Earlier, we covered the Florida Man Poker Run’s overall winners from Duff Beer Racing. Their self-inflicted Lemons Rally pain stemmed from a homebuilt “hybrid,” a terrible idea that involved a bad 1980s electric conversion “improved” with some garage-engineering. You can read that whole sordid tale here. For now, let’s cover the other nine excellent trophy winners from the Florida Man Poker Run.
We hitched a ride with Matt Monnier in his four-door ‘66 Caprice on the Route Sucky-Suck rally last year. He and his girlfriend, Rachel, slept in the car along the route, living the true Lemons economy lifestyle. That rally found the heavy Chevy running Stop Leak for the length of the route after the radiator had a pinhole leak. The exhaust also fell off (a few times) and was fixed with whatever Matt could find.
This time around, the Caprice got a new radiator and a new passenger, Matt’s dad Tim. The two hit almost every checkpoint despite problems with—contain your shock—overheating and the exhaust falling off. Consistency is key. The oldest car on the rally survived nonetheless and scored enough points for second place.
What do you do with a free Dodge Caliber? The obvious answer is one of the following: set it on fire, shove it into the ocean, or make it a shootin’ car. Rolly derbiers Team Punchraffe decided instead to take this 2000s chunk of utter crap and make it into an El Camino with offroad-style rollbar and fine wood accents. They christened it the ExCaliber. Because “SpiteMobile” probably didn’t have quite as good a ring to it.
It was all done for basically $0, which edified it as the absolute best thing you could do with a Dodge Caliber. We’ve written about the Caliber and its rental-car-fleet-mate the Nitro before. They’re both cars probably too bad even for Lemons, which actually makes them perfect for Lemons. Anyway, Team Punchraffe were out until the wee hours of the night hitting checkpoints and taking bizarre photos and video. For that, they racked up a healthy dose of points to take the third-place trophy.
True Lemons Rally connoisseurs will tell you that this is the real prize. Lemons in all forms is an act of stupidity, so a trophy for the King Idiot of Moron Mountain? That’s high praise indeed. And what could be more random than a Florida Bath Salts-themed “Barbie Edition” Geo Metro Convertible? This one featured the hallmarks of both a well-used Lemons car and a well-used Barbie car. It cost the BSB team a cool $500 and came with a “very good” three-speed automatic transmission, a three-cylinder engine, one door handle, and a top made out of a $2 tarp. As it turns out, the “very good” transmission was ready to call it quits by the time they reached Key West.
However, the real gems of Bath Salts Barbie came from: random callbacks to one member’s Lemons Rally-winning, Chicken-tax-themed Subaru Brat, a day as Deadpool, so many fantastic random moments, and the “Local or Lemons?” game on the team Instagram account. If anybody was having more fun exploring the American Southeast in a beater of a car, we’d be surprised. And few could have been more Florida Man.
Hot Rod Drag Week veteran Robert Williams is no stranger to wrenching on cars in adverse conditions. Drag Week is basically like Lemons Rally but with real horsepower and the requirement of making quarter-mile passes every day. So, uh, not like Lemons Rally at all. Anyway, we were pretty surprised when Rusty, his ‘75 Nova, nuked a transmission. Rusty, you may remember, won the “Concours” judging at the Lane Motor Museum and has only gotten rustier in the intervening three months. However, we didn’t expect the carbureted Chevy LT1 “Shitbox Edition” would stress the manual transmission he swapped into it.
But transmission gave him fits, so he limped Rusty back to his shop near Tampa (Robert is a true Florida Man) to swap in an automatic he had laying around. He bolted it back in and filled it, only to notice transmission fluid leaking from a crack in the case. Time for Plan C, another untested automatic transmission. This one didn’t leak and worked in a short blast down the road, so why not send it? He didn’t sleep much having to take the transmission out and replace it twice, but the heroic effort found him caught up with the other Rallyists long before reaching Key West.
