Home » I’m Headed To Judge A Lemons Race So Let Me Reminisce About My Old Lemons Car: Cold Start

I’m Headed To Judge A Lemons Race So Let Me Reminisce About My Old Lemons Car: Cold Start

Cs Makeway1
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In about an hour I need to get in the Pao and get my ass on the road to drive to Kershaw, Garbage Carolina, to the Carolina Motorsports Park for a 24 Hours of Lemons race, where I’ll be doing some judging along with that legend himself, Murilee Martin. Murilee has a lot of ideas about what he wants to do as a judge, and it involves multiple masks of automotive legends like Soichiro Honda and he made me buy a Soviet military hat and bring a rubber mallet and he said something about a Greek chorus so who the hell knows where this will go.

I’ll try and update from the race so you can see what’s going on. I’m sure it’ll be fun? This race also includes a huge block party where the town shuts down the main street and everyone lines up their cars – it’s fantastic.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It also reminded me fondly of my old Lemons racing car, the 1993 Ford Escort I ran for Make: magazine’s team back in 2008, so I decided for today’s Cold Start I’ll share some pictures of my old race car! We bought it for $400 from an elderly conductor, like an orchestral conductor, and we even found an conductor’s wand in the car.

Cs Makeway 6a

The Escort we got was completely unsuited to racing, really, as it wasn’t an Escort GT or anything cool like that; it had the 88 horsepower engine with a slushbox, so it was never quick. But it earned my respect because it also never quit, which is even better than all-out speed in a Lemons-type endurance race context.

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The biggest mechanical modification we made, other than the tomato can exhaust, was to keep that transmission cool. This race was at Altamont, California, in the middle of summer, and if anything was going to kill us, it would be heat. Or maybe a wall we’d slam into because none of us were really good track drivers. One of those.

To give that automatic transmission a fighting chance, we rigged up an old A/C condenser as a transmission cooler and mounted it on the hood with its own independently-controlled fan.

Cs Makeway 3

We actually had three fans, one for the transmission cooler, one to blow air through the engine radiator, and one to pull hot air out of the engine bay through holes we cut in the hood. It worked incredibly well, and we had zero mechanical issues the whole race!

Well, a front wheel flew off while I was driving, so we had that. That’s a mechanical problem, I suppose, but I don’t think it was heat-related!

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Oh, and if you look carefully, the start button says CHEESE because we got it off an old fast food place cash register.

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That humble little Escort was such a willing and unexpectedly decent race car, far better than I expected. We always wanted to run it again, but life and other unimportant bullshit always conspired to get in the way, so while we drove it around for things sometimes, very illegally, our old Make: team never got to run it in Lemons again.

Cs Makeway 2a

We did sell it to another team who ran it in a number of other races, so that was good, and the little car got its moment of fame because one of the members of my original team, Brett Doar, was one of the designers of the massive Rube Goldberg machine used in this once-viral OK Go video:

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You can see the car’s bit in the video starting at about 2:50, and you get a little foreshadowing of it at about 1:15 when a Lego version of the car is used.

Ah, Lemons racing! You should give it a shot! And if you find an old Escort, I’ll happily vouch for their adequacy! And if any of you are at the race, come find me! I’ll give you an Autopian sticker, and maybe a hug!

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Jamie Kitman
Jamie Kitman
1 month ago

Hey, I managed OK Go and was there when they made that video and somehow I never knew you were involved with that car. Or I forgot. Thanks for the memories I never had.

Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
1 month ago

Oh hey, I worked for Brett for a summer. Was fun, even if I was *way* over my head

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago

Saucy Minx! I’m so glad Ms. Murilee’s back out doing Lemons stuff again. I think that’s probably my cue to get back into the racing side.

THE PUFFALUMPS MISS PHIL.

Justin Carson
Justin Carson
1 month ago

I’m so sorry. The racing should be fun, even if the state isn’t. South Carolina is the King of the Stereotypical South with nothing to take any actual pride in.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

I’m racing at Lemons CMP so I’ll look for you. I’m sure you’ll be extra nice to an original Autopian member, right? Right?

