The teams of the 24 Hours of Lemons take many varying tacks and approaches to the concept of “racing.” Some teams like to build things and their performance—car and driver, alike—are completely secondary. Some teams aim for the sharp end of the field and will take nothing else. And others like New England’s favorite wild children, The Lemontarians, take pride in sharpening an enormous blunt stone, a 1980s Cadillac Fleetwood, into an unexpectedly fantastic road-racing car.
The Lemontarians’ story in Lemons dates back to 2010 and includes a fairly humdrum Honda Prelude before they started racing one of their current cars, a Dodge Neon. That Neon has worn several themes, notably a Bookmobile in its first 2012 outing. Today, it serves as the Fleetwood’s companion car with a roof-mounted “WHURST” shifter and a Dale Earnhardt Impersonator theme.
The team then dug up a Chevy Citation X-11 that Judge Eric found on CraigsList during his tenure as an auto journalist. It turns out a similar Citation X-11 had driven two team members to their wedding in the 1980s. Voila, history repeating itself.
Through it all, the Lemonatarians have maintained an impressive fleet of pit vehicles whose details alone are as fascinating as the most impressive Lemons cars.
All of that said, the masterpiece of the Lemontarians’ fleet is their 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood. We first saw the car at New Jersey Motorsports Park. They built a replica of one of Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat dragsters in tribute to his record of the same era, set nearby at Englishtown.
The dragster was built from a hodgepodge of sturdy but collapsible plastic things like PVC, cheap flower planters, and whatever else they could dredge up. From trackside, the effect was mesmerizing. However, Lemons’ safety personnel made them remove the slightly concerning front end of the dragster.
The dragster replica eventually topped one of their pit vehicles, instead. From there, the Caddy moved on to a Hurst knockoff theme. That meant a with massive “WHURST” shifter and a roof-mounted portrait of Linda Vaughn. Frankly, if there’s a more spectacular-looking American car in road racing, we haven’t seen it. Just look at it.
One might assume that a 3,900-pound, 18-foot Cadillac with an Olds 307 or a 4.1-liter Cadillac engine would putt around a road course. And one would be right if the Fleetwood had either of those original engine choices in it. Instead, the Lemontarians fed the big Caddy an old Small-Block Chevy V8 and a five-speed manual transmission.
While it’s not the fastest car on the track, it is far from the slowest. After some teething troubles, the Caddy has finished its last four races in the Top 30 of 100-car fields.
The lesson? You don’t need a BMW or a Miata to go road racing. With some creativity, you can turn a 1985 Cadillac or a 1947 Plymouth into a capable road racer. Got something Cadillac-esque you want to race in Lemons? See the schedule and reserve a spot in a race here. Get a dose of Lemons culture on our YouTube Channel. And stay up to date with the Lemons Facebook and Instagram pages.