Lemons first took to the roads on Lemons Rally in August 2016. Since that event, the rallies have traversed parts of 32 states and a couple of Canadian provinces for good measure. However, until last weekend, Lemons Rally had yet to visit Colorado. When we finally did get to The Centennial State, the Rocky Mountain Breakdown took 20 crapcans through the peaks and valleys parts of the Rockies. When the road dust settled, six heaps earned their trophies.
As ever on the Lemons Rally, teams score points at the rally’s beginning for the general hooptieness of their entries. Along the way, teams then visit checkpoints on the provided route book, each worth a number of points.
The winners really only could have been one team: the Hangar 13 “Premier Padmini.” The oldest car on the Lemons Rally, a 1959 model, limped along on mountain roads with probably all of 15 horsepower at rally locales like Independence Pass. The duo of Jan Cole and Tom Webb didn’t hit every checkpoint, but nothing really compared to the Mumbai Taxi’s level of craptitude.
Of course, the story behind the Padmini is more than a little convoluted. It wasn’t a “real” Padmini, India’s ubiquitous taxi that was built for decades. Rather, it was a “normal” Fiat 1100 with a Datsun L16 swap. They had accidentally bid on its eBay auction when browsing listings. Literally, one half of the team was looking at the eBay auction and dropped his phone. He reached out to it and somehow hit the big button. Unsurprisingly, they were the sole bidder on the Fiat.
The astute Fiat fans will note the 1100 had a roughly 1.1-liter engine that made—at sea level—49 crank horsepower. That probably wouldn’t do on the windy Colorado mountain roads, so they were appreciative(ish) of the engine swap that came in the Italian Not-Quite-Stallion. Jan and Tom then ordered everything they needed to rebadge the Fiat as a Padmini.
It had some issues—namely catching fire on the way to the rally’s kickoff—and the Padmini scarcely hit 55 miles per hour. However, they made the whole trip with no fewer than about 15 roadside repair. That’s a much-earned victory.
Runners up Team Shitsubishi took a different approach to the rally. They left their two-time Rally veteran Lincoln Mark V at home. Instead, they scored a janky mid-1980s Mitsubishi Montero. They painted it to look like Mitsubishi’s Paris-Dakar Rally winner from 1985. And for good measure, they had matching Mitsubishi racing bibs to look the part.
And their dog, Leo McFluffypants, even had a Mitsubishi outfit.
What the Mitsubishi lacked in extreme hooptieness—though it is a Mitsubishi, still, and broke down on the way home from the rally—it made up for in panache. It looked great and they hit every single checkpoint. And did we mention that they had a two-day drive to the rally start from Washington state?
And speaking of long drives, The Blockheads’ Toyota Tercel AWD drove to the rally start all the way from Michigan. We first saw this group on the 2019 Four Bangors Banger Rally and they caravanned to the Rocky Mountain Breakdown starting point with that Four Bangors-winning Team Test Icicles Saab 900. Like the Shitsubishi team, The Blockheards hit every checkpoint along the way and made a long drive to the start.
“Slow” would be a generous term for a 61-horsepower Tercel at altitude with just one driver. However, The Blockheads are a team of three with all the tools and spares they thought they’d need for Colorado’s back-country mountain roads. And you know what? The little Tercel never complained for a second. They never went fast, but they always went. And that’ll get you far in a Lemons rally.
For the special rally-designated trophy, Texas rallyists Fort Kickass earned the “Name Checks Out” trophy for their deeds and misdeeds along the way. After a(n un)healthy binging of Roadkill episodes, Fort Kickass’ progenitors rented a tiny industrial garage in a sketchy part of town. They started hammering away on several project cars immediately. We saw them on the World Tour of Texas Rally with a full-size GM van. But they wanted some style for this rally, so they set about building a 1980s Mercedes turbodiesel.
That Merc almost got them out of Texas, but it died in Amarillo. A rental got them to Colorado Springs, where they bought a Nissan D21 4×4 for a couple of Benjamins. They didn’t have many expectations for the little hardbody pickup, but Nissan off-roaders won’t be surprised to hear that the little thing chugged along almost flawlessly.
Though tempted to sell it at the rally’s end or even keep it, Fort Kickass decided instead to donate it after the rally to awesome Colorado awesome Colorado organization Knights of Heroes. That was thoroughly awesome. Kickass, even.
We met the Karmels on the 2017 California rally, where they brought this very ‘63 Buick. And on that rally, somewhere in the back country of the Pacific Northwest, Kris proposed to Grace. Sure, the Buick broke down on the rally and got towed to the end and then limped back to Colorado after it. BUT Kris and Grace got married in July 2019. And what better way could you celebrate a first anniversary than on a Lemons Rally?
Well, for starters, you could celebrate your first anniversary with a Lemons Rally that is themed after Coronavirus lockdown-sensation Tiger King. Specifically, Carole (F—–g) Baskin’s big cat rescue, complete with dog-turned lion. Spectacularly done all around and while the occasional rough gravel road wasn’t compatible with the low-slung Buick, they made it to the end without any proper Tiger King chicanery.
And well, look. The Hot Tub Lincoln just might be the most spectacular thing we’ve ever seen in Lemons. What else could we expect from the most fantastically ingenious and twisted mind of the already-far-out Colorado Lemons Rally crowd?
Yes, this team paired Bob Harnsberger—brilliant madman behind the Sordik Racing “Renault R5 Turbo”—along with Kevin Temmer, who runs the 1950 Dodge Truck of Grumpy Cat Racing. This is the very epitome of the Random Acts of Stupidity award, which many Lemons Rally aficionados will tell you is the Rally’s highest honor.
And yes, “Hot Tub Lincoln” means exactly what you think it does. It’s a 1972 Mark IV with the roof sliced off and some tasteful decking placed over the jagged sheet metal. The interior, that’s a pool liner that was at least 95 percent waterproof.
Sure, the boiling summer Colorado day turned the water into actual hot-tub temperature of around 110 degrees. And sure, the collection of dead bugs, general interior grime, and dude soup was a little icky. But this is simply the greatest thing one can do with a Lincoln and if you disagree, you’re wrong. And we’re not sorry about that.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the Rocky Mountain Breakdown Rally right here on the Lemons Blog. And be sure to sign up for the Hell On Wheels California Rally, now August 14-16. Click here for more details on that.