2manybikes
2manybikes
1 month ago

My folks’ diesel Escort survived a decade of Alaska winters. Tough little cars.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
1 month ago

 life and other unimportant bullshit”

If I ever write my memoirs, this will be the title.

Thanks, Torch.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 month ago

“Kershaw, Garbage Carolina”
“Which Carolina?”
“Yes.”
I kid, I kid, both Carolinas are perfectly cromulent!!

Last edited 1 month ago by Collegiate Autodidact
No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago

At first look I thought Layne Staley was on your race team. Which is weird, as he was dead by then.

I should pay more attention to LeMons. I coulda made this race had I planned better. And had my mother in law not been up from Garbage Carolina this weekend.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

I would love to do some Lemons racing. However, the issue is having a busy life. I think I’d only have time for it once I’m retired or semi-retired.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago

Many teams are happy to accept the occasional arrive-and-drive teammate. It’s the standard tradeoff of paying a larger share of the expense in exchange for performing a smaller share (or no share) of the prep work, so the time commitment is pretty much just the race weekend. It’s also a far simpler way of racing at a distant track. I’ve only built one Lemons car here in Washington but I’ve driven several others fielded by teams based in California and Arizona, so showing up for a wrenching session on those hasn’t exactly been in the cards for me.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago

“…the start button says CHEESE because we got it off an old fast food place cash register.”

The label for the ignition switch in my Lemons car is from a discarded piece of equipment that I couldn’t quite identify. Taken literally it seems appropriate enough for a two-stroke and, taken figuratively, for nearly any vehicle:

https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/53663436907_25074f5f38_c.jpg

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Hook that up to fog lights pointing forward and back and turn on the horn

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago
Reply to  Ecsta C3PO

The car only has one fog light. It’s mounted in the hole left behind by the radio antenna which means it’s aimed at the fender mirror, thereby pointing both forward and back simultaneously:

https://live.staticflickr.com/8013/7497634750_8bb389bc65_c.jpg

It is, however, hooked up to the switch just above and to the right of the ignition switch, which is labeled SILENCER for no better reason than that was the label I had handy at the time. It’s partially shown in the photo above. The horn, curiously enough, is still hooked up to the horn button and, even more curiously, is still operational.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Fantastic label. Ours are more like Torch’s, handwritten and cheesy.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Heh, I tricked a friend into thinking my lights were wired up with house wire because we mounted the light bar switch in the middle of an actual home switchplate. You know what it does when you look at it, though.

I like seeing how everyone wires things up and labels different controls. The wipers in the 944 are on a switch underneath the Space Shuttle on an old license plate. It always frickin’ rains in Houston.

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
1 month ago

The humble Ford Escort was underrated IMO. In the late 80’s I had 2 good buddies that had ’em. 1 was the base model, other was a GT. Besides the GT looking different outwardly, there didn’t seem to be much difference when I was a passenger – either one was capable of some serious ‘Slow Car Fast’ hijinks. If I ever win a big Lottery jackpot, gonna buy a Cosworth Escort rally car. The HUGE rear spoiler on those things makes me smile.

Maymar
Maymar
1 month ago

Even if you never hit the jackpot, a Merkur might be up your alley – still has a (smaller) biplane wing, and the Cosworth was more Sierra than Escort, even with the new body.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
1 month ago
Reply to  Maymar

Beware, the Merkur XR4Ti is one of those cars that tends to multiply in your yard.

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
1 month ago
Reply to  Maymar

Yeah but, Merkur/Sierra = sedan, so nope. Rally hot-hatch all the way. Used to have an ’88 Mazda 323 GTX that was far beyond stock, but still always drool over the ultimate Escort.

