The Greatest New Lemons Cars of the 2018 Season

We’re back with our annual Greatest Lemons Cars of the Year post, a tradition that began with the Greatest Lemons Car of All Time post of 2015, then continued with the 2016 and 2017 annual updates. These are the extra-spectacular 24 Hours of Lemons cars that had their debuts in 2018, either as brand-new entries or as older machines that got so changed during the season as to be considered new to us. We’ll go in chronological order here, so we’ll start with the ’18 season-opener in Alabama:

Knoxvegas Lowballers, 1980 Triumph TR8

The Knoxvegas Lowballers’ fleet includes some of the most epic Lemons cars ever built and this year, team member Robert Simpson “inherited” his uncle’s bone-stock, rust-free, still-awful Triumph TR8. The British car had sat in a garage for decades and Simpson shipped to the Lowballers’ home in Knoxville, Tennessee. After several aborted attempts to overcome the car’s inherent Britishness, the crusty TR8 took home Index of Effluency honors at the season-ending race at Road Atlanta.


Slow Cure, 2001 Mercedes-Benz Cement Mixer

You can pick up beater Mercedes-Benz W203s for scrap value these days, and Team Slow Cure did just that with this 2001 C230. Rather than run just another boring Benz with a dashboard full of angry warning lights and error messages, Slow Cure converted their car into a MackCedes-Benz cement mixer, complete with rotating drum that functions under race conditions. This fastest road-racing cement mixer in the world debuted at the Arizona D-Bags race in March.

Laser Goat Racing, 1994 Ford F-150

This longbed pickup had lived a hell of a hard life from the looks of it. Nevertheless, its young team had “prepared” it for Lemons, which mostly seemed to mean putting new El Cheapo tires with 9-inch sidewalls on the truck. Sure, it finished Dead Effing Last when it debuted at Sears Pointless, but we’ve got a soft spot for a hammered full-size truck.

Porsche Honkeys, 1983 Porschevy Stepside

The Internet tells us that a Porsche 944 with a Chevrolet V8 swap should win every race by 100 laps. So far, outrageously bad luck— that must be the only reason— has kept the handful of V8 944s in Lemons from triumphing over the likes of automatic Neons and 90-horse Corollas, but it’s only a matter of time before these perfect race cars conquer Lemons. The Porsche Honkeys started out in 2016 with a wretched 944 sporting a moonshiner theme. For the 2018 Sears Pointless race, they opted for a Chevy 350 swap, pulling the engine and transmission out of a long-idle 1977 Chevrolet C30 Scottsdale pickup sitting in their Sacramento Delta yard… and then, what the hell, they hacked off the front bodywork from the truck, narrowed it, and welded it onto the Porsche. Greatness ensued.

Black Iron Racing, 1994 BMW El Dorado Camper

Neither Black Iron Racing nor their BMW E36 with a Chevy Truck V8 are new to Lemons. The team has been around since Lemons’ earliest days and the car had run a dozen or so races. However, the El Dorado camper bodywork on it—complete with curtains and running water—make the cut this year.

They also talked their way into Hoonigan Headquarters with V8 Bimmer and only bent one corner in the famed donut yard.

Rattlesnake Electric Sport, 1974 AMC Javelin

This team hurt some feelings in 2017 by cleaning up and beating up a bunch of BMWs with a bone-stock Toyota Prius. The pro race shop that builds the cars decided to go a bit excessive this time, knocking together an incredibly fast late AMC Javelin. Is it a $500? Nah. Is it Lemons’ first Javelin? Yes. Is it supremely awesome? Double yes.

Lost Gear, 2004 Suzuki Aerio

Somehow, we had yet to see a proper Suzuki in Lemons until Sears Pointless 2018. The team rebadged is at a Liana to reproduce the “reasonably priced car” made famous by Top Gear. Here’s hoping for a Suzuki Esteem in 2019.

Glueten Freaks!, 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon

Lemons has become home to a number of vehicle types that make unlikely and surprisingly excellent road-racing vehicles. This Vanagon, powered by  1.8-liter turbo Volkswagen engine from a Golf GTI, joined a phalanx of Vanagons that includes one that has gone on to run desert races and another that runs Lemons powered by a turbo Subaru engine.

Four Idiots Racing, 1997 Geo Metro

We’ve seen a lot of Mario Kart-themed “blue shells” over the years, but none has been a car that looks like a turtle shell. And the wings? Well, that’s the icing on the cake.

