Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Crapcanalysis, Part 2: Peeling LeMons, getting citric acid in the eye

Modifying your crapcan's engine is a surefire way to blow up. Clearly, Our Lady of Perpetual Downforce has decided that adding downforce to their Honda Civic produces better results than adding power. (Murilee Martin photo)
[Read Part 1 HERE.]

This is the first post with numbers from our analysis of crapcan podium finishers. This post will feature the Overall, Class B, Class C and Index of Effluency winner totals from the 24 Hours of LeMons races. We will have another post for ChumpCar's winners and a final post that shows the two series' combined numbers.

LeMons has run races since its inaugural event at Altamont Speedway in late 2006, which only superficially resembles the more refined version of crapcan racing that we experience today. In total, the series has run 84 events, which have been won on laps by 58 different teams.

For ease of use, we've split the tables into categories and then described the data a bit. Of course, what we're describing is only part of the picture. Any set of numbers is only as good as the stories behind them and it's important to remember that each piece of data comprises hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, tetanus and tears.

Without further adieu:


Every LeMons competitor defines "success" in the series a different way. For many, just getting the car to the green flag is a major victory, but what constitutes overall series success? The best way would certainly be to analyze the finishing positions of every car type from every race, but--as I said in Part 1--I don't have time to compile that data, even if I could find a way to sort it automatically.

So--for the sake of not taking any more time than this has already taken--I've broken it down into two success categories: Wins and Podiums. Wins, of course, takes into account all the factors involved in a type lasting the duration and outpacing the rest of the field. The point of this exercise, however, is to discover which types have the capability to finish consistently near the sharp end of the field. To do that, I've sorted the car types by Podiums earned for the type.

If you look in your mirrors and see a bizarre combination of roof-affixed nonsense and a maze of piping, you're about to be passed by Eyesore Racing. This will happen again shortly, in all likelihood. (Murilee Martin photo)

What those totals don't take into account, however, is the extraordinary number of outliers in the series that exist in the form of teams who've garnered success running a particular type. For example, the Mazda MX-3 has won six races and finished on the podium 10 times...and all of those have been by Georgia's Hong Norrth Racing.

So we've added columns next to Wins and Podiums to indicate how many teams have won with the type. All of these pieces of data taken together should demonstrate how likely a type is to be successful independently of the team running it.

Type Wins Teams with Wins Podiums Teams with Podiums
BMW E30 14 11 36 20
Mazda Miata 7 3 21 6
Mazda RX-7 5 3 12 9
BMW E28 5 4 11 7
Mazda MX-3 6 1 10 1
Dodge Neon 4 2 10 5
Honda Civic 3 3 9 5
Acura Integra 1 1 8 5
Ford Taurus SHO 3 2 7 2
Alfa Romeo Milano 1 1 6 3
Nissan 300ZX 3 3 6 4
Ford Mustang 1 1 5 4
Toyota Celica 1 1 5 4
Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit/GTI 1 1 5 2
Datsun 280ZX 3 1 4 1
Honda CRX 2 1 4 2
Geo Metro 2 1 4 1
Toyota Supra 2 2 4 4
Saab 9002 1 4 1
Volvo 240 1 1 4 3
Honda Accord 1 1 4 2
Volkswagen Jetta 0 0 4 3
Saturn S-Series 0 0 4 4
Nissan 200SX 1 1 3 1
Nissan Sentra SE-R 1 1 3 3
Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0 0 3 2
Porsche 944 0 0 3 3
Toyota Corolla 2 2 2 2
Alfa Romeo GTV6 2 2 2 2
Mercedes Benz S500 2 2 2 2
Mercury Cougar 1 1 2 1
Ford Model T 1 1 2 1
Ford Probe 1 1 2 1
Mercedes Benz 300E 1 1 2 1
Datsun 240Z 0 0 2 1
Merkur XR4Ti 0 0 2 2
Nissan 240SX 0 0 2 1
Audi 4000 0 0 2 1
BMW E36 0 0 22
Fiat X1/9 1 1 1 1
Toyota MR2 1 1 1 1
Mazda Protege 1 1 1 1
Ford Thunderbird 0 0 1 1
Infiniti J30 0 0 1 1
Mazda 626 0 0 1 1
Chevrolet Caprice 0 0 1 1
Chevrolet Camaro 0 0 1 1
Chevrolet Malibu 0 0 1 1
Pontiac Grand Prix 0 0 1 1
Isuzu I-Mark 0 0 1 1
Dodge Stealth 0 0 1 1
Alfa Romeo Alfetta 0 0 1 1
Alfa Romeo Berlina 0 0 1 1
Audi 90 0 0 1 1
Subaru Impreza 0 0 1 1

