Running a car at a 24 Hours of Lemons race never goes perfectly to plan. But we’re inching closer to seeing what that might be like for us. This was our second race running a two-car team, and we turned a whole lot of laps. In the end, one car was driven on the trailer, and the other one was pushed, but both machines are running strong.
Our 1962 Ford Ranchero is on its second race with V8 power under the hood. There’s a built 331 in the nose, we’ve regeared the rear end, and for some reason, we think it’s fine to run on 9-year-old tires. Regardless, the Ranchero has gone from something you need to drive with your eyes glued to the rear mirror the whole time, to a vehicle that can pass 2/3 of the cars out on the track. And it’s so much more fun to pass than constantly be passed. I was able to lay down our fastest team lap in the Ranchero with a time on Saturday of 2:24.
In a car with an old-ass steering wheel, questionable 205-section width rubber at the corners, and rear drum brakes, I have to say it’s both thrilling and horrifying to circle around Buttonwillow in that amount of time. It’s thrillifying.
Our other vehicle is a 1967 MGB GT packing Buick 215 V8 power. It’s a completely different animal compared to the Ranchero, but an absolute riot on the track. I put down a 2:31 in that car, and our fastest driver Graham knocked it down further with a 2:30. It should be faster than the Ranchero since it can hold more speed in corners, but I think the Ranchero is able to just out drag race a lot of vehicles on the straights.
Still, as I said, no Lemons race ever goes perfectly. After my first stint in the MGB GT, I came in a little early. I felt the brake pedal go to the floor, which is never fun. And shortly after that, the steering felt way off. I pumped the pedal got some brakes back, and brought the car into the garage safely. We determined I boiled the fluid. And the front brakes then got so hot that I essentially fused a wheel bearing which caused it to break. We were able to diagnose, fix, and get the car back out on the track though, which is always a good feeling.
With the Ranchero, it ran all day like a champ. There was one flat tire we had to change. But since adding actual brake ducting to cool those fronts, the car truck stayed pretty solid all day long. Overnight, we addressed some brake fluid leakage by swapping a caliper seal and some brake lines. And both cars were off on day 2. The MGB GT developed some extra movement in the driveshaft, but we got it taken care of and kept it out for the checkered flag. Over on the Ranchero, the throwout bearing went with about 2 and a half hours left to race. So we parked it and put it on the trailer. It will be an easy enough fix for car owner Tim when he gets it back to his garage.
We climbed as high as 35th overall and were within the top 10 in class. But wound up in the upper 40s for the final position with both cars finishing within a spot of each other. These cars are fun, fast, and holding together far better than our past Lemons efforts have seen. And as we fix and finetune, they’re only getting better. I’m hoping we jump to 225s on the Ranchero and get a proper steering wheel in there. With the MGB, just basic fixes, and it should be good to go.
As for the race itself, the driving was 90% excellent which is a wonderful ratio for Lemons. The top-spec cars were moving well and passing safely, and the majority of the rookies with slower cars did a good job of watching for traffic or being out of the way. And that all leads to a weekend where everyone remains safe and happy, and having fun. And that’s what racing these shit heaps is all about. Congrats to the winners, and also congrats to LTD Scott for getting The Homer out of retirement! My favorite Lemons car of all time is back!