Can you believe this marks our 5th year doing this?
Yeah, we started racing in LeMons way back in 2007 and it's amazing how things have changed since then. Normally I open these threads with a recap of what happened the previous year, but since this is something of a hallmark for us, I'm going to take you back to where it all started. But first let me give any newbies a basic rundown of what exactly the 24 Hours Of LeMons is.
The 24 Hours Of LeMons is an American endurance race series that is a parody of LeMans. Instead having specialty built cars, professional drivers with a support crew, and millions of dollars backing you, it's just you and several of your mental defective friends with something like a 1997 Pontiac GTP.
There are rules and safety guidelines you have follow before you ever get on the track, but the biggest one is that you can spend no more than $500 on the car itself. That means if you buy a car for $375, then you can only spend another $125 to replace a slipping transmission or blown shocks. Safety gear, which includes items like the roll cage or brakes are exempt from from this rule, this is how your $500 car quickly winds up costing you closer to $5,000 in the end.
Once your death trap has passed its tech and safety inspections, it will be subjected to a BS (Bullshit) inspection by several Judges. They will look your car over top to bottom to determine if your car is a legit $500 beater or if you've put a race prepped engine under the hood. If the Judges think you're cheating (whether you are or not) they will assign you penalty laps. For every $10 over the $500 they think you spent you will be given 1 lap. That means if you get 10 BS laps, you will start the race at -10 and have to work your way up to 0.
The Judges will also determine which class your car will be racing in, as of 2012 there are 4 different classes they can put you in.
A: The Good – This class is for cars that have a good chance of finishing well.
B: The Bad – This class is for cars that should be able to actually finish the race.
C: The Ugly – This class is for cars that shouldn't be allowed near a race track let alone actually on one.
X: Prototypes – This is a new class that's for cars that have been substantially modified from their original design. An example would be a Geo Metro that's been converted to RWD with a Taurus SHO engine shoved in the back of it, or an old F-150 body mounted backwards onto a Crown Victoria frame.
Each class winner, except for X, gets $500 in nickles. There is also the Index Of Effluency which is awarded to the worst car that did the best. The IOE winner gets $501 in nickels and free entry to a future race. There are other awards and trophies you can win such as Most Heroic Fix and Organizers Choice which comes with its own cash prize.
So with all that out of the way, lets get on with the trip down memory lane.
2007 – Where it all began.
In February of 2007, Car & Driver published an article covering the LeMons race they had entered back in summer. A little while later the article was being circulated around IRC, after several of us read it we said “I wish we could do something like that”. After a few seconds one of us chimed in with “Well, why don't we?”, and that's how all this foolishness got started.
At this point in time, LeMons was known for being more or less a glorified demolition derby. The specs for a roll cage were vague at best, external modifications such as nerf bars were A-OK, and the only safety gear you needed to wear was a helmet. If your car survived to make it to a second race, then you were one of the lucky few, that's just how things were back then. They would rewrite the rullbook before we made it to the track, but even then, things were kind of loose compared to how it is today.
Our weapon of choice for our first LeMons expedition was a 93 BMW 525i, and we would get our feet wet at the Flat Rock Speedway race near Detroit in late September. This was only the third LeMons race ever held and the first to run for a full 24 hours, so it would be something of a baptism by fire.
NOTE: These are the stats for each car as it came from the factory, not how it was when it rolled onto the track.
Car: 1993 BMW 525i
Engine: 2.5l I6 - 189hp and 181lb ft of tq
Transmission: 4 Speed automatic
Personally I don't care for German cars, I feel they are overly and needlessly complex, but I won't deny that the E30/E34 has earned it's reputation as a reliable car in the LeMons world. They also enjoy a wealth of aftermarket parts and support, for example, we gained about 30hp on ours with a simple computer chip. On the downside, I think these cars are a bit heavy and underpowered in stock form.
When it was all said and done, the car looked like it was fed to a wood chipper. Not only was there loads of cosmetic damage, just about every single body panel was mangled, but there was serious structural damage done as well. Thanks to being T-Boned twice during the race, the core support and radiator were both cracked, and a front frame rail was moved over several inches from its original location.
