Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're confirmed for the repeat

The email has arrived:LeMons Gator-O-Rama: YOU'RE IN!

The organizers set the residual "value" of Lockjaw at $290 after the October race. About $25 of the $210 we can spend on repairs will be used for replacing the alternator belt and grease to repack every CV joint. I suppose we may also attempt to fix the speedometer (maybe). I really want to find an anti-roll bar for the car, but sourcing one cheaply enough hasn't panned out yet. Junkyard prowling may fill an afternoon soon -- aftermarket sway bars are well out of our budget. If you know of a dirt-cheap source for a '95 neon sport sway bar, please leave a comment.

Even if I was inclined to bend the rules and get spendy on a sway bar for Lockjaw, I won't. Funds are needed more for the second car preparation. Although Junior hasn't confirmed it with me, I see the team name for the second car in the entry list so I believe that we're now officially a two-car operation! That car still needs a roll cage and other safety equipment installed so things will get interesting again quickly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's like a virus

Today I discovered that LeMons, like the common cold, is viral. Just like a virus, the urge to compete in LeMons is contageous. A colleague's husband is racing a Firebird (with a Camero front end, natch) this February. !!! I thought I was the only crazy doctor in Houston, but apparently I'm wrong. Okay, okay. Technically, the doctor isn't the one racing, it's the husband, but still. She is letting this heap of crapitude sit in her driveway without complaint.

And you should see this beast of a lemon. The fender is held on by rivets. The orginal wheels were HUGE in the back and tiny in the front. It lacks a hood. The body has at least three different paint colors visible, and I think I spotted some Bondo. It cost $450. They claim that they've sold $300 in parts. It'll be good.

(Side note - they hadn't realized that a hood is somewhat optional. They still don't really believe that they don't need one. Maybe they'll believe once I show pictoral proof? And they didn't believe that cheating is rampant, either. Such cute little LeMons virgins!)

I shouldn't make too much fun, though. The team has serious race experience in the Porsche Club of America. The team leader actually ran the recent PCA autocross skills class. Yikes!

I heart new friends.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Look Ma, I'm driving now!

I'm Doctawife - Chris' less savory half. And yes, I'm really a doctor. Due to the Test of Massive Proportion - henceforth known as the TOMP - I couldn't drive in the last race. I was around for almost all of the ill-conceived machinations... but I didn't get to take part in of any of the fun.

This year will be different.

I'm driving, bitches, so get out of my way!

My super-sexy way, I might add. I just bought a stylin' race suit from Wesco Performance. And I do mean stylin' - black and pink with European epaulets. Aww yeah.

In order to preserve legitimacy in the face of my overwhelming PINKNESS I have actually gotten dirty on the new car. The new ride isn't for us - Chris and I are still faithful to the Tetanus. We've acquired so many new drivers that we need two cars. The second car has no name as of yet, but we've already inflicted some serious damage. More damage in three weeks than we did in three months on Tetanus, as a matter of fact. I personally take most of the credit for removing the radiator, the power steering reservoir/pump and the AC compressor. Some of those parts might actually be intact enough for resale! Our buddies Duy and Chuck removed the windows and power window motors, while Juan and Ramon Jr decimated the interior.

I must admit, however, that while I was productive, I was also a leeeeetle clutzy. I managed to strategically drop a socket into the power steering fluid reservoir from the windshield. Luckily, the oil filler wasn't open... it is perilously close to the fluid reservoir and would have been MUCH worse. And then I got to smash the reservoir to get the socket out. Big fun. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

LeMons 2009 Schedule: double the fun!

My, the time flies. I'm still trying to gather everyone's pictures from the October race, and along comes the 24 Hours of LeMons 2009 schedule.

The good news: two races in Houston!

The stressful news: the first is less than 4 months away. One race is 2/28 and 3/1; the other is again scheduled for October.

Don't worry, it's a happy kind of stressful, but time is always precious during the holidays so it really means we'll have only January and February to prepare. In addition to repairing Lockjaw, we have plenty of work ahead because we've purchased a second car (theme TBD). Half of our pit crew and 1/3 of our close friends who were spectators had so much fun at LeMons that they now also want to drive.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jalopnik coverage

The writers of Jalopnik are very involved with LeMons-- one of them was a judge at the race we ran-- and they've posted great writeups and photos of the weekend's action on their website since it ended. Now the Uber Gallery that gives a quick mention to every team has reached our number (70) so check it out.

