The Greatest New Lemons Cars of the 2019 Season

By: The Wise and Fair Justices of the 24 Hours of Lemons Supreme Court. Photo Credits: Eric Rood, Phil Greden, Nick Pon, Rich von Sneidern
January 14, 2020

Another Bondo-shedding, rod-throwing, track-property-value-lowering 24 Hours of Lemons season is in the books— the 14th season, in fact— and it’s time for our annual roundup of the finest machines that made their first Lemons appearance (in all-new or spectacularly modified form) during the year. If you’re new to this madness, you might want to start with 2015’s Greatest Lemons Cars of All Time post, followed by the 2016, 2017, and 2018 annual updates. In chronological order, here we go:

Corvette

Ragged Racing, Chevy Corvettes

Chattanooga-based Ragged Racing turned up to the first race of 2019 at Barber Motorsports Park—also their first race—with a magnificently 1980s teal C4 Corvette. The team had built it from about five derelict C4s and powered it with a C3 Corvette Small-Block Chevy V8 that had most recently lived in a T-Bucket hot rod. Ragged Racing then patched together a second C4 from the motley collection of cast-off Corvettes. The second car got a 5.3-liter V8 from an early 2000s Chevy truck. Both cars ran not-so-durable Chevy automatic transmissions that seldom—possibly never—had four working gears.

Silver Senior, 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII

We’ve seen the Silver Bullets’ “Nissord 580SX” for years in Lemons. With a Ford 351 Windsor V8 swapped into their Nissan 240SX, they made serious challenges for overall wins. The 580SX took a hiatus for frame straightening in 2019, but the Silvers’ squad broke out their new Ford V8-powered whip. The team chopped 18 inches out of a Lincoln Mark VIII behind the front wheel well. Not only does it look sharp, the InTech 32-valve V8 sounds the business and the Mark VIII set fast lap at several races in 2019.

A Fist Full of Cotter Pins, 1961 Borgward Isabella

Weird and forgotten German marques always have an important place in the 24 Hours of Lemons, and so we never stop demanding that teams race, say, a DKW Munga or Glas 1700 or NSU 1200 or Borgward Isabella. An all-star cast of oddball-car-loving Lemons freaks dug up a battered Isabella, made it race-ready, and won the Index of Effluency at the Arizona race with it.

Team Wayslo, 2003 Infiniti M45

Lemons seems like the perfect playground for the brand Jeremy Clarkson once called “Shit Lexus,” but Lemons Infinitis have been relatively few and far between. Team Wayslo addressed that void with a ratty example of the V8-powered M45—and soon found themselves in the electrical-gremlin hell that often plagues Lemons-grade luxury cars. That might not have been the only reason they didn’t dominate, however—in the brief spurts when the M45 was running, the team accumulated enough black flags to result in a judge-imposed re-theme to Maytag: Nothing But Spins.

$500 MY AZz, 1971 Datsun 240Z

Although the team called itself “$500 My AZz,” a machine of this vintage may have been more appropriately called “Y U RUNE KLASSIK.” It didn’t really matter in the end, as the team’s total heap of a 240Z didn’t draw much ire either from either budget truthers or classic-car jihadists. The team faced the day-one problem of realizing their expanded-metal “windshield” was essentially opaque (the one in the photo is the “improved” wider-opening version they swapped in), then the overnight problem of suddenly noticing that they had brought neither food or warm clothes (it snowed). Things came together, relatively, on day two, when the car ran well enough to let the team fly repeatedly off the track and into the penalty box. They took it all in stride, and we hope to see this fine vintage motorcar at races in 2020.

Slumber Party, 1967 Austin Mini Moke

There are a lot of high-concept Lemons themes out there, from exquisitely crafted parodies of legendary race cars, to obscure references to little-known TV shows. But when asked what theme he’d like to see in Lemons, Associate Perpetrator Nick Pon replied, simply, “bed.”

The idea was more complex than it sounded. Obviously the car had to look like a bed, but Nick insisted that it couldn’t just be a Miata with a blanket screwed to the hood. Squareness and full-coverage fabric were part of the basic requirements. “And it has to be fast,” Nick explained. “I want PCA members to be sharing racing stories about their heel-and-toe downshifts and have a Lemons guy cut in with a story about going 10/10ths into turn 5 next to The Bed.” Mike “Spank” Spangler finally answered the challenge, updating his venerable Austin Mini Moke to Bed spec. The speed part of the requirement might have to wait until Bed 2.0, but otherwise Spank nailed the concept. The site of the dust ruffles flapping in the wind as Spank circled the storied Sonoma Raceway road course will forever stay in the memories of true race fans.

