A “great” Lemons car is, of course, a complete oxymoron. With that in mind, what Lemons staff considers “great” is usually translated as “entertaining” or “stupid” or “reasonably likely to huck a wheel off after two turns.” As Lemons races at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in a little under two months for The Pitt Maneuver (April 17-18), let’s take a look back at four (or six, whatever) great entries from our inaugural visit to PittRace in April 2019.
We leave no doubt that we love seeing racing vans. While the Toyota Previa holds a special place in our collective hearts, Lemons loves us a good Pontiac Trans Sport, Plymouth Voyager, or a Honda Odyssey. This particular Odyssey showed up to PittRace in 2019 sporting the look of Trolley from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Team members dressed accordingly in their finest cardigans and made sure to tie their racing shoelaces and snap along before whacking the Odyssey around the track. This van is also street-registered, ran a Lemons Rally a couple years ago, and was driven to PittRace sans trailer.
Not to make it a Honda party in here, but Pittsburgh natives (aka “Yinzers”) have a particular brand of pop culture. The choice of Beer is Iron City; liquor is Super Punch. Jerome Bettis may as well have been the mayor and everyone has seen Donnie Iris play a show somewhere. Wait, who the hell is Donnie Iris? He’s a rock god in Pittsburgh and, as far as we can tell, only in Pittsburgh. You maybe have heard his song “Ah Leah” in passing somewhere. The DahnTahn team did a creditable Donnie Iris tribute, complete with the Buddy Holly schtick in yellow. If we can get a couple more cars to celebrate the Gobblerito and “Pants N ‘Nat,” Lemons will get its Yinzer Merit Badge.
When the team captain of the British Empire Strikes Back team saw us talk about “maybe the best Triumph in Lemons,” he took exception. Surely, his TR8(ish) was a better car and he issued a call for challengers before the 2019 season. As it turns out, PittRace became the perfect venue for a three-Triumph smackdown. The British Empire TR8 (right) led the race overall and set the quickest lap in the opening hour. Unfortunately, Lemons races run another 13-½ hours and the TR8 engine exploded with a kind of devastation that is shocking even to us. The Three-Pedal Mafia TR7—with a General Motors 3.8-liter V6—never really got running. That left the Knoxvegas Lowballers’ TR8—the one we suggested was “maybe the best Triumph in Lemons”— to win by default in spite of crashing a bit. Will there be a rematch? We hope so.
This one’s pretty simple: The Fairlane was one of the absolute slowest cars in Lemons, but it has gobs of style. It has the original Ford 289 V8 and the dashboard and pretty much everything it left the factory with (interior aside). This is unsurprising, considering this very car ran one of the first Lemons Rallies. Despite its complete lack of pace, it (A) looked better than anything else on the track and (B) won the prized Index of Effluency and romped away to a massive Class C win simply by staying on the track.
Now it’s your turn to sign up right here for The Pitt Maneuver at Pittsburgh International Race Complex on April 17-18. Surely, you can dredge up something as cool as a ‘65 Fairlane or a Honda Odyssey. And barring that, you can always do another Donnie Iris theme. We absolutely cannot have too many of those at one race.