Ratsun Racing, 1987 Fierrari WTF40

Ratsun Racing campaigned a genuine Datsun 210ZX (no, that’s not a typo) for five long years in the Gulf Lemons Region, finally taking that elusive Class C victory in 2017. For much of that time, the Ratsun guys were working on an even more amazing 1980s-style machine: a completely legit Ferrari F40!

All right, the Ratsun Racing Fierrari WTF40 is a Pontiac Fiero-based kit car, but it has a fearsome supercharged engine (pulled from a Buick Park Avenue) and is thus far superior to a so-called “real” F40. This fine machine only broke a few dozen times at the Cain’t Git Bayou race and obliterated the Index of Effluency competition.

Geaux 4 Broke, 1993 Chrysler LeBaron

The legendary Spank Spangler, who loves to drive horrible/great race car thousands of miles to distant tracks, scored a 1993 Chrysler LeBaron for 50 bones, or clams, at a San Diego police auction and drove it to the 2017 Houston We Have a Problem race. Spank won his 119th (or so) Organizer’s Choice trophy for his achievement. After that, he sold it… to a Louisiana team named Geaux 4 Broke.

The members of Geaux 4 Broke did a fine customization job, then beat the crap out of the luxurious Chrysler all weekend long at the Cain’t Git Bayou race. The result: This car became the only one in Lemons history to win Organizer’s Choice in back-to-back races.

Beer and Jelly Beans, 1999 Mercury Cougar

A Mondeo-based Cougar is not an exciting vehicle, but this one came with a fantastic Ecto Cooler livery, killer Ghostbusters costumes, and zoomie exhaust!

THE PaceMakerz, 1997 Dodge Intrepid

Lemons has never been kind to Chrysler products, both in attitude and in the realities of mechanical unreliability. However, this team literally inherited (maybe stole, who can say?) Grandma’s Intrepid and outfitted it for Lemons racing, making it look like an elderly man down to the thick-rimmed glasses. It handled like crap, the transmission lagged like 1997 AOL, and it sounded just straight ill (but not the cool way). Yet it limped around all weekend in the rain at Autobahn Country Club in April.

Rust Belt Racing, 1977 Toyota Celica

This Celica lived most of its life as a race car with state-of-the-art tuning modifications…from the mid-1980s. The team who acquired it dusted it off, updated some safety equipment, and just sent it with the original 22R engine and years of racing stickers including one from a race sponsored by Red Dog Beer. No, it did not run away with the race or even come close to winning Class C, the slowest Lemons class.

Recall Racing, 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt

Lemons’ first Cobalt had the original ignition switch in it. Tests of additional weight on the keychain did indeed potentially turn it into a rolling sarcophagus. (No, we didn’t let them race with the ignition like this.)

The Wonderment Consortium, 1991 Isuzu Impulse RS

Yes, the team whose resume includes a Hyundai Scoupe and a Chrysler Conquest decided they needed another horrible, obscure turbo car. Yes, it was as terrible as you’d think.

Wait Where’s the Dirt, 1995 Chevy S10

These dirt-track racers showed up with the proven formula to dominate any form of racing: a small-block V8 in a small pickup. Easy win is easy, right? Well, not quite. The team struggled mightily and managed to finish Dead Effing Last, but we like a good truck in Lemons (obviously) and these rookies’ brand of hopelessness at Southern Discomfort really spoke to us.

Senior Citizen’s Club of America, 1986 Honda Civic

What better way could rookies make an impression on Lemons than by showing up with their car plastered with pages from Sports Car Club of America rulebooks? If that wasn’t enough, the team inundated Lemons staff at Carolina Motorsports Park with protests all weekend for routine things like “I have to go to the bathroom” and “Another car is faster than mine.” Geniuses.

Lemontarians, Don Garlits Swamp Rat 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

While the Lemontarians Fleetwood Brougham made its Lemons debut in 2017, the team drove it to Index of Effluency glory at the GP du Lac Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg event in Connecticut. For the 2018 Real Hoopties of New Jersey race, the Cad returned with a 1:1 scale replica of the Big Daddy Don Garlits Swamp Rat XIII dragster mounted on its roof.

