Every so often, the 24 Hours of Lemons organizers miss something awesome that happens during the race. That’s probably understandable with all of the insanely jagged pieces that make up a Lemons race, but we don’t want to make excuses. At the 2019 Doing Time in Joliet race at Autobahn Country Club, for example, we missed a juggernaut for, well, 22nd place. But it also meted out who had the “best” Mitsubishi race car.
OK, that might not sound exciting on the face of it. In Lemons, however, you can find people in all kinds of cars with all kinds of experience to compete against. After the race, we found that all three Mitsubishis in the field finished within two laps of each other. Yep, we missed that one during the race weekend, but considering the company’s abysmal finishing record in Lemons—especially the notorious 4G engines in all three of these Mitsubishi race cars—we figured this deserves a tiny spotlight.
We first saw MST3000 at Autobahn in 2017. The Mystery Science Theater 3000-themed team were made up of “Mitsubishi Guys,” which means they had some confidence that their front-wheel-drive, non-turbo 3000GT would dominate the race. Actually, they didn’t think that at all. They knew that this car—which had largely come out of someone’s garage in boxes—was living on borrowed time.
The 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V6—likely the absolute worst Lemons engine of all time—expired about two hours into the 14-½ hour race. It rolled into the paddock and the team fetched the Lemons Supreme Court to demonstrate the tick-tock rod knock that actualized their bad idea. Blammo, time for a new V6, right?
“Eff that,” the MST3000 team said. Being Mitsubishi Guys, they had a stash of old Eclipse four-cylinder engines. They bolted on a turbo and some Chinesium plumbing because, really, how much worse could a turbo Mitsubishi four-cylinder be than the spiteful V6?
Despite hauling around the 3000GT’s extra couple hundred pounds, the Eclipse motor has held up well and the 2019 Doing Time in Joliet was its fourth race without hucking its internals. This well-used Mitsubishi race car clocked the ninth-quickest lap of the weekend. Even so, they barely came out ahead of the other Mitsubishi teams with 303 laps completed.
Red Ace Racing is actually the second Lemons owner of their 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer, which to date is the only one to have raced in Lemons. Yeah, we can hear the cries of “$500 KAR MY ASS!!11!!” already, but this is a far cry from the hopped-up Lancer Evo. Instead, this third-hand OZ Rally Edition carries the stock 4G94 engine that puts out an earth-shaking 120 horsepower.
In other words, this era of Lancer was is basically a Corolla with an extra hundred pounds and none of the reputation for reliability. Considering the Corolla is essentially the embodiment of mediocrity, the Red Ace Racing should be proud to finish basically exactly average in a 50-car field with the 26th-quickest lap and 24th place with 302 laps, just one behind its much-quicker big brother.
Last but certainly not least, no team name could better embody Mitsubishi racing than “Nightmares on Elm Street.” Their Eagle Talon—a rebadged first-generation Eclipse—first raced with Lemons at the 2018 Yokohama Joliet Prison Break. They struggled with that race’s awful weather beating the hell out of the car’s electronics and with its naturally aspirated 4G63 engine.
That engine went kaboom, so they brought back another one to last summer’s race at Gingerman. That engine lasted longer, but it too blew up to prevent them from finishing. Third time’s a charm, right? In this case, the Talon held together while the team tiptoed it around the track, trying not to feed the engine enough revs to crankwalk its way straight onto the trailer.
When the dust settled, the Talon had produced just the 42nd-quickest lap but had come up just two laps behind the 3000GT in 26th place. More importantly, they took the checkered flag for the first time in three tries.
If you’re wondering about the fabled oddball-Japanese rivalry with Subaru, all three Mitsubishis kicked the crap out of the lone Subaru, which was from the aptly named “Shoulda Just Bought Spectator Passes” team. That Impreza finished 35th, some 64 laps behind the Talon.
Try your hand with a hooptie Mitsubishi race car ( a Subaru or one from our many Wish Lists) at one of the remaining 2019 Lemons races. Learn more about the 24 Hours of Lemons here and find a team to join here.