LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #70-61


Yesterday, I introduced the 2013 update to Murilee Martin’s original LeMons Torture Test and gave out the bottom four car types in the modern list. Today, we continue to scrape the bottom of the much-oxidized barrel with the next 10 cars, which all still fall well below average. Sure, many of today’s 10 are antiquated mechanical curiosities, but a few are cars that many new to the series think of as Sure to Dominate. Follow the jump to quench your thirst for awful, awful LeMons cars.

In Part 1 of the series, I explained how DOMINATION Factor was calculated and noted that one car that didn’t meet the 20-entry minimum for this list had managed a paltry 0.301 DOMINATION Factor (1.000 is average). I didn’t indicate what type of car that was, but instead asked for commentariat to weigh in. After a few unsuccessful guesses, anonymous commenter Spiro Agnew nailed it:


So there you have it: The Chevrolet Corvette is your Nattering Nabob of Nonoperative Racecars. Anyway, let’s move on with the rest of the list.


Read The Introduction,  Honorable Mentions, and #74 to 71 Here

70. BMW Other (6-, 7-, and 8-Series) – DOMINATION Factor: 0.781 (2010 Rank: N/A)


While their lightweight brothers reside near the list’s top (Unsurprising Spoiler), BMW’s German luxobarges and personal luxury coupes suffer from the comedy of overcomplicated madness. Well, German comedy is not particularly funny (unless it involves the German language). Nevertheless, these Teutonic hulks carry serious gravitas in the paddock and on the track, which is significant in its own right. Style counts big in LeMons.


 69. Chrysler K Platform and derivatives – DOMINATION Factor: 0.791 (2010 Rank: N/A)


The K-It-Forward Plymouth Reliant is resoundly referred to as the Worst LeMons Car of All Time (WLCOAT), but it bears saying that its younger derivatives sometimes show promise. Dust N’ Debris’ Dodge Shadow has come extremely close to an overall win, but that’s only come from several years of sorting after finishing dead last in their first race. The platform has potential, but it will likely overrun teams’ patience first.


68. Pontiac Fiero: DOMINATION Factor: 0.821 (2010 Rank: 36/38)


GM’s mid-engine super(awful)car seldom suffers in LeMons from the chassis-ending fires so incorrectly associated with the type. Rather, nearly every other component on the car will find remarkable ways to fail. The real Achilles’ Heel results from the combination of long coolant lines (the radiator is in the front of the car) and shoddy GM quality. Overheating ensues. All that said, the Fiero has racked up multiple Class C wins and remains a viable Class C competitor.


67. Ford Mustang/Capri (Pre-Fox) – DOMINATION Factor: 0.826 (2010 Rank: 28/38, included all Mustangs)


The loudest enthusiast howls over LeMons’ irreverence come from those who think that anything old is collectible and therefore well exceeds the $500 maximum. But with patience and some luck, early Ford Mustangs (and Capris) can be found for LeMons money. What do you get from a pre-Fox Body Mustang for $500? Predictably, not very much. The above-pictured Mustang II is one of the better pre-Foxes and it’s a wretched beast.


66. MGB – DOMINATION Factor: 0.855 (2010 Rank: 38/38, included all British cars)


This is a pretty good result for what are mostly rusty British roadsters. Sure, Lucas the Prince of Darkness gets his hands on plenty of them, but MG owners can be proud of the  sway they hold over drivers of other British Leyland products, although they may get some gentle ribbing from their Triumph rivals. Antenna balls add +15 HP and +6 Constitution, I’ve been told.


65. GM Mid-Size FWD – DOMINATION Factor: 0.855 (2010 Rank: N/A)


This includes cars like the Beretta and Cutlass Ciera, which are generally miserable cars equipped with GM’s ubiquitous 60-degree V6 engines. In most parts of the country, these rusty appliances can still be seen regularly on the roads, usually with a sagging rear end, a missing grille, and/or a garbage bag over at least one window. On the circuit, they tend to run slowly or not at all, eating wheel bearings and wheel studs all the while.