Ska Patrol, 2000 Audi A6

We like a good theme and somehow, Lemons had never had a full-on ska theme. A “late-model” Audi might seem like overkill for Lemons. However, anyone who’s hung around Lemons races know that the overcomplicated German machines—especially those newer than about 1995—spend way more time in the paddock than on the track. This was no exception. The team cannibalized the S6 that belonged to one team member’s daughter to rebuild the left-rear corner of the A6. It fit (kind of) but left the team with the minor issue of getting a stricken street car home. We think a flatbed picked it up, picked it up, picked it up.

PurpleDuck, 1982 Chevrolet Camaro

What’s not to love about a hammered third-gen Camaro, complete with bone-stock 305 cubic-inch V8, four-speed manual, and suspension more accustomed to resting on concrete blocks than turning corners at Sonoma Raceway? We aren’t sure what PurpleDuck means, but the team’s tight-fitting crash-test dummy outfits left an impression as strong as the janky-filled F-Body.

Aston Martin

Inglorious Bastards, Aston Martin DB7

The Texas-based Inglorious Bastards have been in the midst of Lemons madness since way back in 2011, when they brought their 1991 “Furd TBird” to the Heaps in the Heart of Texas race at Eagles Canyon Raceway. When they found the gutted shell of a 2001 Aston Martin DB7 V12 Vantage for cheap at a storage-lot auction, they knew they had to race it. Even though the Bastards wouldn’t be able to afford the correct 414-horse engine for their new 007-mobile, they realized that the howls of outrage from Internet Car Experts™ the world over this $150,000-when-new race car would be just as loud— and just as sweet— to their ears. And since the DB7 was first cousin to the Jaguar XK8 and XJS, each of which now sells for a few cents over scrap value on a good day, a bit of cut-and-pasting from a junkyard parts donor gave the team a running race car with front fenders that almost looked correct (at 500 feet, through a cloud of oil smoke, after the observer took a few huffs of Scotchgard out of a brown paper bag). The Inglorious Bastards Aston Martin made its debut at the New Orleans race, where it didn’t run so well but had the desired effect of causing thousands of Internet Car Experts to blow brain gaskets with rage.

11% Racing, Fiat X1/9

Fiat X1/9s are cheap and fun to drive, plus they build character with their hilarious Malaise Era Italian build quality. 11% Racing won Organizer’s Choice glory with their ’81 at the New Orleans race—and later Index of Effluency at the November Houston race—finishing not too far below mid-pack in the process.

Nearly Adequate Racing, Ford Pinto

You can’t go wrong with a Pinto, because the jokes just tell themselves!

S Car Go, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera S

Oldsmobile’s “sporty” version of the A-Body Cutlass Ciera was the “S” model. That took two doors out the regular Ciera chassis, added an S badge, and…that’s pretty much it. This rookie team showed up with a dead-stock Ciera S, which included the harsh, spiteful 3.3-liter V6, three-speed automatic, and squishy suspension. They beat a couple dozen teams with it, earning Index of Effluency honors in a hotly contested General Motors battle for the top prize.

Bad Decisions Racing, Suzuki Esteem

The Esteem remains one of the most utterly forgettable cars ever built. Its claim to fame: It has much in common with Daewoo, at least as forgettable in its own right. Bad Decisions Racing brought an Esteem themed after Saul Goodman’s knackered, ironic Esteem from Better Call Saul. They nearly won Index of Effluency with the totally benign automobile before selling it to a team of rookies.

Rust Belt Racing, Chevy HHR

A PT Cruiser (rightly) showed up early in Lemons’ history, but it took about 10 more years for Chevy’s take on the pseudo-nostalgic revival, the HHR. Rust Belt Racing’s HHR was a base model with an automatic transmission. The various traction and stability controls wigged out on the HHR regularly during a rainy race. However, the HHR looked great with a Lemons tribute to David Freiburger’s F-Bomb Chevy Camaro.

