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Los Huevos Rancheros Beats Top Gear, “Wins” Class F “Victory” at 24 Hours of LeMons

los huevos rancheros 24 hours of lemons hooniverse

We won LeMons! Ok, well, we won our class at LeMons. That class being Class F, consisting entirely of us and Top Gear USA. Our 108 laps to their 79, despite their crew of at least two professional drivers and support staff of like 40 people.

Of course, it very nearly wasn’t so. The short version is we battled baffling fuel starvation issues most of Friday and Saturday only to hit the track and immediately be black flagged off for a massive fuel leak. Four laps total end of Saturday. Sunday we tortoised their hare, cranking out lap after pathetically slow lap. A minor hiccup with the clutch and shifter linkages put us at risk for about 20 minutes, but we sorted it and finished out the day.

Personally, I want to thank everyone on our team for their efforts and their patience through all the struggles. Jeff, Ryan, Graham and Ted, we couldn’t have done this without something (or many things) each of you did. More importantly, a huge thanks to my wife Daisy for not only putting up with the escalating costs in time and money this misadventure brought, but supporting us with food and drinks and other hospitality. Best. Wife. Ever.

Hit the jump for a few details…

Friday we stalled on tech in favor of attempting to practice. Unfortunately, we did not even one lap in practice before realizing we had a definite, but baffling engine cut-out problem. Rather than stall out on track, we ended up using the massive hills of the ring road to the outer parking lots for testing. As of late Friday night, courtesy of a ton of help from Kiwi Steve the car was running much better…

…but Saturday it still cut out on track. We checked the fuel lines, carb float level, tank pickup, searched for electrical issues and triple checked ignition timing. Finally, on the advice of Judge Phil aka Murilee Martin, we ran to O’Reilly’s and bought a generic low-pressure electric fuel pump. Sure enough, that solved it. As best we can tell, the mechanical pump can’t keep up with sustained loads (like turns 1 through 4 or the ring road hill at Sonoma).

fuel leak

One (maybe more than one…?) lap into our belated start, we were black flagged for a massive fuel leak. Pro-tip: checking that your fuel filler hose doesn’t leak with like five gallons in the tank doesn’t mean crap about its ability to not leak on a racetrack with a full tank. It leaked from the vent, it leaked from the cap, it leaked from the metal-to-metal joint at the top of the filler neck and it leaked from the sending unit/pickup lock ring. Almost everything that could leak, did. We got Grant from Evil Genius to weld up the metal swage joint seam, sent Ted to Santa Rosa to pick up a cap, re-sealed the lock ring and put a longer coiled hose on the end of the tank vent. The last step was recreating the seal between the fuel cap lock ring and the top of the filler tube. I am so glad I threw that random leftover rubber sheet in the trailer.

We re-tested that assembly by driving in clockwise circles on the ring road before start on Sunday and found no leaks, so Jeff took the green. Well, actually we put him out there about 10 minutes after the green to let the utter clusterfnck that is 130 LeMons cars on a cold, wet track work itself out a bit. Judging by the traffic over the radio, it was a good call.

We started the day with 4 laps to Top Gear’s 60. We knew if we did laps all day and the continued at their previous pace or worse we’d catch them, but we needed to just. do. laps.

We told Jeff to take it slow and steady, keep the car on the track. He delivered on the slow and steady part, but nearly killed me with a heart attack when he announced he’d been black flagged. (GODDAMMITHOWCOULDITBELEAKINGSTILLAFTERALLTHATWORKCRAPDAMNWTFDAMN) Turns out he’d spun. Oh…ok. Y U NO TELL ME THAT?! Anyway, he finished out his shift with one more minor incident (got rear-ended, no flag) and it was off to Graham. Speedy laps (well, a 2:37 best lap), no flags, no contact. Apparently,the motor revs to the mid-5,000s. Who knew?

Right at the Jeff-to-Graham hand-off, I heard over the radio that Top Gear was off track and parked. They’d bumped up to 79 laps to our 20-something.

We went to hand off to Ryan, but somehow with his Saturday arrival, we’d forgotten to tell him to get a driver’s wristband, so he got turned around at the track entrance. We quick-swapped to Ted, who also turned a good conservative 20 laps without incident. Not trivial when you’re 30-45 seconds off the lap pace and it’s raining.

scramble wrench

Finally it was Ryan’s turn again, but he came in with reports of no third gear. Not good when you’ve only got three. Ryan’s about 6’6″ tall, and it turns out his bent-up leg was keeping the shifter from going and staying in third. We told him to just deal with it, but he was back in shortly thereafter with more issues: the shifter linkage adjustment at the bottom of the column had come loose, making it impossible to do much of anything on the second-third gear rail. We put that back together, only to have the clutch pedal adjustment all screwed up as well. More scrambling and we got the 1/4″ of adjustment necessary to make it work.