Lemontarian Halfdan Prahl, seen in the photo above, is a serious fan of old-timey drag racing, and built the Swamp Rat replica to honor the record broken by Garlits (first car to break the 200 mph barrier in the quarter-mile) with Swamp Rat VI at a long-defunct dragstrip not far from New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Porssat, 2000 Porsche 911

If you’re a normal person, you just take the insurance money when your wife’s Porsche gets T-Boned and you get a luxury SUV . If you’re a Lemons racer, you buy it back for pennies on the dollar and then manipulate the car so that the 2.8-liter V6 out of an also-crashed Volkswagen Passat goes where the engine formerly did. And to drive the effect home, you make the rear bodywork out of the Passat nose.

Team Fred, 2000 Dodge Durango

Trucks from the first wave of the Full SUV-ization of America™ haven’t been well-represented in Lemons, so we were happy to see Team Fred’s utterly stock ’00 Durango at the Real Hoopties of New Jersey.

24 Hours of Lemon

Run-CRV, Honda CRV

We’ve seen CRV engines win Lemons races, albeit usually in something smaller, so why wouldn’t a CRV dominate? This one was totally stock down to the steel wheels and the functioning radio inside. The team literally installed the safety equipment and just took it to Thunderhill, where it ambled around the five-mile track to beat half the field handily and win the Index of Effluency.

24 Hours of Lemons

Corporate Overlords (Yokohama Tire), BMW E30

Lemons picked up an official tire partner and presenting sponsor for 2018 in Yokohama Tire. They’re pretty cool people and even brought a car or two, albeit a BMW 3-Series, to race. They’ll be around at six races in 2019, as well, so we’re looking forward to working with them.

They also brought MMA fighter Jason Ellis and the Hoonigan crew to Thunderhill to try their hand at Lemons. Here’s their story (after the burnouts, of course).

Tommy Salami & The Meat Wagon, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon

The Colorado races tend to have the highest proportion of fine racing machinery, and the 2018 B.F.E. GP was no exception. This 1974 Ford Pinto wagon had been owned by one of the team members during high school, being discovered in an Albuquerque junkyard decades later and turned into a Lemons car. We can’t have too many Pintos (and Bobcats) in this series, and this one earned Tommy Salami & The Meat Wagon an Organizer’s Choice trophy.

Dreadnots, 1976 Plymouth Arrow

During Chrysler’s decades-long partnership with Mitsubishi, many Mitsubishis were sold with Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth badges in the United States. One of our favorites was the Plymouth-ized Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste of the late 1970s, sold as the Arrow. The Dreadnots brought this beautiful Arrow to the B.F.E. GP and beat out some tough rivals to take home the IOE award.

Team Lowball, 1977 AMC Hornet

Texas-based Team Lowball achieved Lemons fame by racing a gorgeous AMC Gremlin X Levis Edition for years (sadly, this car got bent beyond repair in a wreck at the MSR Houston race in November), then picking up an AMC Spirit on their drive from Texas to Washington and caging it at the Smells Like AMC Spirit race. The members of Team Lowball have an American Motors problem, as you can see, and we love them for it. Just because you can’t have too many AMCs, the team added a last-year-of-production 1977 Hornet Sportabout wagon to their fleet, giving their Kenosha machine a chance to dominate at the 2018 B.F.E. GP in Colorado.

Petrosexual Racing, 1994 Mazda Miata “Trashback”

Back in 2016, Petrosexual Racing brought a delightfully awful-looking 1994 Mazda Miata (complete with “trashback” body crafted using sheet-metal from an industrial trash-masher) to the 2016 Cure For Gingervitis race in Michigan. Petrosexual Racing soon became known for their puzzling Spaghettios-based bribes to the Lemons Supreme Court; the first took the form of a shopping bag full of loose Spaghettios, and then there was the WTF-o-riffic Suitcase-O-Spaghettios soon after. The team moved to Colorado for 2018, and celebrated the move by stuffing the Trashback Miata’s engine compartment with the most reliable Detroit pushrod V8 in Lemons history (really!): a 4.9-liter Cadillac High Technology V8, complete with hacked-up Dodge Dakota 5-speed transmission.

This swap shouldn’t have worked, but in fact it turned the Petrosexual Trashback into one of the quickest and most reliable cars on the track at the B.F.E. GP race. Black flags and a few teething problems have kept the Cadillac Trashback from getting any overall wins in 2018 (though it did run a respectable-at-6,000-feet-elevation 15.14-second quarter-mile pass at Bandimere Speedway), but you should keep an eye on this team in 2019.