Kone Killers, Pontiac Solstice

Lemons’ first Pontiac Solstice was a GXP model some years ago that the team dented on every corner after getting a few billion penalty laps. Kone Killers showed up at Autobahn Country Club with a stock, non-GXP Solstice with a nod to the Solstice’s popularity among autocrossers. The Ecotec-powered Solstice performs roughly like an overweight Miata, although the Kone Killers in just their third race nabbed the overall win at the 27-car Heartland Parked in Kansas. How is a Solstice a $500 car, you ask? Well, they’re a decade old, built by General Motors, and starting to show up in both junkyards and in salvage auctions. If the next “car to have” becomes a Solstice instead of a BMW 3-Series, that’s a net win for Lemons.

The Three Amigos, Chevy Camaro

General Motors put a 3.8-liter V6 into their fourth-generation Camaro. They also put a supercharger on the 3.8-liter V6. However, Chevy never supercharged the Camaro V6. First-timers The Three Amigos decided to do something about that, adapting a Pontiac Grand Prix GTP supercharged 3800 into their fourth-gen Camaro.


What they didn’t anticipate was the poor fit this entailed. The team had to cut, then rebuild the firewall to fit the blower. It didn’t seem to make the car much faster, but the supercharger whiner made it more entertaining, at least.

Oscar’s Junk Heap, 1974 AMC Javelin

Believe it or not, the Oscar’s Junk Heap car wasn’t the first 1974 AMC Javelin in our series, when it competed at the Pitt Maneuver race in Pittsburgh in the spring. Since the first ’74 Javelin was a cheated-up machine run by Real Racers™ in California, though, Oscar’s Junk Heap was our first proper (i.e., a horribly rusty heap) Lemons Javelin. It ran surprisingly well, finishing 56th out of 82 entries, and the team took home the much-coveted Organizer’s Choice trophy.

Rust Cartel, 1965 Ford Fairlane

You can’t go wrong with a good old 1960s Ford Fairlane in Lemons, as the members of Team Fairlylame and Team Westlake Boating School can tell you. The members of the Rust Cartel ran— or at least entered— their ’65 Fairlane sedan in the 2017 Retreat From Moscow Lemons Rally and then race-prepped it to take on Oscar’s Javelin at the Pitt Maneuver. The result? The Fairlane crushed the Javelin by a 79-lap margin, finishing an amazing 32nd overall and glomming the Index of Effluency prize.

Drive Bys, 2005 Cadillac STS

We love late-model GM luxury cars on our race tracks, of course, and the sight of the Drive Bys’ shiny STS going around the track during the Pitt Maneuver event pleased us greatly. The team didn’t climb as high in the standings as the laudatory Motor Trend review of the ’05 STS might have suggested, but the Lemons Supreme Court approved and bestowed their Judges’ Choice trophy on the team.

DahnTahn Motorsports, Honda Prelude

We are reliably informed that 1980s Buddy Holly-revival New Waver Donnie Iris is a Pittsburgh institution. So it makes sense that DahnTahn Motorsports—in true Yinzer fashion—Donnie Iris’d (pronounced “DaahwnIrrs”) their Prelude for PittRace.

Senior Citizen’s Club of America, Datsun B210

The SCCA team debuted in 2018 by filing protests every 10 minutes for the whole weekend in true SCCA fashion. They returned for the 24-hour race at Carolina Motorsports Park with a Datsun B210 to add to their mid-1980s Honda Civic. Calling themselves “The Dirtsuns,” the SCCA this time re-enacted Carolina Trailer Parks goings-on so accurately that most other teams couldn’t fathom that it was part of their theme. When the B210 stripped teeth off first and second gears, the team welded the transmission into fourth gear directly. After reassembling that mess inside the gearbox, the little Datsun puttered around for several hours to take the IOE win.

Freedom 35, Honda Accord

Finding a mid-1970s Chrysler New Yorker is tough. However, we like any Trailer Park Boys theme—different from the aforementioned Dirtuns Trailer Park theme, we should mention—and Freedom 35 proves what goes around is all around.

run what you brung.until you get caught.cuz you know damn well you been cheating, Audi 4000S

Surely there was a complex meaning behind this team’s lengthy title, involving geopolitics, the gold standard, Bill Belichick, and perhaps the Houston Astros’ proprietary communications system. Or, it was just semi-comprehensible ramblings from an entertaining rookie team that circulated Thunderhill with a naked mannequin hanging out of their passenger window. We’re fine with either.

