In keeping with a series of Cold Starts using pictures from the 24 Hours of Lemons race this past weekend, I wanted to show you a particularly fun and well-sorted car, a car that’s inherently interesting, and as a result seems to have spawned, or maybe just re-kindled, a bit of controversy about the whole concept of Lemons racing in general. The car is a 1983 Mitsubishi Starion, and Team Skip-A-Gear have been racing it in Lemons since 2019, but this time they’ve put it in a remarkably convincing Back To The Future DeLorean costume and had a very fun time with it out on the track.
The early, flat-fendered Starion design is actually closer to a DeLorean than most people my realize, especially in profile, and when you remove the Starion’s front end with its hidden headlamps and replace it with the simple, rectilinear face of a DeLorean, with its quad rectangular lamps and simple grille, the resemblance is pretty uncanny. Add to that all the great details the team fabricated to make it time-machine ready, like the time settings control panel on the dash up there, or the fusion reactor and all the associated plumbing and capacitors and whatnot at the rear:
The car looked great, and, sure, BTTF themes have definitely been done before, but they went all in with costumes and everything and were clearly having a blast, so what’s not to like?
Well, the internet being the internet, it seems at least someone was willing to do the work to find something, and they did! Look:
24 hours of Lemons had done more damage to cool old cars than cash for clunkers ever did is my hot take of the day. Stop ruining complete rare cars with this fucking garbage. pic.twitter.com/3s4IksLyUx
— Andrew Auto Off Topic (@RACEDINANGER) April 21, 2023
Oh boy. Okay. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a sentiment like this, and I think it’s worth addressing, at the very least to tackle the absurd hyperbole. Cash for Clunkers took 677,081 cars off the road. Now, I haven’t done all the math about how many cars have been turned into Lemons racers, but I’m pretty fucking sure it’s many many days drive due south of 677,081 cars.
And, let’s be absolutely clear here, when a shitbox gets turned into a Lemons racer, it’s not dead – it’s a race car! It’s not being crushed into a crêpe to be recycled into coat hangers and speculums, its out there on the track, sucking money from race team members having the time of their lives.
And, sure, a Starion isn’t a common car, but this isn’t the last one left on Earth, and, besides, look how much joy it’s bringing to people! Here’s a clip from the Starion’s first race, where the original owner herself came out to the race to cheer on her old ride:
What’s not to like here? That woman couldn’t be happier or more proud of her old car, the thing that used to ferry her to and from work and to stores and restaurants, is now out there on the track, tearing it up and having a far, far more exciting second go at life than being something that sits in some fussy obsessive’s garage, taken out only a few times a year to some Cars and Coffee meetups, where the owner stink-eyes anyone who leans too close and gets into tedious conversations with unfortunate chumps.
That guy’s tweet represents the worst sort of fun-police gatekeeping, and that’s precisely how you keep more people out of the car-enjoyer community. It’s bullshit, and absolutely counter to the ethos at the Autopian, among many other places not filled with fussy killjoys.
If the dude loves pristine Starions so much, he can just go buy one! They’re not pieces of the True Cross, they still exist. Fussy McSterntrousers up there can buy one, wash it every week, and keep it locked away in a hermetically-sealed garage until the heat death of the universe.
In the meantime, these kooks will be running their Starion at races, having a blast, and making people happy.
LeMons should have a highly publicized mandatory pre-race auction, where all the cars in question are put for sale with a starting price of (at least) 5 grand – all flaws, all issues, all the torn interiors that get thrown out in race prep, all the rust holes that pictures don’t show, all the electrical gremlins, thoroughly documented and accurately described. So all the people who make this sort of comment (and the “$500 my ass” crowd) can head there and either realize those cars are all goners that look like three different species cleared out a kill bang marry checklists in ’em or, if they actually care that much about saving cars, give the team in question enough money to go buy ten other crapcans and each can enjoy their respective way of life.
well there’s the claim rule but legendarily it’s only been exercised once. The guys are very explicit about this in the race recaps: cheaty overbudget cars always blow up and don’t win so it’s not a problem.
So poof! You’re now an old Mitsubishi Starion!
How would rather end your days? Me, I’d rather burn out than rust out.