Mint Motorsports, 1994 Plymouth Duster

When you’re searching for a Lemons car that’s got plenty of junkyard parts availability and (if stock) has a good shot at getting into Class C, it’s hard to beat the P-Body Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance. Chrysler even made a Duster-badged version of the Sundance (as if they could ever replicate the greatness of the “Cocaine Factory” early-80s Turismo Duster) and this staggeringly stock ’94 Duster made its Lemons debut in the hands of Mint Motorsports.

Ya’ll, 1986 Dodge Daytona

The Alabama-based Y’all team obtained an incredibly rare race car once driven by Don Dokken in the Dodge International Celebrity Challenge a couple of years back, and it did about as well as you’d expect Don Dokken’s 1987 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z to do. For reasons that probably didn’t even make sense to Y’all at the time, they obtained another ex-celebrity Daytona, this one once raced by Ricky Schroder, then brought it to the B.F.E. GP race. It didn’t dominate, if you know what we mean.

Ho-Chunk, 1989 Jeep Cherokee

This team has raced an assortment of “real” race cars in other crapcan series, but they decided they wanted something a bit more offbeat for Lemons than the BMW they raced in 2017. The team captain, who runs a repair shop, noticed that he’d never had to make major repairs to 1990s cars with the Lexus V8, so he found a crapped-out SC400. Over the top of that, he draped an XJ Jeep Cherokee. The resulting build came off nearly seamless and turned the Jeep into a lowered, boxy wagon that hauls ass thanks to the glorious-sounding 270-horsepower Lexus V8.

Scrappers Delight, 1993 Mazda Miata

If you’ve ever wondered how to make the Lemons Supreme Court not pay too much scrutiny to your second-generation Miata, this is kind of the answer. Aside from the “My First Fiberglass Attempt” Ferrari 308 bodywork, it’s utterly stock and still a fun little Lemons car.

The Cleveland Crash, 2007 Dodge Charger

These Mopar enthusiasts cobbled together Lemons’ first Hemi from a retired police cruiser and a wrecked Dodge Ram truck. They were used to asphalt oval racing and picked out the go-to truck tires for the local track. It turns out that the hefty horsepower hardly handed them a win since they ran it out of gas repeatedly and struggled for grip from the big ol’ tires.

Transcontinental Drifters, 1959 Jaguar Mark I

The members of the Transcontinental Drifters have solved the problem of finding high-performance automotive hardware for below-scrap-value prices: Jaguar powertrain components! Junkyards overflow with Jaguars, which means the Drifters can build brilliant designs such as the “Jagvair” Jag six-banger-swapped Chevy Corvair for about $19 in materials and 10,000 hours of backbreaking labor. Just for laughs, they put together a (non-Jag-swapped) Toyota Previa pickup conversion, but that was merely to absorb the few waking minutes left over from the construction of their crowning Lemons achievement: a 1959 Jaguar Mark I Saloon.

Featuring the powerful engine out of a 1997 Jaguar XJ-6 (located where the passenger seat once lived in the ’59 Mark I, because why wouldn’t you put it there?) and an automatic transmission, this car didn’t quite have all the kinks ironed out when the Drifters brought it to the 2018 Pacific Northworst race, but we predict great things for it in 2019.

Team Sawzda, 1992 Mazda 323

What better car to race than a Mazda 323 that served one team member for 23 years of reliable daily-driving use? Team Sawzda left this car absolutely stock, added a giant sawblade and flannel shirt, and took the Pacific Northworst Class C win by four laps. A few months later, at the Smells Like AMC Spirit race, the Sawzdans ruined improved their car by swapping in a powerful Mazda Protegé engine and took home the Most Heroic Fix trophy for swapping the original two-digit-horsepower mill after the “good” one blew the hell up.

We Like the Tuna Here, 1997 Chevy Monte Carlo

It’s basically a Supra, right? The engine was of course labeled as a 2JZ (No Shit!) and had cans of NoS inside along with the classic livery from the iconic The Fast and the Furious film. Lemons organizers have needs and GM cars dressed up like imports in the most half-assed manor comprise like 70 percent of those needs.

FMC, 1988 Volkswagen Fox

The Fox remains one of those great-idea-on-paper Lemons cars that tends not to pan out well in the real world. The FMC team discovered this the hard way, spending a rainy weekend at Thompson wrenching on their Idiocracy-themed Fox Wagon. Of course, we love new teams that show up with awful cars so this is an easy addition to our Greatest 2018 Cars list.

