Hoon The Van

Take Your Hooptie To The Track

Every once in a while I think to myself, “Why can’t I track my beater?”  The easy answer is that its stupid and my beater will most likely grenade itself at the apex of Turn One, no matter the track or conditions. I’m also broke, don’t own a decent helmet anymore and econo-suck tires, although only $20-a-pop at the used tire bin, wouldn’t make for a fun outing.  Not to mention I wouldn’t pass tech at any arrive and drive drag night or autocross, let alone a big scary racetrack like Sebring.

That’s where LeMons and ChumpCar come in.

When Life Hands You LeMons…

Lemons and ChumpCar exist for the beaters, the hoonigans, and the almost broke.  They’re  a fantastic way to have fun racing on a budget and a great way to pass tech just enough to take your hooptie out on some seriously iconic tracks (Daytona, Barber and VIR anyone?).  Despite requiring its participants to adhere to a “strict” budget they do require top notch safety equipment because even though you say your rust bucket is safe, nobody wants to fall through the floorpans on the racetrack.

Even though you will be shelling out some hard earned dough on safety equipment it doesn’t matter what engine fits in what, so long as you can keep it running for 24hrs. Chrysler powered E30 or Saab powered Nissan 300zx anyone?

Our Japanese brothers have taken the concept of cheap racing and “Missile Cars” to a whole different level.  They’ve figured out a way to make an old Dodge van stick to a racetrack well enough to make it fun and exciting instead of stupid and dangerous. Alright, I’ll admit Brembos and sequential transmissions aren’t exactly cheap, or beater-ish; that these vans are more rat-rod or missile car than hopped up hooptie, but they’re still cool right?!?!

Check out the short documentary below to learn more about these bad-ass vans!


Wes’s Secondhand Bimmer


When is a beater not just a beater?  When it is your hobby, your project, and your passion.  We got in touch with our buddy Wes recently to ask some questions about his Bimmer beater. Wes has been working on this BMW for while now, slowly improving it over time and fixing mistakes that the previous owner has made; hoping to make it a prestine example of what an E30 should be.  As comes with fixing up any second hand car there were bound to be some obstacles and stories. This is a clean Bimmer, because even pretty cars can be beaters too! Here’s Wes’s Secondhand Bimmer:


When did you get your beater?
When did I get a beater? I have always had a beater. I prefer buying used cars and naturally you can get used cars cheaper when they also need work. My biggest problem with buying cars is not buying for what it is but what I see that I can turn that car into. My current car, which I have tons of plans for and don’t plan on backing out on is my 1989 BMW 325i (E30 chassis). I bought the car a little over a year ago after selling my mk4 VW GTI, I knew I wanted an E30 and set out to find one as local to me as possible and as clean as possible within my price range. Sadly, there wasn’t a whole lot of E30’s for sale at the time and went after what I could get. So, I ended up buying this one for $2300 and lots of work to be had. Upon purchase I already knew that the front end was slightly wreck, more cosmetic than anything, and really needed a tune up and new interior.

Driving home with one of my friend following, we learned the rear end was way out of wack, the car had been drifted into a curb and bent the subframe, wheels, and a trailing arm. New subframe and left side trailing arm, and set of wheels later it was back on the road, long enough for me to spend the rest of my money from my VW on a friend’s hardly used set of K-Sport coil overs, new brakes all around, poly motor and trans mounts, and stainless brake lines. At this point I realized this was going to be a fun car and one I would keep for a long time. At this point in time I have a lot of time and money into and am pretty happy with it, even if I know there is a long way to go until it is “finished”.  12662433_914741085312938_6507748843452327044_n         12107840_855144967939217_1144382222348603848_n

Currently the car has a fresh M50B25 engine swap matched with a zf320 transmission, Aasco lightweight flywheel, PMC Motorsports shifter, CX Racing radiator, K-Sport coilovers, Porsche 944 brake booster, Porsche 986 front seats (with power), “clean” rear black back seat from a 318i, fully rebuilt gauge cluster using parts from (@e30dad a guy I met on instagram), set of 17″ Enkei Racing wheels with 205/45/17 tires (cheap Nankangs) fully adjustable subframe powdercoated by Element Powdercoats.

The next things to come is a full 5 lug swap, new set of K-Sports, 2 piece BBS RC090 that I have been refinishing, and 4 piston Brembos from a Porsche 986. After that it will be time to save up for the next motor which will be an s52 from a late model e36m3 and of course, PAINT.