At this point we were about 20 laps away from beating the dead Top Gear’s 79, with just enough time to do so if we didn’t spend another hour wrenching. I got in the car, knowing it’d been able to work the finicky shifter and clutch previously. I was getting impatient and wanted to make sure we could beat Top Gear, but we really shoud’ve put Ryan back in the car. It was his turn.

Somewhere around lap four the panic of an unfamiliar wet track full of much faster cars wears off and I actually start enjoying myself. I was able to pass the IOE-winning Corona and…cars that were clearly limping off track with mechanical issues. On a good lap I could keep pace with the Geo Metro on all-season tires. I kept ratcheting it up lap after lap and sure enough, managed to spin off into the mud. I thought I was still a good 10 laps away from beating Top Gear, but upon reporting for my penalty Judge Steve let me know we’d done it (shows how good I was at awareness). At that point, it was just a matter of finishing out the day, which I managed to do without further incident, despite a few clentch-heavy moments as the track got wetter with rain.

A few random post-race thoughts on the car:

  • The second-to-third gap is too big. I’m checking what gears are in the two toploaders I’ve got, and what’s available. Having no low/mid-range to pull when upshifting to third doesn’t help, either.
  • The three on the tree linkage is more trouble than it’s worth. Almost certainly going to the floor for the next race.
  • Despite the dinky tires, this thing sits way too tall. We can cut the front springs and throw some lowering blocks in the rear. Even with that, it’s pretty controllable, handling-wise.
  • This thing is slooooowwwwww. Like, the first thing I’m doing when I get back in the garage is a compression check, because I’m not sure it’s actually running on six out of six. Following that, I’m looking into getting a working two-barrel on that manifold and pulling a junkyard Duraspark electronic ignition. Meanwhile I’m scheming about a TBI unit from a Chevy 4.3L V6 and a megasquirt controller. And/or a turbo, while we’re at it.
  • Though, we’re working pretty hard to not put a V8 in this thing, to be honest…

And on that note…
2015 December 24 Hours of Lemons 0065

  • bigredcavetroll

    Congrats on your win!

    I’m very impressed he can ride the bike. I’ve tried to ride one of those before and wasn’t able to.

    Could you run a 300 C.I. I6 from a newer Ford pickup? That would already have fuel injection and they can be picked up pretty cheap. You might even be able to pull one with a 5 speed already attached to it. Maybe that’s too easy though.

    • jeepjeff

      Those are a different engine platform. IIRC, different bell housing and I’m sure the engine mounts are in a different spot. The other thing that’s cool about the 200 is it’s undersquare, so it will actually rev. Time said it went to 5500, but Ryan definitely tagged 7 grand and I accidentally got it up to 6000 on my stint. I sort of want to cut up one of the 170ci heads that Tim has sitting around and figure out a way to bodge better intake runners onto it.

    • Ford had 2 straight six platforms, the small Falcon/Mustang one and bigger truck 240/300.

      The truck motors are indestructible and have the same bellhousing bolt pattern as a V8. They also weigh nearly as much as a big block. Oddly enough, they’re no cheaper on CL than a crappy 302 or 289. Not really worth the weight or effort to cram it in there.

      • Don’t forget the 223 “Mileage Maker” Six and its ilk, assuming your goal is to make Judge Phil shake his head in disbelief.

        • Vairship

          I’m sure the increased mileage and therefore reduced pit stops totally makes up for the slight reduction in power, right?

          • As a bonus, I believe it’s also heavier.

  • jeepjeff

    Oh…ok. Y U NO TELL ME THAT?!

    Because I’m an idiot and was in WAAAAAAY over my head. I had about 10 too many things to figure out while I was out there. It was fantastic though. It was also the most insane thing I’ve ever done. For those of you who didn’t quite catch that: it was my first time on a race track. In any way shape or form. And I found myself going head to head with The Stig under green flag conditions in the wet.

    Thanks for throwing me in the car first thing on Sunday morning. I now have the best bar boast ever.

    • “…it was my first time on a race track. In any way shape or form.”