Garden State Goons, 1998 Ford Windstar

Sure, everything went wrong with the “Mom Rocket,” as the team calls it, at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. However, Lemons’ first Windstar did manage to take the track after rollcage woes, total brake failure, and about 70 other problems. And we have no doubt they’ll be back in 2019 with all of their problems solved.

The Hydrocephalus Race Team, 2002 Honda Odyssey

The Mom Rocket wasn’t the only debuting minivan at Thompson, either. The Hydrocephalus Race Team put together a Honda Odyssey “Type R” that was absolutely spectacular. If mating a Jeep Cherokee and Lexus SC400 isn’t your idea of fun, then a V6 Odyssey is the other easy way to sneak 270 horsepower into a Lemons race without one iota of scrutiny.

Italian A F (as in Franco), 1978 Fiat 131

Any day a Fiat shows up in Lemons is a good day. Unless you’re the team with the Fiat. Then you’re underneath the brittle Italian metal for most of that day.

Ranger Train, 1995 Ford Ranger

In case you couldn’t tell, we like when people bring bone-stock pickup trucks to an endurance race. They tend to take abuse well and look way cooler on the track than just another BMW 3-Series. This truck beat the everloving crap out of dozens of quicker car at its debut to take home the Index of Effluency.

The Rowdy Rednecks, 1995 Volvo 850

Is all of Scandinavia rednecks? None of it? I guess that depends on whether you consider Finland part of Scandinavia. Regardless, a banjo player on a Volvo 850’s “front porch” is good stuff.

Ran When Parked Racing, 1987 Cadillac Allanté

Once your team has raced a 1961 Rambler Classic, a 1976 Oldsmobile Omega, and a Volkswagen 411— as Ran When Parked Racing has done— what’s left? The Cadillac Allanté, of course! Priced about the same as a top-end Mercedes-Benz S-Class when new, the Allanté has depreciated down to Lemons value levels. Well below. Strangely, the Ran When Parked Allanté proved to be startlingly reliable at the Button Turrible race, winning the Index of Effluency with no sweat. We keep telling you, the Cadillac High Technology engine is by far the most reliable Detroit pushrod V8!

Team Astrosmash!, 1990 Nissan Sentra

The members of Team Astrosmash! work for the revived Intellivision video-game-console company, and so they gave their Sentra the full 8-bit pixelation treatment, using foam-rubber blocks.

The Westboro Fastest Church, 1967 Opel Kadett

This team bought a 1967 Opel Kadett Sport Coupe (which had 54 horsepower from its 1100cc engine when new), installed race equipment, drove it 100 miles to the Button Turrible race, and raced it. The Westboro Fastest Church finished close to the top half of the standings, beating the crap out of a C4 Corvette. The moral of the story is… well, you can see it plainly enough.

ShortBus Racing, 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

These Lemons newcomers picked out two cheap vehicles at random from their local Craigslist, caged them, and raced them. One was a 1999 Mercedes-Benz C280, while the other was this pickup-ized 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a tiki-bar theme. This is how it’s done.

Empty Pockets Racing, 1979 Buick Skylark

When a bunch of dirt-trackers showed up with a Nova-based Skylark that fails the tech inspection on a couple dozen counts, we tend to be skeptical about the team’s chances of making it through the weekend. The members of Empty Pockets Racing, however, fixed all the problems and drove their icky-looking hooptie quite cleanly all weekend.

Contagious Racing, 1985 Chevy S10

Chevy S-10 with an Iron Duke and automatic transmission in Lemons? Yes!

Pacific Motors, 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow

As pointed out the in the Gingerman video recap, the plot of this is car’s existence is almost too absurd. A man in Detroit named Darko runs an exotic-car salvage business. From his scrap pile, he pulled out a stripped-down 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and one of the several Chrysler V10s he had sitting around. Then, it was just a few short weeks of fabricating like a madman. Did we mention that Darko had never built a car like this at all?

The whole thing came off remarkably and is assembled with care and precision almost never seen in Lemons. Does it stretch the $500 limit? Yeah, probably a bit. Does anyone care? Not anyone who matters. It’s singularly the wildest build we’ve seen in years (Check out the build thread on the Lemons Forum) and the ripping V10 still hucked a connecting rod out of the block after three laps.

