scary wonderful thing about the 24 Hours Of LeMons is that, for the most part, teams tend to finish their ridiculous project cars. Normally, when some burly, welding-burned dude with a yard full of Panhards and Packardbakers starts mumbling about the Grumman bread truck he's building with four Miller Cycle Mazda engines, you assume he'll never in hell finish the thing. However, LeMons has a way of getting that dude together with all the other fabricatin' nutcases in his area, and they lurch into action with a frightening obsession new sense of purpose. You see, their new race car project provides them with an excuse to swill beer and smash their digits with big wrenches in a stanky garage for weekend after weekend a sense of focus for their ill-advised innovative theories about vehicular design. In 2009, damn near every team that promised a crazy LeMons project- from a Soviet car to a GM Quad Four-powered Honda CRX- came through. Let's take a look at some of the excellent racin' machines we've heard are in the works for the upcoming race season. Remember, you're just looking at the tip of the iceberg here! Be sure to click on the gallery thumbnails to see more photos of a particular car; there wasn't room to put them all on the front page.
1954 Nash Rambler with Jeep 4.0 I6 Engine
Brought to you by Oregon's Redneck Racing Team (RRT), the same folks who gave us the Index Of Effluency-winning Cadillac Elk-Dorado, this '54 Nash Rambler Custom will be powered by a torquey and reliable Jeep 4.0 (aka AMC 242) and should appear in the West Coast races. Here's the official team statement:
Here's some pics of what we're whooping up for the 2010 season. Of course we are shooting for the Goin For Broken and Arse Sweat-a-Palooza races. We're hoping to field both this Nash and the Elkdorado. The Nash is a '54 Nash Rambler Custom rust hole with signed Oregon title and last registered 1974. Most of the floor is gone due to rust. We scored it in the Eugene area so it was pretty wet all the time. Still not sure what motor is in it, L head 6 is all I know for sure. It's seized up pretty tight, been soaking in diesel and tranny fluid for about a week and still broke the motor mounts trying to free it up. So by popular demand we have decided to run a Jeep 4.0 straight 6 (if possible under budget we are going to also try and fab up an M62 turbo...it's on its way), with a 2wd trans, and probably the Jeep rear end (same width as the factory axle). We are really shooting for another IOE because that is the Gold in LeMons. With that said, it should look on the outside completely like it does now with a number on it...the running gear is the only change we anticipate right now, so it will run. We really wanted to do the 914 Porsche with our Caddy motor swapped, but it sounds like the 914's are getting a lot of attention right now...so we dropped that bomb and went this route.
1970 Jaguar XJ6 with Chevrolet 400 V8 Engine
We were pretty excited when we heard that a Series 1 Jaguar XJ6 would be getting a Chevrolet 409 engine, as in "She's So Fine My 409"… but it turned out that a .040" over Chevy 400 small-block displaces 409 cubic inches and that's how the team was describing it. No problem, though, because the combination of the Lucas Electrics of an early XJ6 and one of the least reliable engines in LeMons history ought to be a potent one! The team will be going with a Dr. No theme; you can read more about it here.
AMC Gremlin with Jeep 4.0 I6 Engine
We saw a Gremlin at the last Yeehaw It's Texas race, but it proved to be disappointingly unreliable. We hope that it will be coming back for the 2010 season, and that it will be sharing a race track with this Gremlin. Here's what the team has to say about its Kenosha racin' machine:
The Gremlin responded to a Craigslist WTB ad and was purchased for $75 without a motor or transmission. Mouse nests were free! An auction Jeep is supplying a bazillion mile injected 4.0, and (I think) an explorer rear is going in (apparently a bolt in?). The transmission and theme are TBD.
AMC Marlin with Chevrolet 454 Engine Swap
Oh, how we've yearned to see a LeMons Marlin, and now it's really going to happen! This one was obtained by the same heroes who picked up the Gremlin and the 4CV- apparently they've dragged in an army of like-minded racers- and we're counting the freakin' minutes until this monster appears on a race track.
