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!


Crank Til It Goes!

It doesn’t run, or does it?  For quite some time I had assumed that just about every car in a junkyard could not, would not start.  It just made sense to my naive self. After taking out a ridiculous student loan and pledging my income for the next 10 years to mechanic’s school I learned that simply wasn’t true.  I also learned how to get those crap-heaps running and how to keep them that way.

Auto museums are old and rare and one of a kind and fast and fun and art and innovation.  Car museums are great places to learn about cars and tech you didn’t know about.  They’re like immersive pop-up books. You normally pay just a bit and you’ve earned you tuition to some of the coolest day-classes you can take on automobilia. Junkyards are better, though.

Junkyards aren’t just a place for cheap parts and a place to take your car long after its dead. Junkyards are full of unique and interesting models that you won’t necessarily find out on the road.  Many of the best and unique cars to come out of the 20th century won’t ever make it into a nice air-conditioned museum.  Many of those cars weren’t built well and aren’t reliable enough to stay running on the roads. Many of the best cars ever made (I’m looking at you Volvo 240) are sitting in some muddy yard somewhere ready to be explored.

I used to head over to the nearest junkyard to practice on a forgotten beater before I would tear into my own at home.  If I had to do a job on my Sentra or Datsun that I hadn’t done before and wasn’t confident about being able to do it in the driveway, I’d just call up LKQ, see if they had a model in their yard and then go to town!

Here’s the first start of a Mercedes-Benz 407D in 12years. It takes some cranking and some innovation  to get the old girl fired up again, but she eventually gets going around the 9min mark.


Check it out: