If you dig corner carving but don't have the deep pockets associated with it, then 24 Hours of LeMons is the event for you. Unlike other motorsports programs, where the costs can escalate into no-man's-land, 24 Hours of LeMons has a few choice rules, enabling everyone to become a race car hero for the weekend-provided your car can last that long. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to run the greatest number of laps possible in the two-day marathon. OK, so it's not really a 24-hour race that runs straight through the night (with the exception of The Lamest Day event at Nelson Ledges Road Course in Nelson Ledges, Ohio).
You'll also need to keep in mind that this is not a demolition derby. Overly aggressive driving will get you promptly escorted off the facilities. Of course, this is assuming they don't demolish your vehicle with a tractor first. No, I'm not kidding. Once you pass tech, the LeMons crew is able to purchase your vehicle for the set budget limit, at any given moment.
While the complete rules can be found on the website 24hoursoflemons.com, We just want to go over some of the more basic requirements. For starters, every vehicle entered has a price cap of $500. If you happen to go over the allotted budget during the initial purchase, you're more than welcome to sell anything and everything you don't need from the vehicle to help recoup some of the money.
The good news is that safety is taken very seriously, and there's no limit to spending on the protective stuff. Granted, you'll be lucky to hit the upper 50-mph barrier at select tracks; however, for what it's worth, I've always acknowledged the fact that I don't want to crash on the freeway even at 55 mph. That said, every vehicle entered is required to have a rollcage, with detailed requirements for some of the heavier cars.
Stroud found our '83 Camaro...
Stroud found our '83 Camaro on the Craigslist of San Diego, California, and managed to haggle the price down to a mere $400. While this was originally purchased for the transplanted LT1 drivetrain, it was a project that had been sitting idle for quite some time and owners were ready to let it go. Notice the later-model front fascia.
Also included under the safety category and not in the $500 limit are wheels, tires, and brakes. The only stipulation is that the tires must be DOT-legal with a minimum 190 treadwear rating. When it comes to the helmet, you can toss out the open-face units or anything with an M rating, which is typically a motorcycle helmet. And finally, you'll need proper attire: a real race suit with an SFI 3.2A rating.
To participate, you must explain in detail why you should be accepted. Most teams have a theme, some of them really offbeat and nearly mistaken for a bad Halloween costume. In our case we wanted to be a little more serious and build something that resembled the Penske/Donohue Trans Am Camaro from the '60s. We wanted the unmistakable blue paint scheme and the number 6 on the side, with a '80s flare that only a third-gen Camaro could bring. While the fuel sponsor at the time was Sunoco, we opted to bring in our own personality by placing "Rockett Brand Race Fuels" on the side and dubbing our ride the Rockett Camaro.
Assuming you are accepted, you'll then have to send in your registration and have between four and six drivers. In our corner we had Vince Stroud, Curtis Little, Rick King, and me. And while a pit crew isn't particularly necessary, we had LeMons graduates Rich Southerland, who brought his monster RV and played the gracious host with home-cooked goodness; Kris Linquist, who outfitted our third-gen with two-way radios; and Scott Chamberlain, who did a little bit of everything.
This is definitely an experience everyone needs to try sometime. The good news is that the LeMons series is growing and currently has 10 events across the country, making it easy to try your luck at it. After entering my first event, I have to say that LeMons, at least in my interpretation, is an event for those who still have a sense of humor and just want to get out and have fun. You can make it as serious or relaxed as you want. It has a little something for everyone.
Ed. note: Stroud had the opportunity to work with PCM for Less, and here's what he had to say about them.
Even the interior was in relatively...
Even the interior was in relatively decent shape with newer fourth-gen Camaro seats. All we cared about was the untapped potential to sell everything, including the carpet, seats, and T-tops, to offset the costs of other items we needed.
Less than a week later, we...
Less than a week later, we received the Chris Alston's Chassisworks weld-in 10-point rollcage we'd ordered, and we started the mockup. Everything from the main hoop and sidebars to the downbars with gussets and mounting plates was included for just $359. All tubing is constructed with 15/8x0.134-inch-wall mild steel, making it perfectly legal for NHRA and more than adequate for LeMons.
It took a couple days for...
It took a couple days for Stroud to strip the interior apart and sell off everything we didn't need. Looking back, it probably would have been a good idea to keep the gauges-or at least to substitute a set of aftermarket units.
If you don't have experience...
If you don't have experience with a welder, you're going to have to pay someone for the 'cage work. Per LeMons rules, "A poorly built, improperly mounted, or badly engineered rollcage can keep you from racing." Safety is not the place to get sloppy.
All open and T-top cars require...
All open and T-top cars require drivers to wear arm restraints. Since none of us are fans, Stroud went ahead and welded in these bars and eventually constructed a roof out of aluminum.
Rather than having the traditional...
Rather than having the traditional downbar on the driver side, the doors were gutted of glass and everything associated with it to extend the 'cage bar into it.