64. Merkur XR4Ti – DOMINATION Factor: 0.865 (2010 Rank: N/A)


To many who have never attended races or followed LeMons very closely, the XR4Ti seems the perfect car for LeMons: It’s fast with sporting pedigree and holds little value in the real world. There’s a reason for the latter point. Merkur’s miserable reliability metes out over the long hours of an endurance race. Sure, a couple have come close to winning, but Merkurs also once occupied the bottom two slots at a race, which is a far more representative showing.


63. Air-cooled Volkswagen – DOMINATION Factor: 0.877 (2010 Rank: N/A)


The Beetle and its air-cooled cousins are types that are not likely to win a race outright, but a glut of Class C victories tells you that they can be reliable enough to keep turning laps. Sure, plenty of air-cooled engines get turned into modern automotive art, but there’s an immense supply of them and LeMons is a good enough endeavor for them, right?


62. Opel – DOMINATION Factor: 0.877 (2010 Rank: N/A)


Teams who run Opels should generally run with relatively low expectations, particularly before a few races of sorting. The best any has ever done was eighth place and a Class B win, but that car was running a Ford Ranger motor under the hood. Team Tinyvette’s Opel GT currently holds the unofficial Bonneville Salt Flats top speed record for LeMons—though it is also the only LeMons car to try—with a 117.7 mph run.


61. Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon/Plymouth Laser – DOMINATION Factor: 0.892 (2010 Rank: 34/38, included all Mitsubishi)


Yes, the Eclipse is one of the most consistently awful LeMons cars. Its ratio of Bottom 10 finishes to Top 10 is approximately 1.5:1, which means that a DSM tends to be either sorted or on the verge of blowing up. Repeatedly. One poor DSM team ran about 225 miles total in their Eclipse’s first three races, including a one-lap outing. This is not atypical, though a couple of teams have kept their crankwalk in check long enough to nab a podium finish.


Look for 10 more hooptie heaps tomorrow.

[Photos: Murilee Martin]

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28 responses to “LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #70-61”

  1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    re: Merkur "reliability"
    I don't want to be the grammar Nazi, but it's 'metes', not 'meets'.
    Thank you for the lead pic. I love it when a PT Loser catches fire.

    1. Eric Rood Avatar
      Eric Rood

      Thanks. I appreciate grammatical corrections. I did know that, but writing 5500 words for this kinda of softens the brain.

      1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
        C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        I understand. I understand all too well.
        I used to write, then I started taking it seriously and it kinda ruined it for me. I should take it back up, however. Many an adventure…I haz 'em.

  2. Nuclearspork Avatar

    The problem with the GM's is that they won't let us run with garbage bag windows and 2 or 3 space saver spares on the car. Those components are key to their reliability on the streets.

    1. Zaxbys Avatar

      But only because the garbage bag will impede an exit when the heap bursts into flames and economy spares, generally being kept away from sunlight it's entire life, are way too nice for the track…

      1. Nuclearspork Avatar

        Not sure about impeding the drivers exit, although they may find themselves trapped in the bag and suffocate shortly after.
        As for the spares never seeing sunlight. In my experience if you see a car on the road with multiple space savers on it, its a gm fwd car.

    2. Eric Rood Avatar
      Eric Rood

      I really want a Spec Panther support series where all the Crown Vics have to run an obstacle course/autocross on 4 space savers. Practice your J-Turns.

      1. LTDScott Avatar

        Yes, I think that would be fun as hell.

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    LeMons needs some MG saloons to supplement the MGB/MGB-GT/Midget range.

    1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      There was a Rubber-Bumper MGB powered Mercedes Saloon last year (that rolled). Does that count?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Good point. That delightful specimen of machinery counts for whatever it wishes.
        <img src="http://www.murileemartin.com/UG/LSF12/032-LSF12-UG.jpg&quot; width="450">

  4. LTDScott Avatar

    No surprises this time around, although I thought GMs would do a bit better. As you said, old GM cars will hang around and keep running in otherwise poor condition longer than most other cars, but once again, street reliability doesn't translate to racing reliability.

    1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
      C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      My dear Uncle Ed had a saying:
      People always say how bad GM cars are, but a GM runs like shit longer than most cars run.
      He was a Mopar guy, as am I, though I've had four GM vehicles…three Cadillacs, a '73 (472 CID, YAY!), '85 (HT-4100, BOO!), and '05 (Northstar, YAY!), plus one '88 Pontiac Bonneville LE.
      That 3800 V6 is a motor worthy of slant-6 and 318/360 legend.