PROUD KLASSIK RUNER HERE, GOBBLESS. My favorite is still the Type 3 Fastback I dressed up like a Puffalump bunny.
My Lemons cars bring me immeasurable joy. I have to periodically remind myself that the hard-parkin’ concours set derives joy from preserving a chunk of history on their own, and striving for perfection. (I have to pull myself out of that rabbit hole peridically with making the Lancer perfect, after all.) Either way, my biggest thing is, is this car being enjoyed, or is it an albatross rotting away in a garage? Is this owner’s life better because their car is a part of it? A car is a functional object designed to be used, and even the good museums make sure their cars are kept in running order. Some uses are faster and sillier than others. All of ’em are fine.
A sitting classic is a truly ruined one—lubricants don’t circulate, seals and hoses dry up, and you end up with an unusable car-shaped paperweight that does not, under any circumstances, Bring Joy ™. If you want to point fingers at who’s ruining cars, point them at valuation nerds who only look at mileage and prices, jacking up the prices of even pedestrian cars and encouraging the stupidest phenomenon of not using a car. That’s not appreciating the car—that’s appreciating a number that could plausibly be tied to anything worth money. The passion for the car itself isn’t there in the same way it is from, say, Gambler bros who look at a beater and just wanna send it. (I love sending it!) And because I can’t reiterate this enough, a car isn’t just designed to be used, but it’s an thing that breaks down when it’s NOT used. The worst abuse you can do to a car isn’t using it on track or even sending it hard—it’s letting a car sit.
But I digress. Cars are best when people enjoy them. I’ve even softened on my dislike of the so-’90s-it-hurts 996 design because folks like ’em, and that right there—finding joy in the car—is good parsh. It’s still not my bag, but I love that such a weird time capsule exists and crucially, gets some folks into cars. (Just don’t mess with the round headlamps again, Porsche.) Point being, all cars are good when they’re enjoyed.
Lemons is but one vector for that, and it’s the one I’ve done a lot. Highly recommend! It’s a good outlet for folks who just want to have fun with cars on track, don’t take themselves too seriously, and crucially, it’s easily one of the most welcoming crowds in motorsports. We do dress up cars like time machines and bunny rabbits, but we don’t have patience for buttholes. Yesterday’s main character on Weird Car Twitter isn’t one of them, for the record—he seems like a genuinely good guy from my limited interactions online—but it is funny how rewarding the silly and social stuff and having creative penalties tends to weed out the dinguses from the paddock. I feel a lot safer inviting folks who don’t fit the typical Manly Man Macho Racer mold to a Lemons event than I do pretty much anywhere else, especially living in a state like Texas where folks are becoming a lot more vocal with their prejudices in a genuinely un-Texan, un-American, and unwelcoming way. I hate that that’s a phrase I have to say in 2023, but here we are. We need more places in the car world like Lemons that welcome a little bit of everyone.
Y U RUNE KLASSIK!!11! 500 DULLERS MY A$$!!!1
Unless people making this particular complaint can point to the fleet of cars they have ‘saved’ from being crushed or raced they need to shut up and let people have fun.
Just sayin, I literally can point to the fleet of cars I have saved from being crushed.
User name checks out…
No, I agree with him. Don’t smash up rare cars. You said it’s not like they’re being crushed to make tuna cans. Really? I thought they get crushed between a 94 Daewoo LeMans and a barrier, then get crushed properly at the scrapper. Race cars rarely last long.
There are enough Geo Prizms and clapped out foxbodys that I don’t see the need to smash up classics.
Do you really believe the loss of one Starion is really that big a deal?
I have yet to see a LeMons car that started with something that was viable to save at anything but a massive loss.
In my area, a starion is extremely rare. I’ve never seen one on the road. So yeah I think one less is actually a pretty big proportion of total remaining Stations.
If it was even slightly capable of driving fast, it’s not so far gone that I wouldn’t daily it. A car doesn’t have to be either restorable or trash.
Personally, I think it’s fine enough that there’s a good example out there somewhere being saved in a museum or corporate collection out there, and…well, I’m going to go have fun with mine. I suggest anyone who loves cars do the same, finding whatever activities they enjoy the most and going all-in on MAXIMUM FUN.
