The 24 Hours of LeMons makes it a point to spend as little time as possible on those who manage to win races overall, focusing instead on the teams that bring the worst cars—which are of course those that best represent the “lemons” moniker—and/or have the most fun. We’ve covered the Index of Effluency trophy here before, which race organizers hand out along with the $601 ($1 more than any of the class winners) to the team that subjectively does the most with the worst possible car. Since that snow has already been trod, let’s take another look at how to go about winning the Organizer’s Choice Award for the team that most represents the organizers’ vision for LeMons.
As with the Index of Effluency, there are nearly as many ways to win the award as there are teams to give the award. Sometimes, a great theme will do the job, sometimes a bonkers build will do it, and sometimes just being good people will earn the Organizer’s Choice. Sometimes an entry like the Azz Backwards truck (above) does it all. Let’s take a look at the history of the trophy through a few sterling examples of past winners and know that while these are all ways to win the Organizer’s Choice trophy, they are more importantly ways to have fun and enjoy the hell out of a given 24 Hours of LeMons weekend.
Bring an outlandish or just outright awesome build. This is pretty simple. As we mentioned in the Greatest LeMons Cars of All Time post—which is chock full of Organizer’s Choice winners, mind you—LeMons has grown from Jay Lamm’s initial vision of just horrendous cars attempting to last a weekend to a creative outlet that has heretofore never existed. Jeff “Speedycop” Bloch has set the bar pretty high with a number of his builds, including the recent OH-58 Kiowa “Speedycopter” and many, many others.
Charnal House Racing mated a Ford Taurus SHO V6 to a Geo Metro in a most unholy matrimony with the car wearing some of the best knock-off liveries of all time. The parody of Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima’s Pikes Peak Hill Climb car was a high point. Crazy car, great paint schemes: Organizer’s Choice contender.
And while organizers don’t get too hung up on boring tributes to classic race cars—so many milquetoast Gulf liveried crapcans will do that—the Mulsanne Straightjackets’ Alfa Romeo Spider-based replica of the Alpine A210 that raced at Le Mans was mighty impressive and earned the Organizer’s Choice for its faithful bondo-and-spare-sheet-metal recreation of the original.
Bring an Index of Effluency contender and blow up. This is really an extension of the above-mentioned point. Many a car has entered a weekend as a major Index of Effluency frontrunner only to blow up spectacularly 10 minutes into the race. While that won’t typically be enough for an IOE win, many times the Organizer’s Choice goes to great and blowed-up IOE contender. Such was the case for Directionally Challenged racing and their “International Harvester Scout,” which was mostly a beat-to-smithereens Ford Aerostar suspension and a Ford Mustang running gear shoved under some field-find Scout remnants. Add in a Boy Scout theme and you’ve got a first-rate Organizer’s Choice entry.
Bring a car that will decimate the Internet Car Expert’s understanding of the collectible car market. One of the unintended consequences of LeMons has been the general outcry in the automotive community about cars that have been “ruined” by running LeMons. LeMons organizers relish this because, in almost all cases, the cars that provoke the loudest keyboard mashing are the cars that are both in the absolute worst shape and have been sitting for decades waiting for some hero to swoop in from CraigsList and save it only to be neglected further.
NSF Racing brought a 1960 Frontenac to one race, which prompted the ire of literally fives of classic car enthusiasts. The one-year-only, Canadian-market Ford Falcon is exceedingly rare and, as it turns out, essentially a bizarre footnote in the Falcon’s history. NSF’s Frontenac was predictably a ragged example but was simply too weird, too perfectly crapcan, and too panty-bundling to not leave the race without an Organizer’s Choice trophy.
Theme your car(s) in an entertaining and maybe even slightly offensive way. A number of teams have this on lockdown. California’s Cannonball Bandits were the first to hit this idea out of the park with a series of incredible themes that included a tribute to Tiger Woods’ enraged wife atop their Toyota Supra, a two-car Canadian Border Patrol/Canadian immigrant bust scene in BS Inspection, a Toyota Supra space shuttle, and a low-rent Toyota FX16 Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.
Bust-A-Nut Racing have become experts at turning their Mazda MX-6 into implausible contraptions. While the 15-foot blimp perched atop the car was good enough for a shared Organizer’s Choice with Speedycop, this author’s personal favorite was Santa’s Sleigh, aka The Sleigher, that raced at Gingerman Raceway in 2010. They’ve since turned their car into a credible Mr. T—not the A-Team van, mind you, but actually B.A. Baracus—and even an invasive Asian carp. Before they’d even built the silly MX-6, the team actually campaigned a six-wheel GMC Sonoma with a Rambo: First Blood theme, which was also good for an Organizer’s Choice at one of the early LeMons races.
Finally, Three Pedal Mafia might be the epitome of this with themes running the gamut from simply nautical themes and a Gilligan’s Island with ample team members in drag with their boat-wearing Chevy S-10—Oh yeah, they have a Chevy S-10 with a boat on the frame—to a frighteningly intense S&M theme and a The Producers “Springtime for Hitler” collective. And they’ve raced a Rolls Royce and Citroen SM, which also appealed to the same points as the Frontenac. It turns out that a $500 Roller creates nothing but nightmarishly bewildering weekends elbow-deep in “Why?”