We never spoke directly with them (other than in their judging role) so the post erroneously identifies our wing as being pallet-based. I'll have you know that was 100% Hurricane-Ike-damaged-fence-based.

Fence-based aerodynamics are the way of the future, man! Get serious about recycling!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Turn a curse around

MoozMooz Mazda being destroyedI mentioned the diversity of teams and the good cooperation at LeMons, but there is one element of the weekend that is not about camaraderie -- the selection of one car as the "People's Curse," which is destroyed around the half-point of the race. If you look in our gallery of photos from the event you can see the carnage wrought upon the unlucky car by a large construction claw.

The unlucky team at the Houston race was the Bum Steers and the MooPoo Crew LeMons Team -- voters may have thought their Miata was a former Spec Miata race car, not the junker that it was. It's ironic that their team was chosen since they're the people who contacted the LeMons organizers to suggest a Houston race.

Anyway, the small silver lining of the carnage is that it gave the Bum Steers a chance to emphasize to the crowd that they were not just racing for fun but also to publicize a charity, Heifer International, that works to combat hunger in poorer nations. If your finances permit, I urge you to click through to the Bum Steers' website and make a donation -- I donated something comparable to my lunch expenses for the last few days. If the MooPoo Crew get more donation money for their chosen charity perhaps it will lessen the sting of the People's Curse.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Preliminary results

The event results aren't up yet on the official 24 Hours of LeMons site, but here's provisional timing info from the event. We finished in 37th -- right at the midpoint of the field, but sadly not in the top half of those still running at the end. Amazingly the fastest lap we had was just before the end, when Juan had no brakes to speak of.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photo variety pack

Sometime later I'll pick some of the best shots for posting here with explanatory text, but for now please enjoy this LeMons photo buffet on Flickr. More to come, I haven't even gotten Mary's photos from Sunday and have many photos to get from Andy, Patrick, Chuck, and others.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tired but happy

Lockjaw ran strong to the end, but brake problems sidelined us twice today so our showing wasn't all we know it could have been. The Tetanus Neon was a very solid performer, and as a novice driver I'm thankful for its benign handling. Big thanks to all who helped us build the car, to our spouses and families, and to all who came by to spectate. We'll post up pictures of the fun later, but for now-- good night.

Nearing the end

Fewer updates today due to low battery. Two brake jobs. Added a wood
spoiler. Fast laps but we've spent too long in the pits. Big fun all

Back at speed

Long delay to fix brakes. Andy is driving, trying to be gentle... My turn next.

Parts swap meet

Big thanks to the Purple Pinball team. They kindly loaned us some
brake pads. We were able to give them a coil in return.

Day 2

Things started earlier today. Juan finally got some laps and he rocked.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day one wrap-up

The official verdict-- LeMons is very fun. If they do one in TX again next year, we're in for more, hopefully with a second (or even a third) car of friends. I'm slow but getting faster, and an endurance race is the perfect start -- slow & steady is the plan so I don't have to get aggressive fighting for a corner with more experienced drivers.

The atmosphere is much cooler than when I've wandered around the paddock at other races. Everyone's approachable, and the line "Where did you get your beater?" opens up folks much more than "Nice Mustang, looks like you spent more than the other Mustangs." Teams are encouraged to put together a humorous theme for the cars and teams, so that is another conversation starter.

I hope the short, choppy posts were OK - it's tough to make a post from my cellular phone. We ended the day in 42nd place. The repair delay was quite a killer, but we're making decent lap times (especially with the non-novice drivers Chuck and Andy behind the wheel, of course).

On the repair delay -- Andy had to be towed in when the right lower ball joint popped loose, which then pulled apart the right inner constant-velocity (CV) joint. Duy, Ramone Jr., and Andy did a great job of MacGyvering it back together. The instant camaraderie of the LeMons community was key to the repair. A nearby team loaned us a large socket needed to get the CV joint off, and then another team kindly donated a replacement bolt to hold the ball joint together again. We paid it forward by loaning use of our sawzall and generator power to one team, and donated a bolt (to the team that loaned us the socket) for an emergency shift-linkage repair on a Camaro.

Anyway, I'm sore but loving the event. In closing, a small sampling of photos.
Tech inspection, with lab coats for added comedy.