This race, along with another LeMons event held at the end of the year, wound up being the catalyst for some major rule changes. Both races were filled cars outfitted with nerf bars and were driven by people who thought nothing of blatantly crashing into another car to get them out of the way or just remove them from the race entirely. It resembled something more akin to a full scale version of bumper cars instead of a road race. It was these two races that really helped cement LeMons' early reputation as little more than a giant smash & bash, and to this day there are some people who still think that is all the series is.
Because of all this, roll cage requirements were revised along with several other things dealing with safety. They also outlawed any modifications to the structure that extended past the original body work, that meant no more nerf bars or objects designed to damage other cars, however things related to your theme were still fine. Another rule change dealt with car on car contact, if anyone traded paint for any reason at all, both cars would be black flagged and brought in before the judges to explain what happened.
Thanks to these sort of changes, and some other ones that came along later, the series became much safer and enjoyable for everyone involved.
2008 – The Insanity Continues.
Since the BMW was beyond repair, a new car would have to be found and prepped if we wanted to keep racing. The replacement we found was an 89 Mercedes 300E. Those of you who've followed us over the last few years might be going “Wait, you guys had a Merc?”, yes we did, we just never really told you about it till now.
The car was in incredible shape and would have made for a great LeMons car, but it did have one problem that would ultimately lead to it being sent to the scrap heap. It had a faulty transmission kick-down switch that would activate at random, this meant that you were in danger of over revving and blowing the engine anytime you drove it. Despite having this knowledge, a certain someone decided to take it on the highway anyway and wound up doing exactly that. I consider this to be the first of our “Lost LeMons”, a car we had that just never made it to the track.
Car: 1989 Mercedes 300E
Engine: 3.0l I6 - 177hp and 188lb ft of tq
Transmission: 4 speed automatic
Another German car that was somewhat low on power but made up for it by being incredibly light. I seriously had no idea the car was this light till I started doing research for this years thread. With the legendary reputation for reliability these cars had, the only downside is that parts wouldn't be easy to get on short notice if something did break. There is a LeMons team in Texas who've taken overall with one of these cars.
In what would become a recurring theme for us, we were back at square one without a car but still wanting to race. Soon enough we came upon a 98 Ford P71 Crown Victoria and began prepping it to run at Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP) in June. Later that September we would use the Vic to run our second full 24 hour LeMons race at Toledo Speedway.
Car: 1998 Ford P71 Crown Victoria
Engine: 4.6l SOHC V8 – 215hp and 275 lb ft of tq
Transmission: 4 speed automatic
Platform: 2nd generation Panther
Cop motor, cop tires, cop shocks, and a cop like waistline to match. While the CVPI has a great reputation both on the street and in LeMons, they're ungodly heavy with boat anchors under the hood. However they are built to last and can take a beating. With the right upgrades they can be very mean machines.
2009 – Brain Damage.
We took another trip to CMP (2nd) in April and after it was over we started thinking about getting another car to run along side the Vic. What we wound up getting was totally unlike anything we had raced before to this point, it also wound up setting the standard for each car we've had since then. We went from engines with multiple camshafts and fancy RWD setups to pushrods powering the wrong set of wheels. So what did we get? A 93 Buick Regal.
It was around this time that I started taking a much more active role in the team, and I'm not sure if getting this car was a sign of my influence starting to affect the rest of the team or it was just an amazing coincidence.
Car: 1993 Buick Regal
Engine: 3.8l V6 - 170hp and 220 lb ft of tq
Transmission: 4 speed automatic
Platform: 1st generation W-Body
Five words, transverse mono rear leaf spring. While the suspension design was antiquated at best, the car did come with all wheel disc brakes, and it had a Series I 3800 powering it. Like the Mercedes, we would have sacrificed power and torque for an engine thought to be indestructible. The biggest problem we would have had with this car was the severe lack of replacement parts if something broke.