What do you like about your beater?

I like just about everything about my beater. It handles great, looks OK, I actually get compliments and thumbs up from time to time. It is a comfortable car, small but roomy for a 2 door, and over all its a pretty unique classic car especially after I’m done with it.

What do you dislike about your beater?
I don’t think I really have any dislikes about it other that it takes ALL of my money. Its not necessarily hard to keep running but it is hard to keep my foot out of the gas pedal along with always trying to add something to make more power. I ended up doing the M50 swap a month and a half after adding bigger injectors, a tune, and full exhaust to the factory M20. Turns out it wasn’t in good enough shape for that so ended up ruining that motor and needing a replacement promptly. 

What is the funniest thing that has happened in it? Has it ever broken down on you someplace unpleasant/sketchy?

I can answer these two at the same time. After a trip visiting my home town (Williams, AZ) 3.5 hours from where I live now (Mesa, AZ), I got on the highway for a fun spirited drive home. Leaving town, it felt like my foot was getting wet, but didn’t last long so I just brushed it off. Well, the temperature difference between northern Arizona and southern/central Arizona are pretty drastic during the summer. So, about and hour from my house I feel that wet feeling again, except it was really REALLY HOT! Turns out my heater core from 1989 finally had it and cracked open spraying my right foot with boiling coolant. Luckily I was coming up to a rest stop of I-17, managed to dance with the gas pedal and boiling water enough to get into the rest stop. Now stopped and an hour from my house I had to figure out how to use the old worn out rubber hoses to loop the heater circuit.

Well after it bursting and me realizing what happened, biggest thing was how do I get to the rest stop. I had to keep kicking the gas pedal and pulling my foot away to keep from burning my foot but still be able to drive it in. Once I got in and got parked first thing I did was call my boss and see if he had ever messed with the cooling system in an E30 and tell me the best way to fix it. Unfortunately he didn’t so I hung up, he hopped on his computer to start to Google around, while I did the same on my phone along with posting on some of the forums Facebook pages.  I managed to find a decent diagram on how the heater core lines routed.1653957_723167154470333_3082849171448292630_n

I popped my hood to start looking at how it all fit, it was all a tight, hard to get to mess. So with it being roughly 110° F outside with a hot engine bay I got my screw driver out and worked on getting the hose clamps undone. Luckily, once the lines were off they were bent in the right shapes to be able to remove one and attach the other to where it removed. Getting clamps back on, was probably the hardest part and took probably the longest. All in all it probably took a little over an hour, which was miserable in the heat, along with being low on coolant and not having any decent water to put into the system.

Called my boss, let him know I got it looped and hopped back on the highway and drove as quickly as I could hoping there wasn’t going to be any traffic that was going to cause me to have to stop. Pulling in my driveway was probably the best feeling that day.  It made it home and didn’t overheat. That was the one and really only day that it would have left me stranded anywhere and for some reason I also found it amusing being I should have checked that when I had first felt the wet feeling on my foot.

Have you been on any road trips?
No big road trips yet, it takes all of my money preventing me from taking road trips. Although I do definitely plan on it in the next couple years or possibly sooner.


What is the weirdest thing you’ve had to fix or take it to the mechanic for?
I wouldn’t say there was anything necessarily weird that I have ever had to fix, just a lot of things the previous owner had done that made me question why they even thought it was a good idea to work on cars. One good example of that is my sunroof ,which I have yet to decide on how to fix, has been deleted using some galvanized metal sheet, lots of RTV and expanding foam. Can you can believe that? Along with the white vinyl with black diamond stitched interior, which I got rid of as quickly as possible, and the horribly executed single stage repaint.


