The idea came to me—as so many other bad ideas do—by simply wondering how to make something totally conventional into something far more creative and entertaining to watch. Our previous builds were based on the same premise. What if a plane could be made into a racecar? We built the Spirit of LeMons, a ’56 Cessna 310, into a totally reliable street/track car that handles incredibly well, despite the mundane ’87 Toyota van base. I chose that particular model van because it uses a mid-engine/RWD setup and torsion bars in the front, which made for a low center of gravity, and left no strut towers protruding from the narrow fuselage. What if we did it again, but with a helicopter? Most helicopters have quite rounded bodies and use narrow skids, so even if a fuselage could somehow be sourced cheaply enough, neither would hide the chassis of even a small vehicle inside. The solution was clear to me—use pontoons to hide the vehicle chassis, and add an extra layer of challenge to the build by making it amphibious as well! The Upside-Down Camaro presented fewer serious engineering challenges, but still worked amazingly well as a visual gag. I wanted to recreate the jaw-dropping wow factor of that build, but how? A backwards truck had already been raced. I needed to think more unconventionally.
Why not a vehicle on its side? Continue reading
The Trippy Tippy Hippy Van!
For the first ever 24 Hours of LeMons race at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, we wanted to pull out all the stops. Check out our teaser video for what is possibly our wildest build to date:
For the 24 Hours of LeMons race at New Jersey Motorsports Park in May, I decided that we would bring our old Suzuki X90 (formerly of pop-up camper race car fame) back as a hot dog stand. The Gang of Outlaws and I built a steel framework and put a tin roof and wood brick paneling on it, along with some printed vinyl banners. Although it was a massive aerodynamic hindrance and added about 500 lbs. to our race car, we flogged it hard on the track, and managed to finish 48th overall out of 124 teams! Not too shabby for a little body on frame SUV powered by a stock ’94 Miata four-cylinder engine. More importantly, we raised hundreds of dollars for Bella Reed Pitbull Rescue by giving away hot dogs all weekend and accepting donations. Our efforts resulted in another Index of Effluency win, the grand prize in the 24 Hours of Lemons series.
Check out the LeMons wrap up video (with lots of footage of our hot dog stand in action, starting at about 8:20) here:
We won the Rally’s grand prize!
Driving a three-wheeled English car that has been parked since 1991 cross country in February isn’t necessarily the most prudent course of action, but that’s exactly what makes it an adventure! Adding a helicopter to the mix that only survived two laps of racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park before grenading the 30 valve Audi engine is exponentially more stupid, but we did it anyway.
At the end of this month, we will embark on an EPIC adventure. We’re planning to take both the SpeedyCopter and the newest addition to fleet: A 1971 Reliant Regal! This 3 wheeled, fiberglass, Harry Potter-esque car last saw road duty in the U.K. in 1991. We acquired it a couple of weeks ago, and managed to get it running just a few days ago. Well, if you consider popping, sputtering, slipping clutch, dripping oil from everywhere, and leaking fuel from it’s 25HP (750CC) engine ‘running’, that is. We have our work cut our for us in the next two weeks! No worries, though, because our 185/45R13 snow tires arrived on schedule, and are now mounted. As long as there’s no wind, hills, other vehicles around, or darkness, we should be fine. Right? Right. Cheers, Mates!
The Upside Down Camaro is being featured on the Garage Genius episode of Outrageous Acts of Science Wednesday night (August 3rd) at 9pm on the Science Channel!
The car originally debuted at New Jersey Motorsports Park in a 24 Hours of LeMons race two years ago. It’s inverted an inverted 1999 Camaro convertible body, mounted on a steel framework, perched atop a $200/200k mile 60 HP 1990 Ford Festiva.