If you dig corner carving but don't have the deep pockets associated with it, then 24 Hours of LeMons is the event for you. Unlike other motorsports programs, where the costs can escalate into no-man's-land, 24 Hours of LeMons has a few choice rules, enabling everyone to become a race car hero for the weekend-provided your car can last that long. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to run the greatest number of laps possible in the two-day marathon. OK, so it's not really a 24-hour race that runs straight through the night (with the exception of The Lamest Day event at Nelson Ledges Road Course in Nelson Ledges, Ohio).
You'll also need to keep in mind that this is not a demolition derby. Overly aggressive driving will get you promptly escorted off the facilities. Of course, this is assuming they don't demolish your vehicle with a tractor first. No, I'm not kidding. Once you pass tech, the LeMons crew is able to purchase your vehicle for the set budget limit, at any given moment.
While the complete rules can be found on the website 24hoursoflemons.com, We just want to go over some of the more basic requirements. For starters, every vehicle entered has a price cap of $500. If you happen to go over the allotted budget during the initial purchase, you're more than welcome to sell anything and everything you don't need from the vehicle to help recoup some of the money.
The good news is that safety is taken very seriously, and there's no limit to spending on the protective stuff. Granted, you'll be lucky to hit the upper 50-mph barrier at select tracks; however, for what it's worth, I've always acknowledged the fact that I don't want to crash on the freeway even at 55 mph. That said, every vehicle entered is required to have a rollcage, with detailed requirements for some of the heavier cars.
Also included under the safety category and not in the $500 limit are wheels, tires, and brakes. The only stipulation is that the tires must be DOT-legal with a minimum 190 treadwear rating. When it comes to the helmet, you can toss out the open-face units or anything with an M rating, which is typically a motorcycle helmet. And finally, you'll need proper attire: a real race suit with an SFI 3.2A rating.
To participate, you must explain in detail why you should be accepted. Most teams have a theme, some of them really offbeat and nearly mistaken for a bad Halloween costume. In our case we wanted to be a little more serious and build something that resembled the Penske/Donohue Trans Am Camaro from the '60s. We wanted the unmistakable blue paint scheme and the number 6 on the side, with a '80s flare that only a third-gen Camaro could bring. While the fuel sponsor at the time was Sunoco, we opted to bring in our own personality by placing "Rockett Brand Race Fuels" on the side and dubbing our ride the Rockett Camaro.
Assuming you are accepted, you'll then have to send in your registration and have between four and six drivers. In our corner we had Vince Stroud, Curtis Little, Rick King, and me. And while a pit crew isn't particularly necessary, we had LeMons graduates Rich Southerland, who brought his monster RV and played the gracious host with home-cooked goodness; Kris Linquist, who outfitted our third-gen with two-way radios; and Scott Chamberlain, who did a little bit of everything.
This is definitely an experience everyone needs to try sometime. The good news is that the LeMons series is growing and currently has 10 events across the country, making it easy to try your luck at it. After entering my first event, I have to say that LeMons, at least in my interpretation, is an event for those who still have a sense of humor and just want to get out and have fun. You can make it as serious or relaxed as you want. It has a little something for everyone.
Ed. note: Stroud had the opportunity to work with PCM for Less, and here's what he had to say about them.
With the introduction of GM's LS engine family, the Gen II LT1 and LT4 small-blocks have been all but forgotten. It's a shame, because they offer easy retrofitting into older cars originally equipped with a standard small-block (the mounts literally bolt right up), come stock with great-flowing aluminum heads, and offer lots of performance for the dollar.
One of the hassles with getting these motors going in a car that didn't have an LT1 from the factory is the fuel injection system. While the systems are pretty advanced compared with the earlier TPI and TBI setups, simple performance upgrades or using a nonstock transmission can make the stock computer go nuts.
Our $400 Craigslist-score '83 Z28 was originally a Crossfire Injection ride, but that lump was mercifully replaced at some point with the LT1 out of a '94 Camaro. Our initial excitement was short-lived, however, because when we hooked the laptop up to the car's PCM (power control module) we learned it was throwing just about every smog-related trouble code possible. No wonder the seller's ad said, "No smog shop will touch this car with a 10-foot pole!" Undeterred, we hopped on PCM for Less (pcmforless.com), a company that literally tunes hundreds of cars a year, both by mail-order and on the dyno. That volume allows the company not only to offer its product at a cheap price, but it ensures that you get the max performance out of your car. We opted for the email version of the tune. You just enter the modifications of your car, and in a few days you'll receive a new operating program. The only equipment needed to load it is a Windows PC, a cable ordered from one of the many sources on the Internet, and the ability to click a mouse.
The performance gains and improvement in overall driveability are definitely noticeable. The PCM controls nearly everything in the drivetrain: fuel delivery, timing, even the automatic transmission line pressure. The new program optimizes these settings and also gives you the option of deleting the smog controls. Since our car has seen the street for the last time, we tossed the emissions stuff and never had to get greasy doing it!-Vince Stroud