The Marlin was a freebie if the remaining good trim was returned. The motor was stuck, suspension is really weird (torque tube!), and the brakes are locked, so the plan is a 454 from a $100 plow truck, a Camaro front clip and a Jag rear that came from u-pull-u-pay. The guys building this car are real hotrodder types, expect radical engine setback and other unique modifications available when there aren't any rules forbidding such things.
This team had an Early Malaise Era Ford Ranchero, but it was just too hopeless to duct-tape and pop-rivet into a semi-safe race car… so the team decided to graft the Ranchero bed and nose onto a BMW E30. Team captain Buford Hogswaller of the Bavarian Ranchero Werks Special Deliverance team says:
We have decided, after all, that we can present the Bavarian Ranchero to the world. You may recall from prior e-mails that we started with a 1973 Ford Ranchero. After several valiant attempts at saving the engine, we decided that it was beyond repair. While we were trying to decide what to do next (new engine? new car?) a 1991 BMW 318i fell into our laps. We were reluctant to take it until we had a brilliant idea: turn the BMW into a Ranchero. Therefore, we carved the body work, lights, mirrors, etc. off the Ranchero, cut them down to size as appropriate, and grafted them onto what we are calling the Bavarian Ranchero.
The body work is rough at the moment, but we are getting ready to get the bondo out. We plan to run, if accepted, for the Thunderhill race.
Chopped 1969 Volkswagen Beetle with Possible Corvair Engine Swap
A chopped W124 Benz looks great on a LeMons track, so why not chop a Beetle?
We are doing a chopped 69 Bug. It's going to have disk brakes and the suspension cut and lowered 3 inches. So the car will be LOW. If we can find a Corvair engine it's going in. But we have a VW engine ready.
1971 Citroën DS
When you win the Index of Effluency with a '62 Mini, how do you top your accomplishment? Why, you find yourself a running Citroën DS for 300 bucks, of course! These crazy San Diegans will be running the Mini and the Citroën at the West Coast races in 2010. The team's motto: "Oui, we can-can!"
1953 Nash Metropolitan with Unwise Engine Swap
The nutcases at Evil Genius Racing have their sights set on running the oldest car in 24 Hours Of LeMons history (the current holder of that title is a 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood), and so they've bought a terrifyingly rusty '53 Metropolitan with- we're not kidding here- GT350 emblems on the sides. They plan to widen the body 8 inches (because the track is a dangerous 31" wide and they don't want to flare the wheel wells to fit a wider suspension) and install Miata subframes beneath it. As for engine choices, the Evil Genius has a few options at hand: Mazda 12A rotary, Mazda B… and a Maserati V8 out of a Quattroporte. Which one do you think we're rooting for?
Black Ops [REDACTED] with [REDACTED] Engine Swap
Also coming from the laboratories of Evil Genius is the super-secret Black Ops racer. If I reveal too much about this machine- which, trust me, is completely ridiculous- before its debut at the Sears Pointless race, I'll wake up with a burlap sack over my head in a Tadjikistani rendition facility, being asked a lot of pointed questions. So, sadly, all I can give you now are the heavily redacted photos authorized by EG.
Ford Anglia with Miata Running Gear
We've suffered from a real shortage of British Fords at LeMons so far, so everyone at LeMons HQ was just overjoyed to hear about this Anglia, brought to you by the folks who built the windmill-equipped Free Range MR2:
Were making an Anglia + Miata = Angliata
The dimensions are close enough, but the hard is going to be find suspension points strong enough to weld the miata suspension to. The engine bay is PLENTY big! We bought 2 Anglias for $600 and plan to make one runner out of the two. I think we can sell enough random parts to the Brits to make up for the cost of a rolled Miata. Hell, what could possibly go wrong?
1957 Ford Prefect
When you've already bashed the oldest car in LeMons history into a wall at Nelson Ledges and driven the most powerful car in LeMons history at CMP, you've set the bar pretty high for subsequent cars. That's why the folks at Police Brutality have decided to go all Douglas Adams with a '57 Ford Prefect.
