LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #30-21

Lede2

Hey, you’re still reading. That’s a good thing, I think…Today, we cross into the top third of the list, having passed up tried and sometimes-true sportscars like the Mazda RX-7 and Toyota Supra. Today, we see some otherwise-vanilla front-wheel drive cars,  a classic sportscar, and a lot of heavy metal. The DF is very close around this part of the list; Number 26 on the list finishes less and 0.010 behind Number 18 on the list. Make the jump to see the next 10.

Introduction,  Honorable Mentions, and Entries #74-71
Entries #70-61
Entries #60-51
Entries #50-41

Entries #40-31

30. Toyota Celica (FWD) – DOMINATION Factor: 1.035 (2010 Rank: 32/38)

Toyota_Celica_FWD2

Later front-drive Celicas have outperformed earlier generations by a small bit, which is a reverse of the 2010 rankings. The front-drive Celicas are a bit handcuffed by lack of power, but they’ve come extremely close to winning a couple of times. That said, a decent number of Celicas will spend a race weekend or three closely acquainted with an engine hoist.

29. Honda Accord – DOMINATION Factor: 1.040 (2010 Rank: 22/38, included with Prelude)

Honda_Accord1

Few seem to think of the Accord as little more than an appliance, but in the right hands, it can be a formidable endurance racing tool. With the right drivers, it can run efficiently and relatively quickly, giving later models a shot at an overall win. Older generations–the third generation has been best so far–are becoming a very viable Class B option for their large stock fuel tank, good fuel mileage, and attainable reliability.

28. Mazda MX-6/626/Ford Probe – DOMINATION Factor: 1.041 (2010 Rank: N/A)

mazda_MX6

The shared Ford-Mazda platform is one of the car types that can absolutely fly, as evidenced by the BoomPowSurprise V6 Probe GT built by the Riley Technologies shop. That said, speed tends to come at a price and most Probe and Mazda 626/MX-6 teams go through a fair supply of both KL-DE V6s and turbocharged four-cylinders. For some reason, MX-6 and Probe teams bust out seriously awesome themes for these cars.

27. Nissan Sentra/200SX/Pulsar/NX – DOMINATION Factor: 1.044 (2010 Rank: 26/38)

nissan_sentra

The Sentra and its myriad relatives of varying sporting ability have performed reasonably well. The SE-R trim Sentras and their 200SX younger siblings are the studs of the family with a rev-happy SR20DE motor and factory limited-slip differential, but finding a non-frightening $500 example can be a challenge. That said, the rare and oddball Pulsar and NX are good second options. Here’s a fun game for commenters: Provide an English-language, non-automotive definition for Nissan’s made-up word “sentra.”

26. BMW E28 – DOMINATION Factor: 1.049 (2010 Rank: 30/38, included E24)

bmw_E28

BMW’s 5 Series has the ability to be a complete hot rod, but most E28 teams struggle with the hulking Bimmers. E28s did win two of the first five races in 2006 and 2007 and of late, Cerveza Racing’s E28 has owned California races with six wins in the last nein races. A well-sorted E28 can outpace most E30s and run similar-length stints, but they lack the overall reliability of their smaller 3 Series cousins.

25. Honda Civic/CRX/Del Sol – DOMINATION Factor: 1.049 (2010 Rank: 15/38, included with Acura Integra)

honda_civic2

The Civic remains a car that springs to many people’s minds when first considering options for LeMons and with good reason: They’re plentiful, cheap, and easy to work on. They possess a well-earned LeMons reputation for going through motors (B-Series, D-Series, whatever…) and/or head gaskets, but once a team sorts their Civic, they have a reliable racecar that’s easy on consumables and fun to toss around a track. They look amazing with an enormous section of Cessna 172 wing mounted on the roof, too.

24. Ford Panther Platform – DOMINATION Factor: 1.049 (2010 Rank: 12/38)

Ford_Crown_Vic

The Panther reaching the top third of the field is not at all bad from a heavy, non-sporting platform. It’s unlikely a Crown Victoria will ever win overall because fuel consumption is wretched and they’re not generally fast enough to make up for it (homemade twin turbo setups aside), but their Modular V8s are as bulletproof as motors get in LeMons. The police- and taxi-designed Crown Victoria are the paragon of Working Vehicles, built for abuse and capable of taking it with the best (worst?) of them.