Phew, that's a lot of data. Let's parse some of it out:

- E30s dominate the series. Duh. The anecdotal evidence has long supported this idea, but here you see it illustrated by the numbers: 11 different teams nabbing 14 wins and 36 teams with 49 podiums. That means that, on average, a given race maintains a 60 percent chance an E30 will finish on the podium. Here's an interesting tidbit: The first E30 win in LeMons didn't come until the Dorifto Dogs won at Carolina Motorsports Park in Spring 2009.

- The Miata has earned a reputation as a cheaty car, but Eyesore Racing's ghettocharged Miata accounts for the vast majority of the top-end finishes with five wins and 12 podiums of the seven and 20, respectively. The Miata in stock form suffers from being underpowered when compared with the E30, so this should come as no surprise.

- To the end of outliers...Hong Norrth. You could probably lump the Protege in with the MX-3, since they're related platforms, but nobody else has really brought it with the MX-3.

- The RX-7 used to be the car of choice, snagging a win and six podiums in the series' first 11 races. Of late, Ghetto Motorsports's first-generation rotary has swept all three LeMons races at High Plains Raceway in Colorado, but the Wankel-powered sports car more recently has taken a back seat to rear-drive superstars like the E30.

- We like Honda's success in the series, despite what some writers say about their reliability. If we were pressed to pick a Honda type when going for an overall win, we'd go with the Integra, but there's more to say on that tomorrow.

- We'd like to recommend a Toyota type from these numbers, but we just simply can't. The automaker has scored 12 podiums from 11 different teams (the GT $500 Toyota Celica is the only 'yota to park on the podium twice). The breakdown in wins by type: 2 Corolla, 2 Supra, 1 MR2 and 1 Celica. You're probably better off with a Tercel to win Class C.

- Alfa Romeo is a seductive mistress. Not only are do their cars look and sound gorgeous, but they also win in high percentage with regard to the number entered. The sexy Italians' siren songs are deceptive; the type succeeds generally because the people who run them are "Alfa guys" who know all the quirks and tricks to keep the V6s (or Twin Sparks) screaming like banshees. If your car experience is limited to 'merican iron, be prepared for the moody Alfa to rebel.

Michigan's Bucksnort Racing E30 usually finds itself near the pointy end of the field, unless of course it is overheating dramatically in 35-degree April weather. (Murilee Martin photo)

- The Ford Taurus SHO tempts many a driver, too. Huge power (220 horsepower may as well be 600 in LeMons) from a high-revving V6 is hard to pass up and the type can be made to handle. So far, only the "Texas SHO Mafia" (aka SHOtime) and specifically Sergio Perfetti's Red Rocket Ratnest Revival SHO have kept their transmissions intact long enough to be successful, as the SHOtime group won the 2011 National Points title.

- Several types appear long overdue for overall wins, notably the Saturn S-Series, Jetta and 944. The E36 has so far shown up in limited numbers in LeMons and only just earned its first podium at the New Hampshire race in October. As E36s start to become available for crapcan money, expect to see them garner good results.

[EDIT: The Summer's Eve E36 took the first podium for the type at Eagles Canyon in 2011. Apologies for the mistake; the chart has been edited to accommodate this error].

Class B

Some naysayers may note that the subjective nature of LeMons' classing renders data on Class B, Class C and Index of Effluency largely irrelevant. I won't delve into that argument so feel free to discuss it amongst yourselves all you want. There are some trends, but we'll get to them after the data.

