Saabs at 24 Hours of LeMons

I’ve covered a little of the first leg of the 24 Hours of LeMons, a series of tribute races involving the use of lemons very inexpensive cars. I recently received a fuller report and from none other than Alex, an inside member of the Saabs Gone Wild race team involved in the event.

I’m quite keen on this idea and had a ball reading through this. It looks like a fairly inexpensive bit of fun, and as I’m looking around for a website project next year…….

Enjoy.

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My name is Alex Levy, and I’m a member of Team Saabs Gone Wild. In the spirit of ‘900 month’ I thought you and your readers might appreciate some extra info about the 24HOL event from July. Seems like it was only yesterday!

Saabs Gone Wild The team was finalized just a month before the event. The donor car was a 1986 900 3-door turbo in relatively good condition, provided by Lyle Parthemer, our team captain. The majority of the prep work was done at Right Solutions, Walter Wong’s shop. Walter is a master Saab mechanic here in LA. He tuned the engine for more torque rather than horsepower to match the course; he also had the stroke of genius to cut the fenders up and away from the wheels to avoid any rubbing on the tires due to incidental contact. We finished the prep work just in time, arriving the morning of the race with two spares, half dozen buckets of parts, as many coolers, and an EZ-UP. It was windy and would continue to be for the rest of the day, gusting up to 40mph.

Our car lasted the whole race, which is to say it arrived at the pits under its own power. Managed to bend the rear axle early on (hey extra camber!) which gave us odd wear patterns on the rear tires, but it kept going. We suffered one flat due to contact with another car, and had to send Lyle to Tire American to buy a replacement while we ran with 15’s in the rear. Still, we managed to finish the first day in 29th place after giving all 6 drivers a turn in the car. (6 drivers?!?! yeah, there were supposed to be two cars, but could not get the roll cage welded into the second car.) Considering there were 84 entries at the start, I’d say this wasn’t half bad!

Day 2 started with an oil change and Walter installing spring compressors on the rear coils to get the car to stay on the track–coming into the chicane we were getting 12-18 inches of lift (see pictures on our website). You couldn’t feel it in the car, but it looked awesome from the sidelines. Today the kid gloves came off–I heard that only 45 cars started, and 40 finished under power. Lots more open track and average speeds leapt up–our fastest lap was number 564!

The track was crowded. Even with 45 cars on a 1 mile track, there was very little wiggle room to stay contact free. All of our drivers were unable to avoid contact of some form or another, although we blessedly avoided any black flag penalties. Somewhere in this exercise of elbows and thighs the exhaust also decided to break off, throwing sparks for a few laps. We pitted and excised the dangling apparatus, which was basically everything south of the down pipe and included the cat. On that stop Walter noticed the hood latch had lost its nut, basically hanging by a bolt. Rather than risk a jammed hood, he removed it and on we went.

Here’s a sample and there’s more videos on the Saabs Gone Wild page at Youtube:

We eagerly watched the standings as they were released every couple of hours. Each driver managed to improve our position—22nd, then 20th, then 16th! Our good-natured Saab opponents in the #70 car were neck and neck the whole way.

At 30 minutes to the checkered flag, our grumpy tranny grabbed 3rd gear and wouldn’t let go. Rather than risk a meltdown, we told our guy to leave it there and propel himself forward as best he could. Given the technical track and reliance on a turbo for power, this meant less than stellar laps. But, as good fortune would have it, we finished under power and rolled in to a 13th place final position! We were ecstatic. Thanks to our crack mechanic team, some great driving, and a whole lot of good fortune.

Everyone had a great time, and we’re hard at work preparing for the next race in October—sorry, but Michigan is just a little too far for us! We’ll have 3 cars next time – the ’86 that survived in July plus a silver ’85 900 and either a ’91 or another ’85 900. We were also instructed to integrate a theme to our madness, so Saabs Gone Wild will be going Viking in October. Horned helmets, Valkyries, and ships with dragons on them are planned!

If you have any readers in the Southern California area who are interested, I’d like to hear from them. We’ll need a bunch more support crew this time around, including spotters, pit crew, and photographers, to name a few. We’re also looking hard for sponsors to help foot the bill on this crazy little endeavor of ours. If you want to get a little low-budget advertising in, I’m all ears!

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Hmmm. How low-budget can you go?

I think this would be fantastic fun. If anyone’s able to help them out in October then please let me know and I’ll put you in contact with the team.

And I’m really tempted to give this a crack in 08. There’s a chance I’ll be in north America around this time so it’s not out of the question.

7 Comments

  1. that’s awesome! 🙂
    All kinds of different cars…I’d sure like to know how that VW Bug made out in the end…. lol!

  2. Eggs: I’m thinking putting on one of the old 4-speed trannys from the really early 900s (maybe even the 4-speed 99 tranny would fit?) would have been more robust. Also, I’ve heard of guys with high-output 900s using the more robust clutch plate from a 9000 instead of the stock 900 one.

    denvernewbie: I noticed the Pinto too! I was thinking, “I hope nobody rear-ends that guy!”

    To do the link embedding thing:
    First type a less-than symbol:
    Then type the words you want underlined in the hyperlink
    Then type a less-than symbol, /a and a greater-than symbol.

  3. Where ever did they get the idea for the Viking theme thing with the helmets and all? 😉

    I seriously wish I could make it to help out as I know most of these guys already (members of the SoCal SAAB Club), but I don’t know if I’m going to be tied-up with work tomorrow, let alone October! I don’t like to commit to something and then have to flake-out…

  4. i had the opportunity of being a driver in this race :(:( i really wish I had accepted and gone with them… would’ve been great! Looks like so much fun!!!

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