      That was me in Pete’s Zombee MGB in the middle of the only LeMons race ever held at Oregon Raceway Park, a track later described to me as “surprisingly technical.” Fortunately I didn’t know any different at the time. Nor did my niece, who went out next.

      Fun, isn’t it?

      • jeepjeff

        OMG, yes. I definitely want to do this again. Also: you are crazier than I ever imagined. Being the slowest car on that track was seriously intimidating. (And in case it wasn’t clear: I mean this in the sense that my respect for you has gone through the roof. You, sir, are seriously awesome.)

        • Aw, shucks. I attribute it all to constant vigilance against ever learning better.

    • Ha. No worries.

      Look into an instructed track day or driving school. I did a Skip Barber 2 day years ago and it’s paid for itself in missed crashes s many times over.

    • Awesome, Jeff! Glad you had fun. This is yet another reminder that I want to get back on the track–it’s been two years now since Pete insanely let me drive the Zombee.

  • “The three on the tree linkage is more trouble than it’s worth.”

    Four on the tree is the preferred setup for endurance road racing.

  • Congrats!!!!(?)
    You “won” something, which is something the Hooniverse east coast team has not been able to do.

  • The fuel leak is definitely the 2017 Hooniverse Calendar cover shot.

  • A matt black Ranchero spraying fuel on the asphalt is a damn good metaphor for Hooniverse.

    For all the right reasons.

  • dukeisduke

    Flippin’ amazing, Tim (and everyone else)! I would try to sort out the 200, and switch to a better geared 3-speed with a floor shift. I can see the electric fuel pump helping, too. When I had my ’68 Bonneville (400 4-barrel), it ran great the first summer with the a/c on, then the next summer (actually starting on warm spring days), it started vapor locking (probably a change in gas that made it more volatile). I spent two summers trying everything I could think of to cure it. I gave up (bought the ’76 Vega GT), and sold it to a friend. He stuck a Holley electric fuel pump and regulator on it, and that cured the vapor lock.

    Oh, and congratulations! Think that will get a mention for you guys (and Hooniverse) on TG:USA?

  • Amazing work, guys. I spent an inordinate amount of my weekend watching the live video feed. My wife was delighted.

    • I managed to watch bits of it throughout the weekend, including most of the awards ceremony following the moment the Hooniverse crew was walking away from Jay to a round of applause for having won something that I could only assume was Class F. My wife was amused.

    • Wait, I thought you one of the guys among us who had a life?

      • If it makes any difference I watched the feed while loaded on two kinds, no actually, three different kinds of speed, heroin, LSD, suicidal weed and, oh yes, a few barbiturates. As soon as the awards were presented I went to an all night rave hosted underneath the Hammersmith Flyover with Kloe Phosphate, Neon Brian and Xither Phish.

        Then I came home to try and find my Proton Impian brochure.

        • You had me there for a minute, but I refuse to believe you didn’t know exactly where to find that brochure.

  • Bryan Woody Wood

    The TBI injector from a Ford Tempo is a direct bolt on. A header and a 264 duration cam from clay smith will do wonders, at least for the go fast noises. Every piece of information you need is in this Hot Rod magazine article from 1967 – http://www.classicinlines.com/HA1.asp

    • Bryan Woody Wood

      On page 5 thru the end they detail setting it up with 4 side draft CV carbs off an old Honda 450

    • Nice. So…can that Tempo setup support running a 200 at 5-6k rpm?

      I’ve got a 2 barrel adaptor, so I could use pretty much anything that can bolt/adapt to that. I’ve got a 1.08 (280-something CFM) 2bbl carb that just needs jets, so…

      • Bryan Woody Wood

        The stock Tempo makes as makes as much power as the Falcon with just 2.3 liters (1 less than the Falcon). I would guess it might be good for about 100hp. It is literally the Falcon motor with 2 cylnders removed.

        The key to making any real power with that motor is getting enough air into it. An adapter does nothing about the tiny runners and tiny hole it all has to go through. At least a tbi removes the restriction off the carb venturi, but not the rest. The good news is that it is nearly impossible to blow up at 1bbl power levels.

        But yourself a copy of the mustang/falcon six performance handbook. I’ll send you the link.

  • Fuhrman16

    Thank you for letting us at home watch along with ya’ll. It was quite nice to see a stream from a slow car for once.

  • HycoSpeed

    Fine fine work, a hearty congrats to all involved!