Was There anytime during the build that made you laugh or was a particular pain in the butt?
Definitely! That would go back to putting a ton of work into my M20. It sucked getting my valve cover and intake powder coated, putting the bigger injectors in, the tune, exhaust, new starter, new clutch, and a bunch of other very specific-to-that-engine and not very cheap pieces and parts; and to basically destroy the motor within 2 months and have to do a motor swap to keep it alive.11101246_753850554735326_2412661219058910090_n

My First Beater

  Ask most people what their first car was and they’ll tell you it was some beater that their parents got them during high school or worked all summer to buy.  It was the car they used to go to their first jobs with. They sped through the high school parking lot with it. It was what they used to go to parties. They used it to go on roads trips and to escape and hide from their crazy teenage world. My first beater wasn’t any of those things.  My first beater cost me $0.96 and I bought it in a grocery store.                                      I can’t resist glancing at those shiny little miniatures every time I go into the grocery store. Friends get embarrassed and people stare and smirk but I love every minute of it. Its how I hold onto my fleeting youth. If I look like a creeper hanging out in the children’s toy isle of a department store, your kids are safe as long as they don’t touch one of the cars I’m looking at.

“I don’t care if you’ve been saving all month for that boxed set I have more money and bigger muscles than you kid!”
    The Hot Wheels dealerships, known to outsiders as grocery stores, have been around since 1968. I’ve been on the market for these hot little rods since I can remember but for arguments sake let’s just be safe and say 1992. The story is a little different for my brother, father and uncles. I remember hearing stories (to this day even) about bending axles and waxing wheels so that my father or uncles could beat a rival sibling. I still have many of these original heirloom cars in a cardboard box somewhere in a closet all dinged up and chipped, signs of good use and unfair play on the racetrack no doubt.
My brother, the primary reason why I’m as auto-obsessed as I am, has probably the oddest collection of chipped cars in this aforementioned box of autotopia. During my automotive formative years, when most big brothers were thrashing and crashing there G.I. Joes and cheesy-made Matchbox cars, my big ol’ bro was stripping, sanding and painting his cars. In a sense he was showing me a different kind of appreciation for cars. Not an appreciation for their power and go-fast abilities, but rather an appreciation for their aesthetics.  There should to find out whether or not the die-cast car thrashing gene skips a generation or not. Although my big brother’s affinity for miniature auto body was respectable and should’ve been lauded, my 7 year-old self didn’t think so. I thrashed and chipped and “off-roaded” and crashed and dropped not only mine but his beautiful works of art all over the back yard and living room.
    Encouraged by my father, my brother and I had tracks and would build our dream garages out of Legos and/or wooden blocks in the living room that would rival Mr Leno’s collection and grandeur. There were afternoons that blocks, Legos and track weren’t needed to have a good time with our little cars. I would often use the outlines of the rug in the living room as a track and would let my imagination go rampant with the result being the red car winning Indy all of the time.
    My brother would sit in his room painting his cars up to whatever he felt was better than Mattel conjured up at the design studio. I still have one of his masterpieces, a 1970-something Chevrolet Van painted black with a big red “BULLS” painted onto both sides of the vehicle.  This was inspired by his obsession with the 3-peat championship era Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
    Today I still buy these little cars mainly for memory but partly from addiction and partly because let’s face they’re really cool. Now more importantly though we need to share this love of cars with the coming generations and Hot Wheels is a perfect place to start. Every car-nerd, grease monkey, and gear head I know has some deep enriching (okay maybe not enriching) story of how Hot Wheels was the beginning of their love of cars whether that love be large or small. My family is already initiated my young nephew into this auto-club of Hot Wheels. The love of cars and beaters, much like Hot Wheels, is an heirloom that should be passed down from generation to generation. What are you doing to help spread the word?

Don’t forget to send in you stories about your beaters to: beaterlifeblog@gmail.com.

We want to hear YOUR stories!

Welcome To Beater Life!


BL (1)
Every car has a story. Not just the pretty ones.

Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, and Porsche’s.  They’re all beautiful cars. They are considered to be some of the best marques in the world. They adorn bedroom walls, locker doors, and are plastered all over television. Magazines write ceaselessly about these exotics. TV shows are made exclusively for showing them off.  They are truly great cars, but what about the others?

What about the cars the every-person drives?  What about the cars you see every morning on your commute to and from work?  Certainly those have stories that should be shared! That’s where we come in.

Welcome to Beater Life!  A blog about the stories behind all cars; common and uncommon, clean and dirty, normal and abnormal.  We believe every car has a story.  Not just the pretty ones.

We will be searching for these stories about your daily-driver and your beater car, whether it be a 1987 Honda Civic, a 2004 Jaguar X-Type, or even one of those pretty exotics from Lambo or Ferrari.  If it has a story, we want to share it.

Please send us your stories about your daily drivers to BeaterLifeBlog@gmail.com.

If we like it. We will get it posted.