Type Class B Wins Teams with Class B Wins
Volvo 240 6 4
Honda Accord 4 4
Ford Crown Victoria 4 3
Ford Mustang 3 3
Nissan 300ZX 3 3
Volkswagen Golf/GTI/Rabbit 3 3
Datsun 280ZX 3 2
BMW E28 2 2
Toyota Celica 2 2
Saturn S-Series 2 2
Alfa Romeo Milano 2 1
Volkswagen Jetta 2 2
Porsche 944 2 2
Chevrolet Monte Carlo 2 2
Mercury Cougar 2 2
Audi 4000 3 3
BMW 2002 2 2
Ford Escort 2 2
Ford Fairmont 2 1
Volkswagen Quantum Synchro Wagon 2 1
BMW E30 1 1
Dodge Neon 1 1
Honda Civic 1 1
Acura Integra 1 1
Honda Prelude 1 1
Ford Taurus SHO 1 1
Honda CRX 1 1
Merkur XR4Ti 1 1
Geo Metro 1 1
Nissan 200SX 1 1
Datsun 240Z 1 1
Toyota MR2 1 1
Chevrolet Caprice 1 1
Dodge Stealth 1 1
Audi 90 1 1
Subaru Impreza1 1
BMW 1600 1 1
Ford Fiesta 1 1
Toyota Paseo 1 1
Pontiac Fiero 1 1
Eagle Talon 1 1
Plymouth Duster 1 1
Plymouth Fury 1 1
Audi 100 1 1
Oldsmobile 98 1 1

Sit down, kids, because it's history lesson time! As much as anything, the lists above and below show the evolution of the series and how the proverbial stinky cream has risen to the top. Back in the early days of the series, Alfa Romeos were considered butt-turribleTM race cars because of their notorious street reliability issues. In fact, early races seemed to have cars classed by their perceived street reliability. But as has been proven time and time again, street reliability has little to do with the torture test of endurance racing. So it's interesting that this list features a number of now-considered-to-be-Class-A stalwarts: a Mustang, some Z-cars, a couple E28s, two 944s, a four-cylinder E30, a Neon, an Integra, a Civic and the early Saturns.

So what makes a Class B car? It's tough to define because classing--by the very nature of the series rules--is subjective. But if you pay attention to results, you'll notice that--with a few exceptions--the classing in the last couple of years has been extremely accurate.

Here are some things to consider in a modern B Class car:

- Naturally aspirated Volvo bricks frequently end up in Class B due to their poor power-to-weight ratio, but the B23 engine is a reliable beast and a little bit of suspension tuning will even get it through corners. A four-cylinder Volvo has yet to win overall, but we don't think it will be too long until someone makes that happen. The high weight/low power combination also makes NA 240s a formidable foul-weather whip.

The Blue Shells' Honda Accord is always a favorite to win Class B in the Midwest. (The Rusty Hub photo)

- The Accord can be a quality Class B car, as well. Bigger than the Civic and less powerful than the Prelude, the Accord falls into some weird classification in the Honda world. It has as much motorsports pedigree as either of the others (the Civic and Accord have both run as touring cars) but are generally overlooked for the Civic. Honda's famously modular designs mean upgrades to A class are always an option.

- The Crown Victoria is a popular entry on the basis of its street reliability, having been designed to handle heavy usage in police and taxi fleets, but the attrition rates on the type are pretty high. The car's considerable heft is hard on brakes and tires, but they've found some success here and there. Beware the fuel leak, though, which is a common cause of Crown Vic black flags.

- Some types live in limbo between Class A and Class B and get assigned on the basis of just how terrible the car is. This category includes the likes of the Ford Escort, the Volkswagen Jetta and just about any Audi. A well-sorted 'merican boat is a good bet to end up in Class B; see the success of the Monte Carlo, Cougar, Olds 98 and Plymouth Fury as proof of that.

It's hard to say if there is any meaningful information here other than the big three in Class B tend to be NA Volvos, Accords and Crown Vics. Take my advice at your own peril, of course. If you show up with homebrewed twin-turbo Crown Victoria, don't expect Class B.

Class C

Unlike Class B, Class C is the general territory of cars that don't belong on the track and never did. It's also the refuge of Really Bad Ideas. Again, the chart below shows some evolution of the series. You are unlikely to ever see another Class C 280ZX or Mustang unless someone discards the Go-Fast motor and instead deploys something British in its place.