The Regal would end up being the first in a series of 3800 powered cars in our collection along with being the second Lost LeMons. The car ran and drove just fine, but after the interior was removed it was discovered that the engine block was actually cracked in three different places and was running on half of it's cylinders. It wasn't all bad news though, the scrap value wound up being $50 more than we paid for the car in the first place.
So with the Regal being a (profitable) bust, we were once again on the hunt for a new car which turned out to be a 99 Buick LeSabre.
Car: 1999 Buick LeSabre
Engine: 3.8l V6 – 205hp and 230 lb ft of tq
Transmission: 4 speed automatic
Platform: 2nd generation H-body
The only nice thing about this car was the Series II 3800 under the hood. The brakes were absolutely abysmal, they were actually inferior to what came standard on the Regal, sporting front discs smaller than the rears on my Park Avenue and even smaller drums in the back.
We took the new LeSabre and the trusty Vic to another full 24 hour LeMons event in Ohio called The Lamest Day. Little did we know just how perfect that name would end up being. Some of you already know how things deteriorated that weekend, and for those that don't, I'll just say it got very ugly didn't end well.
2010 – Rising From The Ashes.
This is where Final Gear Racing v2.0 was born. We decided to wipe the slate clean and start over from scratch. This meant once again finding a car to prep along with finding new team members. We knew exactly what kind of car we wanted, but actually getting our hands on one proved to to be not so easy. After three months of intense searching, we finally found it, a 97 Pontiac GTP.
Car: 1997 Pontiac GTP
Engine: 3.8l V6 Supercharged – 240hp and 280 lb ft of tq
Transmission: 4 speed automatic
Platform: 2nd generation W-Body
The GTP isn't the lightest car we've had, but it's by far the most powerful. The 2nd gen W-Body received some much needed suspension upgrades over the 1st and enjoys a nice selection of aftermarket support. Its current list of upgrades includes larger 12 inch rotors with dual piston calipers from the Camaro, headers, custom exhaust system with the catalytic converter removed, and a GMPP suspension package..
After installing a cage and beefing up the brakes, we debuted the GTP at Summit Point that June. We also made a bit of LeMons history at this race since we were the first team to ever bring a car with a supercharged 3800 under the hood. The GTP performed pretty well despite the oppressive heat and it being its first shakedown race. A full recap of Summit Point 2010 can be found here.
Shortly before we went to Summit Point, we added a new member to the FGR family, the Final Gear Mobile Command Center or just FGMCC. The FGMCC is a 26ft enclosed trailer that features a tile floor, mini fridge, and even air conditioning. Yet to be installed are the motion activated machine guns, 70 inch flat screen TV, and dual keg chiller.
In late September we went to CMP (3rd) again. We would have a major high point followed by a low point. While the GTP was holding 3rd place just before a scheduled pit stop, we had the front driver's side wheel break all five wheel studs and go rolling off into the distance. Our chance of a top 10 finish was gone due to the repairs, but that wasn't going to stop us from trying, and by the end we had made up about 30 spaces from where we had fallen. It was hardly comeback of the year, but we left with a story to one day tell our grandkids.
Like with the Summit Point race, you can read the full recap of the event here in Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
2011 – Where There's Smoke...
Over the winter the GTP received several repairs and upgrades in preparation for its next race in May. Engine gaskets were replaced, the heads were worked over to help them breathe better, a donated set of GMPP sway bars and strut braces were installed, and a custom exhaust system that deleted the catalytic converter and U bend was fabricated.
Once everything was back together, we loaded up the FGMCC and took our 4th trip to CMP to see how the GTP would perform with the new upgrades. And it wound up beating the lap time it set the year before... and then it blew up. We're not totally sure what went wrong, but we think there was a hiccup in the cooling system that lead to the failure.
As before, a full writeup covering this event can be found here in Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
In 2011 we had another new addition to the FGR family, the Final Gear Tow Monster. The Tow Monster is an 08 Ford F-250 Super Duty with a 6.4l Powerstroke Diesel. Previously we had relied on an old Chevy Tahoe or rented Silverado for towing duty, but the former wasn't really designed for the task at hand and the latter was cost prohibitive to continue doing.
