Team Police Brutality---Beating Up Breast Cancer has won the top prize in the 24 Hours of LeMons!
That's right, folks, we finally did it! This past weekend at the 2010 LeMons New England race, we achieved our goal, winning the Index of Effluency. Most of the previous winners have done it in a single attempt. It took us no less than four tries! Here's a look back at what it took for us to finally claim the big one:
We started with the 1961 Pink Cadillac last fall at Nelson Ledges in Ohio. We built it from a decrepit, non-running, brakeless hulk (that had been largely dormant for several decades) in a week's time, finishing the build just as the race started. First, my cousin David Mills had a serious collision with the wall near the bridge. He was fine, but the repairs sidelined us for several hours, then once we got back out on the track, the head gaskets blew. About twelve hours of wrenching later, we had replaced the head gaskets, with only 15 minutes to go in the race! Unfortunately, it still overheated and died, though we managed to carry enough speed to coast past the checkered flag. It won Organizer's Choice, the #3 prize in LeMons. Upon attempting to load the car back onto the trailer, the engine spun a bearing and locked up with a horrific SCREECH. David ended up with the nickname "CaddyWrecker", and became widely known in LeMons for this feat.
In April, we attempted to resurrect the Caddy by cutting out the firewall, and trying to stuff a BMW V12 into the engine bay. Due to the unique X-frame and gigantic crossmember, we simply couldn't make it work in time. Instead, we bought a rusted-out '63 Thunderbird that had sat buried under a collapsed shed for 28 years for $300, chopped off the top, welded in the Cadillac's cage, and added bracing and steel supports throughout, to keep it from buckling in half due to the rotten unibody. Once we hit the track at the Gingerman race near Detroit, the car looked magnificent! It had about 3 gallons of Bondo, Massey Ferguson red tractor paint, hand-painted whitewalls, and cheap plastic wire wheel hubcaps to complete the vintage look.The 390 ran pretty well for an engine sitting that long, but the transmission quit 4 hours into the race. In true Team Police Brutality never-give-up, never surrender fashion, we worked for many hours, removing the old transmission, welding the shafts and drums together, and converting the Cruise-O-Matic three speed auto into a LeMons-O-Matic single speed transmission. We had Drive, and Not Drive (Park). It worked, for 23 miles (nearly a dozen laps), before the engine locked up and burst into flames! We won the first-ever Epic Repair Failure trophy, although technically the repair had held, it was the engine that blew.
In June, after two long, tiring months and hundreds of hours of wrenching and fabricating, we arrived at Summit Point with the same Thunderbird, this time sporting the world's first ghetto-carbed BMW M70 V12! After buying a non-running 1990 750il for $240 as a donor, I had crafted an intake manifold out of electrical conduit pipe and an Army surplus ammo can, bolted a Holley 600CFM 4 barrel to the top of it, and stuffed it all into the Thunderbird. Team photographer and pit wizard Ronman assisted me in the carb conversion and engine swap. The driveshaft was a three-piece combination of '90 BMW, '61Caddy, and '63 Thunderbird, and the distributors were $54 Ebay Jeep HEI-style units that I cut down. At the track Friday night before the race, while the engine was running smoothly and I was tuning the distributors, a funny screeching sound was heard, and bearings began shooting out of the water pump! I spent half of Friday night pulling it off, and Saturday morning we tried to locate one. The closest one we could find, after probably a hundred calls to parts stores and junkyards, was in a BMW warehouse in NY. No, they couldn't overnight it, and no, we couldn't come pick it up. By Saturday afternoon, the only option we could find was a Meziere universal electric pump---eight hours away at Summit Racing in Ohio. Once Ronman got back from his heroic overnight run in my truck to get it, and we realized it didn't have the outlet fittings we needed, the race was nearly over. After scrambling to adapt a 3/4" outlet into a 2" hose by layering rubber and duct tape, then doubling clamping it, I hit the track, five minutes prior to the checkered flag. As I finished the first lap, the hose popped off, and it started overheating. By the end of the second lap it had died, and the checkered flag was waving. After letting it cool for a few minutes, I was able to drive off the track. We won the "I Got Screwed" award for our hard luck that weekend.
