Arizona Misadventure: 10 Years After Lemons’ First Race in The Grand Canyon State

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Murilee Martin, Nick Pon
January 23, 2020

In 2010, Lemons moved from a small (and terrible) racing series to a much larger (though still terrible) one. That crapcan year found us jumping to 21 events from 10 the previous year. With Lemons now a decade past that milestone of foisting crappy cars on the world, we figured we’d take a brief glance back at some of these races from 2010 on their tin anniversaries.

We’ll start where 2010 started: A January race that was sparsely attended at Firebird International Raceway in Arizona. While its short turnaround from the schedule announcement had a little to do with it, other factors came into play. Namely, the region was hit days before the race with the most powerful winter storm to strike the West Coast since Ulysses S. Grant was the president. That hampered daily life for enough teams to stop them from traveling out of California. Those who hit the road early Thursday before the race mostly made it through. Teams who left later were mired in road closures and had to turn back.

In the end, only 22 teams made it to Phoenix for the race. Nevertheless, the Auction-Weekend Gavel-Trap race (the same weekend as the stuffy Scottsdale auto auctions nearby) dropped us into Arizona with some entertaining antics. The track was…difficult…for wheel-to-wheel racing and Lemons didn’t return to Arizona until heading to Inde Motorsports Ranch east of Tucson in 2016. (FYI: We’re headed back at the end of February for the fifth time and are taking late entries.)

COR-VETTE MAGAZINE MAN

Among the cars themselves, the big news was the arrival of Lemons’ first Chevy Corvette. The Lemons Supreme Court prepared for an onslaught of internet hate at the Tranny Lumberjacks’ absolutely hammered C4 Corvette. As such, it was tossed into the deep end in Class A. Those who know the track record of Lemons Corvettes will be unsurprised to learn that the First Corvette of Lemons™ overheated immediately and limped to only a fistful of excruciating laps.

Dead Effing Last? You bet.  Did it ever do any better before the team gave up on it? Absolutely not. Did it win Organizer’s Choice for this kind of American sports car heresy? For the former (and disgruntled) operators of Corvette Magazine, the Org. Choice was an easy trophy to hand out.

Winner, Winner

Of those who managed to run more than 20 laps, Eyesore Racing came out on top with their second-ever overall win. The FrankenMiata—powered by a Mexican-market Dodge turbocharger—was dressed up in a great Alice in Wonderland theme. Eyesore donned their best Looking-Glass duds to match the car. What’s not to love about this? Every Lemons winner should look so good.

Southern California racers POSRacing wore the F’ed Up logo at the time and came in second place overall. They’d eventually snare a victory (and a cease-and-desist notice for their later Spin-N-Out Racing logo), but their persistence earned them the Judges Choice award.

Ending the Z-Car Curse

The Class B winner was Off Consistantly (sic) and their Nissan 300ZX. In Lemons’ early days, Datsun and Nissan Z-cars proved fiercely unreliable. We still don’t know what the deal with that was since they’ve turned out to become pretty successful cars. However, Off Consistantly became one of the first teams to overcome the Z-Car curse with a Class B win and third place overall just a few seconds behind POSRacing. Within a year, Off Consistantly would later nab a Z car’s first overall win.

What’s more amazing is that The UNDERGROUND’s 300ZX finished just behind them in fourth place. That Z31 featured a turbocharged engine, which still remains horribly unreliable in Lemons. Their fourth-place finish in Arizona should have been the noteworthy part.

However, one of the Underground—a team of lovably inept racers from our early years—got a little carried away during some post-racing antics. We don’t know the whole story, but we do know the driver ended up with titanium speed parts in his leg. We rewarded their carelessness with the I Got Screwed trophy, which we’re sure made up for the long and painful recovery process.

On the subject of lap times, we think the turbocharged 300ZX was faster. In truth, we had no idea which car was quickest. We lacked electronic timing for the first (and hopefully only) time ever in Lemons history. The aforementioned storm had flooded the track’s low areas, knocking out Firebird’s timing system. That race was scored like an old-school road race, as Judge Phil notes: “Dude with a pencil making tally-marks, like Barney Oldfield’s era.” The total of 22 cars—many of which spent long stretches on jack stands—was probably a blessing in that regard.

Class C: Small But Truly Awful

The Class C winner was one of only three Pontiac Sunfires ever in Lemons. We aren’t sure if “Lightening McQueen” is a joke about its rustiness, but that battered old J-Body ran several West Coast races and handily won the slowest Lemons class. Their 203-lap margin of victory would probably be a record if we paid much attention to such things.

Admittedly, there were only two other Class C cars, both from the Calzone team. In the great tradition of multiple-car Lemons teams, they also brought two cars that are entirely unrelated: A BMW 2800CS (E9) and an Opel GT with a Buick V6 swap. They finished in 19th and 20th positions with exactly 400 laps combined. That totaled 65 laps fewer than the Lightening McQueen Sunfire.

However, they didn’t leave empty-handed. Their constant struggles with their V6-swapped Opel GT scored them the Heroic Fix Trophy.

The LeMon Martini Honda CRX won the now-defunct-for-insurance purposes Dangerous Banned Technology for reasons we can’t decipher from our ancient, wrinkled notes. Chances are, someone in the Lemons community knows the story and we’ll edit accordingly.

Among the non-winners were a pair of BMW E30s that still race periodically today. Yuji’s Revenge turns up from time to time in California races and at Inde Motorsports Ranch. The B-Team’s E30 also still exists, we think. However, the B-Team soon transformed it into a Quentin Tarantino/Kill Bill/Kill Phil “Pussy Wagen” tribute.

Probably Your Father’s Oldsmobile

Top honors—the Index of Effluency—went to Team Four Door Flyin’ Fortress. Their Oldsmobile 98 Regency Brougham earned high marks for nautical aptitudes and a luxuriously long-ass name. More impressively, the 403-powered boat finished 5th place overall. That ridiculously good finish from the Malaise Era C-Body put it ahead of both the E30s picture above, no small feat for a big boxy sedan.

Effluency, thy name is Oldsmobile.

We’ll have more decade retrospectives in the coming year. In the meantime, you can late-register for our next Lemons (mis)adventure in Arizona, La Carrera Arizona at Inde Motorsports Ranch on February 29-March 1. Or check out the rest of the 2020 schedule to find a Lemons event for you.

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