Build 6-on-the-Tree Column Shifter, Dominate Lemons Online Racing!

By: Murilee Martin Photo Credits: Murilee Martin
April 15, 2020

Now that those troublesome pangolin virions have us all locked in our fetid gaming rooms, chawing Utz Cheez Ballz and swilling warm, off-brand root beer in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a real Lemons race paddock as we we prepare for the next online race event, it’s time to start thinking about how to recreate the Lemons driving experience as much as possible with our simulator hardware.


During our first iRacing event at Laguna Seca, we discussed the idea of awarding virtual trophies to the teams running the hooptiest computers and controller hardware, and we received a few emails with photos of gratifyingly janky setups. But really, we’re Lemons racers, and we want our online racing rigs to reflect that. Do we want to pretend we’re dicing with Juan Mario Fangio at the ’57 Monaco Grand Prix, or even jousting for supremacy at our local Spec Miata race? Well, sure, but we’ve learned in Lemons that real racers run column-shift manual transmissions!


We’ve seen some three-on-the-tree manuals in Lemons and even a couple of four-on-the-tree cars, and every single team running such vehicles has taken home serious trophy hardware. The overwhelming majority of cars sold in the United States from the 1930s through the early 1960s had column-shift manual transmissions (in fact, you could buy Detroit pickups and vans with three-on-the-tree until 1986), and your home racing rig needs the same.


It’s true that iRacing seems to want six- or seven-speed transmissions, but plenty of European and Japanese cars came with five-on-the-tree manuals. What’s another gear or two?


Were we now in Covid-free times, we’d tell y’all to just start scouring your local junkyards and swap meets for complete steering columns from three-on-the-tree cars, then lock yourselves in your squalid, malodorous garages until you’d fabricated an online-racing setup with everything from functional column-shift manual to bench seat to a motorized Nux bobbing-head dashboard bird. In fact, our ideal home-racing rig would be an exact replica of the Dodge Dynasty that should have been, with Whorehouse Red bench seat and six-on-the-tree manual transmission. You could crank up the Roxette on the factory mono AM radio and DOMINATE.


That might be difficult, although you can still try to buy some of that stuff on eBay and get it shipped. What we’re hoping to see in the immediate future is any kind of column-shift installation on your controller hardware, even if it means just using a big glob of Shoe Goo to paste a gaming H-shifter onto the side of your steering-wheel controller.


So dig through your stash of parts that you should have thrown away decades ago, start researching the ways creative online racers have devised their own DIY shifters, and make a column shifter for your next Lemons iRacing League event. Share it with us, and we’ll dole out the virtual trophies (stickers to put on your car) as needed.


If the best you can do is the two-position up/down sequential column shifter, patched into the wiring of your controller’s paddles, that’s fine. If you’re the kind of mechano-digito nerd who thrives on pointless challenges, take it to the next level and turn a real column shifter into a 7-on-the-tree!


It doesn’t need to end there. Install gauge clusters, CB radios, suicide knobs, barefoot-hippie gas pedals, Chrysler VisorPhones, hyper-complicated Audi folding cup holders, Barry Goldwater bobbleheads, genuine Junction Produce fusas, goofy dash clocks, and all kinds of stuff we won’t let you install in your real race car. Hell, make a cup holder that fits your Colt 1911-shaped tequila bottles!

Lemons iRacing League Schedule for April 16, 2020

The stream will start around 9:30 ET/6:30 pm PT on the 24 Hours of Lemons YouTube Channel and the 24 Hours of Lemons Facebook page. There will be four sessions, two of which will air on the livestream. For this week again, all sessions will be first-come, first-served until the session slots are full. Want in? Be ready to go the second the sessions go live. The first time is the call time to get your butt into the pre-race session.

Session 1
9:00 pm ET – Practice (50 minutes or whenever we feel like starting the race)
9:50 pm ET (approximately…see above line) – Race (24 minutes)

Session 2
9:20 pm ET – Practice (50 minutes)
9:40 pm ET (approx.) – Race (24 minutes)

Session 3
10:09 pm ET – Practice (10 minutes)
10:19 pm ET (approx.) – Race (24 minutes)

Session 4
10:24 pm ET – Practice (10 minutes)
10:34 pm ET (approx.) – Race (24 minutes)

This is designed to give racers several chances to get in at the start of the session. We may add more sessions to get the 200 or so signups all into the funnel of jakny electro-Lemons.

Be sure to send us video of you racing with your janky iRacing rigs after Thursday’s event(s), too. If you can’t rig up a column shifter yet, show us your “driving setup” made of plywood/duct tape/leftover plumbing in action! Shoot an email to VirtuallySlow@24hoursoflemons.com with the video or a link to it.

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