Clueless Robots, Kia Rio

Judge Phil has a known fetish for Korean Lemons cars, and for good reason. They’re cheap, sorta weird, and potentially decent performers—if you have a choice between a Civic and a Kia, we’d rather see the Kia. The Clueless Robots’ Rio had a snazzy set of gold Sparco wheels (that about ended the list of anything hinting at “performance”) and finished ahead of several entries that were much stronger on paper.

Tommy Salami & the Meat Wagon, 1988 Pontiac LeMans

All those years we spent pleading for a team to race a Daewoo-made Pontiac LeMans finally paid off at the B.F.E. GP race in western Kansas eastern Colorado, when the Pinto-driving Texans of Tommy Salami & the Meat Wagon raced a 370k-mile 1988 LeMans and won Index of Effluency glory for their efforts. The team badged the car as every variant of the Daewoo LeMans (Daewoo/Holden/Opel/Pontiac/Vauxhall/Asüna/Passport/etc.) sold throughout the sprawling GM empire and made it survive all weekend long. For all the Tommy Salami LeMans adventures, read our in-depth feature here.

Balkan Express, Honda Civic

Because the Squatting Slavs in Tracksuits thing never gets old for Lemons teams, the ex-Yugoslavs of the Balkan Express team converted their Honda Civic into a credible red-star-emblazoned Zastava Yugo and gave it a good Marshal Tito theme, complete with judicial bribes in early-1990s Yugoslavian inflation money.

Gutless Cutlass, G-Body Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham

This Minnesota team (formerly known as the Northern Shiners) ran a beautifully luxurious gray Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham for years at the Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado races. When it got too badly bent in a crash to continue competing, did they start over with a Miata or E36? They did not! Instead, they found a beautiful red Cutlass Supreme coupe, complete with genuine Olds 307 engine, and continued to race in true Ransom E. Olds style.

Pizza Planet 413, 1995 Toyota Tacoma

For reasons nobody understands, Toyotas have tended to be very unreliable in our series (while, go figure, Alfa Romeos survive like cockroaches). When we saw a completely stock, 370k-mile Tacoma show up at the B.F.E. GP, we figured it would spit out a few connecting rods in the first few minutes on the track. Instead, it cruised to an easy Class C victory.

This Sure Beats Wedding Planning, 1997 Buick Riviera

What’s more fun, a bachelor party in Vegas with lots of money-squandering in strip clubs and projectile-vomiting in taxis… or a bachelor party at a Colorado race track, wrenching on a blow-uppity 300,000-mile supercharged Buick? The latter, of course, and that’s what Iowa-based This Sure Beats Wedding Planning did with their swanky 1997 Riv. While it spent most of the race driven by a steam-spewing V5, the team members had a good time.

Speedycop & and the Gang of Outlaws, AMC Pacer(s)

Lemons Legend Speedycop crushed it with this one at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Yes, that is the posterior of an AMC Pacer welded to the posterior of a second Pacer. The full fish bowl racer wrapped around a 1980s Toyota MR2 in a perfect fit. There were some functional difficulties with the car, of course, but it looked spectacular.

Sputnik, Nissan Axxess

The Sputnik team has raced Lemons for years, usually with some kind of terrible Nissan product. They first raced a Stanza Wagon, then a Porsche 924 with a Sentra engine, then a Sentra itself. In 2019, the team scored a super-rare Axxess, the follow-up to the Stanza Wagon. When it debuted at NJMP in June, the 2.4-liter stock engine featured some homebrewed turbocharging. That blew up in short order, but it’s since been replaced by a naturally aspirated engine that ran for hours without coolant at its second race.

Lemons Appliance Repair, Chevy HHR

“Boy, that looks like a work panel van for an appliance repair company,” we said. The team looked at us and said, “This is a work panel van for our appliance repair company.”

The Rootes of All Evil, Sunbeam Rapier

This team scored the Rootes Group’s pre-Alpine roadster in horrifying shape. The floor pans were totally gone, as were the original Sunbeam drivetrain and…pretty much everything except the shell and the rear suspension that was being inexplicably converted to use Nissan 300ZX rear struts. They set about swapping a Ford 2.3-liter engine and manual transmission from a Pinto (one of several the team own). After that fitted in, they cut the hood of the donor Pinto to use as patch panels on the floor, firewall, fenders, and front lip. The piece de resistance, however, was the “grille” from a Sunbeam toaster oven.

