First of all, I'm sorry to disappoint anyone who interpreted the photo above as an indication that a late-70s Mercury Cougar and an early-70s AMC Hornet actually finished in the top 44 at the 24 Hours of LeMons race at Altamont over the weekend. They did not; I used this photo because I wish they had so triumphed. Second of all, I got plenty more photos to post of this Incredibly Jalop-Approved Event™, but it took me so long to prepare the ones you see below that you'll have to wait for later to see the rest. Jump like a gutted CRX sliding sideways into a tractor tire to see the Top 44...
One thing we should make perfectly clear to those of you who haven't actually attended a 24 Hours of LeMans race: this is real racing! Don't be fooled by the $500 spending limit (which, uh, we think may have been exceeded by a few teams) or the often-whimsical appearance of the cars- the contending cars drove fast, spent a lot of time sideways, swapped a lot of paint with other cars, and left a trail of broken parts in their wake. Right, now on to the winnahs!
I thought this thing was some sort of pickup truck at first, but it's actually a BMW 5-series with most of the rear body cruelly hacked away. This car won the checkered flag by seven seconds!
Yes, yes, BMWs in the first and second spots. Feel free to gloat, Bavariaphiles. This car was the leader for most of both days of racing, jousting with a destined-for-DNF-ing Acura for most of the first day. The plastic centurion-and-horseheads setup looked glorious in action.
Hey, an MR2! This car was always in the thick of the action.
This Miata had some really cool Christmas lights on the rollbar, to add to the fun once the sun went down.
This Mercedes attracted little attention, but made the Top Ten in that unobtrusive Mercedes manner.
CRXs were definitely the cars to beat throughout the race; you couldn't look at any of the turns, at any point during the race, without seeing at least one CRX cutting inside a bunch of bigger cars and then yowling past them at nutso RPMs.
There was a lot of grumbling in the pits about "those goddamn CRXs," due to the way they'd just zip around everybody. Thing is, the little Hondas spun out a lot (at least one flipped), and it didn't take too many impacts from the Detroit machines to send a CRX limping back to the pit for some emergency sledgehammer bodywork.
Yes, those are flocked Christmas trees. I never did get a chance to talk to Team Flocker about, like, the flocking business.
How can you not love a BMW family sedan with a baby seat (including baby doll) attached to the roof? It was a laugh riot watching this thing powersliding around the track. Guess you had to be there...
Hey, Jaguar lovers- check it out! Yes, in spite of all those Axis cars tearing up the track, a Jag almost made the Top Ten; the "mane" of brooms looked seriously classy on the roof.
This is one of two teams named "Size Matters." In this case, the size being alluded to seems to be in the wing and exhaust tip. You know, a 6" diameter exhaust tip is good for 25 horses!
Yet another CRX in the top 20. Now I miss my old CRX!
This Honda sounded really mean after it got de-muffler-ized in one of the many crowd scenes going into a turn, and the flag made it easy to find on the track.
I couldn't figure out what was the deal with the black pompom on the roof; apparently some sort of Halloween reference.
We approve of race cars with ads for Capp Street bars in San Francisco painted on the side. I'm sure Toyota will want to adopt that TuRD logo, since it would add character to their current lineup.
I never did get around to asking these guys what the plumbing on the roof of their MR2 was all about. Ram air intake? Intercooler helper? Rear brake cooling?
You're damn right a biodiesel Benz finished in the Top 20! I'll have more on this car later on.
Hooray, a genuine slab-o-Detroit-Iron squeezing into the Top 20! This Chevy used one quart of oil in its 305, all weekend, if we are to believe the claims of its crew. One thing about the American cars; they were at a pronounced handling disadvantage on this track, but just about all of them finished the race.
Note to self: Get a CRX.
You'd think a turbocharged 700-series Volvo would do better than 22nd place, but the tire-width rules really made life hard for the heavier cars.
Here's the second "Size Matters" car, and in this case the name makes sense. This 318-powered Fury was a relentless competitor, in spite of some pretty glaring handling issues, and was an obvious audience favorite. Don't worry, Mopar lovers, I have photos galore of this beast; stay tuned.
Here's one for you, Subaru fans! Everyone was impressed by the AWD handling awesomeness of this car, but it just didn't have the power to keep up.
You want hardcore racing madness? The Saabs Gone Wild team cannibalized their driver car for parts for their race cars, apparently yanking the engine and rear suspension from their ride home. Our own SeanKHotay needs to join this team!
If you're getting the impression that BMWs and CRXs were quite numerous, you are correct.
Favorite of the crowd, terror of the track; this was Do Or Die's second LeMons race. An '82 Cadillac hearse, Do Or Die had the most awe-inspiring fishtailing action of any vehicle on the track, batting smaller cars into the walls like a pinball flipper hitting steel balls. It had pretty good V8 punch coming out of turns, thanks to the Caddy 425 under the hood, but it went through tires in a hurry. It was a common sight to spot several CRXs buzzing around like angry bees behind this monster in the turns, unwilling to risk certain obliteration when that rear end came swinging around.
Always good to see a box Chevy out there; this car was regarded as the Bulletproof Bully of the race.
There's a long, long story behind this 740iL, a story I'll get to later on. Let's just say this car was voted to be destroyed (one of the rituals of the 24 Hours of LeMons race has a popular vote selecting a single car to be picked out for destruction), and it survived the attempt, rejoining the race!
I would have expected to see more 944s here, since you can get them pretty cheap from owners who fear the timing belt replacement cost.
Any ideas about the thing on the roof?
OK, here's the car I was rooting for the whole time- a '79 Alfa Romeo Alfetta, painted in the colors of the Italian flag! The drivers were good, the car was quick (and sounded great), and it was in the top 10 for most of both days. Sadly, it blew a head gasket late on Day Two... and you ain't gonna find a replacement Alfa head gasket in Livermore on a Sunday afternoon.
Let's just say that 3rd-gen Camaros aren't exactly the best-handling cars ever built, and all the driver skill in the world can't change that. Other drivers learned to give this thing a wide berth in the turns.
Hey, it's our friends from Autoblog in that RX-7! Be sure to check out Damon's excellent insider coverage of the LeMons goings-on. A couple of other RX-7s started the race, including one really wild one painted in Rising Sun colors, but wrecks took them out of the game. Too bad- you need the sound of rotaries on a Sunday morning.
Could it be? A... Starion? Paging Mr. Bumbeck! Sadly, this Mitsu spent too much time in the pits to properly demonstrate its Super Potential.
On Saturday, I was sure this car was going to win it all; it was by far the fastest thing on the track, turns or straightaways (leading to much speculation about the nature of its engine), and the drivers were just flat-out crazy. Even the other CRX drivers looked like hyper-cautious 90-year-olds next to this wailing green Honda; I'm not sure what happened, but it lost a lot of laps toward the end of Saturday and was seen departing on a trailer that night.
You know, that rug really brought the room together.
This 944 did well when it was on the track, but mechanical difficulties sidelined it for critical laps.
Whew, that's it. I'd like to keep going, but it's late and I still have to write up DOTS. We'll be seeing 24 Hours of LeMons highlights all week, so come on back later.