Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ohio bound

I haven't said much about it, but Houston prep isn't all that has been
going on. Doctawife and I are joining Brian and Joe's team for the
Ohio race this weekend! Wish us luck using an unfamiliar Mustang on an
unfamiliar track for an actual 24-hour race.
Yep-- this race is the one 24 Hours of Lemons that actually lasts 24
hours. Brian swapped the Mustang's grill for a Capri front end he
found since we need headlights.
Updates here if cellular coverage permits.

Friday, September 18, 2009

As for car #2...

The Margarita neonMargarita Neon race car in pits at Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez, Louisiana event in 24 Hours of LeMons race series had a pretty rough time in Louisiana during "Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez"-- our rush-job engine rebuild (top-end) after the Gator-O-Rama race wasn't up to snuff, so it spent way more time in the pits than on the track. We're hoping to change its luck by renaming and redecorating it: now the vehicle will be known as the Fancy Lawnmower. (If St. Arnold's Brewery approves of the homage to their beer, we hope to get a sticker for it. If they disapprove, it will become the Rusty Lawnmower.)

Last weekend the team finally got around to pulling out the motor to see how bad things were going to be repair-wise. Bear in mind that the sparkly goo in the green panoil from MargaritaNeon race car with many small metal shavings in it pictured here was the oil from the car mid-race in Louisiana, and during my final lap with the car it let out a very impressive cloud of smoke, steam, and chaos before expiring. We knew things would be bad.

Once Andy started draining the oil pan of the car we knew it would be very very bad indeed. The Sludge: 2 gallons of ick from our engineThe oil, water from the cooling system, and oil treatment (added to try to quiet the knocking con-rod for a few more laps) had been churned into a grayish, thick goo that took ages to drain from the engine. Rob dubbed it "The Sludge." With all that tasty water, oil, and metal shavings, I declared it a suitable salad dressing for robots.

I left the engine pull to others while I did my hack-job of welding on Lockjaw, team members attaching hoist to pull out race car enginebut once it was done I joined in the laughter at the poor motor.
Here's a closeup of cylinder 1: badly mangled piston in our race car engineit didn't move at all when the crank was moved, the piston is rotated, cracked, and the cylinder wall has been punched through completely. Needless to say, we have about six people making calls and emails to try to locate a new motor in a junkyard. We already have a junkyard block but it's from a later-model SOHC and we're not sure if it will work with the DOHC head from the car. So if anyone knows of a cheap (or even free) motor from an early Neon, please let me know.

Junkheap coverage takes to the air

Would you like to read about LeMons stuff from professional writers? Within a short interval of each other, both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines featured stories about the 24 Hours of LeMons in their in-flight magazines. Both covered the Houston race back in February, the "Gator-O-Rama" event.

Gearing up for October

The team has been a busy bunch this summer, preparing things for the next Houston-area 24 Hours of LeMons race in October. Making major repairs to two rusty neon racecars wasn't challenging enough, so Ramon & his son have started building out a third car. Our unofficial motto: "Gluttons for punishment (and beer)."

As I mentioned in the post-Louisiana entry, due to some rollover incidents at other LeMons races the tech inspections have gotten very thorough about roll cages. Upon close inspection of the cage in our original TetanusNeon we found some bends that would probably not pass tech inspection again, so the cage has been removed and a new one goes in this Saturday.

In addition to needing a new cage, Lockjaw needed work to the lower radiator support. Yep, the roof of this fine motoring machine isn't the only part with rust, and the lower support was so perforated that the engine shifted several inches when we revved it.

If this happened to a normal car, one would go find a new support, or perhaps a full donor front end, and replace the poor perforated beastie with metal of the size and shape that Dodge intended. That, however, is not The LeMons Way (especially as interpreted by SNAFU Racing). Our way? Take a brief 4-hour workshop on welding, buy a reconditioned welder, and start tacking in whatever metal can be scrounged from everyone's garages and workshops. Hammer whenever needed, repeat as necessary. Here I am making my first weld that isn't part of a class. Let's just say it was not a textbook example.

We did find two metal chunks of about the right size and it's all together now, with radiator held near where it once lived, a less-shifty motor mount, and even a tow hook now (may it never be needed). P.J. got the hang of welding very quickly, so unlike my work, the side he did doesn't look like it was done by a monkey with shaky hands.

Up next for Tetanus Neon: new cage, then we try to spruce up the visuals on the car.