We of LeMons HQ have started (or, rather, resumed the tradition of) issuing a region-specific trophy for each race, which means in practice that we bring a trophy with a blank nameplate and realize that we haven’t thought of what we’re going to call it until about 19 minutes before the checkered flag on Sunday. The idea is that we have a way to reward a team that achieves something special at a race, yet doesn’t fit into one of the normal trophy categories. At last weekend’s Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 race, we felt compelled to split the trophy three ways, for reasons that will appear obvious once you click the “Read more” link.
Because we were in Northern California, I decided to honor one of the great moments in San Francisco history: Jerry Garcia’s 1985 bust for smoking crack in a parked BMW in Golden Gate Park. The idea of a wealthy and respected rock star not being able to wait until he got to a more secluded location— like, say, his house about 5 miles away— to hit the hubba-rock struck me as being very similar to the decisions made by Unununium Legend of LeMons honorees, and so that was the inspiration for the Jerry Garcia Memorial Busted For Smoking Crack In Golden Gate Park award (JGMBFSCIGGP for short).
Image source: 420 Magazine
When you bring a nowhere-near-ready-to-go British car that nobody’s ever heard of to a LeMons race, wrench on it all weekend in a frenzy, and get it onto the track with ten minutes left on the clock, you qualify for the Most Heroic Fix trophy… unless you’re this guy, in which case it’s just business as usual. What can we say about this San Diego-based Unununium Legend of LeMons? The California-to-Florida Citroën Hell road trip? The multiple Index of Effluency wins (including an arrive-and-drive to pilot a Granada in Florida)? The Lunar Rover Mini Moke? All the other achievements I don’t have time to find hyperlinks for?
So, Spank dragged his lemon-shaped turbocharged Mini, his Dr. Spankenstein’s Mokester Mini Moke, and a ‘69 Austin America 500 miles north to Infineon Raceway, after thrashing on them for something like 96 straight sleepless hours. The Mini and the Moke had some problems, but both appeared on the track fairly early in Saturday’s race session and were out there much of the time.
The America, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen. Saturday turned to Sunday, Sunday morning turned to Sunday afternoon. The to-do list never seemed to get any shorter.
Then, miracle! With an hour or so left before the checkered, the Austin rolled up for its tech inspection. It will be just like Spank’s Simca 1204, which roared onto Infineon with minutes to go at the Sears Pointless race in the spring! That car took the checkered flag in that race and went on to win the ‘11 Arse Sweat-a-Palooza IOE, so we knew that the Austin would breeze through tech and hit the track ASAP.
All went well during the inspection… except for a slight problem with the Hydrolastic suspension. There was a pop, the left front of the car suddenly collapsed, and onlookers were showered with an extremely nasty oily fluid.
I was dealing with miscreant drivers in the nearby penalty box and escaped dousing with the 40-year-old vile liquid, but tech inspector Armand didn’t fare as well.
Eventually, the whole mess got duct-taped back into semi-raceworthy shape, and the America clanked onto the track about ten minutes prior to the checkered flag. Looking good!
Two laps later, the Hydrolastic suspension burst another hose, and that was that. While the rest of the field drove off under their own power, to applause and high-fives from the spectators, Spank’s America left the track on the flatbed. Wait, did I say the rest of the field drove off under their own power? We had two more exceptions:
Speedycop. He’s got Unununium Legend status, he’s performed all manner of hooptie-riffic field-expedient repairs, he’s done plenty of ill-advised body/chassis swaps, and he has a Svengali-grade ability to convince other racers to join in his absurd adventures. Now he’s saddled up Rocinante and headed out West, where he’s heard there are larger and more challenging windmills to battle. As part of this plan, he’s bought the former Black Metal V8olvo/Death Cab LeMons car, which he’s snookered Evil Genius Racing into storing for him between trips out from Speedycop HQ in Maryland. The Volvo didn’t come with an engine or transmission, so he also bought a couple of random Fox Mustang donor cars on Craigslist. Fly out, do an engine swap, race! No weaknesses in this plan, no way.
