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A 24 Hours of LeMons Challenge Leaves Both of Our Writers Bruised and Bloodied

A couple of weeks ago, new Downshift Autos contributing writer Nicholas D’Amato pitched the idea of challenging ourselves to find the best car for sale in our respective locations for a set price. Initially, a maximum of $5,000 or $10,000 was considered, but, inspired by Jay Lamm’s 24 Hours of LeMons rules, we agreed on $500. Taking its name from the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, the 24 Hours of LeMons was created a few years ago by Lamm, an automotive journalist, who floated the initial idea of the Double 500, a 500km race for cars purchased for $500; the 24 Hours of LeMons is basically a nationwide expansion of that race. Cars must be purchased for less than $500, although safety equipment, brakes, and tires have an unlimited cost ceiling. With that in mind, Nic and I went on our spending sprees, beginning a challenge that quickly devolved into childish name calling and four-syllable insults. For your viewing pleasure, the exchange is documented here for all future generations:

Nic: Alright, I’ve spent my $500 but I’m not happy.  There is an innate West Coast bias to this challenge, that if memory serves correctly, you devised.  That being said, my $500 car will destroy whatever rust-free California garage queen you come up with.  Notice that the seller describes the car as a, “GREAT DRIVER.”  Why would he lie?  And why would he use all caps if the car was not EXACTLY as he says?  It’s just a shame that this car has had to wait 55 years to whoop your ass.

[Original post has disappeared from Craiglist, but we got a screenshot of the listing before it went down]

1979 Mercury Cougar

I can smell your fear.

Cameron: I was afraid this would happen with this challenge.

Remember, the task is to find the best car to compete in a 24 Hours of LeMons race, not “Which Car Would look Funniest Taking a Corner at More Than 5 MPH.” What you have chosen is a massive boat of a car that was made smack dab in the middle of what was possibly the worst 10 years of engine manufacturing since the automobile has been invented. Wikipedia assures me at its most potent, the Cougar would have 173hp, although at $500, I would expect this one has the 134hp motor. I don’t know how heavy the Cougar is, but I have a feeling that a stopwatch would run out of batteries before a 0-60mph time could be logged. The only way the Cougar would win a race would be if the other racers were watching your car around the track and laughed so hard they didn’t pay attention and ran off the road.

I have managed to find an Opel GT in a mildly used condition. The current owner has thoughtfully already ripped out most of the interior, saving valuable time to install the required roll cage. I don’t even have to worry about the rails, seats, steering wheel, or shifter, as they have all been previously stripped, presumably for reducing weight even further. I will admit the lack of a pink slip is worrying, but “Marvin” seems like a pretty straight shooter, so I don’t have a problem taking a questionably cheap Opel GT with a lack of ownership title off his hands. He may also be slightly misinformed about the age of the Opel, as the supercar ceased production two years before the listed model year.

Your move, land yacht lover.

Cameron: Whoops, forgot link.

[Original post has disappeared from Craiglist, but we got a screenshot of the listing before it went down]

1975 Opel GT. $500 obo

Nic: As I read the tortured prose of your reply, which served more as a window onto your deep-seated insecurities than a coherent argument for the elusive merits of your hilarious purchase, I thought to myself, ‘what the hell is he talking about?’  After much chin scratching I clicked on the link I sent you.  Well, in short, I sent the wrong link.  I think you’ll find the wind has gone from your sails, which incidentally is also your best bet for powering that Opel, after clicking the (correct) link below.  And you should know that all the time I have not spent learning the difference between Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V has been spent training.  I’m on the Juan Pablo Montoya regime.

Behold the “GREAT DRIVER”!
[Photo  appears below in case post is removed]
1958 FORD TBIRD
Say hi to Marvin.
Cameron: In what sort of opiate-induced reality do you exist wherein a 1958 Thunderbird can do anything other than attempt to get out of its own way? Does your hubris force you to reject the obvious impossibility of sending a 4,000lbs boulavardier with four wheel drum brakes to an endurance race? And do you comprehend the foolishness of running it against a real sports car? The Opel GT weighs half as much as your ridiculous, rust-laden pig. How much oxidized metal is that slipshod paint job hiding anyway? I can even see it caked on from the thumbnails.

Not that I expect you to know what a thumbnail is, anyway (it’s an extremely technical term that, admittedly, very few tech-savvy users understand). I guess pressing two buttons at the same time to “Copy” and “Paste” pieces of “text” from the “Internet” is positively too much to handle. Just letting you know, if you’re going to race that jalopy, you will have to steer with your hands as well as use your feet to brake or accelerate. Many times, you will have to use your feet and hands simultaneously. Are you sure you’re up to the task?
Enjoy your “COOL WHIP”.
[A few days pass]
Cameron: I haven’t heard from you in a few days, which I assume means you are ceding victory to me. It was a noble effort, Nic, but ultimately a tank like your Thunderbird is simply outmatched on a track by a classic German supercar. Better luck next time, old chap.
Nic: I’m sorry for my lengthy absence.  Please do not delude yourself into believing it was some kind of tacit admission of defeat.  Far from it.  In fact, so disturbed was I by the images you sent me of The Car That Shall Never Be Spoken Of Again, I went on a three day media fast.  The frozen woods of Canada were just about remote and silent enough to drive the images of TCTSNBSOA from my rattled mind.  Tonight I hope I will once again find sleep possible.

While I was out there, I had a vision.  It was this:  http://www.racingjunk.com/Complete-Karts/2892041/for-sale-.html
[Photo  appears below in case post is removed]
Go Kart For Sale
With it, I shall hone my skills and wait for a time when budgets allow for more interesting machinery.  For if nothing else, this challenge has proven what I’d always secretly known:  Anyone who claims their LeMons car legitimately meets the $500 spending cap is lying.
Cameron: You did get one thing right in describing your mind as “rattled,” a conclusion I easily reached after I received your pick of the Mercury Cougar and then the Thunderbird (after my impeccable logic shook your confidence to its very core). I hope next time we decide on a challenge like this, the vitriol we impart upon each other doesn’t send you screaming into the frozen Canadian wilderness.
I do offer a cease fire, though, as our points have been made and further argument will likely just result in childish name calling and possibly a lightly poisoned bottle of Crown Royal arriving at your residence. The readers, of course, will decide which car will not only survive a 24 hour race, whether it is the sporty Opel GT ravaged by the sands of time or the heavy, tanker-sized Thunderbird that admittedly remains in decent shape. The next comparison will have a higher monetary limit so we hopefully don’t embarrass ourselves further. Maybe $750?
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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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