Got all that? This is pretty much the Organizer’s Choice blueprint.
Bring a car that organizers have always wanted to see. Lists abound regarding cars that the LeMons judges and organizers have wanted to see for years. Some are fairly mundane, but just bringing a perfect leMons car like Viva La Vulva did with their Subaru BRAT can be enough.
Or Zero Budget Racing with their absolutely mint Chrysler Cordoba, which provoked an entire weekend of “rich Corinthian leather” jokes at Barber Motorsports Park.
As is often the case, teams manage to mash up a couple of great bullet points. The Ford EXP of Sir Jackie Stewart’s Coin Purse Racing managed to pull this off. Not only did they bring one of the greatest 1980’s oddballs of all time, they also executed a credible “Run EXP” theme with classic hip-hop blasting from a kickin’ stereo system in the car’s trunk.
Crappy car organizers have always wanted to see? Check. Killer theme? Double check.
Have a lot of fun during BS Inspection and throughout the whole weekend. In case you’d somehow missed this in all of the LeMons coverage here on Roadkill, the key point of the series is to have fun. Sure, a lot of people try to win races and all, but if you’re having fun and, as a consequence, everyone else in the paddock around you is having fun, you’re really getting LeMons and making the event better for everyone. The LMFAO-parody team Sorry for Party Racing on the East Coast are professionals at this, blasting terrible music while dancing in next-to-nothing during BS Inspection and then making sure to carry that on throughout the paddock at the post-race gatherings.
The Speedholes Racing AMC Marlin also pulled this off not necessarily because of paddock happenings, but because they executed a great Denver International Airport conspiracy-theory theme/tribute to the nightmarishly massive blue horse statue “Blucifer” at Denver International Airport during BS Inspection. Then throughout the race weekend, everytime you looked onto the track or were racing around it, you came upon a giant blue Marlin with holes cut in all the bodywork, a roof-top mane, and a giant horse ears.
Feed everyone else. This is a bit of appendix to the above-mentioned point. Being a good paddock neighbor and generally helping everyone around have fun is the name of the game. LeMons is nothing if not a welcoming community of weirdos and at many races, teams open up their proverbial paddock kitchen to the rest of the field. At the Louisiana races, the Shrimp Boots Racing and Piranha Racing BMW E30 teams held a traditional Cajun meal for everyone in between attempts straightening the Shrimp Boots’ car’s frame with a pair of trucks.
Similarly, Terminally Confused is a fixture at Carolina Motorsports Park with their barbecue for the paddock and it never hurts that they bring a welder with them to spend most of their weekend helping other teams get their cars fixed, sometimes at the expense of fixing their own stable of janky Hondas. Being good paddock neighbors in general goes a long way toward an Organizer’s Choice trophy.
Own up to your mistakes, listen to what judges and organizers tell you, and learn from it. We wish that every LeMons team got everything right the first time, but that’s simply not the case. Nearly every race sees a first-time team fail technical inspection and then have to spend insane amounts of time fixing the car pass tech. This promotes an air of disdain from many a racer, which typically doesn’t fly well with anyone. However, a good attitude goes a long way in these instances and more than once, a team that has listened intently and then gone on to fix the car diligently to the letter of the rules has come home with a trophy. The Fatty’s Fruit Loops Honda Accord did exactly this at Monticello Motor Club in 2013 when their rollcage failed tech massively. Rather than complain, the team just smiled and said, “Well, I guess we’ll fix it tonight.” They did that and came back later still smiling with a tech-legal cage.
Occasionally, a first-time team that has passed tech without issue then can’t seem to figure anything out on the racetrack. Usually this requires a lengthy sitdown with the LeMons Supreme Court or, in some special instances, the LeMons HQ representative who is running the race. More often than not, these first-timers never get it, but that rare team’s willingness to acknowledge mistakes and figure out as a team how to get better quickly can earn a trophy, which was the case for Midwestern Toyota MR2 racers Seriouz. The young chaps has Seriouz problems keeping their old Toyota on the racetrack, but a lengthy conversation with Judge Steve McDaniel (above) turned them into model LeMons citizens almost instantly.
Have a good attitude race after race, help out around you, and don’t worry about winning. With LeMons approaching its 10th anniversary in a few short months, a number of teams have been around the paddock race after race, year after year. Some catch the organizer’s eyes for their incredible feats of stupidity or amazing garage engineering—two things that are not mutually exclusive, mind you—but other teams just exhibit the right attitude, the esprit du LeMons. They show up at every race, they’re always smiling even when things are going poorly, and they pitch in a helping when they can and even often when they really can’t.
These teams sometimes earn themselves an Organizer’s Choice award as a sort of long-term celebration of just being good people that make the events better for everyone. These get handed out periodically, but the recently given trophy to California racers Thunderchicken Extra Crispy was especially well-deserved. They’ve tirelessly towed their horrendous supercharged Ford Thunderbird all over the western half of the country to races and while they’ve never won or really made any threats on winning a race, everybody loves seeing them on the track and in the paddock. Even after taking a big knock at Sonoma Raceway in December from a spinning Corvette, the Thunderchicken guys just shrugged and set to work with a BF hammer, duct tape, and a lot of laughing.