What is this 24 Hours of LeMons Thing, Anyway?

Describing crapcan racing succinctly is a difficult task.  The form of racing familiar to most Americans is NASCAR and it is difficult to imagine something further from LeMons.  Whereas Sprint Cup cars are purpose built, million dollar machines, those of us in the crapcan realm make due with tired machines that were often designed for nothing more than obtaining groceries.

The basic rules for 24 Hours of LeMons races are quite simple:

  • Buy a car for less than $500
  • Equip the car with a roll cage, race seat, and racing harness
  • Apply a ridiculous paint job
  • Do whatever it takes to keep the car running for 16-24 hours

Though the price limit on the car, which guarantees crapiness, conjures up images of demolition derby in most people’s minds, that’s not what crapcan racing is about at all.  The 24 Hours of LeMons is an endurance race—in fact, its name is a play on the most prestigious endurance race there is: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.In the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency the winner is the team that completes the most laps.  In 24 Hours of LeMons, the team that completes the most laps is lauded for sure, but the real winners are those given the Index of Effluency and Organizer’s Choice.

The Organizer’s Choice goes to the team that most epitomizes LeMons: bring a car (and a team) so gussied up that even non-motorsports folks can’t help but die laughing at the hilarity they are witness to.  My memories still harken back to the 2010 Goin’ For Broken.  This race was not long after the Tiger Woods mistress debacle, which one team made into an amazing theme.  A Toyota Supra with “Escalaid” painted on the side adorned with a pair of mannequins depicting Tiger being beat with a golf club by his furious wife.


The Index of Effluency is awarded to the team that, however unlikely it seemed at the start, finishes the race.  A rare, exceedingly old, or highly damaged car is a great candidate here, and such cars usually require a significant amount of LeMons Standard Engineering (read: half-assed) throughout the race to keep working.

Perhaps the most highly coveted award at LeMons is the Heroic fix award, given to the team that manages to keep racing even when their car tries its best to stay off the track.  There have been cars that lost gears in the transmission and finished with single-speed, direct drive affairs, those that had multiple motor swaps throughout the race, and some that finished on a single cylinder engine.

The 24 Hours of LeMons is an amazing event on so many levels.  For those of us who are into cars and racing, we get a relatively cheap way to do what we love in a laid back atmosphere.  For the friends and families we convince to come to the race but don’t care how awesome it is that a limousine is competing on a race track, it’s a great view into how creative gearheads can be.

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