made by all the other racers. The Mazdasaurus' pilots tended to have a no-quarter aggressive driving style, and they entered the race having made quite a few enemies with their Mad Max-grade nerf bars at the infamous "Demolition Derby LeMons" race at Altamont a couple months earlier. Crusher operator Ryan heeded the bloodthirsty demands of the howling mob and went after the Mazdasaurus with extreme prejudice, leaving few parts- including the engine, which was packed with tasty JDM goodies- that wouldn't fit nicely in a coffee can.
New England '08: Mercedes-Benz 300D
When your LeMons car is big and slow, many of the other drivers behind you start to feel like they're stuck in a traffic jam on the way to their veal-fattening-pen cubicles… and nobody wants to feel like LeMons is an ordinary workday, right? The Stugots LeMons turbodiesel Benz got slugged with the "rolling chicane" label early on, and from there it was a short commute to the People's Curse. However, nobody really hated the Stugots Mercedes enough to feed it to a ravenous piece of earthmoving equipment, so instead they did the ol' brick-on-gas-pedal thing and dumped various solids and liquids down the throttle body. When this failed to kill the engine, the no-longer-blood-maddened crowd decided to let it go race some more.
Detroit-ish '08: GMC Sonoma
Some racers in Toledo felt that the First Blood Sonoma truck was throwing its weight around excessively on the track, while others thought that it was just too slow. Here comes the Curse! Some lead-footed Rambo blew up the engine immediately prior to the Curse, so the truck had to be pushed to Death Row… where the team itself destroyed it! How's that for LeMons spirit and lack of whining? First Blood is the first and only LeMons team to win both People's Curse and People's Choice in the same race.
South Carolina '08: BMW 325i While the AWOL Black Widow Miata got the highest proportion of People's Curse votes in LeMons history, the Salazar Racing BMW E30 inspired the most passionate demands for crushing that we've ever seen (they'd have been the unanimous choice if not for the vote-splitting caused by the perceived-to-be-totally-cheating Superkak Mustang… which got cursed at the next LeMons South event). The Salazar drivers really earned their Curse; not only did they seem way faster and more cheaty than everyone else, but they drove in a manner suggesting that they hoped to reinforce every stereotype ever held about asshole BMW drivers. For this, they earned a date with the front end loader. To their credit, the Salazar guys were proud of the honor and were all smiles and sombreros throughout the ordeal.
Texas '08: Mazda Miata
Here's the beginning of the Houston Miata People's Curse Saga, the latest chapter of which we just witnessed in Louisiana. The Bum Steers And The Moo Poo Crew threw a quickie bovine paint job and tail on their well-set-up Miata and proceeded to drive the hell out of it at MSR. They raced cleanly and didn't seem to be cheating much more than the norm, but they were conspicuously fast and there were rumblings of some sort of Texas feud between various local factions. Did they deserve it? I didn't think so, but judges don't get to vote on the Curse.
Thunderhill '08: Ford Crown Victoria
LeMons races had become quite clean by the time of the second Arse Freeze-A-Palooza, so we weren't going to see big cars breaking out the PIT Maneuver every 30 seconds and/or bashing the CRXs into oblivion any more. What the racers did see at Thunderhill '08, however, was this ludicrously fast P71 Crown Vic (a car with a widespread rep as a reliable and decent-handling, if somewhat underpowered, LeMons machine) out-turning, out-accelerating, and out-braking all comers. Is it possible to build a 6-speed-manual-equipped Crown Vic with (what sure looked like) way more than the factory 240 horses for 500 bucks? The voters sure didn't think so, and the fact that the Blues Brothers Ford had a nerve-wrackingly realistic cop light bar and paint job didn't help their cause on the track. LeMons Chief Perpetrator Jay Lamm thought they'd gotten a raw deal, so he instructed Crusher King Ryan to take it easy on the car. The doors, hood, and trunk were torn off, but the car still ran; in fact, it got back on the track and put down the best lap time of the entire race.
Texas '09: Mazda Miata A friend of mine tells me the story of a cruel childhood joke played on him by his older sisters: the girls would pry the lozenge of black paint out of a watercolor set and offer it to their little brother. "It's a really great candy!" they'd say, and he'd stick it in his mouth and wind up with a black tongue and eyes full of tears. My friend fell for this trick about a half-dozen times before finally wising up… and it appears that a similar process is taking place with these Miata pilots, who called their team Red Pig Racing for their second race. Even though their [hot Miata + ringer drivers + weak theme + general aloofness] formula had resulted in the destruction off their car at the last MSR race, they figured that this time the black paint really would be candy. It didn't work out that way.