This message on Team LemonAid's stock three-cylinder Geo Metro pretty much says it all. Except the team is now equipping their Suzuki-based penalty box with a BMW four-cylinder engine. (The Rusty Hub photo)

This is most LeMons racers' favorite class, since it typically contains those cars that were never meant to be within a statute mile of a race track. As such, we love Class C cars for the subversive, panty-bunching effect they can have on "serious racers." We'd like to say "we loveseeing Class C cars 'duking it out' on track," but most of these are so slow that the drivers are more likely dookie-ing in the seat as E30s and other assorted cheatermobiles fly past them.

But enough about my best qualities as a driver, here are your Class C winning types:

Type Class C Wins Teams with Class C Wins
Volkswagen Bug (and related types 6 5
Pontiac Fiero 5 4
Geo Metro 4 2
Toyota Tercel 3 1
Nissan Stanza 3 1
Volkswagen Golf/GTI/Rabbit 3 2
Volvo 240 2 2
Ford Ranger 2 2
Chevrolet Cavalier 2 2
Opel GT 2 2
Volkswagen Fox 2 1
Dodge Shadow 2 2
Ford Crown Victoria 1 1
Ford Mustang 1 1
Ford Escort 1 1
Honda Civic 1 1
Merkur XR4Ti 1 1
Toyota Paseo 1 1
Mazda RX-7 1 1
Ford Probe 1 1
Chevrolet Camaro 1 1
Pontiac Grand Prix 1 1
Alfa Romeo Alfetta 1 1
Fiat X1/9 1 1
Saab 900 1 1
Ford Grenada 1 1
Ford Mustang II 1 1
Mercury Capri 1 1
Infiniti Q45 1 1
Datsun 280ZX 1 1
Buick Reatta 1 1
Chevrolet Beretta 1 1
Chevrolet Chevette 1 1
Chevrolet Corvair 1 1
Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera 1 1
Oldsmobile 98 1 1
Oldsmobile Delta 88 1 1
Pontiac Sunfire 1 1
Pontiac Trans Am 1 1
Plymouth Caravan 1 1
Plynouth Colt 1 1
Plymouth Barracuda 1 1
Volvo 262 1 1
Volvo Amazon 1 1
Saab 9000 1 1
Fiat 131 1 1
Jeep Cherokee 1 1
MG MGB 1 1
Simca 1000 GLS 1 1
Austin Mini 1 1
Hyundai Accent 1 1
Kia Rio 1 1
Peugeot 405 1 1
Daihatsu Charade 1 1
Suzuki X-90 1 1

- The Volkswagen Bug and its derivatives offer a good chance to win Class C. There are enough of them around (just about anywhere) to scrape together a running example. And if you go through enough races, you just might find that one air-cooled motor (out of a half-dozen or so that you've pieced together) that can churn out 50 horsepower for 14 straight hours. Class C is, after all, the Survivor's Class.

- The General's answer to Ferrari is also a Class C powerhouse; four separate Pontiac Fieros have won the class with the Time Travelers of Doom repeating as a class winner.

- How about some trivia (that I've posted elsewhere): Which three teams have won Class C three times a piece [Hint: Look at the chart]? Follow the footnote* for the answer.

- As we'll see, small pickup trucks do surprisingly well in LeMons so it's no surprise to see two separate Ford Ranger winners. It's also good to see separate teams winning with an Opel GT and a Dodge Shadow.

- A number of teams have one-off victories with an extremely wide variety of types, from Korean penalty boxes like a Daihatsu to pony car miscarriages like the Mustang II.