Lemons isn’t a demo derby—it actually discourages contact far more than most other racing series out there—but any car that’s used has a chance of getting smashed. Sure, the running advice for track cars is “be prepared to write it off if you have to” which sure enough, I got to experience firsthand with my first 944 in its first ChumpCar race. That being said, any car that’s used has the potential to get crashed. The number of times my daily’s ended up in the body shop because Texas hands out drivers’ licenses to any ding-dong who can fog a mirror is unreal. Yet on the flip side, not using a car will break it. Tires flat-spot and dry out, seals dry out, hoses and belts crack, fuel coagulates in the system (especially today’s garbage ethanol crap—Ask Me About My Carb!) and pretty soon, you’re left with a shiny car-shaped paperweight incapable of driving on its own. Not driving a car enough is the most abusive thing you can do to it, IMHO.
I’ve seen the 944s Porsche keeps in its museum and one of the Type 4s in VW’s collection—and hell, I even asked VW about where to find parts for my Lemons’d version. They were a lot more helpful than some of the anoraks on The Samba were about me racing a RARE CLASSIC, even though they had to admit the best source for my missing part was a guy on eBay Kleinanzeigen. I feel like those museum cars are in good hands, so I really can’t feel so bad about adding trail pinstripes to my not-as-shiny, well-loved example. It’s fine to have a weird track build or custom car that falls somewhere in the middle between a restorable and a turd. Besides, I’m having too much fun.
“hands out drivers’ licenses to any ding-dong who can fog a mirror” – that there is pure gold!
TheSamba is a marvelous wealth of information, documentation, and parts…but good fucking god, some of the people there are insufferable.
An American Porsche owner knowing exactly how to spell Kleinanzeigen is a delight of environmental storytelling.
Lemons cars rarely get smashed to pieces; we take the no-contact rule very seriously. As for restricting the field to commonly-available cars, the problem is that different people participate for different reasons. Personally I don’t have much interest in the racing aspect of the series; I see Lemons as an opportunity to drive oddball vehicles on a track and to explore their own and my own modest limits while a race is occurring around me, so I’m drawn towards vehicles which otherwise are unlikely to be found on a track at all. If Lemons were to become a series which no longer welcomed such things as Humber Super Snipes or Borgward Isabella Coupés, I’d no longer see the point of participating at all.
But if the “rare” cars were desirable at all, they already would have been snapped up by people trying to save or restore them. The vast majority of cars that are converted into crap can racers started as thoroughly worn out versions that other people apparently deemed not important enough to save.
Also, it’s not a death sentence. I’m still racing the same Lemons car since 2008.
I prefer to avoid controversy and instead to seek common ground by driving my Lemons race car to parking-lot shows and forcing tedious conversations onto unfortunate chumps.
My Lemons always get a lot of attention at shows. Other people in the show brought a shiny version anyway! (Unless it’s the Type 4. I still wanna see another Type 4! Someone here has to have one!!!)
Gah, I wish my 944 was ready in time for Radwood this weekend. Maybe. We’ll see. My shoulder’s been killing me with a fun tendonitis-nerve combo hell and the physical therapist was like “one hand shouldn’t be able to grip twice as much as the other one,” so I don’t think I’ve got a thrash-make-ready in me.
I have an autocross-prepped bondo-heavy Triumph GT6. The paint is awful and half the interior is missing. I love parking it next to pristine examples at car shows. Half the crowd oohs and ahhs over it and the other half wants me dead, but it gets more attention and I meet more people that want to talk about it than the other shlubs with yet another fully restored car that has too much money sunk into it. I mean, I have too much money sunk into mine, too, but at least I can drive mine and flog it without stressing over a scratch.
I love everything about that.
Torch, overall I agree with your sentiment that as long as the car is having fun it should be allowed. But my first true love as a teenager was a hand-me-down 1987 black on black Conquest TSi so I have an emotional attachment to this car (even the earlier narrow bodies) and it hurts me to see one cut up. I love StarQuests and I Love DeLoreans but I just like to keep them separate.
That said, I still prefer this BTTF cosplay over seeing one of the few remaining StarQuests slammed or stanced or donked.