FrankenLeMon Nightmare Machine
When we first heard of this monstrosity, with its 70s Pontiac frame, 60s Datsun body, 30s GM fenders, and a Ford drivetrain, we begged with potential LeMons teams to please please oh please buy and race it. And whaddya know- it happened! The Texas team that's presently LeMon-izing this instant LeMons Legend has been pretty tight-lipped about engine swaps, suspension mods, themes, and, well, everything they've got planned, so we're gnawing our nails to the quick as the seconds drag by between now and the FrankenLeMon's race track debut.
Mid-Engined, Twin-Turbocharged 1-Ton GMC Vanamino
The small-block Chevy V8 hasn't done so well at LeMons races, as the members of the Snoopy's Quest For The Holy Nickelbag GMC Van team can attest. Their solution? Move the engine back about six feet and add twin ghettocharging! We can't see any weak points in this plan.
Monday the 14th I started on the van so far I have pulled engine/trans assembly, cut the hole, made the cross members, cut the drive shaft ( it is now 9.5 inches long)and reinstalled the assembly .I am presently working on modifying the wiring harness. I figure a few more hours on that and then on to p/s hoses. After that I will work on the turbo set up, then linkages and finely the Cooling system. Hope to be done by middle of January.
Renault Le Car
We're shocked that it's taken until the fifth 24 Hours of LeMons season for a team to start working on a Renault Le Car (aka Renault 5) to bring to a race. After all, the theme writes itself: Group B Rally!
1972 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 4.5
Speaking of themes that write themselves, why hasn't anyone thought to turn a Mercedes-Benz W108 into a replica of the Red Pig AMG racer?
Someone has! After this car showed up on the LeMons forums, a B.A.B.E. Rally veteran bought it and began work on the LeMon-ization process. It's got a V8 (admittedly a bit smaller than the 6.9 used by AMG back in 1971, but that's OK) and it's going to be a Rote Sau! Now why doesn't some team turn a fastback Galaxie into a 1963-vintage NASCAR replica?
Story on the car thus far: I flew into Milwaukee to pick it up and drive it home to Detroit. In hindsight, this was not a good idea. Actually, it wasn't a good idea in foresight, either. A quick test drive around the block revealed that the car did not respond well to any application of the throttle whatsoever, and that it was pissing water and oil everywhere. Replaced the voltage reg, which seemed to help the fuel delivery issues, and spent the rest of the daylight I had replacing the water pump. Couldn't fix the oil leak, so I figured I'd just add oil at every fill-up on the way home. Left Milwaukee and made it about 35 miles before the car started to crap out. Long story short, had to come back three weeks later with a trailer to get it home.
For the few minutes that the car was running properly, it seemed to have decent power. I've just got to get the electrical issues sorted out. Which could be a nightmare, what with 40-year-old EFI technology and a wiring harness that is nearly as old itself (see attached pic). But hey, I'm a glutton for punishment (evidenced by other cars currently living at my house: 1960 Simca, 67 Sprite, 81 GTV6, and 95 Range Rover. Plus I'm going to look at an 88 Milano today.), and I'm sure I'll get this thing straightened out come spring. The car will probably debut at the October Gingerman race.
Renault 4CV with Unwise Engine Swap
Renault and AMC were cousins, so it makes total sense that the same bunch of dudes who are building the Marlin and Gremlin would pick up this 4CV:
Most likely getting an unknown mid-engine powerplant, possibly motorcycle, possibly vw, possibly subaru. I have a huge stash of vw, junk circle track, and now some freebie bmw 2002 parts (helped a guy clean out his storage unit), so it will be some mashup of parts under the shell. My efforts to get a motorcycle that I can part out have been frustrated by other bidders. I may be forced to go for a heavier car that uses auto engines.
Maybe I'll go for a "german occupation" theme? I don't really have a theme yet but the patina stays, which might be a bit of a challenge if I need to build fender flares.
The prior owner is excited about the project, and periodically sends me links to parts for sale, like this one.