In an all-night thrash after arriving, Speedycop and his Gang of Outlaws managed to convert the Death Cab into a Michael Jackson-esque “Thriller” Halloween car, complete with extremely disturbing costumes. Yes, this man is a law-enforcement professional.
The Haunted V8olvo cruised the paddock Friday evening, cranking “Thriller” and generally being a crowd-pleaser… but when the green flag waved on Saturday morning, it was nowhere to be seen. What’s going on?
So, I went over to the Gang of Outlaws compound to see what was up. Hmmm, this scene doesn’t look good. It turns out that the sight-unseen donor-car’s engine couldn’t hold any oil pressure, plus it had blown head gaskets, beri-beri, and an oil pan packed with manganese nodules. Actually, I’m not quite sure what was wrong, but it was terrible and the engine was dead. No problem, said Speedycop (he never gets upset about such minor setbacks), we’ll just rebuild it. The Model T GT guys (previous owners of the Death Cab) helped out by giving Speedy and the Gang a couple of broken Ford 302s, and the all-night make-one-good-engine-out-of-three-bad-ones thrash began.
Sunday morning, the Thriller Volvo roared onto the track. Hooray! Unfortunately, it didn’t stay out there for long.
This time, Speedycop Central sat in a spreading slick of gear oil, with Speedycop beneath the car. What now?
Transmission failure. Or maybe flywheel failure. Rinderpest. Something terrible. But this team never gives up! After many hours of slippery, slimy agony, the transmission was back together and in semi-functioning condition. Back to the track!
Not much time left in the race, but at least the Gang of Outlaws will have the glory of the traditional drive past the cheering spectators after the checkered flag!
Well, no. Dragged into the paddock behind the safety truck. As is the case with Spank, the bars for Heroic Fix and I Got Screwed awards get raised a lot higher when this sort of thing is your normal M.O.
That brings us to the third recipient of the JGMBFSCIGGP Award: Brandon, aka Der Jetta Schläcter, aka the team captain of the IOE-winning Dr. Strangelove 1967 W110 Benz. Those of you who know Speedycop know that he spent a couple of years trying to get a LeMons overall win with his Lincoln Mark VIII— as if real LeMons fans cares about overall wins!— and Der Jetta Schläcter has spent a couple of years chasing the same hopeless dream with his terrible, terrible Volkswagen “Jettarossa.” When he hasn’t been doing that, he’s been flying to Michigan and helping with the Rent-a-Rustwagon as a member of Speedycop’s Gang of Outlaws, or going to Louisiana and assisting some hopeless Honda racers with an engine swap.
We used to worry about the Jettarossa being chock-full-o-cheats, with the judges handing out large quantities of penalty laps to the earnest Texan in the early MSR races, but this car has caused the demise of more VW hardware than the next dozen most destructive Volks teams combined. For the 2011 season, Der Jetta Schläcter has hauled this heap to Nevada and California (not to mention the 2010 season-ender in Florida and just about all the Houston events), and he’s destroyed an average of 1.8 engines per race. I think the car has a total of 40 laps in about 7 races during the last year.
Even more frustrating, Der Jetta Schläcter is actually a pretty good racer, and the Jettarossa should— in theory— be able to hold its own with the quicker teams. Reality, however, is more painful; last weekend, the failures involved wheel studs, head gasket, and probably some bent valves or something else similarly VW-esque.
Finally, late on Sunday, the Jettarossa was ready to go and roared off into the fray. This time it will take the checkered flag! The glory!
Sorry, Brandon, not this time. Pushed off the track by the wrecker!
At least he’s keeping a positive attitude… and he now owns one-third of The Jerry Garcia Memorial Busted For Smoking Crack In Golden Gate Park Award. Congratulations on your Sisyphian accomplishments, teams!