10 Years Later: The 2009 Gator-O-Rama Lemons Race in Houston

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Murilee Martin, Nick Pon
February 27, 2019

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Lemons‘ Gator-O-Rama race at MSR Houston in February 2009. That leaves us feeling rather nostalgic and so we’ve dug through our archives about this one. All Lemons races turn out to be memorable for one reason or another, but this one included several Lemons landmarks. So take a stroll with us down memory lane.

Perhaps nothing topped the awesomeness of Apex Vinyl’s Toyota Truck. While this truck would later be made into a six-wheeler, this race found the truck converted into a Chaparral-style “sucker truck” with some exaggerated NASCAR Trucks-inspired aerodynamics.

Just ahead of the vert-ramp spoiler was a shop fan pointed up to create a low-pressure “suction zone” between the side skirts and under the bed. Texan Lemons teams aren’t quite Jim Hall, it turns out. However, the Apex Vinyl crew took home the Dangerous Homemade Technology award for this one, a trophy that has unfortunately been (mostly) discontinued at Lemons’ insurers’ insistence. [Booing intensifies]

Famously, the Formula M as in Mullet became the first V8-powered car to win a Lemons race overall. In Lemons’ early days, it seemed impossible that a portly American car with a big V8 could win a race. While a few V8 Mustangs and Camaros have done that since, it’s still an uphill battle. Even more impressively, four of the top five cars were American built.

The Index of Effluency went to Opular Dependence and their craptacular V8-powered Opel GT. The “No Fat Shiksas” rattle-canned on the side came as an impromptu retheming after a cultural misunderstanding, to say the least.

The race also saw two future multiple overall winners taking home awards. Z-Wrecks won Class C back when we had four classes. They would later rack up a pile of overall wins in their Datsun 280ZX. Also, Team Blue Goose has now won a few races in their Audi 4000. Before that, they ran a Volkswagen Golf and a rickety old Honda CRX. That Honda left them in this state for several races, including a Heroic Fix-earning effort at Gator-O-Rama 2009.

The Organizer’s Choice went to the A-Team and their Dodge Daytona. That car would later donate its 3.0-liter V6 to the Worst Lemons Car of All Time. So, uh, thanks for that.

Woe is the Poor Driver

Crucially, these early days of Lemons provided many of the great things that still ring true in Lemons. Most importantly among these were the great Lemons Penalty innovations. Preaching to the Converted remains a favorite, as exemplified here by the driver of the Los Diablos second-gen Camaro. That team took home the Uber-Recidivists trophy for sucking so badly on the track.

Judge Jonny Lieberman also was the innovator of the Bart Simpson Penalty, wherein miscreants must write with a Sharpie a couple of hundred times how to correct their failure(s). That’s a mainstay of the Penalty Box to this day and Judge Jonny (Yeah, that Jonny Lieberman) also made people write out the horribly dry family-history chapter of Genesis.

Judge Scott Carr also developed an all-timer penalty that remains a favorite among judges and miscreants alike: the Bob Ross Penalty. Paint a replica of a Bob Ross painting, all while wearing a calm expression and exuding the hippie-trance-like zen of the PBS painting guru.

The judges also assigned the roof-mounted tire to miscreant teams. That, it turns out, made it easy to identify potential problems on track. This was another favorite that unfortunately got nixed. Wayward fasteners might cut tires and/or lead to the occasional rubber donut to the grille. [Boo to insurers again!]

Finally, a trip to the store next to the Supreme Court’s weekend lodgings turned up a Studs and Spurs calendar. Lemons miscreant drivers recreated the sexy poses for horrified onlookers. That produced embarrassment enough to keep clean noses for the rest of the day.

Like any race, there are far too many stories to tell in but one small web story. However, you can read more about the Penalties here from Judge Phil’s old Jalopnik story. You can see even more photos from the race in Phil’s Uber Gallery of the race. Be sure to check out the upcoming 2019 races right here in the Lemons calendar. And of course, we’ll be back at MSR Houston in November.

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