After an extensive study of the bottom third from the 2013 24 Hours of LeMons Torture Test over the last three days, we now arrive at the cars closest to being completely average. Ironically, one of those closest to the mean is renowned for its 50/50 weight distribution and its reputation for narrowly avoiding victory. Let’s take a look at the next 10 entries in the middle of the list.
Read The Introduction, Honorable Mentions, and #74 to 71 Here
Read #70-61 Here
Read #60-51 Here
50. Old Mopars – DOMINATION Factor: 0.971 (2010 Rank: N/A)
Any old rear-wheel drive Mopar tends to become an instant favorite in LeMons and they actually don’t perform too poorly. The Slant-6 motor has proved itself favorably and old Darts, Valiants, Belvederes, and Furys make the later K platform look silly by comparison. They’re also likely candidates for the Index of Effluency and for “$500 Car?!” comments from onlookers. Pro tip: For nearly all LeMons cars, the farther from it you are, the exponentially better it looks.
49. Saturn S-Series – DOMINATION Factor: 0.975 (2010 Rank: 3/38)
As one of the top types in Murilee Martin’s 2010 LeMons Torture Test article, Saturn’s precipitous drop in the standings is matched only by the Nissan 240SX. I can’t really say why other than perhaps more Saturns have been entered and the law of averages has played out more completely. Either way, the average Saturn team seems to go through a 1.9-liter motor and/or transmission per race and at least as many “Uranus” jokes.
48. Toyota Supra (Third Generation) – DOMINATION Factor: 0.977 (2010 Rank: 13/38, included early RWD Celicas)
The tuning crowd and most gearheads generally know that the Mark III Supra can be supremely fast, but when a LeMons Supra isn’t creating 7M engine externals, it’s chewing up just about all of its periphery systems. They can win and have occasionally done so, but you’re far more likely to see one on jackstands or scavenging parts from a teammate’s daily driver. Pratt & Miller built the above-pictured Supra, which is one of the few to have won.
47. GM B-Body (Caprice/Impala) – DOMINATION Factor 0.981 (2010 Rank: 16/38)
This is the first car on the list built specifically for heavy-duty use as GM’s police cruiser offering. They were designed with abuse in mind and have performed reasonably well, though we’ll see other similarly designed cars make this the worst of the entries in the unofficial “Working Vehicles” class. Still, for a heavy car, this outcome is not really that bad, considering how capricious most GM products prove to be in LeMons.
46. Honda Prelude – DOMINATION Factor 0.982 (2010 Rank: 22/38, included Honda Accord)
The Prelude is another example of a car that should, on paper, be absolutely perfect for LeMons. It’s the most powerful Honda commonly found in LeMons and is generally considered one of the brand’s sportier models. Instead, it turns out to be the worst Honda. One might think that a Prelude would have stumbled into a win at some point, but they’ve somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory a couple of times.
45. Ford Mustang (SN-95) – DOMINATION Factor: 0.982 (2010 Rank: 28/38, included all Mustangs)
The least desirable (but also newest) generation is the best Mustang, though it’s still slightly below average. It shares the bulletproof Modular V8 with the Working Vehicle Ford Panther platform, which may explain some of its (relative) success, although some with the Essex 3.8-liter V6 have performed well. As the best of the Pony cars, the SN95 manages to still come in below average.
44. BMW 1600/2002 – DOMINATION Factor: 0.982 (2010 Rank: 6/38)
The classic BMW coupe exhibits many of the same tendencies as the Alfa Romeo Spider: They look great when restored, but most LeMons-worthy candidates are rough around the edges and in the middle parts, too. The 2002 demonstrate a wide variety of performance from slow-and-steady Class C cars to E30-whipping Class A rockets. Judging from the 2010 results, most early 2002s were the latter.
43. All Trucks and Vans – DOMINATION Factor: 0.995 (2010 Rank: 18/38, included just trucks)
Working Vehicles are designed to be durable and are overbuilt in their ability to handle lots of weight and punishment, so trucks (and vans) naturally translate this to thriving in crapcan racing. Success is generally predicated on not abusing their not-at-all-happy-to-rev-to-infinity motors, but small pickup trucks and even minivans hold up better than pony cars in endurance racing. Ponder that for a few minutes, but don’t be alarmed if you find yourself looking at $500 Rangers or S10s on CraigsList.
42. Porsche 924/944 – DOMINATION Factor: 0.999 (2010 Rank: 27/38)
It’s hard to say which common Internet misconception about the 924 and 944 in LeMons is most misguided: That the car should utterly dominate based on its professional endurance racing history or that there’s no way to buy a Porsche—any Porsche—for $500. A $500 944 is a pretty rough car, sure, but the perfect 50/50 weight balance and endurance racing pedigree have meant absolutely nothing. After 104 races, a 944 finally nabbed Porsche’s first 24 Hours of LeMons win last weekend.
41. Datsun 280ZX – DOMINATION Factor: 1.001 (2010 Rank: 33/38, included all Z-Cars)
The last of the inline-six Z cars is a very mediocre whip. They’ve proven to be a bit fragile in everything from the 2.8-liter motor to simple components like the wheel bearings. Nevertheless, the 280ZX has won some races and Z-Wrecks’ example put up the highest single-race DOMINATION Factor at the 2013 MSR Houston 24-hour race, nearly doubling the average distance for that race.
The fun’s just getting started. Check back next week to see the top half of the list. If your car hasn’t been featured yet, where do you think it’ll wind up in the Top 40? And what car do you think occupies P1?
[Photos: Murilee Martin]
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