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Vodden the Hell Are We Doing?

May 24, 2017 In the News, Racing

Vodden the Hell Are We Doing?

Racing a high-mileage Honda called Hell Kitty

By John Lamm

May concludes with automobile racing’s holy week. Days of practice and qualifying followed by the Sunday tripleheader. A latte and the Monaco Grand Prix in the am. Lunch while watching the Indy 500. BBQ and beer for NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 in the pm.

Serious stuff measured in thousandths of a second and mere inches at 200 mph. Put on your serious face.

Well, not quite yet. To ease into that history-making day, we took a shot at what might be the least-serious form of motorsports: the 24 Hours of LeMons. No, that is not a missprint.

Founded by John Lamm (not me, the smart one), it runs races around the country in which the cars are, well, different. As are the event names, ours at Thunderhill in northern California titled “Vodden the Hell Are We Doing?”

To begin, the cars have to be bought for $500 or less before their modifications. Then things get serious with the likes of roll cages, hot motors, serious suspensions, excellent brakes and, perhaps, a skunk tail or horsehead. Honest.

My tolerant teammates were old pals Tony Swan (well known motoring journalist), Jeremy Barnes (Mazda’s top PR guru and our hot shoe) and a new friend, Blair Weston (a very smart contract auto engineer from Detroit). Key to the team was Tony’s wife, Mary Seelhorst.

Our ride was Hell Kitty, a 1988 Honda Prelude with 263,000+ miles on the odo when Tony bought in 2010 for $436. The coupe body looks quite straight compared to many LeMons competitors, though when the transport driver picked it up in Michigan and started to fill out his “vehicle condition” (and dents, scratches, etc.) form he just said, “I don’t know where to start.” And gave up.

You’d be hard pressed to find a friendlier, better-humored paddock than at a LeMons race. There’s a tongue-in-cheek attitude about the cars. Where serious racers setups might involve millimeters and fractions of an ounce, here you hear quips like, “that’s close enough” or “what difference does it make?”

Humor ends when safety is involved. All the latest driver suits, helmets and gloves, solid roll cages and a full tech inspection. Screw up–wheels off the road, spin, etc.–and you’ll be blacked flagged for a chat with the safety team. All four of us made that visit. So it goes.

Driving Thunderhill is a hoot and a half. Five miles around with several fast turns, quick esses and two very tight, hard-on-the-brakes corners. Plus temperatures that ranged from the low 80s to the high 90s. Water, water, water, Gatorade.

Mind you, the racing is for real. Side-by-side through sweepers, Nose-to-tail heading into tight corners. But how are you meant to feel when you’ve been passed by a BMW M30 with angel’s wings? Really, angel’s wings?

So where did we finish? Something like 35th out of 129 starters. That’s close enough. This was despite losing almost an hour while Jeremy and Blair repaired the left front suspension…and were up late fixing another broken piece. Our heroes.

What mattered most, of course, was that we all had fun of a sort you normally don’t have at a race track. Like laughing at other race cars. Or chasing a pickup while a gaggle of Minions in the truck’s bed stare back at you.

For more info, check out http://www.24hoursoflemons.com with a list of their events here and Down Under. Learn more about such races as “Doing Time in Joliet,” “Arse-Sweat-Apalooza” and “Kentucky (Demo) Derby.”

Now, put your serious face back on and wait for Monaco, Indy and the Coca-Cola 600.

You’ll never guess which car had the number 666.

We know a great deal about Porsche 908s at Revs and are quite certain this isn’t one.

Ah yes, the skunk cars. Reminds us that Pepe Le Pew once said, “All is love in fair and war.”

Good grief, there is still one Rover 3500 alive in the U.S…perhaps because it has a Lexus V-8.

What? Your BMW didn’t come with a BratWorst on top? It was on 5 Series accessories list.

This 928 from the 4077th MASH unit didn’t race, but we couldn’t resist. It was on the bloc for $4000.

An angelic Bimmer that goes like hell.

How about a short-wheelbase Chevrolet El Camino with Honda Del Sole guts?

At least the driver has no trouble figuring which direction is forward.

Some drivers are happy with just SiriusXM satellite radio and a GoPro.

A Toyota Corolla with a few dimples…and engines front and rear.

You get to write the caption for this one.

Le Patron, Tony Swan.

Our ride: Hell Kitty, a 1988 Honda Prelude, “reasonably” unscathed after many race miles.

Our tech heroes, Blair Weston (left) and Jeremy Barnes fixing a suspension link with a needle nosed pliers. They got it done.

Tony and his wife, Mary Seelhorst, in our imitation of a Penske Indy 500 pit stall.

NASCAR had nothing on us when it came to pit stops.

Just another photo from a Grand Prix Drivers Association meeting.

This would be a Model T GT or Terrible Ts and the Pinto Bean Bandits.

Here we see hints of four different sports cars and one duckbill platypus.

This option easily explains why Oldsmobile is no longer in business.

Aqua Volvo-“Because a slap in the face is better than nothing at all.” Can we talk…?

May the farce be with you.

They took a Sawzall to the snout of the Avanti to beat the heat.

–“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”-John Keats (1795-1821).

This would appear to be an Area 51 advanced fighter jet chasing a unicorn. Conspiracy? We think not.

There’s a Mazda Miata in there, hidden behind those bag-of-walnuts fender flares.

Love the concept of pink artillery

Minions-Mobile, which points out “Education is Important, but Racecars are Importanter.”

And now let us hop in the Hella Kitty Prelude for a lap.

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John Lamm started his automotive journalism career in 1965 as a racing photographer for Autoweek magazine. After a tour in Vietnam, he joined Motor Trend in 1969, then Road & Track in 1975, where he worked for 37 years. He has also written for Car and Driver and Automobile magazines. Credits include 10 books and Lamm has been honored with the International Motor Press Association’s Ken Purdy and the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor awards for writing. Lamm’s photo archives include hundreds of thousands of images ranging from an 1893 Benz Victoria to many of the latest automobiles. He is on the organizing committee for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for two decades. Lamm lives in San Clemente, California with his wife, Scheri.

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