Hooniverse Weekend Edition – Say Goodbye to Team Trailing Throttle Oversteer

It is with sad news that I must report that the infamous 1963 Corvair Sedan that participated in the New England edition of the 24 Hours of Lemons during the past couple of years has been retired to that great bone-yard in the sky. There are several reasons why this happened, and none of them can make up for the loss of such a machine….

A little history. I bought this car in a little town in Vermont back in November of 2008 for the princely sum of $400. The car last ran in the mid 70s, had a unfortunate incident with a collapsing car port (thereby destroying the huge wraparound rear window), and sat in a Vermont field for close to 15 years before I decided that this was the perfect car for a 24-Hours of LeMons entry. Taking the car from a piece of art sleeping in a field to an actual competitive entry took some work, but not as much as you think.

One thing about an air-cooled pancake six cylinder engine, oil pools around the bottom of the cylinders, and it was easy to bring back to life. New plugs, new points, a new battery, a re-built starter, and new gasoline, and voila, it ran. The car was equipped with one of the most reliable transmissions ever (A Powerglide as it were) and all it needed was a change of Transmission Fluid. A new set of brake pads, eight aftermarket 14″ rims that fit a Datsun Z-Car, new lug nuts and collars for those rims, eight tires, and the Corvair was almost there.

In April of 2009, I still didn’t have a team ready, and so I started recruiting from around the blogosphere. Mike Musto (currently writing for RideLust), Katherine Helmatag (writing for CarDomain), and a few of Mike’s friends made up most of the driving and mechanic staff. Andy Sarkozi was added through an introduction involving Murilee Martin (Andy owned a wicked Corvair with a 455 CID Toronado V-8 midship that was brought to the track). A couple of other team members were added as cheerleaders and runners (Mary Comens, and Jason Engle) and we were almost there.

The Corvair needed a lot of other work done to it, and that is where ace mechanic Johnny Sigismondi came in. He welded together a fantastic roll cage, Rebuilt the starter (again) and installed an alternator, lightened the body structure, added in a fuel cell, and generally had the car purring. A lot of this had been published before, so just read all about the exploits here, here, and here. It was a great time that year.

For the 2010 season, it was a bit harder for me to get a team together. You see, because of the initial success of the TTTO Corvair, Mike Musto decided to form his own team, with most of his friends, and his excellent mechanic. At the same time, Jason Engel decided to form his own team with what has become the default car of the 24 Hours of Lemons, a BMW E-30. It was very late in the decision process, but I managed to get Andy Sarkozi back, with his son Alex who filled in for the driving duties. The world famous Blake Rong was also invited, and I barely had a team together. You can read the exploits of TTTO (written by Mr. Rong) here and here.

Which brings me to the conclusion of my adventures with the Corvair. Many of you may (or may not) know that my income has taken a devastating hit this past year, and that I have been caring for two elderly parents that are taking up a great deal of my time. However, the final straw was having to start looking for another set of team members…. again. Andy, with his son Alex bought the second place finishing BMW 5-Series from “Team Orbital Space Monkeys” and decided to start their own team. I am very proud that my team of misfits that started in the summer of 2009 is (somewhat) responsible for the forming of three other teams.

The Corvair was stored in my Garage over the winter, and the indestructible Powerglide bled all of its fluid from a fatal gash caused by improperly loading it onto a flatbed wrecker. That same manhandling also ripped out the rear brake lines, and it was clear to me that the career of one of the more iconic Lemons racers was over. It was time to say goodbye to the Corvair, with parts of her that may live on in other 24 hours of LeMons racers. I know many of you will blast me for parting with it, but it had to go. Someday I will return to the event, maybe with another Corvair, but not in the foreseeable future.

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17 responses to “Hooniverse Weekend Edition – Say Goodbye to Team Trailing Throttle Oversteer”

  1. IronBallsMcG Avatar

    Man, I knew that was going to be something I didn't want to read.

  2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Understandable. Sad to see, but understandable. As a fellow LeMons team captain who has struggled time and again to assemble a team of willing drivers, I can sympathize. Last season, after watching me "race" in LeMons, my father decided that he wanted to put together a team, but seeing my difficulty in recruiting drivers for subsequent races has tempered his desire. Thus, this summer, he will be bringing out to me the car that he had started prepping, which should ease my task of finding drivers for October. I have no shortage of people that are eager to drive, but many of them either can't drive a manual (this is surmountable), or they wouldn't fit into the Fiero (tougher to rectify).
    I will continue to sign up for LeMons races, and then scramble to get a team together, rather than the other way around.
    I wish you the best in all of your non-LeMons ventures, and will hope for your eventual return to the track.

