We’ve tried to keep up on the 10-year anniversaries from our 2009 24 Hours of Lemons races and we’ve done a reasonably good job. This week, let’s look back at the sweltering summer race at Stafford Speedway in July 2009. Lemons raced at the Connecticut half-mile oval and its interior “road course” all the way until 2011. That final Stafford Lemons New England race echoed the series’ early starts on short “roval” courses like Altamont Speedway and Flat Rock Speedway. And like those early races, this Lemons New England was a tiny bullring never short on action.
If ever historians look back on Lemons—and lord help them if they do—they’ll remember that Lemons never failed to celebrate the tainted legacy of the Chevy Corvair. Hooniverse writer Jim Brennan (aka UDMan) was thusly one of our favorite races in Lemons’ early days. He brought a crusty Corvair to Stafford under the fantastic team name Team Trailing Throttle Oversteer, a reference to the Corvair’s “challenging” handling characteristics outlined by that meddling Ralph Nader.
Brennan and his team (which included other Hooniverse staffers like Blake Z. Rong) suffered their share of grief in Stafford’s tight quarters. However, the Corvair ultimately flattened all of Class C and finished 23rd of 56 cars with the absolute slowest lap times of the weekend. That kind of performance from an abjectly terrible ‘60s car earned them the vaunted Index of Effluency for the rare double-prize weekend.
Lemons connoisseurs will tell you that Class C and the Index of Effluency are the real top prizes and their right. Just below those, however, lies the Organizer’s Choice that typically goes to the most outstandingly Lemony car. In this case, the famed Chard Beef Buick Regal swapped out Small-Block Chevy V8s at least three times during the weekend.
They never gave up and never stopped smiling while doing it, either, and that level of commitment to Lemons-ness goes a long way to earning trophies. Ignorance is bliss, some might say.
Somewhere near the bottom of the lists of respectable Lemons awards comes the overall winner. The Lemons New England win went to Kielbasa Kids’ Honda Civic, although the real story of the overall standings was the second, third, and fourth place finishers.
Alfa Romeo Milanos nabbed those three positions. Given the typical reliability record of any Italian car, this was an astounding result. Sure, all three teams knew each other and were essentially Alfa Whisperers for many years. The third-place Scudiera Testa di Spillo (silver) Milano would get crushed not long after, but the second-place Scuderia Limoni (#75) and fourth-place Team Pro-Crash-Duh-Nation (#21) would both race somewhere around 75 times between them until both were retired in the last year. Those Alfas’ assorted (mis)adventures are probably worth storytime for another day.
Lemons still instituted the People’s Curse at these early races, something that we removed from the series by the end of 2010. At this race, the Pimpala Chevy Impala got the People’s Curse.
While Lemons typically had found an excavator to dismantle the Cursed offender, this race found a new tactic: Lemons Mob Rule! Each team could send one representative with one tool to go to work on the Cursed car for 10 minutes.
Things got a bit out of hand in short order.
But hey, Lemons people can be efficient when they need to. We don’t do this anymore for a lot of reasons, but mostly we don’t feel the need to destroy the cars of the worst teams when we can hurt their feelings far better instead.
Schumacher Taxi Service are long-time Lemons racers going back to 2008. The team initially ran a Toyota Corolla FX16 and an Audi of some kind, but the team decided to go Full Crap with a Citation X-11 for this race. They’d found it in the neighborhood and thought, “Surely, this is a perfect Lemons car. How bad could a Citation really be?”
They soon figured out where the Citation’s atrocious reputation came from. One team member swore off the car forever after it experienced just about every automotive failure in one weekend. Alas, the story doesn’t end there, but it’s a good one for another day.
Rust in the Wind have raced a couple of Nissan 300ZXs with turbocharged Saab engines under their rough-hewn hoods. Before they ran a Saab engine, however, the team ran the stock Nissan V6 with a leafblower-blower mounted to it. This was years before Roadkill attempted this on their Chevy Monza, of course, and the Rust in the Wind dudes figured out it did very little but looked utterly ridiculous. So…Lemons Mission Accomplished.
Racing a BMW doesn’t mean you have to be boring, remember this. Both the Ducks of Hazzard and Near-Orbital Space Monkeys made their 3- and 5-Series Bimmers look great on the track.
PT Losers showed up with a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, which is a perfectly reasonable Lemons car these days. But in 2009, a three-year-old car—even a PT Cruiser—was an affront to Lemons justice and earned some penalty laps in BS Inspections. As it turns out, the PT Losers couldn’t make the thing last a whole race anyway. In the meantime, we’re still waiting for and would gladly welcome a Dodge Caliber or Dodge Nitro.
Speaking of not lasting, the Safari Taxi Co. Peugeot 504 lasted just about 45 minutes until it blew up for good.
Several long-time Lemons runners also raced in this one, including the Farfrumwinnin Volkswagen Fox (now owned by Grassroots Motorsports Magazine), the Vermont Volvocheros Volvo 245 Wagon (since replaced by a Volvo 262C Bertone Coupe), the and Elmo’s Revenge Saturn SL2 (just replaced last year with a Saturn SW2 Wagon).
Enjoy a few more photos from Lemons New England 2009 below. We return to racing July 27-28 at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington. You can also attend the Concours d’Lemons Detroit in Plymouth, Michigan, on July 27. Check out the Lemons schedule for more 2019 dates!