Team Sucker Punch, 1984 Chevy Corvette

We’ve known these Cheeseheads for a full decade since they first raced a first-generation Ford Escort at Flat Rock Speedway. They ran a third-generation Camaro painted like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar for years and debuted this 1984 Corvette at Gingerman Raceway, completely with Crossfire Injection and Doug Nash 4+3 transmission. It ran better than expected but did not run away with the race, as many internet experts will insist that it should.

A Quart Low, 1994 Honda Del Sol

This car has raced Lemons for a couple years, but the addition of the giant cookie made it worthy of mention yet again: OREO SPEEDWAGON!

Garbage Red Car Motorsport, 1993 Honda Del Sol

We’ve had several student-built Lemons cars over the years. This turbocharged Del Sol was prepared in classic Yokohama colors by a high school shop class in suburban Chicago and its failures have primarily come from the teachers who suck at driving. This is a pretty common theme, actually, with student-built cars.

Team Creme de la Creme, 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati

At last, a team of “Turbo Mopar” guys brought Lemons’ first example of the Chrysler-Maserati synergy. Considering that was really a meeting of the minds for horrible 1980s reliability, it should come as no surprise that this one finished Dead Effing Last at its first race.

Team Lowball, Hella Shitty Racing, Rattlesnake Electric Sport, and Low Road Racing – AMC Spirits

When we added a second race at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Washington, we coined it the “Smells Like AMC Spirit” at least in some small hope that we’d get Lemons’ first AMC Spirit. Instead, we got FOUR AMC Spirits and that is by no means a complaint. This is exactly the kind of thing we want to see in Lemons, so we were thrilled about it, especially when we were able to start the race with three (L to R: Hella Shitty, Rattlesnake Electric Sport, Team Lowball) of them abreast.

Low Road Racing’s Spirit AMX came along a little later, but it got on track, didn’t finish last (That honor went to a Porsche Boxster), and looked spectacular as all AMC products really do.

Team CCCP, 1992 Lada Niva 4×4

What is there to say? Any Soviet car scores the highest marks in terms of Lemons-grade performance, but this team dragged the Eastern Bloc equivalent of a Jeep from Canada to race. It wore a Boris-grade three-stripe paint scheme and teetered around The Ridge Motorsports Park like a vodka-infused Politburo member. The Niva and Team CCCP took home a well-earned Organizer’s Choice for their efforts.

E-Lemon-Ator Racing, 1992 BMW 5-Series (E34)

Another student-built project car, this E34 had racked up more than 370,000 miles before high-school senior Brett Meservey started converting it to Lemons. It ran like a glove, as we say in Lemons, and Brett said he got an A on the project.

Diners, Drive-In, and Divebombs, 1991 Mazda Miata

Guy Fieri may be low-hanging fruit for parody, but that doesn’t mean we will go unappreciative of rookies who so celebrate taking their Miata to Flavortown.

Why Would You Do That Racing?, 1986 Chevy Chevette

Here’s a recipe for Lemons greatness: Take one horrid Chevy Chevette, add turbocharged Volvo 740 engine, season liberally with a billion hours of fabrication, cage it, then take it to the Get Yer Phil 500 race in Colorado. A few (thousand) bugs still need working out, but the speed potential is (theoretically) there.

The Gunbarrel Cobras, 1994 Volvo 940

The problem with the Volvo 940 is that it lacks Lexus V8 power, and so the Gunbarrel Cobras remedied that sad situation by building a mashup of Aisin Volvo and Toyota transmission bits, attaching a 1UZ-FE V8 out of a Lexus SC400, and jamming the whole mess into their Volvo wagon.

The first time out, at the B.F.E. GP, the Gunbarrel Cobras’ 1UZ Volvo had fuel delivery courtesy of a brace of motorcycle carbs and ignition via a GM HEI distributor whirling at the end of a socket-extension shaft attached to one of the engine’s cam gears. For the Get Yer Phil 500, the bike carburetors went away, replaced by a trio of random junkyard carburetors (one single-barrel and a pair of two-barrels). The “Try-Power” rig worked well, unexpectedly, and the Gunbarrel Cobras finished 16th overall at that race.

Tunachuckers, 1951 Plymford Super Deluxe Limited

The Tunachuckers go back to the early days of South Carolina Lemons racing, when they ran a series-first Volvo Amazon back in 2009. A few years later, they upgraded to two tons of 1975 Ford LTD Landau. For the 2018 South Fall race, they decided that their 460-powered LTD really needed the body of a 1951 Plymouth Special Deluxe (a very rusty parts donor for a street Plymouth) welded on, with some Volvo PV544 fenders added as flares. The results looked beautiful, both on and off the track.