Index of Effluency

Type IOE Wins
Chevrolet S10 4
Ford LTD 3
Opel GT 2
Chevrolet Chevette 2
Oldsmobile 98 2
Austin Mini 2
Plymouth Fury 2
Datsun B210 2
Volkswagen Squareback/Fastback 2
Alfa Romeo Spyder 2
Saab 96 2
Cadillac Eldorado 2
Volkswagen Bug (and associated types) 1
Geo Metro 1
Toyota Tercel 1
Volvo 240 1
Chevrolet Cavalier 1
Dodge Shadow 1
Mazda RX-7 1
Pontiac Grand Prix 1
Ford Grenada 1
Buick Reatta 1
Chevrolet Beretta 1
Chevrolet Corvair 1
Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera 1
Dodge Caravan 1
Jeep Cherokee 1
Suzuki X-90 1
BMW 2002 1
Ford Fairmont 1
Volkswagen Quantum Synchro 1
Datsun 240Z 1
BMW 1600 1
Ford Fiesta 1
Ford Thunderbird 1
Alfa Romeo Berlina 1
BMW E12 1
Mazda RX-2 1
Ford Mustang II 1
Toyota Hilux 1
Buick LeSabre 1
Buick Regal 1
Cadillac Deville 1
Cadillac Eldorado 1
Chevrolet Citation 1
Chevrolet Monza 1
Geo Storm 1
Pontiac Bonneville 1
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1
Dodge Coronet 1
Plymouth Valiant 1
Volvo 144 1
Mercedes Benz 170 1
Mercedes Benz 200 1
AMC Pacer 1
Renault 4CV 1
Renault Le Car 1
Simca 1204 1
Humber Super Snipe 1
Lada Signet 1
Lancia Scorpio 1
Citroen D Special 1
Triumph TR7 1
Toyota Prius 1
Wartburg 311 1

At last, we arrive at the series' top prize: Index of Effluency. Unfortunately, since this is a completely subjective award, this list probably tells as much about the race organizers as it does about the types that earn it. But who cares? Most of these are just goddawful, miserable heaps. It's worth noting that the same entry has never won IOE twice, though Speedycop (Jeff Bloch) and Spank (Mike Spangler) have won it several times with different cars.

- Starting at the top, we see an incredible affinity for the S10. Chevy's small pickup does surprisingly well with its robust drivetrain. A well-prepared S10 holds together as well as anything else and you can do some incredible things with the theme.

- We love that three completely different Ford LTDs have won IOE: the Heavy Metal '72 LTD (CMP Spring '09), the NASA LTD Country Squier (High Plains '11) and the Tunachuckers '75 LTD Landau (CMS '11). That's a lot of Malaise.

- The Alfa Romeo Spyder IOEs came early in the series before the organizers got wise that the Italian beauties were startlingly reliable.

You may have noticed something about the IOE: Domestic cars have a huge advantage. But which manufacturer takes the Index of Effluency Cake?

Answer: It's not even close.

Manufacturer IOE Wins
GM 27
Ford 8
Chrysler 6
Volkswagen 5
Nissan/Datsun 3
MG 3
Volvo 2
Toyota 2
Saab 2
Mazda 2
Mercedes 2
Renault 2
Many tied with 1

If you want to win Index of Effluency, you're clearly best off buying some sad sack of crap that was once a General Motors' personal luxury vehicle.

Recently, Judge Phil just went bonkers for the Ace Rothstein Cadillac Eldorado. We suggest you up the ante with a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass powered by the notorious LF7 diesel V8. It's not like it has to endure 14 hours of duress or anything, right?

If not that, aim for any Malaise-Era domestic metal and you'll find yourself approaching IOE consideration. Just remember to nab the highest trim level possible and keep as much of the plush, luxurious interior as possible.

Read Part 1 HERE.
Read Part 3 HERE.
Read Part 4 HERE.

This seemed like a good place for a gratuitous photo of Marc Labranche's radial-engined Toyota MR2. (The Rusty Hub photo)

*Class C Trivia: The three teams with three Class C wins are (1) Lemonaid Racing, who won three Class C (and an IOE) titles in their Geo Metro, (2) Exhibition of Slow, who dominated three Texas races with their painfully slow, rental-grade Toyota Tercel and (3) Team Sputnik, whose Nissan Stanza wagon won three Class C titles in less than five months.


  1. One thing to watch out for with a couple of different models is that they had different engine options with vastly different performance. A Mustang with a 5.0 is a class A car (maybe class B if it's clearly poorly-sorted and on the verge of self-destructing). A Mustang with a normally-aspirated 2.3 is a class B car and needs help to win: it can churn out laps all day but will be in the bottom third of the field in fast lap time.

    I think something similar prevails with the Fiero, which had both the Iron Duke and a 3.8L V6 as engine options.

  2. Loved your post.. Thank you for the wonderful share..Those are some good pictures.
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  3. just FYI, daihatsus aren't korean. daihatsu is owned by toyota, and they were considered to be the best subcompacts around when they were sold. what killed them was that toyota also asked the highest prices, and didn't clue people into their ownership.