Other people's themes: Chia Neon is a veteran of several LeMons and they are fast.Schwing-wagon: in first place after day 1, but what impressed me most was their pre-race tour around the paddock with the whole team crammed in the car headbanging to "Bohemian Rhapsody" Wayne and Garth style.

Darth Bimmer, sadly, encountered issues and spent most of today being repaired. They assure us that it will be alive and running for Sunday.
Happy Tetanus Neon team on the way to the drivers' meeting at the start of the day.Whoops, so much for that ball joint. Andy only got about 10 laps at speed before this.

Repairs under way.
Pulling the driveshaft allowed lots of the transmission fluid to leak out, so we captured it in my just-emptied Gatorade bottle and returned it to the system after the repairs were complete.

Well, at least we were better off than these guys who had their Taurus' engine out of the car this evening. I hope they're racing tomorrow.

More laps

Chuck's drive went well. Many caution flags, yet we've moved up to
fifty-ninth. :-)

First shifts

Andy's first shift was cut short by the need for repairs. Mine was one
of the best half hours I've ever had, despite the Acura that tapped my
back bumper on lap 2. Chuck is out on the track now and is visibly
faster than I was. Too bad that the repair time put us in 63rd of
75th. Big fun!

Back on track

Repairs almost done, my turn to drive!

First setback

Andy got about ten laps at green and then a ball joint came loose and
messed up a CV axle. Repairs under way.

Lemons teams

The diversity of teams is amazing. Some have motor homes that cost six
figures, and then there are teams like those next to us: they put together an impressive car for a total budget of six hundred including cage. We're a little below the median, I
think. At least we have new tires, but no fancy motor home.

Passed tech!

We interpreted the rules correctly. Passed the tech inspection fine.
Played up the tetanus theme by wearing scrubs and lab coats, which
amused the judges.

Big Day

We're off to the track for the race... wish us (and Lockjaw) luck!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Last Weekend Before LeMons!

With slightly less than a week to go before the race, we have definitely been feeling the time crunch! Here are some photos of all of the werk we've been able to accomplish since the last post...

Andy and Rob worked on replacing the front disc brakes. The new ones are shiny and pretty!

Duy's excellent craftsmanship is evident when you look at the ignition switch and push-button starter. No more using a screwdriver to start the car!

Chris did a great job with the artwork on the side of the car. Mike came over and got a good start on the welding. The cage will be finished by the 14th!

Rob put in many laborious hours working on the custom lettering for the car. The naughty nurse is a nice touch, definitely in keeping with the theme of "Tetanus Neon".

Andy demonstrating that his beer drinking skills are just as finely honed as his Lockjaw-werking skills. Rob is just sitting in the car looking pretty.

All in all, things have come together nicely, despite some big delays. More to come before taking the car to the track...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Post-hurricane racecar work

The transformation of the rusty junkyard neon into Lockjaw the LeMons racecar continues! Rust and tetanus have rarely moved this quickly.

Although there were no injuries to team members or crew, hurricane Ike was extremely disruptive, and all work halted for one weekend while Chuck got married. We've resumed work and are trying to finish up the remaining tasks with the race less than two weeks away.

Work of late: brakes, removal of yet more interior bits, starter-button installation, and beginning steps of the roll-cage installation.
Andy revamps the brakes on Tetanus NeonDuy rewires the ignition on Lockjaw
really, that bit of dash is so unnecessary - dremel it!

racecar rollbar installation in progress
Oh, and other bits of customization like a cold-air intake (repurposed from an exhaust tip that would've been thrown away) and hood pins. We are indeed silly people.
exhaust parts recycled as a hood scoop for air intake

After reading a few articles about the "judging" process at LeMons at jalopnik and motive, it's clear we may be in the minority as non-cheaters -- Andy totaled up our receipts and found we are under budget! I suppose it's a moot point since none of us had the time, neon knowledge, or budget to try to get crafty.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lockjaw, meet Ike

Just a quick post now that my workplace has opened. (No power at my home, no Internet at Andy's.)
Hurricane Ike did a lot of damage to the area, but mainly to trees & power lines in our neighborhoods. The Tetanus Neon is undamaged, but a box chimney fell on Gutros' car. Official lamentation has been postponed until insurance decisions are made.