23. Volkswagen Mk.3/Mk.4 Golf/Jetta/Corrado – DOMINATION Factor: 1.052 (2010 Rank: 19/38, all liquid-cooled VW)

VW_MK3-2

Shockingly, the newer the Volkswagen, the better it does. With more power and likely considerably less rust than older generations, the Mk.3 and Mk.4 VWs are not completely awful. The only Volkswagen overall winner ran a Mk.3 Golf to a narrow victory at Mid-America Motorplex in 2010. VW took home the 2012 Deconstructors Championship for a wretched season last year, but people seem to keep bringing them back under the pretense that their dozens of horsepower will DOMINATE.

22. GM Full-Size RWD (A-Body/G-Body) – DOMINATION Factor: 1.054 (2010 Rank: 23/38)

GM_Abody_Malibu2

The best GM Products are Malaise Era rear-wheel drive cars, mostly from the A- and G-Platforms. Bet you didn’t see that coming. While the Small-Block Chevy (SBC) V8 has gained a reputation for failing, the SBC seems happiest in these cars for some reason and the eight blatting cylinders is a fitting exhaust note for heaps of this nature. Moldecarlo’s G-Body Monte Carlo took GM’s first overall win (of two) in March 2013 after a number of Top 10 finishes.

21. Datsun 240Z/260Z – DOMINATION Factor: 1.054 (2010 Rank: 33/38, All Z-Cars)

datsun_240Z2

For an old design and cars that are usually very rusty, this is a remarkable showing. You can probably chalk a little of this up to teams developing reliability over several races, but the 240Z and 260Z stay together startlingly well as a general rule. And even when plastered with a few tubs of bondo, the BRE livery never looks bad on these cars.

We’re approaching the end of the Torture Test and some supposedly terrible cars have yet to show up. Where do you think they’ll fare in the Final 20?

 [Photos: Murilee Martin]

18 Comments

  1. sentra /ˈsɛntrə/
    noun, plural sen·tras
    1. one who actively seeks or encourages moderation and practicality to a paradoxically impractical degree
    2. one who is militantly or zealously centrist in outlook, behavior or ideology
    3. one who vigilantly guards against extreme behavior or beliefs
    The boss was known around the office as a real sentra, insisting that only half-caff coffee be brewed in the breakroom and prohibiting workers from wearing neon-colored fabrics.

  2. The VW doing so well once again proves that street reliability doesn't necessarily correlate to racing reliability. Then again, and smart team would have stripped all of the problematic electronics off the car for racing.
    I thought the E28 would have done better, but my view on these has been skewed by the fact that I have seen Cerveza team win so many times.

    1. MK 3 and 4 Golfs should be for the 'enthusiast only'.
      In the realm of old British cars. Not much on reliability, needs daily attention.

      1. Seems like one of those alumnus/alumna/alumni/alumnae Latin constructions.
        I stand by your definition(s).

  3. sentra
    noun, plural sentras
    1. A female guard, esp. one posted for defense of a base, access route, etc. [Note: this term is now obsolete, though still in use in some specific cases (LARPing).]
    "They posted one sentry and one sentra outside their castle gate."

      1. Actually, my "definition" is just as made-up as (though less funny than) Tanshanomi's (and as long as I'm 'fessing up, I know nothing about LARPing, but threw that reference in there for some fake perceived authenticity).
        …that said, I've also just noticed that Wee Roger beat me to it while I was typing my original post, and the fact that we both came to basically the same conclusion made me chuckle. Maybe we're on to something…?

        1. It was very convincing and I figured that the agreement among parties meant that I'd failed with my Google Machine. Consequently, I was having some kind of linguistics meltdown Because Irregular Noun Forms.
          Well-played.

  4. One of my college pals autox'd a new 2nd Gen Probe. It was the 120hp 2.0 5 speed SE model. I think he bought it specifically to run in HS knowing it would be the top of the class.
    Out of the box, it was fast. A few tweaks got him far enough locally to get to the SCCA Solo II Nats.
    I don't think I've seen another Probe in 10 years…

  5. Not to sound like an internet car guy, but the GM A/G body is a mid sized car. The Caprice and its like (B/D bodies, I think?) are the full sized cars. Totally different chassis. Though to confuse things I do believe the downsized full sized cars that came out in the late 70s actually shared much of the older, bigger A body chassis from the 1973-78ish era.

    1. Touche. Probably would've made more sense to say GM RWD Coupes (since nearly all the A/G Bodies have been two-doors) rather than identify them with a(n incorrect) segment qualifier. The Malibu and Monte Carlo make up well more than half of these, as well.
      Basically, the date range on these cars turns out to be '78-'87.

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