1987 Škoda 120GLS
It turns out that Škoda sold cars in Canada, which means that it's possible for a motivated team to turn one into a LeMons car. Will we see this Czech doing battle with its Warsaw Pact rival, the Wartburg? We certainly hope so!
We haven't gotten our team name down yet (We have a couple names, we're choosing right now and hammering down a theme), but right now we're referring to her as "The SaSkoda", as we're from Saskatchewan, Canada.
Oh, and for information's sake, we're entering the Mutually Assured Destruction of Omaha event (submitting an entry form by the end of the month). Not sure if you need it, but I figured it'd help.
We were thinking about dropping a Volvo B20 into it, but we're not entirely sure how the trans-axle would mate up to it, and what sort of fabrication would be needed; A bell-housing would need to be made, at the very least. And there's the issue of how strong the transmission is, as a B20 has roughly twice the horsepower of the stock 1.2L....
I know how to do the opposite (Engine swap into Volvo), but not the other way around. Also, I've got precious few B20's lying around, though it'd be bomb-proof if we did swap it. Maybe the next time 'round....
We were thinking of a Kafka theme, actually. Aside from the Cockroach (We'd need more equipment to pull that one off). Kafka is still an option though. We're also tossing around the idea of going as "The Last Saskatchewan Pirates", based on the song (Not sure if you've heard it). We're not sure yet, as some teammates would rather go with a less wacky theme.
The Skoda engine "Ran very well a year ago". Meaning it will run, come hell or high water. Helping the fact is that it's fairly low mileage too. It's even eligible to be registered and insured (Since Saskatchewan registration laws are a total joke)
It will be stock for the most part, though I may swap on a different carb. The cooling system might even be relocated, so we'll see what happens there. The suspension will be good, we hope, though bracing of the swing axles will be in order.
Subaru BRAT with Miata/RX-7 Mashup
Finally, someone will be racing a BRAT! As an added bonus, the "Rust In The Wind" BRAT comes complete with the lawsuit-enhancing jump seats in the bed- hey, they're totally safe, because they have motocross handgrips! They've obtained one apiece RX-7 and Miata carcasses, and they'll be cutting and pasting bits and pieces from both into the BRAT, with the idea that the end result will, you know, drive. What could possibly go wrong? The team has a Facebook fan page, in case you'd like to get updates on their progress.
1959 Edsel with Jaguar V12 Engine Swap
Really, all we need to do is utter the words "V12 Edsel" and the incomparable radness of this project comes through loud and clear. The team has managed to obtain a cheap Edsel and an allegedly not-too-far-from-running Jaguar V12. What, you think they'd go with a German V12? Too reliable! We're looking forward to the Rube Goldberg galvanized-plumbing-pipe intake manifold and oddball carburetor(s) we're sure to see on this race car. As the team captain says:
We just picked up the V12 tonight. The guy was supposed to give us the ecu, but decided he might need it. I don't see how it will help him with a Ford 4.6 swap in his XJS. We also discussed making a 3 duece manifold to chuck the ecu if one does not appear. It is also missing a valve spring that supposedly collapsed. We need to borrow a borscope. I'll get some pics out tomorrow night. I have a '59 4 door hardtop that will be used if we can't locate a station wagon cheap enough. If one does come along on the cheap, we may stretch a Crown Vic chassis for more modern (okay, less arcaic) brakes and suspension: Lots of old cabs around Chicagoland.
"If the state had not cut funding for the mental institutions, this project could never have happened."
1958 Wartburg 311 with Subaru 2.2 Engine, Porsche 944 Suspension
Remember the Win-A-Wartburg essay contest? Part of the prize package was free admission for the East German machine to a future LeMons race, and Misfit Toys Racing can't pass up that deal! The Wartburg will have a Subaru 2.2 boxer in the trunk, driving a VW transaxle, and Porsche 944 front suspension. Warsaw Pact build quality couple with backyard engineering- that pretty much sums up the philosophy of the 24 Hours Of LeMons!
Let's have a poll!