R Rr
R Rr
1 month ago

well, no
Sierra=hatchback, seeing as it has a hatch. in the back
not a trunk, like a sedan would have

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
1 month ago
Reply to  R Rr

Technically, yeah. But they look sedan-ish to me.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 month ago
Reply to  R Rr

I just want to add that (in the UK at least) there was eventually a sedan version of the Sierra (from 1987 onwards). It was called the Sierra Sapphire, and they dropped the Cosworth engine into the Sapphire RS from 1988.

For some reason I think the face of the Sapphire is nicer, but sadly it lacks the biplane wing.

Maymar
Maymar
1 month ago

As mentioned below, the XR4Ti was a hatch, it has a bit of rally heritage, and Ford literally used the chassis of the thing for the Escort Cossie (although Merkurs were RWD only, if that’s a sticking point).

https://wrcwings.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/sainz-rac-1988-7th.jpg

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
1 month ago
Reply to  Maymar

I know the history. I just have a thing for the Escort RS.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

Gross, South Carolina.

Have fun! Maybe I’ll swing down instead of working on the Z4 like I should.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

Ah good old Altamont. My Lemons car still has scars from that track.

Was Eric Rood involved with this car too, or was that a different Escort?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

No keeping you down on the farm this week. Not that I’m judging, that’s your gig today. Enjoy the fresh citrus scent of Lemons racing. Look forward to the updates.

Abdominal Snoman
Abdominal Snoman
1 month ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87lpS9M7uFA
We were supposed to bring our TDI Jetta to this race but life got in the way for a few of our drivers so we’re gonna start the year with our Civic at Gingerman. Here’s in car footage from the last race I did there. The car ended up failing for the strangest problem ever, the crankshaft bent itself to the point that the crank position sensor was only able to read half the rotation except if you could keep it at some harmonic between around 4800 and 5100 rpm where it would straighten itself and run on all 6 cylinders.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 month ago

Murilee Martin! He was my gateway into the old site when I stumbled across one of his Down on the Street posts. So without Murilee, I might never have discovered the wonder that is Jason’s mind. Thanks, Murilee!

Library of Context
Library of Context
1 month ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

I love the Junkyard Finds articles he does over on TTAC.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
1 month ago

You should buy his book. It’s very funny

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

Torment, Incorporated? Or a different one?

I have Torment, Incorporated around the house somewhere, still wrapped in plastic from when I bought it. Having read Murilee for yeeeears, I’m mildly afraid of it, to be honest.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
29 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Yeah, Torment inc. it’s not… like the cover might lead you to think 🙂

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

Holy crap. All these years I thought Murilee was a female. Even the spell check on my machine says so. Probably better than being a Boy named Sue though? YMMV?

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus
Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Actually Murilee being a woman was a running joke on The Old Site for many years.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago

The one and only Saucy Minx.

Musicman27
Musicman27
1 month ago

I always like the lemons races, ad those music videos. I had seen it but I never noticed that car or lego car. This makes a neat video even “neater”!

Maymar
Maymar
1 month ago

My kid went through a phase of loving OK Go’s videos, so now I wonder whatever happened to the Sonic in the Needing/Getting video. I assume it was a preproduction model bound for the crusher, but they’ve absolutely aged enough to be Lemons-worthy, and that comes with a built-in theme.

Interrobang‽
Interrobang‽
1 month ago

There’s a Lemons race scheduled for my birthday weekend, and I’m considering taking the boy to spectate. He hasn’t been to a motorsports event yet and I fear that starting him off with something so nerdy will affect his perception of other motorsport. Maybe I should ease into it with something with less dedication, like NASCAR or something.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago
Reply to  Interrobang‽

Vintage racing has a ton of variety and is (at least in my experience) a very open & welcoming environment. The best part for me was wandering the pits and talking with the owners/drivers of dream machines.

Hamish48
Hamish48
1 month ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

vintage racing in Canada is run under the VARAC organization. They’re great, open folks with wonderful cars. Time truly well spent.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 month ago

I used to love Make magazine, in that “look at all these projects I’ll never actually try out for myself” kind of a way.

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