Some cars are built terrible, some achieve terribleness, and others have it thrust upon them. Regardless of what makes a car loathsome, the 24 Hours of Lemons will always welcome it—provided it costs under $500. The amateur racing series prizes ingenuity and the ingénue over a fat wallet and family connections, and its calendar criss-crosses the nation all year long.
Sixty-one such wonderfully horrible cars showed up at the 2019 B.F.E. GP in Colorado in June. After weeding out all the tryhards in their Spec Miatas and BMWs, we whittled down a list of all the ridiculous rides that weekend to bring you our ten favorite cars. Some shouldn't ever be within a mile of a racetrack, while others were born to tackle them, though not necessarily in these outlandish liveries. But hey, when life gives you lemons...
Editor's Note: James Gilboy competed in this Lemons event with Sassafras We Suck Ass Racing, driving the #111 Toyota MR2. They finished 50th of 61. Sucks to suck.
10: ToeJaM's Troubles's #186 Porsche 944
Don't say "Finding Nemo" aloud, lest Disney's lawyers come knocking. The Porsche 944 fielded by ToeJaM's Troubles had probably the most lovingly applied livery of the entire field. Those clownfish stripes and that sheet metal work took effort you rarely see in Lemons; most teams forego even washing their car before re-theming. ToeJaM deserves an ovation for their handiwork, and make that a standing one for having an orange 944 that finished a race instead of going up in a ball of flames.
9: Slow Cure's #203 Mercedes-Benz C230
While a dryer motor rotated the concrete mixer in Slow Cure's Benz, the car itself churned out consistent laps. Sluggish it may have been, but steadiness is what counts in endurance racing (ahem, BMW E36 drivers), and Slow Cure proved more tortoise than hare by attaining an 18th-place overall finish in the upper third of the field.
8: Savage Orchid Racing's #613 Ford Escort ZX2
It's hard to come up with a more fitting theme for a Colorado race than one that pays tribute to Blucifer. For those who've never flown into Denver International Airport, "Blucifer" is the local name for a bright blue, 32-foot statue of a prancing horse mounted outside the terminal. If you think it looks crazed in the daytime, wait 'til you see it at night when its eyes glow bright red. Oh yeah, and it fell on and killed its sculptor.
To ward off Blucifer's bad vibes, Savage Orchid Racing gave the stallion a testicular talisman in the form of a a tiny pair of blue truck nuts. Savage Orchid finished 36th, so it must have kinda worked.
7: RocketSurgery's #72 Checker Marathon
Forget the Monty Python's Flying Circus theme here, the big deal is that a few someones turned an effing Checker Marathon into a race car. This consumer-facing twin of the iconic Checker Taxi offered our MR-2 entry the best on-track battle we had all weekend, with our cars swapping positions back and forth three times over a handful of laps. Too bad the Marathon came up a bit short of its name, finishing 52nd.
6: Bad Decisions Racing's #66 1947 Plymouth
Flatheads? Try cam-in-blockheads. Bad Decisions Racing shoved a supercharged, 3.8-liter Buick V6 into this vintage Plymouth's engine bay. Predictably, it sheared the grade-10 steel bolts that held the flywheel to the crank after a few practice laps, leaving most of the bolts stuck inside the crank. Somehow, they got the bolts back out, and fixed the car in time to make the race start on Saturday. For a car constantly threatening to separate its flywheel from its crank, 39th wasn't a bad finish.
5: Tommy Salami and the Meat Wagon's #89 Daewoo LeMans
Daewoo's leash-holder General Motors pimped out the Daewoo LeMans under the names Asüna GT, Passport Optima, and Pontiac LeMans, among others. Which marque originally had its name on this Daewhatever isn't clear, but Tommy Salami and the Meat Wagon were proud to boast that their LeMans featured the only Opel Kadett GSi-style body in the Americas. Unlike the above Checker, this Korean-German hatch lived up to its name, finishing a mighty 27th, and outracing no fewer than seven Class A machines. For that, this Meat Wagon won a well-deserved "Index of Effluency," effectively a trophy for the race's best-performing shitbox.
4: Why Would You Do That? (Racing)'s Volvo-Swapped #91 Chevrolet Chevette
Is Hank Aurand—head of Why Would You Do That? (Racing)—a sadist, or a masochist? You could argue sadist; he cranked up the boost until his Volvo B21 straight-four shot three holes in its block and one in its oil pan on lap 22.
But you could also argue that Mr. Aurand is a masochist, because he immediately sent for another B21 located hours from the track. Hank's fresh engine arrived in time for an impromptu overnight engine rebuild, so he hunkered down to get the motor into his Chevette before the checkered flag waved. Time wasn't on his side, and the car didn't start until halfway through the post-race awards ceremony, but the mad lads and lasses of Why Would You Do That? (Racing) still took home the Heroic Fix award.
3: The Wonderment Consortium's #126 Isuzu Impulse RS
Easily one of the rarest cars to ever race the 24 Hours of Lemons, the Isuzu Impulse RS fell through a crack in the otherwise solid pedestal atop which most Japanese cars of the 1990s sit. It had a frowny little face, a 1.6-liter, 160-horsepower turbo engine, all-wheel-drive, a manual transmission, and Handling by Lotus™. According to a fan-kept survivor registry, only 50 still exist in running condition worldwide, making this car almost as rare as the Tucker 48.
The Wonderment Consortium honored the Impulse RS's memory by piloting it to a dead mid-table finish, in 31st. Merely showing up with this oddball won the team the tongue-in-cheek "Rare and Valuable Collector's Car" award.
2: Onset/Tetanus Racing's #26 Cadillac Cimarron
The Cadillac Cimarron is rightfully remembered as one of the most offensive examples of badge engineering in automotive history. Technically a 1980s Chevrolet Cavalier underneath, this Crapillac should have been anything other than fast or reliable, yet it managed to be both. With a Lemons veteran at the wheel, it was shockingly quick through corners, reeling in purpose-built sports cars on its way to becoming the Class B runner-up and a 10th-place finish overall.
1: Petrosexual Racing's #100 Cadillac-Swapped Mazda Miata
What's built from the parts of at least 22 different donor cars, has side pipes that sound like Zeus being torn asunder, and makes even the creations of Corbin Goodwin look like Concours material?
That'd be Petrosexual Racing's "Caddiata," a 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata Cadillac's 4.9-liter "High Technology" V8 under the hood. Why they bothered making custom-ported cylinder heads and a laser-etched intake manifold for an engine with such ill repute, we'll never know. For reasons equally mysterious, its bell housing comes from a Dodge Dakota, its wheels from a Mustang, and the hatch from a Geo Metro. And yes, that VHS case for Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame in place of the factory airbag still has the tape inside it.
If being street legal wasn't the icing on the cake, then being the fastest car of the field has to be. That kind of speed normally would've floated them into Class A, but a Lemons official accepted their bribe of a case of beer (which was actually repackaged Spaghetti-Os) to knock them down to Class B, where they finished fourth in class and 13th overall.