Duff Beer, 1976 Triumph Stag

Ah, the Triumph Stag, that most Lemony of British sports cars. For some perfectly understandable reason, nobody had raced one in our series… until Duff Beer managed to keep a Stag alive all weekend at the 2018 South Fall race.

Laundered Money, 1996 Buick Roadmaster Collector’s Edition

Unbelievably, it took until November of 2018 to get our first 1990s Buick Roadmaster wagon. Team Laundered Money (we think— or maybe hope—that they own a laundry company) brought this sharp-looking Collector’s Edition to the hurricane-postponed South Fall race. Sure, every 1996 Roadmaster was a Collector’s Edition (1996 was the last model year for the Roadmaster, after which the Comintern— recognizing the crucial role that Buick wagons play in the maintenance of freedom— declared Total Commie Victory™ and required all Americans to drive GAZ Volgas).

Team Laundered Money won the Most Heroic Fix award at that race, for driving a couple of states away to buy a Cadillac funeral limo as an engine donor. Here’s the team captain explaining how well that process worked.

Escape Velocity Racing, 1941 Oldsmobile 98

Escape Velocity Racing, long known in Lemons circles for racing by far the most successful Slant-6-powered car in the series, decided that a 1964 Dodge Dart was just too modern and added a 1941 Oldsmobile 98 to the fleet in 2018, introducing it to the racing world at the Stuntin’ and Splodin’ Soiree at MSR Houston.

Not only did the Escape Velocity ’41 Olds boast the very first straight-8 engine in series history, all that smooth prewar power went to the wheels via a four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, the first truly successful automatic and the ancestor of plenty of GM automatics still in use today. On top of that, the car’s paint job was done by a famous German artist, Stohead (before the team bought it). So much history!

The Escape Velocity Olds ran with its original plug wires, its original Bakelite steering wheel, and its original worn-out lever shock absorbers, making the ride a bit bouncy. It ran nearly all weekend and had fewer mechanical problems than most 15-year-old BMWs. Index of Effluency at its first race, which should go without saying.

Westlake Boating School, 1967 Ford Fairlane

This bunch of Austin high-school kids didn’t find some fast-&-furious import for their first 24 Hours of Lemons car, nor did they follow in the footsteps of so many Texan racers and opt for a boring third-gen Camaro or Ford Taurus SHO. Instead, they dug up a 1967 Ford Fairlane sedan with 289 engine and automatic transmission, installed safety gear, and took on the ’41 Olds at the Stuntin’ and Splodin’ Soiree.

The Resistance, 1963 Dodge Dart

The members of The Resistance are known for driving unexpectedly quickly in a pair of 1970s Honda Civics, but pitting near the Escape Velocity Racing 1964 Dart for all those years at MSR Houston made them go a little funny in the head. They picked up a Slant-6-powered, pushbutton-shifted 1963 Dart, caged it, and applied Soviet Space Program livery (as a counterpoint to their rivals with the NASA Dart).

Team Dead Ass Last, 1989 “Bandit” Chevy Camaro

As you might imagine, countless Lemons teams have turned their cars into replicas of The Bandit’s 1977 Trans Am— why, there’s even a BAN ONE Toyota Prius running in our series! One of the best we’ve ever seen showed up at the Stuntin’ and Splodin’ Soiree: a 1989 Chevy Camaro with the nose of a junkyard Pontiac J2000 grafted on. The car was so convincing that the heads of many online viewers exploded due to the ruination of a rare classic.

Whiskey Throttle, 1983 GMC Caballero

As Yokohama Tire also sponsors slightly larger endeavors like Nitro Circus, our official tire partner managed to talk a few Nitro Circus East guys into building a car. Their G-Body Caballero may have set record levels for cheatiness (*cough* crate engine *cough*), but it didn’t help them drive any better. Nevertheless, we always appreciate a good G-Body in Lemons and we hear-tell they’ll be back and better-behaved in 2019.

Pit Crew Revenge,  1998 Daewoo Leganza

Judge Phil spent much of 2017 yelling at teams about the need to race more Daewoos, and Pit Crew Revenge obliged by finding a still-luxurious $150 Daewoo Leganza and bringing it to the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza at Sonoma Raceway. Unexpectedly, the Leganza ran well all weekend long, proving that not all of Judge Phil’s car ideas lead to weekends of endless wrenching, cursing, and heartbreak (just most of them).