2012 – If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough.
As we enter the new year, I'm sorry to say that there hasn't been much work done on the GTP to get it back into fighting shape. The last race left us feeling burned out and with a very sour taste in our mouths, and because of that there was no real drive to get right back into it. I know I said “We'll be back and better than ever”, but truthfully, the words felt somewhat hollow even as I typed them. But as the saying goes, it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you can get back up.
After taking the rest of 2011 off to recharge the batteries, the fire has been rekindled and we're ready to go kick some ass again. Final Gear Racing will return to the track this year and it will be with the GTP. It's game on and we're going to have some fucking fun.
So where will be having this fun? We don't know when or where just yet. Despite the renewed desire, we still have a car without a working engine, and that's the main thing stopping us right now. Odds are we won't be on the track until sometime this summer or possibly even the fall, we might go to CMP once again or we might finally FINALLY make it to Chicago. Once the GTP is moving under its own power and has been thoroughly tested, then we'll have a better idea of which race/races we'll be taking part in.
Last year we focused mostly on power and handling upgrades, this year we'll be dealing with any weak points and taking steps to ensure we won't end up like we did last year. This means things like the cooling system and brake lines will be upgraded. We'll also have to find a seat that's compliant with the new safety rules and there's a chance we'll be re-caging the car due to a few shortcomings the current one has.
As for the theme this year, I don't know if we're going to stick with the E30 Killer or change it up again. Personally, I think it will be going away and replaced with something new. There's nothing wrong with it and we put a ton of work into it, but I think we want to distance ourselves from any bad memories and a theme (plus a hood) change might help ward off any bad joo joo.
And now I can finally get to what you really came here for, information about our new car.
A few days ago this post was about 85% finished, and then during the final hours of 2011 we had an unexpected turn of events take place...
On the final pages of the 2011 thread, I hinted that we had a new car, and all I offered you was the news that it had a V8 along with a teaser picture. Some of you might have identified what kind of engine it was and possibly even what kind of car it was sitting in, but for those who couldn't figure it out, I won't continue to tease you (much as I'd like to). If you've been reading this entire post, then you've already seen the car in its entirety and know its history with us...
We've picked up a 98 P71 Crown Victoria. If you're thinking we just got a car exactly like one we used to have, you're wrong. This isn't just another retired cop car, believe it or not, this is actually our old CVPI. Yes, we've managed to reacquired the very same car we used to race.
I am proud to announce that after being away for over two years, the Vic has returned home to the Final Gear Racing stable.
While it looks considerably different from when we last saw it, I assure you it's the same car.
So just how the hell did this happen? Well, it's kind of a funny story. After The Lamest Day in 2009, the car went into mothballs where it would stay until being sold (not by us) to none other than Speedycop in April of 2011. He replaced the cage and took it along with several other cars to Summit Point in the summer, and a few months later he decided to sell it to make room for other projects of his. However, no one showed any interest and the price would slowly drop over the next few months. Eventually he offered it up with a bunch of spare parts (including a new transmission) for just $700, and if no one wanted it he was going to cut the cage out and sell the shell for scrap.
When I saw the new price, I passed the information along to EyeMWing and joked how funny it would be to see the Vic come back home. Little did I know this was all the motivation he would need and he pounced on the deal. And just like that, the CVPI was on its way back home.
The Vic will need some work before it's ready to be on the track again though. We're looking at a transmission swap and possibly an engine swap as well, we'll know for sure when we really dig into it. There are a lot of different directions we can take the car, most of which I can't talk about just yet, but I will say that a 5 speed swap has been kicked around.
While fixing the GTP is our main goal, work on one car will not halt so we can focus on the other. Quiky and his father will concentrate on the GTP in the Final Gear Monster Garage while EyeMWing will toil away on the Vic in his mad laboratory.
Once both cars are up and running again we would like to have them do a race together, but there's no telling if or even when this will actually come to pass. Right now we're just ecstatic to have gotten an old friend back.
2012 is shaping up to be a big year for Final Gear Racing, so subscribe to the thread, follow us on twitter, and leave some feedback.