Lemons South Spring: A Catalog of Mechanical Carnage, Part 1

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Eric Rood
May 7, 2019

The 24 Hours of Lemons has visited Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, since 2008. That remote road course nestled in the trees and the nearby town of Camden have become Lemons’ home away from home. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that we only just hosted our first true 24-hour race at CMP a week ago. Southern racers expressed a lot of excitement at running a full 24-hour race, but they appeared largely unready for the amount of sheer mechanical havoc induced by a full day of racing. Here’s a small smattering of the tribulations of Lemons teams.

During the race, the Popcorn Racin’ Buick Regal fell first. Named for the famous moonshiner Popcorn Sutton, the bone-stock Regal remains a strong Index of Effluency contender that just suffers from a bevy of General Motors maladies. In this case, the automatic transmission failed in the race’s opening hour.

Well, at least someone had optimism for Buick, who apparently still make the Regal. Who knew?

Of course, not every team even made it to the green flag. Ruke Boy Racing’s Datsun 280Z has run well in Lemons for years, but at Judge Phil’s urging, they ditched the original inline-six engine. Instead, Phil suggested they needed the VH41DE V8 from Infiniti’s Q45 flagship. The team like carburetors and what could be more Lemons than an old-school carb setup on a modern Japanese four-cam V8?

Sadly, the 450cfm marine carb and Chrysler distributor setup didn’t quite mesh with the Infiniti V8. The engine sounded great, but none of it worked quite right. The team put it on the trailer and said the V8 would be back with the original fuel-injection setup.

Like Popcorn’ Racing, the Low Dollar Escorts have Index of Effluency in the bag, theoretically, with their first-generation Ford Escort. As someone whose family owned two such Escorts, I can attest these are truly wretched street transportation, let alone race cars. The Low Dollar Escorts missed the green flag and blew up twice—transmission and then head gasket—with just four laps turned. Deaf Effing Last sucks hard at a 24-hour race, but we know they’ll be back and eager for redemption

We liked the enthusiasm of the Grim Creeper’s Nissan Altima, a car we’re oddly starting to see more of in Lemons. We liked their homebrew-keg “hood scoop,” but the ubiquitous Nissan KA24 engine underneath it lasted just a couple hours on the track. The team, however, had dedicated their weekend to the racetrack and hung around to barbecue and bench race.

Where’s the Dirt? Pays tribute to the local oval-racing scene with a pretty quick Small-Block Chevy V8 setup and drivers who know how to toe the line of grip. Unfortunately, they cooked the rear brake pads, for which they (like many teams) don’t carry spares. However, that gave time to enjoy the sunrise and early-night stars while they waited for parts to arrive.

Of course, many veteran teams suffered carnage of various times of self-inflictions. Terminally Confused, for example, started the 24-hour race by backing over a cone on the way to the grid. That somehow ripped away their rear bumper cover, which they fixed. They didn’t, however, count on that ripping out some of their rear market-light wiring, which got them black-flagged after nightfall. Oops.

Mock Grass Racing blew up their Kia Sephia’s engine before dusk, just as they’d done at Barber Motorsports Park. And again, they spent a good chunk of the race doing the engine-hoist dance.

Team Turbo Schnitzel has raced at CMP for more than a decade. Their Acura Integra made it 21 or so hours until their B18 blew up in a big way. Well, 21 hours is better than none.

We’ve seen Sorry for Party Racing racing a Pontiac Firebird for a long time. For this race, they decided to buy a Porsche 944 to see what kind of teething problems they might have. After a few hours of racing, they heard the knock-knock-knock of a wayward connecting rod.

They sourced a replacement engine near the racetrack of unknown quality and set to work swapping it. When they fired it up for the first time, the familiar knocking that had finished their first engine. That’s just Porsche racing in Lemons, turns out.

Misfortune Cookie brought us, finally, a race themed after early 2000s absurdist internet cartoon Homestar Runner. The mash-up of Flying Lizard Motorsports and Trogdor the Burninator is the way to do it right. They found themselves in the scrum of the overall battle in the race’s opening 10 hours or so, but they burninated their Miata’s engine.

No biggie, they swapped in another, only to have that one go blammo. Total Burnination!

The Knoxvegas Lowballers also wowed us with a great “Baywatch Knoxvegas” theme on their Ford Duratec V6-swapped Geo Metro. The theme included very un-tanned Tennesseans running in slow motion—“It’s been a long winter in Knoxville”—and a jetski converted into a pit bike. Thematic excellence, this is it.

That car is a marvel of garage engineering, but chronic overheating problems have plagued them for their last two raced. This time, they torched two engines in the Geo. Good thing Ford put that engine in hundreds of thousands of cars. Let that be a lesson to those of you considering a first Lemons build.

But that’s not all! The Lowballers’ second car—the Ford Contour wearing ‘65 Mustang body panels like Ken Block’s Hoonicorn (i.e. “The HooptieCorn”)—also killed two Duratec V6s.

One of them was the engine they call “Lake” (because it came from a flooded hurricane car). Lake finally pitched connecting rod pieces through the engine block after 16 races. They swapped in a junkyard replacement only for that one to also go kaboom after far fewer than 16 races.

How bad was the blow-uppiness? Even this RV got in on the act with what may very well have been a plumbing disaster of epic proportions.

Think that’s everything? Not a chance. These are just the fools who blew stuff up without winning trophies. We’ll have Part 2 of this story later this week. Check out the official gallery here from this race, where you can get your crapcan on a coffee mug or in a framed print. See the remaining 2019 24 Hours of Lemons schedule here. And if all of this is very confusing, here’s our FAQ page to help assuage some of the insanity.

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