Opel Racing, 1975 Opel Sport Wagon

The most fanatical Opel racers in all of Lemons have been running the Tinyvette, a 1969 Opel GT, for many years. For the Arse Freeze, they picked up a 1975 Opel Sport Wagon, caged it at the Sacramento Auto Show, and threw it into the Sonoma Raceway mix. First-race teething problems kept the lap count down this time, but these guys know their Opels and future Sport Wagon races will be worth watching.

Low On Power Ranger, 1990 Ford Ranger

With a 2.9-liter Cologne V6 and primitive 1980s truck suspension, this tire-squealing Ranger never belonged anywhere near a race track… which is why it’s perfect for Lemons.

Shartini Racing, 1988 Toyota MR2

Shartini Racing did a pretty convincing job of converting an ordinary Toyota MR2 into a Lancia Stratos.

The Mild Horses, 1968 Ford Mustang

Like a few other cars on this list, we saw this Mustang previously. However, the car had a “normal” setup that included a Ford 460 cubic-inch V8 from a late ’70s truck, an automatic transmission, and drum brakes. Their few brave/stupid attempts to put it on the track at Road Atlanta in 2017 required some “rethinking.” Ultimately, the team waited about 10 months to decide how to repower the classic Mustang and they chose a…different…kind of powerplant: the five-cylinder turbodiesel out of a hammered $300 Mercedes 300D.

That wasn’t nearly wild enough, of course, so they mounted it in the passenger seat as you do with all good Lemons cars. That meant building a huge firewall inside the car. Since they wanted to use an easy-to-find T5 transmission still, that also mean the shifter was mounted behind the driver with a ridiculous shifter handle to row the gears, literally. Somehow—we can’t imagine how—the clutch linkage got mangled and the only way to shift the car, it turns out, was to bumpstart it in first and then just hammer it into fourth gear. Guess which part of the car failed. We don’t care anyway, this thing is anything but mild and we’ll be happy to see this pony again.

NSF Racing, 2001 Daewoo Nubira

Lemons’ first Daewoo should have been a Leganza earlier this year, but it burned the hell up in a Minnesota driveway. Instead, NSF Racing was supposed to bring the Nubira to CMP in the fall. That ended up getting postponed due to hurricane and screwing Judge Phil at the rescheduled race when NSF didn’t bring it to CMP. Instead, the NSF Daewoo finally turned up at Road Atlanta, a week after Pit Crew Revenge’s Daewoo. It did exactly what Daewoos do: It ran all right and was virtually invisible, if slow and more than a little sad.

Samurai Racing, 1992 Mazda 929

Similarly, Judge Phil has clamored for someone, anyone, to bring a Mazda 929 to a Lemons race. Finally, Samurai Racing did and much like the Daewoo, it was alright if unspectacular.

Scuderia Fartari, 1997 Nissan 200SX

This 200SX has sported the Polyvance company mascot for years on the roof in a confusing tribute by the employees who race it. However, the team spent an incredible amount of time turning the Sentra coupe into a “Fartari” with a Triumph TR7 nose and “way too much time” building the flying buttresses out of sheet metal. We will say that it looked fantastic…until the team stuffed it nose-first into a tire bundle on Test Day at Road Atlanta before the race even started. Oops.

Goes Like Hell, 1987 Shelby Charger GLHS

Like the TC by Maserati team, these guys are also Turbo Mopar enthusiasts (and undoubtedly know each other… it’s a small world). And they also knew that turning up with the numbers-matching ’87 Charger GLHS #392 would cause an uproar on the internet. And my god were they ever right. This one had come in sad shape (even for an Omnirizon derivative) with the turbo engine long-since dead. Just to troll the Mopar enthusiasts even farther, the replacement engine wasn’t even turbocharged. Instead, it was the crappy carbureted base engine from a 1986 Dodge Aries.

Pirates of the Car-I-Be-In, 1968 Volkswagen Beetle

What could be a better way to wrap up a huge list than with a classic (Read: “Butt-Turrible”) VW Bug?

Want to see more great Lemons cars from years past? Check out the Greatest Lemons Cars of All Time post from late 2015. Then peruse the 2016 and 2017 updates for even more Lemons awesomeness.

Be sure to check out our 2019 schedule (with updated Thunderhill date on Memorial Day weekend) and sign up for the races close to you (or not). And don’t forget to follow the 24 Hour of Lemons on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.