South Carolina '09: Ford Mustang GT
Superkak Racing had some of the best and most extensive cost documentation we've ever seen, with legit (or high-quality phony) paperwork proving that they'd really managed to build a mid-90s Mustang GT with all manner of badass aftermarket engine and suspension parts on a $500 budget. They racked up the best overall lap time at the first South Carolina race but got knocked out early by mechanical woes, and Salazar Racing's egregiously aggressive driving took the heat off the Mustang… for a while. Fast-forward to the next CMP race, and the Superkak crew again had the fastest thing on the track. Not only that, they'd added an incredibly irritating police siren, which they used constantly on the track. That was bad enough, but blasting the siren in the pits late Saturday night- while the campers tried to sleep- sealed their fate. Crunch!
Reno-Fernley '09: Volkswagen Transporter
The Goin' For Broken LeMons event had the best, cleanest driving of any LeMons race yet, there were no in-your-face blatant cheaters, and the top contenders were mostly well-known and respected LeMons veterans. For these reasons, it was extremely tough for most voters to choose a People's Curse winner, so I jokingly suggested that teams vote for Chief Perp Lamm's horrible VW Bus. We'd been driving it around the paddock blasting the Hymn Of The Soviet People on its PA system and everyone was quite sick of it, plus Lamm had lost his free storage location for his old Transporter, which barely ran well enough to manage 15 MPH and had a floor built primarily of air. Sure enough, no team got more than a handful of votes, so that was all she wrote for the rackety old van. The Curse was set up to appear that the Fantasy Junction crew would be watching another one of their cars get crushed… but then the Cat D9 fired up and it was time for a very flat Volkswagen!
New Orleans '09: Mazda Miata (Volkswagen Rabbit)
We all know that the Black Widow Miata team packed up their car and hit the road back to Texas upon learning that they'd been Cursed for a third time last weekend. Were they cheating? Probably some, though not quite as outrageously as many of the Curse voters felt (and they'd been hit with a harsh 25-lap BS Inspection penalty… which they'd made up by the end of Saturday). Were Texas racing feuds being carried over to Lousiana? Maybe. Were they eating the black paint with their mouths still discolored from the last two ill-advised fast-Miata/crappy-theme entries, in which they'd been Cursed? Absolutely. Fortunately, one of the BABE Rally cars, a Volkswagen Rabbit, had garbooned its tranmission at the LeMons-versus-BABE drag races the night before, and its owners volunteered it as a substitute People's Curse victim.
So, is your LeMons racer liable to get the Curse? Take this easy quiz and find out!
Mazda Miata: add 75 points
Former (non-LeMons, non-redneck) race car: add 35 points
Acura Integra: add 25 points
Toyota AE86: add 20 points
BMW E30: add 15 points
Mazda RX-7: add 10 points
V8 Camaro or Mustang: add 10 points
Chrysler K car: subtract 20 points
Front-wheel-drive 80s GM product: subtract 25 points
Corvair: subtract 50 points
Minivan: subtract 60 points
Any Italian car: subtract 75 points
Any French car: subtract 150 points
Kia, Daewoo, Ssangyong, or Daihatsu: subtract 200 points
Any British Leyland product: subtract 500 points
Any Russian car: subtract 100,000 points
Less than 5 years: add 100 points
6-10 years: add 30 points
11-15 years: add 10 points
25-35 years: subtract 20 points
36-45 years: subtract 50 points
45+ years: subtract 500 points
No theme whatsoever: add 50 points (100 for E30 or Miata)
Really lame 5-minute-with-rattle-can theme: add 25 points
Dumb theme that took some time to execute: add 5 points
Crudely done but funny theme: subtract 10 points
Halfway decent theme with costumes: subtract 20 points
Really good theme with no costumes: subtract 25 points
Great theme: subtract 50 points
Awesome theme with brain-meltingly good costumes: subtract 150 points
Hard-eyed, no-nonsense, victory-obsessed automatons: add 100 points
Raging, super-aggressive jerkolas: add 80 points
Mechanically inept dingbats who clog up the track with repeated breakdowns: add 30 points
Dudes who crank loud music and/or Sawzalls at 4:00 AM: add 10 points
Amiable doofuses: subtract 10 points
Tool lenders: subtract 20 points
Good Samaritans who help wrench and/or share parts: subtract 40 points
Teams that cook for everyone: subtract 60 points
Teams that cook the best shrimp and jambalaya we've ever had: subtract 1,000 points
Like a cheetah among echidnas: add 75 points
Like a greyhound among dachshunds: add 40 points
So slow that cobwebs form on the tires: add 25 points
Lots of power, crappy handling: add 10 points
Sloth-like, but stays out of the way: subtract 100 points
Add up your total and check the list below to estimate the likelihood that your car will be the next People's Curse:
250+ points: you probably won't need your trailer for the drive home
50 to 250 points: better start working on your PPP (Paddock Propaganda Program) now
-50 to 49 points: you're probably safe, but Ya Never Know
-100 to -51 points: breathe easy
less than -100 points: ha ha ha ha ha ha!