LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #40-31


In today’s 10 entries to the 24 Hours of LeMons Torture Test, we’ll cross the halfway point of the 74 cars, a welcome relief after seeing a lot of janky heaps in the list’s first half. We’ll see the first of the Big Three’s compact nameplates and a couple of super sporty cars that many would have expected to land much higher on the list. What the heck am I talking about? Follow the jump for the next 10.

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

40. GM J-Body – DOMINATION Factor: 1.006 (2010 Rank: N/A)


GM’s compact has never really matched their compact segment rivals from Ford and Chrysler in crapcan racing. While several teams have shown that the type has plenty of power and capability to compete  with most fields on pace, but General Motors’ common reliability pitfalls extend to the Cavalier and its platform-mates. For those reasons, perhaps, the Cavalier has never been as popular in LeMons as the Neon or the Escort, although it remains popular with the Juggalo population of the Midwest.

39. Volkswagen Mk. 1 Rabbit/Jetta/Golf/Scirocco – DOMINATION Factor: 1.006 (2010 Rank: 19/38, included all liquid-cooled VW)


Early water-cooled VWs represent one of those few cars types that can fall into any of the three LeMons classes based on the car’s and team’s level of awfulness. The cute little liquid-cooled machines can hold their own with the right driver and they have a dedicated following. The best MK. 1s come close to winning. The worst sound like my childhood friend’s dog Sparky after he had gotten into a can of beans, though the  VW of that caliber is likely slower.

38. Mitsubishi (Non-Eclipse, Non-3000GT) – DOMINATION Factor: 1.009 (2010 Rank: 34/38, included all Mitsubishi)


Let this be a lesson to the Mitsubishi enthusiasts in the world, wherever and whoever they might be: If you want to compete with a Mitsubishi in LeMons, you’re best off trying to run the most appliance-like Mitsu possible. The Mid-Drive Crisis Mirage has been the best Mitusbishi of all time with a pile of wins in both LeMons and ChumpCar World Series and Galants have also fared pretty well. For a wholly unremarkable and generally forgettable brand, that’s pretty solid performance.

37. Mercedes 300 – DOMINATION Factor: 1.016 (2010 Rank: 10/38, included all Mercedes)


For a car type that includes a fair number of glacially slow diesels, finishing in the exact middle of this list is high praise. The high-quality from the German luxury builder makes gas-powered 300s reliable runners. The real money, however (Just kidding; there’s no money in racing), is found with a diesel 300 to chase down a Class C victory. The diesel Mercs accelerate like Panzers, but they’re also built like them.

36. Toyota MR2 – DOMINATION Factor: 1.017 (2010 Rank: 20/38)


Toyota’s 4AGE engine was groundbreaking for its stratospheric redline and good-for-the-time power output, but for some reason, the motor has been nothing but trouble in first-generation MR2 LeMons cars. When they’re not overheating, the team’s drivers are spinning out in the mid-engined sportscar. If the 4AGE doesn’t spin your crankshaft, later-model Camry engines (both four-cylinder and V6) are popular swaps. Or you could go full-crazy and drop in a World War II-era radial engine, though reliability and mileage drop a tad.

35. Korea (Kia/Hyundai/Daewoo) – DOMINATION Factor: 1.019 (2010 Rank: N/A)


This one may come as a shock to many of the crowd, but here’s the rub: These cars are simply appliances and they don’t hold their value at all. For $500, you can find a running, late-model (post-2000) car with some kind of relatively minor issue the previous owner simply didn’t want to fix. Replacement parts are cheap, as likely is an entire running parts car. At the very least, it will prove more reliable than a North Korean history book.

34. Volvo 700 Series – DOMINATION Factor: 1.021 (2010 Rank: 25/38)


The turbocharged versions of the 700 go pretty well and the world-famous Volvo toughness means they hang together through endurance racing pretty well, though not as well as their older 200-Series siblings, as we’ll see. Pictured above is the 740 wagon from my favorite team name of all time: My Idiot Son Hit a Tree, which survived to race after…well…I guess the name sums it up pretty neatly.

