Friday, December 14, 2007

Introduction- What the F Are We Doing?

Automotive racing. The pinnacle of driver talent, combined with countless hours of research, design, and testing to create a vehicle capable of competing at the highest level. Millions of dollars invested in carbon fiber pieces to reduce weight, titanium engine pieces to withstand massive horsepower, and fancy electronic gizmo's to monitor everything happening to the car; all controlled by a driver who has spent more time behind the wheel of a race car then he has in his own bed.

We will have none of these things.

We will have a 1989 Toyota Corolla with 240,000 kilometers on the odometer. I don't even know how many miles that is, but I'm guessing its a lot. This beast came with a 90 horsepower 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine when it was brand new. I'm guessing, by using my sophisticated ass dyno and taking into account the current repair of the car, that it would lay down about 55 hp to the wheels. To top things off, the car was in such disrepair that the owner gave it away FREE on Craigslist here in Denver.

We are going to race it. For 24 hours. This plan cannot fail.

What am I rambling about? The 24 Hours of LeMons. Now, some of you might think "that idiot doesn't even know how to spell LeMans!" We are not talking about LeMans, possibly the most famous race track in all of motorsports. Hell, I can't even afford a plane ticket to France. The 24 Hours of LeMons (lemons for those of you who are a bit slow on the uptake) is about 1/3 endurance race, 1/3 autocross racing, and 1/3 demolition derby. The participants are not allowed to spend over $500 dollars (including the price of the vehicle) on their race car. We are then going to take these hunks of crap out on a closed race track and drive them like madmen until they blow up, get wrecked, or we taste the sweetness of victory.

Check out for more info.

This blog is dedicated to our journey through this admittedly ridiculous venture. We are going to build a $500 car, drag it 1200 miles to Las Vegas, Nevada, in late June of all times, and turn it loose on the track for two days of automotive debauchery.

Who the hell are we? My name is Allen Stewart. I spearheaded this whole project after I read an article about it in Grassroots Motorsports Magazine. I have never laughed so hard at a magazine article in my life. I knew right away I needed to build one. It helps the feasibility aspect of the project that the cars are worthless piles of shit and therefore fairly cheap to build. $500 is the limit set for the event that can be spent on the vehicle. This $500 bucks has to cover the price of the vehicle itself and any repairs or modifications done to the vehicle to make it track worthy. You can sell parts off the car and use that money above the $500, but it's hard to fathom how many parts will be salable off of a car that costs less than $500. Pre-race the vehicle is inspected and if it is deemed to be worth more than $500 the team is penalized 1 lap for every $10 over the limit. The organizers of the event also reserve the right to purchase any car entered in the race for $500, so you don't want to show up with your built corvette or it won't be going home with you. The event also has other ways to help hinder the propensity of entrants to cheat. At the half-way point of the race one car is voted on by the organizers and other racers and summarily torn apart by heavy machinery. Don't cheat, and don't be in the lead after the first day of racing I think are the two main points here.

The $500 limit does not apply to safety equipment. This includes brakes, tires, wheels, rollcage, and related items. The car must have a roll cage installed, 5 point or better, and a fire suppression system. They also recommend a race seat and drivers have to have full race gear including a helmet, fire suit, and gloves. The windows must be removed and all other glass/shatterable plastic must be removed or covered with heavy clear tape. The car does not have to be registered or insured to participate, nor does it have to pass emissions.

Like I said earlier, I found a 1989 Toyota Corolla on Craigslist here in Denver for the grand price of FREE. It has been registered in Canada for it's entire 18 year lifespan and the owner did not think it could be registered here in the states without a big hassle. I think you can register a Canadian vehicle here without too much of a problem, but he was convinced the car was basically worthless and non-registrable. I told him my plans with the car and we agreed to meet up for the exchange. The car is in running condition, I drove it home, but it has a few problems (ya think?!). First off, the drivers seat bolts have rusted through the floorboard allowing the seat to be removed from the car without the use of any tools. While this may seem like a neat theft deterrent system, it is not very practical for driving. I drove the 14 miles to my house swaying back and forth like I was in a wooden rocking chair. Second, it is loud. Damn loud! I think the header is cracked or possibly the exhaust has rusted through right after the exhaust manifold. I haven't had a chance to inspect the car in the daylight, so I'm sure I'll be in for some other surprises as well.

This is just the beginning. I have until June to assemble a crew/race team of 4-6 people, make the car trackable, submit my registration for the event, find a way to get the car to the event, pick up spare parts, and hope the car doesn't spontaneously combust.

Check back soon for the next installment!

May all your race cars be worth $500 or less!


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