LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #20-11


Today finds the penultimate 10, those metric dozen who are great but perhaps a notch below the best of the best in LeMons. You would think that all of the Top 20 cars would have notched a win each, but they haven’t. In fact, five of the Top 20 have yet to pick up an overall win and three of those are represented in today’s 10. Today, we see three different BMWs, an often-maligned German badge, an SUV, and a super-subcompact. Launch past the jump to see what’s what and where what goes.

Introduction,  Honorable Mentions, and Entries #74-71
Entries #70-61
Entries #60-51
Entries #50-41

Entries #40-31

Entries #30-21

20. Nissan 300ZX – DOMINATION Factor: 1.055 (2010 Rank: 33/38, All Z-Cars)


Nissan’s 240Z/260Z (which finished just one spot behind) descendent is no slouch. The 300ZX earned a reputation for spectacular failure in early LeMons races (supported by their poor 2010 ranking), but the type has since redeemed itself. Oddly enough, the best 300ZX in LeMons scrapped their car’s VG Series V6 and took reliability back a few steps with a turbocharged Saab four cylinder. It sounds insane (because it is), but Rust in the Wind have a couple of race wins to demonstrate that crazy sometimes works in LeMons.

19. Chrysler Neon – DOMINATION Factor: 1.055 (2010 Rank: 9/38)


Chrysler’s cute 1990s answer to getting crushed in the compact market also earned huge points as a SCCA racecar when it debuted. In LeMons, the type is usually nothing flashy. Having usually long ago lost the cute quality, the Neon tends to go about its business on the racetrack, seldom the fastest car or the most noticeable. At the end of the day, the best Neon teams can take a 130-horsepower, single-cam compact to the podium’s top step, no small feat considering the car is named after an inert gas.

18. Jeep – DOMINATION Factor: 1.057 (2010 Rank: N/A)

Jeep_cherokee2Only two teams have ever run Jeeps (though they’ve entered a lot of races), so this again could be an exercise in small sample size. Cherokee fanatics Team Petty Cash were the originators and compiled a string of tremendous finishes in a very quick, well-driven XJ. TGTW Offroad in Texas soon followed suit with a Cherokee and a rare Comanche pickup. The result has been two very good endurance racing teams running offroad platforms. Maybe the Jeep is the ticket to crapcan success and there will be a glut of road-racing Cherokees. I can’t envision a scenario where that is a bad thing.

17. BMW E36 – DOMINATION Factor: 1.065 (2010 Rank: N/A)


I honestly expected the E36 to finish much higher than this, but it falls behind both the E30 and even the older E21 BMW 3 Series. This is probably another case of $500-itis, where a true $500 E36 has enough problems to keep it from being competitive for many races, which drives down the average. When they’re not overheating from crappy radiator components, though, they can be extraordinarily fast. However, only cheaters drive E36s.

16. BMW E21 – DOMINATION Factor: 1.087 (2010 Rank: 37/38)


In my humble opinion, the E21 generation are the best-looking 3 Series. Early attempts at LeMonizing E21s fared poorly, as their next-to-last ranking in 2010 shows. But in the interim, they’ve managed to redeem themselves to outperform their newer and uglier E36 siblings. Communists R Us even managed to hook their E21’s motor up to a Toyota Previa supercharger, modifying the blower’s electrically actuated clutch to a Mad Max-style toggle switch in the cockpit to instantly add tens of horsepower at will.

15. Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift – DOMINATION Factor: 1.096 (2010 Rank: N/A)


Stock Geo Metros can be fairly fun and competitive cars as LemonAid Racing proved with three Class C wins, which included their slow-on-the-straights-fast-in-the-corners three-cylinder Metro dutifully sauntering to a Top 10 finish. But the Metro’s real story is that it’s a superlight base for engine swaps, including the Hayabusa-powered, race-winning Geo Metro Gnome and the bonkers V6 MetSHO from Charnal House.

14. Alfa Romeo Alfetta/GTV/Sprint Veloce/Berlina – DOMINATION Factor: 1.096 (2010 Rank: 4/38)


The older Alfa Romeo tin tops provide a case of endurance racing reliability not at all resembling street reliability. The platform has tested well and the V6 versions are the some of the best-sounding LeMons cars. You can probably trace their exemplary racing record to being handled mostly by wiley vintage racers with a few decades of Italian car experience. As I’ve said before, there’s no replacement for experience in LeMons. Except cheating. Lots and lots of cheating.

