10 Years Later: The 2009 Lemons Race at Carolina Motorsports Park

The 24 Hours of Lemons has now been around long enough that we can look back on races a full decade ago. That’s mind-blowing to us, but we’re going to spend some time in 2019 looking back to 2009, which was in many ways a big year for the 24 Hours of Lemons. The season schedule expanded to 10 races from six the previous year and fields similarly expanded. It was almost like Lemons was becoming a Real Thing™. We covered the 2009 season opener in February. Today, let’s look back 10 years to Lemons South Spring at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina.

This was the 13th Lemons race and, surprisingly, it was the first for a BMW 3-Series. The Dorifto Dogs E30—which ran the lowly 125-horsepower “efficiency” version of the BMW inline-six engine—edged out Lightning McQueen’s much quicker Volkswagen Jetta by a mere 46.7 seconds.

The race also featured one of Lemons’ most iconic scenes: the Tunachuckers Heroic Fix-winning engine swap. Murilee Martin famously captured this photo in the middle of the Volvo Amazon’s 90-minute engine replacement. Lemons Accidental Renaissance? Yep, this is the definitive version.

The Tunachuckers had won the Index of Effluency at the inaugural CMP race in 2008 with the same car, which is forever etched in many Lemons racers’ minds as the highest-quality of crapcan. They’d later prepare one of the most massive Lemons cars of all time, a 460-powered 1975 Ford LTD. That car last year become the Plymford Deluxe after the Tunachuckers hung ‘53 Plymouth bodywork on the boat.

That’s a nice tie-in to the ‘09 Southern Discomfort IOE winner, Heavy Metal’s perfect land yacht of a LTD Convertible. The big gray boat plowed its way to 59th place of 94 cars. That was no small feat, considering both the car’s impressive size on the short CMP course and the fact that they had the 90th-quickest lap of the weekend.

One of two cars slower than the Heavy Metal LTD? That would be the I Got Screwed-winning Greyman Motor Club. The team figured their Mazda 626 dirt-oval car would work perfectly for Lemons. Instead, they spent nearly the entire weekend trying to get anything to work on the damn thing. They ultimately labored for about 20 consecutive sleepless hours to run five laps on Sunday afternoon. This is its own kind of iconic Lemons image.

The Dangerous Banned Technology was a mark of pride in Lemons’ early days. Later, safety nannies recommended we not reward people doing really dangerous things. Curse them. In this race, the Banned Technology trophy went to Our Lady of Perpetual Downforce. That team’s Honda Civic had belonged to a team member whose housemates had his ride “pimped” while he was out of the country, as Xzibit says. That wasn’t what earned them the award, however.

Instead, the team had crafted a Chaparral 2J-style sucker fan in the back of their crappy Civic. But it wasn’t some basic-grade shop fan. Rather, the fan came from the cooling system for a self-propelled howitzer and it was powered by a four-cylinder motorcycle engine. This was no half-measure. Unfortunately, the Civic’s stock fuel pump also fed the bike engine and the high-pressure pump sprayed too much fuel for the motorcycle carbs. fuel everywhere inside the car. What about this could possibly be considered unsafe about fuel splashing around a hot engine inside a car cabin?

Naturally, Lemons safety inspectors made them pull the sucker-fan system out of the car for fear of a shrapnel-spewing explosion ending the entire series and possibly all sentient life in that corner of rural South Carolina. Note the team member pictured above with bandaged finger. The OLOPD crew stuck to their name, however, and later went through a number of mounted airplane-wing configurations over nine years and 23 races before the car got munched in 2018.

No Lemons retrospective is complete without the innovations of Lemons Supreme Court justices Murilee Martin (aka Judge Phil) and Jonny Lieberman (aka Judge Jonny). At this race, racers loaned Phil and Jonny a bitchin’ woodie Caprice Wagon for judgemobile duties. A judgemobile loaner is a high-quality Lemons bribe.

Crucially, this race was preceded by Lemons’ offers to troubled automakers of “Nonsorship” by redacting the badging of competing cars. BS Inspections included redaction of all F____, L______, and M_______ products.

The lasting penalty innovation from this race was the now-notorious Taiwanese National Anthem penalty. In that penalty, teams were forced to wire a horn that blares the Six-Tone car alarm—you know the one—so that it plays whenever the car is on. Other drivers will hear you coming and know that you suck at racing, so goes the general idea (above photo notwithstanding). An oversized Taiwanese flag completes the visual appeal of the penalty. The “Taiwanese National Anthem” moniker, that’s harder to explain, but Judge Phil attempted here.

Judge Phil also imparted the Bobby Bosch Relay Race penalty. Penalized teams are given 10 junkyard relays, nine of which are good. Once they test them correctly to find the bad one, the team can return to the track. Any good troubleshooter should be able to wrap that up in under five minutes, but it turns out that Lemons racers typically suck at troubleshooting.

Finally, Judge Jonny brought back the Studs and Spurs Beefcake Calendar penalty that he’d come up with at MSR Houston a few weeks before. Classic.

What else happened 10 years ago today? The Ponticrap Fiero finished P7 overall and won its class.

The mailbox-inducted Thunderbird won the Judges Choice at this race.

The Beaver Hunt Pinto finished a pretty impressive 48th place.

A Pinto in 48th is impressive, but this Opel Kadett finished 23rd. We’ve seen this car resurrected in recent years, too, and still running Lemons after sitting for most of a decade.

This Miata looked like an SR-71 Blackbird and was called Junk Works Racing. This is how you race a Miata in Lemons.

We also had a “Lemons Vitton” handbag made from a Dodge Neon, which finished 6th place overall.

Dai Mondai’s Toyota Corolla FX16 ran its third race. They’re up to 26 with it now, 10 years later.

That wasn’t the only notable Corolla FX16 action, of course. Schumacher Taxi Service’s FX16 put the ROLL in Corolla with a gentle flip. (Everyone was ok, even the Corolla…mostly.)

Moldecarlo looked like a mid-pack car, but the automatic-equipped G-Body would go on to become the first GM car to win a Lemons race overall…four years later.

Howard J Turkstra Motorsports—named after a minor character in Caddyshack, by the way—ran their second Lemons race of 30. They eventually replaced their Celica notchback with a third-generation Supra.

Speedycop (aka Jeff Bloch) and his Gang of Outlaws hadn’t gone totally off the deep end yet—that would start with the big pink Cadillac later in 2009—and they were racing this Lincoln Mark VIII still.

Team Turbo Schnitzel killed the T5 transmission in their Merkur XR4Ti. They’d eventually swap in a turbocharged 351W V8 before ditching the horrible European Ford altogether for an Acura Integra.

Of course, the whole story of any Lemons race can’t be boiled down in a few hundred words. Every team has its own story to tell, so next time you’re at the track, ask your paddock mates if they were around a decade ago. Want more retrospective? Check out our look back to Gator-O-Rama at MSR Houston in February 2009 here.

We’ll be back at Carolina Motorsports Park later this month for our first 24-hour race there. You can find more info on that race from April 27-28 here.