33. Subaru – DOMINATION Factor: 1.024 (2010 Rank: N/A)


The Subaru badge to many represents bulletproof street reliability and 300,000 trouble-free road miles. While that’s all well and good in everyday driving, road racing has a nasty tendency to nuke the head gaskets on Subaru’s EJ motors, which makes a good finish rather difficult. As do many other all-wheel drive apologists, Subaru racers pray for rain so they can take full advantage of their extraordinary grip advantage. It’s never mattered too much; Subaru has seldom even sniffed the sharp end of a field in rainy or dry conditions.

32. Toyota Celica/Celica Supra (RWD) – DOMINATION Factor: 1.028 (2010 Rank: 13/38)


Early Celicas and Supras have won a few races and some from the very-early days of LeMons keep on ticking off laps. They may not have the absolute power of later Supras, but the rear-drive Celicas are fairly durable and can run the gamut of classes from Class C hoopties to capably refined Class A frontrunners. With a variety of body styles and trims, they can be hard to identify so that I, as a general rule, will call anything a Celica if I’m not sure what it is. It’s proven nearly as accurate as any of my other statistical forays.

31. Mazda RX-7 – DOMINATION Factor 1.029 (2010 Rank: 21/38)


Rotary engine enthusiasts will shout their praises for the RX-7—though they’ll be inevitably drowned out by the cacophonous exhaust note—from the highest mountains and they have some valid points: The 12a and 13b Wankel engines are light and can run all weekend at high RPM. They won several early LeMons races and are still seen in large numbers, but that different motor presents unique challenges that can sideline unprepared teams. Overheating will end the motor and insufficient muffling will end drivers’ tympanic membranes.

Check back tomorrow as I count down 10 more toward the top slot.

[Photos: Murilee Martin]

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12 responses to “LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #40-31”

  1. Kamil_K Avatar

    I love this series…

  2. LTDScott Avatar

    I'm actually surprised the MR-2 is as high on the list as it is.
    I'd have to disagree about Korean cars having cheap parts. I work in auto parts and on several occasions heard from Korean car owners that the manufacturers sell their cars cheap and then make it back up on the parts they sell. Not to mention the fact that there aren't as many aftermarket options for them as there are for American, Japanese, or European cars. Having said that, late model Korean econoboxes have done surprisingly well.

    1. discontinuuity Avatar

      My KIA has been pretty cheap to maintain. Most of the electronics are off-the-shelf Bosch stuff.

  3. Brett85p Avatar

    Wahoo, RWD Celica in the top half!

  4. jeepjeff Avatar

    I now realize what this analysis is missing: a standard deviation on those domination factors. It would give you the rough idea of the spread. Middling domination factor, but high standard deviation? Could be a winner, could be in for a battle for Class C with no chance of an IOE (sounds like this is likely for the Mk1 VWs). Middling domination factor, small standard deviation? Sure ticket to a competitive Class B machine.
    (That said, this section is kind of depressing, as all my favorite potential hoopties are all in previous entries…)

  5. Xargs Avatar

    Wow, that's one of the nicer pictures of the red wagon right before it crashed and burned. I hope to bend the J-body stats up a bit this year now that I have another car in the fray, but we shall see. This latest effort has a better shot at doing well, being the distillation of 7 years of Lemons and 5 years of J-body experience. Which will get you a cup of coffee if you add a couple bucks…

    1. Eric Rood Avatar
      Eric Rood

      That's the only picture Phil got of it at that race. It's a pretty good "before" photo.

  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    This is a great read with a proper amount of suspense and surprise. E.g. the Volvo 700-series coming in so early? Didn't see that coming. 500 bucks won't buy you a Swedish tank, though.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      My theory is that the 740/940 is underrepresented relative to the 240, and that turbocharged examples simply offer more to go wrong.

  7. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    What a wonderful collection of AVERAGE LeMons finishers! Rino Racing did awfully well with their very clean little Mitsu wagon. They kept their heads down, stayed out on track, didn't have any penalties, and wound up doing very well.

  8. disarrae Avatar

    We're 37th, we're 37th!!! Woot! Not sure why that makes me sooo happy, but it does!

  9. The Van Buren Boys Avatar
    The Van Buren Boys

    I remember a KIA owner, after smelting his crank bearings into a single piece of art, asked our mechanic if he could buy some at Advance. Our mechanics reply was priceless, he said "Probably not because the parts store employee is going to ask you why you are wanting to fix a KIA anyway!"

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