13. Toyota Corolla/Tercel/Paseo/Geo Prizm – DOMINATION Factor: 1.100 (2010 Rank: 7/38)


With all the sporty Toyota models like the Supra and MR2 proving themselves poorly, it’s surprising to see that Toyota’s best LeMons car is the simplest and least sporting. The Corolla—typically the FX16 or GT-S—and its relatives may not be the best-performing on paper, but they simply get the job done. The economy variants like the Tercel and Paseo are paragons of simple reliability and fuel economy with a number of Class C wins to their credit. This doesn’t include the bizarrely reliable twin-engined MRolla and FX32 from Stick Figure Racing, which I filed under the MR2.

12. Audi – DOMINATION Factor: 1.102 (2010 Rank: 29/38)


Audi is, of course, a brand synonymous with modern endurance racing, having won 24 Hours of Le Mans 13,000 times in the past 15 years, but LeMons success for Audi comes as something of a shocker, since the Four Rings have not yet taken an overall win (though they’ve been close a couple of times). LeMons organizers are quick to say that an Audi will never win, but I’m not so sure. They can be a little testy and usually suffer through a minor setback or two, but one will eventually get it right. GM and Porsche each nabbed long-awaited wins in 2013. Perhaps Audi will gets its much-anticipated first LeMons win in 2014.

11. BMW E34/E39 – DOMINATION Factor: 1.105 (2010 Rank: N/A)


It’s hardly surprising to see a newer BMW chassis doing well. The E34 and E39 (of which there has been one) possess ample power and with a bit of sorting, they can be frontrunners. As depreciation sets in deeper, expect to see more of these 5 Series in LeMons and expect them to outperform the older E28 still. Because only cheaters run BMWs.

Where will the cheaty E30s and Miatas fall in the list? Which type will take P1? Check back tomorrow for the final installment of the Torture Test, where I reveal the 10 best LeMons cars.

[Photos: Murilee Martin]

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18 responses to “LeMons Torture Test Revisited: A 2013 Update, #20-11”

  1. LTDScott Avatar

    If I had to start my LeMons team over again, and wasn't concerned with outright speed, I'd seriously consider a Neon or Corolla.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      I'm only sad that this means the E30 is in the top 10. I was hoping it might be further down the list so everyone who immediately says "Cheater!" would pipe down. It took quite a few races to get our car reliable.

  2. Nuclearspork Avatar

    I always assumed when you said a experience was important, the experience you were talking about was experience in cheating.

    1. Eric Rood Avatar
      Eric Rood

      Experience and cheating are really indistinguishable.

  3. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
    ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

    I am excited, Volvo 240 has not been listed yet, tomorrow the numbers will not lie.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I second that, I'd expect it to come in on second, fourth or zeroth place.

      1. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
        ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

        It's a long shot, 80000:1, but my money is on π.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar
          1. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
            ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

            Wow that's a lot of beer, cheers alternate universe me!

  4. mdharrell Avatar

    I foresaw greatness for the Humber Super Snipe, but deferring any mention of it before the top ten is still a bit surprising.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Clearly it was still outdone by the MG Maestro and HMV Freeway.

  5. SpiroAgnew76 Avatar

    I believe there was a third team that ran a XJ Cherokee at the first B.F.G. GP. They only finished about 20 laps.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      And Petty Cash campaigns two separate Cherokees now.

      1. Don Avatar

        #431 had finished every race. Even after being complete taken out by a POS BMW at Arsefreezeapalooza 2 weeks ago.

  6. Murilee Martin Avatar
    Murilee Martin

    I must admit that I am shocked by Audi's location high in the standings. I think this is because Rally Baby always pits near the Penalty Box, so I have the opportunity to watch Extreme Audi Haplessness at so many races.

  7. Nuke LaLoosh Avatar
    Nuke LaLoosh

    Hope springs eternal for the beloved Trabant as it hasn't been listed yet. A definite top ten effluency winner in my book.

    1. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
  8. gills Avatar

    Great stuff. I think the Alfa Romeo GTV6 should be grouped with the Milano. The power-train and suspension are just about identical. It just has a shorter wheelbase.