Blog: Gotta Lemon? Rally LeMons!

Have a rusty “lemon” car in your back yard that barely runs? Love road adventures and general silliness? There’s a LeMons Rally in your future!

This past month I hooked up with the LeMons “Southern Fried Heaps” Rally, which started in Mobile, Alabama at that most iconic of Alabama attractions, the battleship USS Alabama. Bizarre, wacky and hideous automobiles, some best described as “ten million particles of rust flying down the road in loose formation,” gathered for the start of the three-day rally from Mobile to Macon, Georgia, St. Augustine, Florida, and Cedar Key (in the “armpit of Florida”). Drivers and crew were reminded of the rules: “Don’t be a douche – that’s what expensive events like the 24 Hours of LeMans are for,” “Rally points are awarded for wacky old cars and for visiting specified scenic, historic or weird checkpoints,” and “All decisions of the judges are final – if you don’t like it, get your own dam’ rally!” Another rule honored mostly in the breach is that each car and its modifications should cost a maximum of $500.

Rally participants, one dressed as a gorilla and some as pirates, headed out from the battleship in an attempt to collect as many points as possible, by taking pictures of themselves and their cars in front of locations such as the Bunker Tower atop Cheaha Mountain, the highpoint of Alabama; the set of the eleven seasons of “The Walking Dead” in Senoia, Georgia; and Georgia’s greatest antiquity, a dog who got trapped in a log and was mummified. Yes, Southern Fried Heaps has made me proud again to have been born in the South.

The prize for all this effort? Nothing, nada, zip, except glory and bragging rights.

An added attraction of this rally was the chance to participate on the second day in the Concours d’LeMons in Amelia Island, Florida, for only an extra $15, on top of the Rally fee of $425 per car. The Concours theme was “celebrating the oddball, mundane and truly awful of the automotive world.” Trophies “sourced from the Dollar Store” were handed out by “easily bribed judges in lots of categories.”

I managed to interview one team before they disappeared in a cloud of dust — and rust. They were driving “Moby Dick – the Great White Whale,” and their very white 1995 curvaceous Chevy Caprice station wagon certainly deserved its name. Team members George and Sam Engler and Jo-Jo Rello of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida boasted that their Caprice, at 18.5 feet long, was “the biggest station wagon ever built on Earth, and that an entire stack of 8 by 4-foot plywood sheets could easily fit in the back.” When not hauling plywood, the rear seat could be pulled up and faced backwards, so that children riding there could make rude gestures at tailgaters.

The next LeMons Rally is the “Rust Belt Ramble” from Detroit to Buffalo, July 15-17, 2022, followed by Rallies in California and Massachusetts. The next Concours d’LeMons is June 4 in Greenwich, Connecticut, followed by California and Michigan in the late summer.

If you get bored rallying your LeMon or don’t like Concours events, then you can step up to LeMons Racing. First you have to sign a release written by lawyers with a sense of humor: “I understand that driving crappy old cars on a racetrack is stupid and dangerous…” Next you have to embrace the LeMons Racing philosophy: “Racing’s not just for rich idiots. Racing’s for all idiots. That includes you.” Then you have to find a venue, which is not hard, since LeMons 24-Hour Races happen across the country about once a month or more except in winter. Finally you have to pay a fee, a hefty $1,550 per team, with a maximum of four drivers.

Of course, this is pretty cheap compared to getting into the real 24 Hours of LeMans in France. The only way you as an individual can do that is to have Glickenhaus build you a 007 supercar, and race alongside their team at LeMans. The cost? A cool $6,000,000.

Getting keen on racing? The next 24 Hours of LeMons is at the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, June 11 and 12. The car that goes the farthest in 24 hours wins. And gets nothing — except undying glory.

For more information on all this wacky craziness, see 24hoursoflemons.com. Enjoy your LeMonade!

Photos courtesy Lew Toulmin

  • photo of a rare VW 411 family sedan with a Porsche engine

    1. A rare 1971 Volkswagen 411 four-door family sedan, winner of the 1200-mile 2022 Southern Fried Heaps LeMons Rally from Mobile, Alabama to Cedar Key, Florida via Macon, Georgia. This VW, owned by Stef Schrader of San Marcos, Texas has a Porsche engine and is shown here racing in one of the 24 Hours of LeMons events

  • photo of the mercedes that took 2nd place in Southern Fried Heaps

    2. The 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300-D Turbo Diesel owned by Ken Oldrid of Rutland, Vermont runs on vegetable oil, smells like McDonald’s french fries, and won second place in the 2022 Southern Fried Heaps LeMons Rally. The car runs on given-away used oil from restaurants and gets 25 miles to the gallon – for free. Oldrid calls his vehicle “The Vegamite Car.”

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