Our fourth I.O.E. attempt, we decided, would be our final outing for the '63 Thunderbird. If you can't get it done in cars as cool as ours in four tries, you're definately doing it wrong, and for us, three attempts in one particular car was two too many. Searching for an unusual diesel drivetrain a week before the race to keep our unlikely/nightmarish/last-minute build streak alive, I located a local craigslist ad for an '86 BMW 524TD with 316k miles, that hadn't been started in over a year. It was supposedly maintained to some degree (seller claimed oil changes every 6k, with only a 1 qt usage). It also seemed to have experienced enough problems that the owner parked it for over a year. He had replaced a camshaft that sheared, the turbo, the timing belt regularly (interference motor, hella expensive/rare head), and a few other things in the last 100k. The previous owner had supposedly had the trans rebuilt, which is probably true, considering it survived our WOT upshifts/downshifts every 15 seconds on the short track.
The Saturday prior to the race, Dave and I pulled it from the BMW, and began the swap. We had hoped the engine/transmission mounts and driveshaft from the M70 V12 would work for the M21 L6 Turbodiesel. Of course not. Throttle linkage? Not a chance. Fuel system? Nope. They all had to be fabricated all over again. Once I finally got it all sorted out and working, it started springing leaks. First it was transmission fluid from the old BMW rubber high-pressure lines, then motor oil. We resorted to using about 30" of 3/4 heater hose as transmission line, and somehow it held all weekend. Once out on the track, we discovered the motor had about 10-15 seconds of turbo/downshift/movement lag. Every green restart from a caution, it would take us 20 seconds to get back up to speed, when everyone else did it in 5. I've never seen anything like it. No boost leaks that we saw/heard, but we didn't have a boost gauge, and it's possible we were leaking somewhere. However, once it got rolling, the old 'bird gripped pretty damn well on the smooth asphalt. On the bumps, it skittered sideways wildly. The last hour of the race, we turned the car over to the staff, and Christine, Sharon, and LuAnn took turns driving it, with no small amount of carnage resulting on the track. Afterwards, the Judges and select others abused it in the parking lot, doing a burnout, donuts, and crashing into trash cans. Judge Jonny equated it to driving a big truck, and if Judge Phil had posted the whole video of the burnout, you would have seen it floored for a good 10-15 seconds before either of the bottled-water-soaked tires started to turn.
We worked hard before and at each of the four races, and felt we really and truly earned this win. Thanks to our families, friends, and fellow racers for all the support! I told the LeMons staff Sunday morning it was our final LeMons race in the 'bird. They asked WHY?!? I reminded them of the five LeMons IOE cars I have waiting in the wings (two 50's Ford Prefects, a '42 Buick, a '77 Lancia Scorpion, and a '68 Torino, and they finally understood. I offered the car for FREE to anyone who wanted it (after the race, of course) at the Sunday driver's meeting. The only catch was that I was reimbursed the actual cost of the safety gear (about $950 for the seat/cage/harness). The reason? I didn't want to ruin the car by cutting the cage out of it, knowing the body would probably buckle in half. I'd love to see it keep racing, and I didn't want to be bothered hauling it home and then parting it out. There's precious little market for slow, old rustbuckets that have already won the prize they were built for. I had our old race seat and harness in it, which I didn't plan to reuse anyway, and the '61 Caddy cage would have to be cut waaay down for most cars. Now, I'm reconsidering. I won't bring it back to LeMons, but maybe it will race again someday...
Now to win the third prize of the LeMons Trifecta, the Winner on Distance, or the actual race winner. Our Lincoln should be up to the task by September, when we return to Carolina Motorsports Park. Hopefully our drivers will be as well. Special thanks to my incredibly supportive and understanding wife Jaime!
The TPB members who were part of the 4 IOE attempts are:
Joe Dorshefski Sr.
Many thanks to you all!