Feature July 1, 2009 by
Jim Anderton, Technical Editor
Possibly The Weirdest Wrenchfest Ever Seen …
Let's face it, when it comes to wrenching cars, there are three kinds of people: those that do it for a living, those that do it for fun, and if you're lucky, both. While do-it-yourself has waned in r...
Let’s face it, when it comes to wrenching cars, there are three kinds of people: those that do it for a living, those that do it for fun, and if you’re lucky, both. While do-it-yourself has waned in recent years as the vehicles have become more complex, there is a place where rank amateurs frantically fix the most pathetic machinery imaginable, using the weirdest, craziest and most unbelievable methods possible. Want an example? How about building a clutch plate out of sheet metal and old brake pads? Or a supercharger made with solar panels powering a 12V hair dryer? Or a busted rad replaced with unknown parts bungee-corded to the roof? O. K. the last one’s mine, but I have a good excuse: it’s the 24 Hours of LeMons.
This insanity is the brainchild of automotive journalist Jay Lamm and is a racing series that runs across the U. S. for some of the strangest race cars ever assembled … for 500 bucks. That’s the spending limit (excluding safety gear like roll cages and belts) to prepare a steaming heap of automotive garbage and then whale the bejeesus out of it on a race track. I recently tried this madness at Reno- Fernley Raceway in Nevada in an event called “Goin for Broken 2009.” It was twelve hours of racing over a Saturday and Sunday, with something like 80 cars competing on a full-size road course.
Surprisingly, except for the cars, it was real racing, with serious speeds and penalties for pushing and shoving. LeMons is an odd duck … road racing with Demo-quality cars, but it’s the stunningly bad machinery that makes it compelling. The pits are a sight to behold, with teams of amateurs tearing into busted cars in a frenzy of flying tools, swearing and cut knuckles … while the rest of the team barbeques steaks in the background. The ugly fix you see in the picture was all I could do to adapt an unknown wrecking yard radiator to a Fiero with Ford Taurus rad hoses connected with Home Depot irrigation fittings. It worked perfectly, but this green-flag flog wasn’t even an honourable mention in the heroic fix department. I saw overnight engine changes without a hoist or crane, blown cylinders “fixed” by removing the opposite piston and valve train to make a V-6 out of a V-8, a Corvair team attempting an engine rebuild on a blanket under the car, a Buick that went through three transmissions … you get the picture. As fun as driving a LeMons event is, watching the wrenching in the pits is absolutely epic, and worth the price of admission even if you don’t drive. If you do take the wheel, however, race clean, because penalties for rough driving include tarring and feathering (honest) and having scrap metal welded to your car. If you’re really a piece of work they’ll just crush your car with a backhoe … literally. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I’ll be back. Check out www.24hoursoflemons.comfor details.
LeMons is an odd duck … road racing with Demo-quality cars, but it’s the stunningly bad machinery that makes it compelling.