Avery Brothers Racing, Cadillac CTS

How much is a V6 CTS with a manual transmission worth? After it’s been smashed into a parked car or six, you can scoop them up cheaply. The Avery Brothers had raced a wrecked 2006 Honda Civic as early as 2010 until there was basically nothing left of it. They managed to find something older and far more rage-inducing, since the Ordinary Joe Internet Car Expert assumes the car is full of CTS.V parts (It’s not, remotely).

BadStench, Mazda3

Maybe it’s the sacrilege, but we enjoy seeing The Intimidator’s livery on the least-intimidating car ever.

Stain Your Lane, Honda Civic

A Civic hatchback tends not to be exciting of its own accord [*applaud for pun*]. However, this Honda came to the Wisconsin team’s possession by way of a citizen’s sixth arrest for driving under the influence. The citizen’s spouse simply wanted the car gone from their manufactured-home community, so they picked it up, caged it, and went racing. We award them Bonus Internet Points for snagging the Wisconsin vanity plate TRLR QUN for their heap..

Lemonbird, Pontiac Firebird

Lemons staffers got advance word that Team Lemonbird—a spinoff of a couple of longstanding Pacific Northwest teams—was prepping a fourth-gen Firebird with a “cool old musclecar swap.” Interest piqued, we were briefly disappointed to learn that the drivetrain was out of a Camaro—but then reinvigorated when we found that it was a grandma-spec 250 straight six paired to an automatic. Naturally placed in Class C, the Lemonbird found itself in a battle for the class win with a mid-engine performance machine (a Toyota Previa), and pulled out the victory with only a few laps to spare.

The Supranos, Toyota Corona

Because Judge Phil‘s very first car was a 50-buck 1969 Toyota Corona sedan, he proclaimed that The Supranos could get away with budget-stretching murder if they raced a proper Corona. Which they did, to glorious effect, winning the IOE at the 2015 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza race. The car had its original 90-horse 3R-C pushrod engine and two-speed Toyoglide automatic transmission for that race. Then they began the swap of a complete Supra suspension and JDM 1JZ engine… and a redwood tree tipped over on their shop and crushed the car. Finally, they got the car ready— or so they thought— for the 2019 Pacific Northworst race, where they won the I Got Screwed trophy after destroying the engine with leaded aviation gas.

Rusty Numbers/Bob Ross Death Star, BMW E30

Long story short: When this team bought a previously raced Lemons BMW with a blown engine, they figured a Ford V8 swap would simplify everything. Instead, they blew it up and spent most of the weekend on the Long Island ferry fetching a replacement only to fail at installing the second engine. Epic first Lemons weekends don’t usually involve ferry rides, so kudos to them.

The Awkward Corner, Honda Odyssey

This Odyssey has been around for years, first racing in California with a Cannonball Run theme. Later, it become the Channel Sux News Van from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For 2019, however, they made it into the Neighborhood Trolley from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. They merit a mention for an unexpectedly wholesome theme.

Real Racin’® @ Black Iron “Racing,” Toyota Chinook

The full story here remains one of the most insane things ever to happen in Lemons. Naturally, Mike “Spank” Spangler was in charge of this madness. He scored the Chinook camper—complete with a long-ago owner’s full records, including court papers from incarceration—when its previous owner found scrapyards wouldn’t take it. After kind of making it run, Spank and Sean Windrum from Silversleeves Racing road-tripped the Chinook from San Diego to Kansas for Heartland Parked. There, it tottered and doted all weekend around the track without missing a beat for an easy Index of Effluency win. The Chinook found a new home and you can follow its tale here.

WartHawg Racing, Chevy Corvette

A team of A-10 Warthog pilots should probably be the ones racing an old Toyota Pickup. Instead, this team brought to Heartland Parked their families, their sense of humor, and their traditional pilot sense of flash automobile choice: a cheaty-adjacent C4 Chevy Corvette. Naturally, they blew up its transmission right away, but they put it back on track. However, they finished behind Spank’s little RV, making the Toyota Chinook the better fiberglass vehicle, naturally.