  3. Jo Schmo Avatar
    Jo Schmo

    dammit! I would give my left lug nut to race/wrench/drink for a LeMons team but there are seriously no races near me. I am patiently waiting for the day they create a new event at Miller Motorsports Park.
    Sorry to see the car go Jim, too bad you couldn't find a new family willing to adopt her. I will pour out a glass of transmission fluid in her honor.

  4. coupeZ600 Avatar

    Jim! Move your folks out here to AZ, (evidently every old person in the world thinks this is The Shizz), and along with Cpt. Severe, Mr Howser, Charles, Randy, Brenda, and Kelly, we could have an all-AZ team. "No Rust, Only Dents (Dense?)", maybe?
    While there's only been one LeMons race here in AZ (back in Jan. of 2010) and it wasn't real well attended because of the short notice, Chump Car has races all around here (NM, CO, NV, So. CA, and I just saw that in 2011 there are THREE in MX, although Monterrey might be a bit of a pull). I was just talking to Carey about how in AZ anything within 300 miles is considered, "…just down the street…..", you gotta' get up to around 600 miles before you can call it a "Drive".

    1. coupeZ600 Avatar

      Gawd, racing in Mexico would be So Fun!!!!!

    2. CptSevere Avatar

      I'm still regretting not buying the $300.00 Mercury Comet that was like two blocks away from my place. It would have been perfect for LeMons. Yeah, we'd have one helluva team. In a perfect world, we'd devastate the whole series. We even have jackasses to serve as team mascots.
      UD Man, you have my sympathy for the loss of that fine driving machine. I suspect that you'll rally back in the near future.

      1. coupeZ600 Avatar

        Was it a dark blue '64 Wagon w/ a 260 V8? If it was I may very well know that one, my buddy had one back in the mid-late 70's and I know he sold it locally……

  5. Deartháir Avatar

    Gentlemen! Line up your project cars! I think this great warrior's passing deserves a 21-Backfire salute.

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    I am sorry to hear about your situation Jim. At least there will be all the awesome times you have had to reflect upon, and there is always the future. Good luck, Jim.

  7. longrooffan Avatar

    My sentiments are exactly the same as muthalovin. As so sad this decision was apparently carried out on your birthday. All the best UDMan.

  8. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3280/5719573658_000ef29cf0_z.jpg&quot; width=600>
    I'm thankful that the Corvair had as good a run as it did, and hopefully, indeed, its parts live on.
    Best of luck, Jim, from here on – it sounds as though you could use it. Hell of a way to spend a birthday.

  9. Jim-Bob Avatar

    It's sad to see it go. I have always wanted to drive in a LeMons race but there really aren't any in my neck of the woods ( Central Florida) and I don't have a competition license. Although lately my efforts have been on hypermiling the little 3 cyl/5 speed Metro while delivering pizza, in less impoverished days I used to love to terrorize the back roads with feats of high speed cornering in cars I built for the task.

  10. aastrovan Avatar

    Great story,sounds like you had fun with it. Years ago I shortened a 66 Corvair4dr. into a dune buggy,roll cage,Renault buckets and grader blade rockers.It was a blast.

  11. dukeisduke Avatar

    Sad news. You’d think a tow truck operator could tow a ‘vair without destroying it.

  12. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

    Jim, that Corvair had already been given up for dead and you gave it one hell of a second life. There shouldn't be any regrets there. I wish I had had the chance to drive it or at least see it in action, but that's OK, especially as I have my own Vair to mess around with now ('64 coupe, as of 2 days ago, and no it is definitely not going to be outfitted for a roll cage!) More importantly, I hope things start looking up for you again soon. When they do, and you have a hankering to wrench on a Corvair again, come on down to Savannah, the garage door will always be open for you.

  13. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    The Killer ZomBees are also very sad to see TTTO go. It was one of the cars we looked up to.
    As a team captain, I totally understand the frustration and never ending hard work of keeping a good team together. I swear it has taken years off my life, and on more than one occasion I thought the team was not going to make it to the race until the very last moment. It can be nerve-wracking and ulcer inducing. I came close to throwing in the towel myself on a few occasions. Thus you prove once again that you are smarter than I.
    We hope to see you out on the track again soon, and if you ever find yourself looking for a terrible ride on the west coast, we've got a seat reserved with your name on it.