Sure, I’ve routinely called this crapcan albatross the Worst LeMons Car of All Time (WLCOAT), but the fact remains that NSF Racing’s Plymouth Reliant is far more than a 24 Hours of LeMons entry and perhaps even more than a car. It’s a shared experience, a paragon of unity, and a demonstration of how the Internet enthusiast community can come together. The 2013 K-It-Forward campaign has spawned far too many stories to tell in just a few hundred words, but follow along after the jump to scratch the surface on what should be the Hooniversal Car of the Year.
LeMons Supreme Court Justice Murilee Martin had clamored for years about how LeMons needed a proper Lee Iacocca-grade example of the Chrysler K platform. At the 2012 Season Ender, Florida’s NSF Racing—purveyors of finely rusted Mopar and Mitsubishi products—brought a clapped-out 1987 Plymouth Reliant. It fared poorly, as expected, and the team offered to give the car away after it raced the 2013 Season Opener at Carolina Motorsports Park.
Rather than just give it away, the LeMons community responded by offering to ferry the car around the country with a different team taking its reins for each race. There wasn’t really a practical goal other than to have fun, but most expected the K would nab LeMons’ top trophy, the Index of Effluency at some point. The Reliant soon showed that expectations can be a bad thing to have.
Rather than recap each race and transit, here is an extremely brief overview of the highlights and lowlights:
- The first team to take it over, Sputnik Racing, registered and tagged it so it could be driven between races on the street. This proved a blessing and a curse (mostly a curse) many times over.
- Since the 2012 Season Ender, the K has traveled much of the U.S.’s expanse from Florida to Washington and from New Hampshire to California. It crossed the country no fewer than three times and traveled around 25,000 miles (A lot for any car, let alone a 25-year-old beater of a Plymouth Reliant), split between the car itself, planned towing, and unplanned time on flatbed. It also wracked up more than 4,600 race miles, meaning K Car has seen almost 30,000 miles of movement in the past year.
- By the K’s final race of the season, it was on its eighth motor. It had destroyed four 2.2-liter Chrysler engines (and was on its fifth) before receiving a Mitsubishi 6G72 swap. It then blew up three of those, naturally.
- The Reliant took home a couple of event-specific trophies and an unprecedented three I Got Screwed awards.
- K-Car fanatic Steven McDaniel drove it through Death Valley on a 118-degree day—where it predictably broke—on the way to Buttonwillow Raceway in June. In December, six-time LeMons overall winner Mike Taylor drove it through Wyoming when the outside temperature reached -21 degrees, possibly colder. It eventually proved too frustrating and the good folks from another HCOTY nominee, Stick Figure Racing, generously lent Taylor their tow rig to get it to Sonoma.
- After 12 miserable race attempts, the K finally took home the IOE at Road America.
- Teams who ran the K, led by unofficial Steward of the K Doug Kirchberg, cobbled together a fittingly hooptie trophy out of a small sampling of broken parts as a tribute to…something.
Here is Murilee Martin’s brief video of lowlights from the race at blustery Monticello Motors Club in April:
And here’s Murilee’s season-long lowlight reel:
It’s unclear quite how many different people raced the K this year, but the number is likely well north of 50 and possibly closer to 100. That’s a lot of different people who have driven it, wrenched on it, rewired it, towed it, commuted it, paid for it, sweated in it, frozen fingers for it, fretted about it, slept on it, wept on it, limped it, and pimped it. Which is to say nothing of those who have followed it, cheered it, and jeered it all season long.
The K switched hands a remarkable amount of times to unite hundreds of crazy souls in what can only be described as mass-masochism. Since the Hooniversal Car of the Year is an Internet contest, it’s only logical that an idea spawned on the Internet and executed in truly poor LeMons fashion deserves the vaunted HCOTY title.
Photos copyright Eric Rood/Hooniverse 2013