Rally Boss Steve McDaniel has always made the Rally’s Org. Choice shortcut “Which car would I take home from the rally?” This is simply the coolest car on the rally and, well, maybe we have skewed opinions on cool. Nevertheless, the Sterling (color) Stirling (as in Moss…like the special-edition Jaguar) Sterling (this chunk of crap) had packed on a quarter-million miles before it showed up for the rally.
While you might suggest that a Sterling 827 is “just an Anglicized Honda,” anyone who visited a United Kingdom assembly plant will tell you that the Bronze Age conditions hardly facilitate “Honda quality.” Still, the 827 hatch held up to the Rally rigors stoutly and the Stirling Moss Tape Edition makes for a nice aesthetic. We’d have it.
As always, Lemons Rally gives out four Dishonorable Mentions for “outstanding work in the field of banger entertainment.” And what’s not to love about a Japanese-market Honda Beat? Sure, the kei-car roadster is actually a quai-desirable car stateside and “fun to drive.” However, there’s some real hooptieness that accompanies road-tripping the 656cc road car. For starters, good luck fitting anything of utility in the miniscule trunk. One Bad Beat had to remove the spare tire from the “frunk” just to fit a small piece of luggage or two.
If it can’t fit a spare tire, then the Beat surely can’t fit any spare parts, either. This is doubly damning since, of course, the only useful thing any parts store carries is the occasional universal Honda electrical bits. If anything broke, they’d be hosed. However, the Beat carried on with only the occasional pestering from John Q. Law when they noticed the left-seat occupant texting. We’d love to see more JDM imports on the Lemons Rally. Just sayin’.
Chocolate Starfish Racing brought out their Toyota Land Cruiser. This was one team member’s normal off-roading toy, which made it especially funny when the team got it stuck in the mud at one of the checkpoints. Luckily, a local pulled them from the muck. That certainly wasn’t a given, considering the Land Cruiser’s convincing United Nations graphics and the team wearing semi-convincing uniforms as though on a peacekeeping mission. To the American South. That’s a dicey proposition, perhaps.
Nevertheless, the “UN” crew kept in character through the Carolinas, Georgia, and all of Florida. If that wasn’t enough, they dressed as Saudi royalty to take the gag’s provocative nature to another level. Politically correct, it wasn’t. Smart, it probably also wasn’t. Dedication to a bad idea? Well, that’s what Lemons Rally is all about it.
In this case, the “II” in Bronco II stood for twins and their perfectly cromulent Ranger-based SUV is everything we love seeing Lemons. The duo dressed in their finest denim outfits, befitting the casual nature of…Yeah, we have no idea why they dressed that way, either. Florida Man isn’t usually found in denim. However, their absent (and non-denim-clad) friend’s fractal portrait accompanied them on the way. We liked that.
The Bronco II itself had the often-reviled 2.9-liter V6, an engine with more NVH than a paint-shaker and about as much horsepower, too. In true Lemons style, they added a “light bar” that may or may not have been dirt-cheap Eveready flashlights ziptied a 2×4. Function over form? That’ll get you big Lemons points.
We can’t say we’re huge fans of the whole “Miata Kart” thing on account of “It’s a good way to get hella dead.” However, if you’re gonna build one, this is the right wrong way to do it. Not only were these dudes dressed up as Mario and Luigi, they also drove it through rainstorms without, say, any weatherproofing. Roadtripping something this skeletal takes an impressive level of dedication.
That alone is dumb, but the stock Miata engine was also being fed boost from an enormous 76-millimeter turbocharger. Lag notwithstanding, this little engine took the boost like a champ, even though they have a supercharged GM V8 waiting to swap into it. The whole thing—including its “structural cage”—are going to be redone soon to make it slightly less unsafe. But for this kind of abject absurdity, they earned their Dishonorable Mention hardware.
You could take home your very own Lemons Rally trophies! Check out the remaining rallies for 2019, all of which are their own special kinds of bad ideas:
The Four-Bangors Banger Rally, July 1-6
Bangor (Michigan) to Bangor (New York) to Bangor (Maine) to Bangor (Pennsylvania) back to Bangor (Michigan)
The World Tour of Texas, November 11-14
Angleton to San Angelo to Shamrock to Tyler to Angleton (all Texas)