Deferred Maintenance, Chevy Luv

Formed mainly by a pair of brothers in Nebraska, the Deferred Maintenance crew have hoped to run Lemons for years. They got their chance in Kansas for Heartland Parked…kind of. The 4.3-liter V6 from an S10 needed a custom driveshaft, which of course failed. They had a nearby shop fix it—after absolving the shop of any responsibility for its inevitable imbalance—and got it on the track. It was kinda fast and looked like RC from Toy Story if you squint a bit. Unfortunately, the imbalanced driveshaft eventually made enough alarming racket that they had to park it for the weekend.

Boley Racing, Chevy S10

These Kansas newcomers struggled with some kind of unfixable Chevy electronics issue for most of their weekend at Heartland Parked. They fixed it in a way we’ve never seen: They brought it to the hot pits, shut the car off for 10 seconds, and then restarted its V6 to limp around for two laps. After doing this about 17 times, the truck finally righted itself, earning the team the event-specific Lemons Tech Support Award.

The Terrible Tercels, Toyota Tercel

We’re suckers here for cars that look like they were stolen from the local Dollar Tree parking lot minutes before the race started. The Terrible Tercels brought their (very faded) teal Tercel to Carolina Motorsports Park having given the car a rollcage, numbers, and sturdy slap on the roof. Guess what? The economy Toyota ran like a champ all weekend.

Skip-A-Gear Racing, Mitsubishi Starion

Early narrow-body Starions are a rare sight anywhere, mostly because they blew the hell up eons ago. However, this Virginia team scored one from its original owner, who came to the race to watch her old almost-Stallion run in Lemons. With the team having added an intercooler and “running it fine around the local backroads,” we were sure it would blow its Lil Hemi to pieces all over Kershaw County. Instead, the Starion plodded along without fail all weekend to an IOE.

Long Shot Customs, Jensen-Healey

Without question, the Long Shot Customs’ Jensen-Healey was the worst new Lemons car of 2019. It’s hard to know where to start. The team bought the car with a Small-Block Chevy V8 and set of rusty drag-racing ladder bars in it. They then left those in there, along with the non-functioning electrical system and about 75 other things that would never pass Lemons tech inspection. The team fixed all of those and eventually got it on track. It turns out that ladder bars are designed to make a car go straight, which the driver found out in his first corner. After a couple of spins, the car quit entirely, probably for the best. They then fetched their pit neighbors’ old car to replace it, which was only a 13-hour round-trip drive.

Gunbarrel Cobras, 1983 Toyota Starlet

After the Gunbarrel Cobras achieved Legend of Lemons status with their “Try-Power” 5-barrel carbureted Lexus V8-swapped Volvo 940 wagon at the 2018 Colorado races, they felt that the wisest path to further dominance would be to race the fuel-economy champion of the early 1980s: a Toyota Starlet, complete with 58-horsepower (when new) pushrod four-cylinder engine. This thoroughbred racing steed nearly won the IOE at the High Plains Drifter race in Colorado, beating most of the BMWs in the field in the process.

Jan Von Jovi & the Misfits, 1993 Mitsubishi Eclipse

One of the drivers is a Dutchman named Jan who didn’t want to be singled out for his funny name, so of course his teammates made that name the focus of the theme for their wretched Mitsu. Jan Bon Jovi, Jan Solo, Elton Jan, and Tuten-Jan-Em drove this car. Note the toilet-paper costume on Tuten-Jan-Em.

Brown Rubber Soul Racing, 1981 Mazda 626

Burnt Rubber Soul Racing achieved Lemons fame with a Cougar-ized Ford Probe and a 1981 Imperial at Midwest events starting in 2012, and then the team took the madness to a higher level at the Minneapolis 500 race. They took Judge Phil’s questionable advice and bought a super-rare rear-wheel-drive Mazda 626 in Oregon, driving it 3,600 miles to Ohio via Death Valley, then gave it an staggeringly good Malaise Era brown-on-brown-on-beige theme, changing the team’s name for the occasion. You’ll find the whole story in our Brown Rubber Soul feature article here.