      1. Eric Rood Avatar
        Eric Rood

        My Saturn ran its final two years out of utter spite. This is not an uncommon thing for Saturns, from conversations with other previous Saturn owners.

        1. frankthecat Avatar

          my friend's SL1 ran the last year of his ownership on three cylinders, requiring a quart of oil for every tank of gas, and bits fell off on every trip.

  5. ninjacoco Avatar

    Can I just say this? I miss running a Type 3.
    (That's probably the most frequently-said phrase out of my mouth.)

    1. Nuclearspork Avatar

      That should be pretty easy to fix by just buying another one. Plus Type 3s are way cooler than 944s

  6. buzzboy7 Avatar

    I really want to race our german luxury against some ACVW. I wonder if there's a straight long enough for one to pass the other.

  7. parkwood60 Avatar

    I find fault with you lumping the pre-Fox body Mustang in with the Capi. The early Capri share no parts with the Mustang II, or the original Mustang. Its a Ford of Germany product, likely with more in common with the Merkur. What should be lumped together is the Mustang II/Pinto/Bobcat and Mustang 1 (for lack of a better term) with the Granada/Falcon. But this is your analysis, mine will come along likely by year end with break outs by chassis, motor, nationality and more.

    1. Eric Rood Avatar
      Eric Rood

      The grouping is bound to rub people the wrong way for a few car types, but:
      Bobcat/Pinto/Mustang II: 0.859
      Capri (5 entries, wouldn't qualify): 0.810
      '65-'77 Mustang (7 entries, wouldn't qualify): 0.870
      Combined average if you wanted to make a grouping of all of them: 0.855
      You can say that the Capri dips the average for the group, but I wouldn't say it moves it much.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Oh, and I suppose you're perfectly happy grouping the '64.5 with the '65. I don't care if it's not "officially" a separate model year. It has a generator! It has, um, slightly different sized lettering on the fenders! It's a different car!
        Please update your statistics accordingly.

    2. LTDScott Avatar

      Actually, the Capri and Mustang II were both available with Cologne V6s. Either way, there haven't been enough of either to be notable, and neither have had much success, so I think they can fairly be lumped together.

  8. SpiroAgnew76 Avatar

    So, early Mustangs and K cars are low on this list,Mr. Iacocca will not be pleased.

    1. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

      He should keep in mind that this is a tendency of the 500$ examples, not the model as a whole. Nobody (by which I mean a lot of people) is saying that C4 Corvettes are Butt Turrible, it's just that C4s you can get for 500$ are terrible.
      So it's not that Mustangs are bad, it's just that ratty ass godawful Mustangs are bad.
      However, this does not apply to K cars, because no K car is worth more than 500$.
      Also I recall some mumblings that some traditionally reliable-as-a-lake-full-of-hairdryers cars tend to do bewilderingly well. That's because a 500$ example of a pig-puke wretched car that nobody wants is not in nearly as bad condition as a 500$ example of a decent car that people will pay actual money for.

  9. Anton Avatar

    I have unreasonable affection for the 60* GM V6. I had no idea about them before the first Cavalier wagon, but they are cheap and sturdy and can make lots of power. Most important for lemons-style racing is they have lots of torque, which lets you win many of the off-corner drag races. Also they seem to have a pretty good reliability record- my engines in 2.8/3.1 and 3.5/3.9 form were amazingly reliable.
    The Cavalier is back, and will be at all the West Coast races in 2014. Hopefully I can bump the DOMINATION factor a bit…

    1. Nuclearspork Avatar

      my 2.8 has been reliable too. I think the reason the GM FWD is so low may not have to do with the 60 degree v6 cars.

    2. Mobile Eric Rood Avatar
      Mobile Eric Rood

      I maybe should have clarified that the J Body got its own entry.

  10. Mike M. (Tinyvette) Avatar
    Mike M. (Tinyvette)

    Not much chance of an Opel running Opel gear will ever win one of these, except maybe Bob Legere's turbo Manta LeMons car, if he'd just finish the thing and bring it. On the other hand we've only DNF'ed once in about 10 races. Damn, twice. OK, we DNF'ed at Bonneville, too, but that's different.