MSR Houston also suffered only minimal damage from Ike, so the work will continue for the race weekend. More updates later as more of the team gets power back.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Impatience is the Aunt of Invention

We've all heard that Necessity is the mother of Invention, but I'd say Impatience qualifies as an aunt at the very least. These photos are from my cell-phone, which is why they're so grainy (and some are very old to boot), but I felt the peculiar tactics used one day needed to be documented.

You see, Neons don't seem to have a tow hook in the back, so we'll have to add one to Lockjaw. When we needed to pull the car out of the junkyard (the second time), of course we weren't in a mood to hang around waiting while someone carefully installed a tow hook from scratch, so Impatience dropped in and pretty soon Invention came calling too. So for your own tow-hook related emergencies, we will share our wisdom in three words: rear seat belts. Only useful provided you won't be using the vehicle as a full passenger vehicle again, obviously.

As long as I'm posting grainy pics, here's a shot from Saturday evening. The Neon's look changes from "Hi!" to "WHAT?!!" without those friendly headlights, doesn't it? We actually had a very productive Saturday, there wasn't even any beer until the work was done.
  • Duy and I pulled the fenders so I could hammer out the dents a little bit.
  • We also later removed more of the remaining dashboard.
  • Duy and Andy installed a battery relocation box so the battery wouldn't just be rattling around underhood.
  • Andy also bypassed the heater core and gave the cooling system several flushes with his garden hose trying to get a decade of ick out of there.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Progress Pics

Now that the interior has been removed / obliterated and it's running well, we're delving into more of the details, such as battery relocation, hose changes, and various prep work. I don't think any of us have ever power-washed the interior of a car (well, maybe those who have owned a Jeep), so we've added something to our list of Unusual Things I've Done To/With A Car! Coming soon - roll cage and race seat.

Lockjaw with partial interior
Before the Deconstruction...

Lockjaw with most interior removed
And after... Duy here still insists that we need a stereo, but we had to explain to him that stereos add weight, and we won't be able to hear it anyway.

LockJaw really wants to be a drag car, so we humored him a little bit. As you can see, the layer of iron oxide is coming along nicely on the roof.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Overdue updates

Long overdue updates about the Tetanus Neon.
  • The race organizers have accepted our entry, so the pressure ratchets up. No excuses now. Work pace immediately changed from "show up if you can once a week" to "everyone gather at Andy's as much as possible."
  • Location change for the effort-- we've finally relocated the car from the workshop near the junkyard, over to Andy's place. Unfortunately a few rats came along for the relocation and have since disappeared into the depths of the garage. :(
  • I was away from town this past weekend, but apparently they made much progress -- the car is starting and running well now, and a majority of the remaining interior bits have been removed. Gutros and Cleetus dove right in and are official pit-crew, and Kevin (nickname pending) earned his SNAFU Racing novice card by joining in on the havoc.
  • Finally, Cleetus has bestowed another name upon the car: Lockjaw. We must investigate if the grill can be made to resemble clenched teeth.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

An explanation of sorts

Work on the Neon has actually been progressing in fits and starts for several months, but we've never documented any of it online. Here are two pictures from the early days. First, here's a shot of it in its entirety, being towed to a workspace with Andy at the wheel.

Shortly after, the team sat down to discuss the paint job. It's bad. Quite bad. There were some interesting shapes of rusty spots on the roof and trunk, though, and Juan suggested keeping them. That comment, combined with the insight that paint costs money but rust is free, led to the "tetanus neon" theme-- we've pulled the paint off the roof, hood, and trunk, and allowed that metal to rust. Looks pretty good now. Well, good for rusty metal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Humble beginnings

Here's a shot of the exhumation. Um, I mean, here's the joyous day we found our racecar-to-be.
Juan christened it with a bottle of faux champagne that had been left at his home by a party-goer, and we pronounced the project underway.


OK, what's the plan again?

Well, there's an entertaining race idea known as the 24 Hours of LeMons. Teams assemble race cars from beaters, with a budget (excluding tires & safety equipment) of only $500.

Sounds dangerous.

No, sounds like fun. The safety equipment will include a roll cage. Some of the gang to track days and used to race, but the rest of us always had something else that took priority... and once they announced a Texas race for this year's LeMons schedule we were out of excuses.

Visiting a junkyard produced a $100 Dodge Neon with a 5-speed, lots of weeds, and some small wildlife. Let the gruntwork and comedy begin.