Non-Minimum Phase Behavior, DAF 55

As if racing a Chinook wasn’t enough, Lemons Legend Spank turned up a month later with a CVT-equipped DAF 55. The quirky Dutch-built car is most famous for its ability to go as quickly in reverse as forward. Thankfully, Spank couldn’t manage to arrange the interior to “drive” in reverse. The DAF may have barely run and been mostly terrifying when it did, but crucially, Spank took the Dutch car as an opportunity to throw an excellent and mildly to severely disturbing Amsterdam Red Light District party on Saturday night in the paddock.

****** ****** (TV Show on *******), Chrysler Sebring

Due to the litigious forces at [very large TV streaming service], we can’t say much about the yet-to-be-announced TV show [Holy redacted, Batman!]. However, they very cleverly brought a post-2000 Chrysler Sebring that unsurprisingly nuked and puked its transmission guts. They finished Dead-Effing-Last, beaten once again by Hooniverse’s ratty Ford Ranchero.

Vali Motorsports 1, Porsche Boxster

Prepared by a well-known Porsche shop, this Boxster in no way resembles a $500 car and got penalty laps accordingly (and always will). However, this machine just shouts “Witness me!

Shixus, Lexus SC300

The Judges Choice winners from Button Turrible were the ages-old Lemons redemption tale. The well-executed pigeon-doo theme held some appeal, as did the ample 2JZ jokes. However, the team spent the first few hours of the race racking up black flags. They took some lecturing in stride, then suddenly stopped screwing up altogether.

Butts Matter, Chevy Cobalt

Much like the aforementioned Chevy HHRs, the Butts Matter Cobalt was a base-model car with an automatic transmission. Curiously, the team are made up of techs at a Chevy dealership who caged a Cobalt that was left, unsurprisingly, at their shop. They very easily could have bolted on all kinds of cheaty Cobalt SS parts, but instead just ran it as-is. The best part, however, is they spent much of their weekend helping other teams fix their own heaps.

Bar Fees, Chevy Cavalier

Speaking of crappy GM econoboxes…this Buttonwillow team also dragged out an old Cavalier. The Cav had lived its previous life as a dirt-oval Hornet car, which usually means the cage will fail Lemons tech. Indeed, the team spent all of Friday having a new cage put into their clattering pushrod J-Body. However, they got it on track and even beat a dozen or so teams.

Team Knucklebuster, Toyota Tercel

2019 featured a bumper crop of new Tercels in Lemons, with at least three (3) making their roadracing debuts. Team Knucklebuster’s impressively clean example ran steadily (if slowly) until punching a very adorable tiny rod through its oil pan.

Radioactive, Chevrolet Vega

If you think the Chevy Vega is the kind of car that inspires (very) amateur hotrodders to swap in a smallblock V8, get the wiring MOSTLY right, drive for a couple laps, and then have to bail out of the window as the electrical smoke engulfs the cockpit…you’d be correct

A Quart Low, Honda Del Sol

First it was a Calvin and Hobbes Radio Flyer. Then it was a TURBO Calvin and Hobbes Radio Flyer. Then Oreo Speedwagon. And in 2019, the Del Sol became the Rat Fink Wagon. Just totally epic.

Vorpal Bunny, Buick Regal GS

This rookie team spun a rod bearing in their supercharged Buick V6’s engine. Considering their first race was in Michigan—a place not lacking in the GM Sound of Power—it should have been easy to fix. However, the team discovered that the engine was rusted solid to the subframe and they couldn’t get it out. That’s the most Michigan thing we can imagine.

Dickie Speedmaster Racing, Toyota MR2

When they arrived at Gingerman, the team needed only a windshield, seatbelts, and a running engine to turn laps. When they left for the weekend, the team needed only a windshield, seatbelts, and a running engine. They had somehow turned zero laps and acquired a second non-running Toyota MR2. That’s an impressive Lemons debut if we’ve ever heard of one.

Baby Shark/Racebar, BMW 635CSi

Like NyanCar, but infinitely more annoying.

Three Pedal Mafia, Pontiac Solstice

Three Pedal Mafia is…The Ambiguously GM Duo.

Nader H8Rs, 1965 Chevrolet Corvair

“They made a Subaru Corvair!” Jay exclaimed. When the rest of the Lemons staff at MSR Houston rushed over to witness what they hoped was a Corvair-powered Outback,* they were instead treated to a ’65 Corvair with a mid-mounted turbo WRX mill. There were some teething issues (as it turns out, intercooler piping for this application is not an off-the-shelf item), but the concept alone should be enough to make Porsche Cayman owners jealous.

*The door is still open for that idea, just saying.

Lake Travis HS Racing Team, Dodge Omni (Charger)

We’re big fans of Chrysler products that have confusing DNA from semi-forgotten industrial partnerships, adorned with a nameplate that frantically tries to celebrate the glory days. Granted, that’s most Chryslers, so this team added some flair by fielding a team made up of high school students, and building the car as part of a Motor Trend TV project. Of course, the auto-journalist connection meant that the car failed tech in about 100 different ways, and one of the young drivers was dismayed to learn that his street license (required for Lemons racing!) had expired on his 18th birthday, which was also the day of the race. The team was eventually able to sort out the safety issues, and quickly demonstrated the Charger’s, uh, exceptional handling at the limit.

Schnitzel Sushi Racing, BMW 2002

Checking both “$500 My Ass” and “Y U RUNE KLASSIK” boxes, Schnitzel Sushi’s Honda S2000-powered 2002 will probably incur the wrath of the B.S. Judges if and when they iron out the issues. That wasn’t the scenario at MSR 2019, but when the car WAS working, it looked great on track.

Racer, Chevy Aveo

As we have also previously pointed out, rental-car spec General Motors’ compacts are atrocious on a racetrack. As such, they of course make perfect Lemons cars. This team of rookies bought a previously raced Aveo, put on Star Trek costumes, and made a credible USS Enterprise out of their total shitbox for Arse-Freeza-Apalooza. Well, as credible as anyone can make anything out of an Aveo. The team captain also runs one of our favorite breweries nearby and brought tons of free beer for people to enjoy after racing. That’s how you win favor in the Lemons paddock.

Starsky Robotics, Porsche 924

While we are acutely aware that Porsche fuel-injection systems can be maddeningly troublesome, we didn’t anticipate anyone pitching out a working fuel-injection setup. Yet, the Starsky Robotics crew did exactly that on their Porsche 924. The carbureted engine sputtered and ran poorly all weekend. When it ran, it leaked copious amounts of oil. While they “fought” the Laser Goat Racing for slowest fast-lap of the weekend, the 924 at least handled with perfect 50/50 weight balance as it sputtered up Sonoma’s steep hills.

Another Fine Mess, BMW 633CSi

After going years without a BMW 6-Series, we suddenly had two new ones show up a few weeks apart. As expected, both had shark themes, although Another Fine Mess’s 633CSi gets higher marks for the smaller engine, the amazing baller color, and for not playing that MF’ing song all weekend. When it comes to the “$500 KAR MY ASS/Y U RUNE KLASIK” crowd, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: We aren’t going to look nearly as hard at any BMW 6-, 7-, or 8-series in Lemons.

The Forbidden Fruit, Toyota Tercel

Not just another Tercel, but another Tercel with an ironing-board wing and laundry basket affixed to the roof. Beautiful. We hope 2020 is the Year of the Tercel in Lemons.

Tig Bitties, Nissan 240SX

Look hard at this S14 Nissan 240SX because it was, for a time, the team’s only collective worldly possession. A group of housemates set out to build a Lemons car, only to have their house burn down. The only thing spared was the carport, under which sat this former drift-car project the friends had acquired. They spent the couple months before the team’s Road Atlanta debut living out of an RV and working on the 240SX. The rollcage builder they hired failed spectacularly at building a passing cage. Instead, the housemates found a welder out of Atlanta to build a cage in the paddock Friday and Saturday. They redesigned some of the car’s interior for good measure and managed to turn some laps late Sunday.

Gotham City Garage, Chevy Corvette

In Lemons, 2019 was the Year of the Corvette. The final ‘Vette to debut was legitimately a $500 heap, hosting a Small-Block Chevy and a four-speed manual transmission of unknown origin. The Lemons racer who built it didn’t know where the (probably) 350 came from and neither did the previous owner. It was most assuredly not the original engine and its story may never be known because it cooked itself into a steaming pile caked with puttylike oil emulsion. In other words, it was a fitting final race in the Year of the Corvette.

What new and wonderful machines await Lemons in 2020? Time will tell, but we will be sure to tell their assorted stories here on the Lemons Blog. You can also find so much more on the Best of 2019 on the Lemons YouTube Channel, Lemons Facebook page, and Lemons Instagram accounts.

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