Mustangs and Fords of the 24 Hours of LeMons in Michigan
Low-buck Mustangs tackle endurance racing in Michigan.
In April, we checked out the 24 Hours of LeMons race at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. If you’re not familiar, LeMons pits teams with cars bought and prepared for $500 against each other in a weekend-long endurance race. The series’ “Supreme Court” assesses each car in a “BS Inspection” to determine if the car is worth $500 by the rulebook. Then the teams race for 14½ hours over two days; the winner logs the most laps over that time.
The 24 Hours of LeMons races all over the country, but the race in Michigan tends to bring more American iron than others. At this race, that included nine Mustangs and Mustang-related cars in the 77-car field. Three of them, all powered by Ford 5.0-liter V8s, even finished in the top 5. Here’s the Mustang and Mustang-related rundown of LeMons in Michigan.
#103 Flying Pigs Racing – 1984 Mazda RX-7, 302 swap – 2nd Place
The Flying Pigs, who race a pig of a Mustang (see below), bought this old RX-7 from a LeMons timing guy. They threw out the turbocharged 13B and instead put in a junky, old Ford 302. After a few races of troubleshooting Small Block Ford problems, the Honey Badger has finally come around on caring.
#500 Hawaii Five Uh-Oh – 1987 Ford Mustang – 4th Place
Aisin’s Detroit facility built this car as a hands-on teaching tool for some of the company engineers. For engineers who end up working there who haven’t necessarily built cars as a hobby, it’s a way to show in real time how things fit together (and come apart, naturally). They also use it as a team-building exercise and, we imagine, a way for company employees to blow off steam in a low-pressure environment.
#750 Flying Pigs Racing – 1987 Ford Mustang – 5th Place
The winged pig is one of very few V8 Mustangs to have won in the 24 Hours of LeMons. That they do so with 100 pounds of plywood and swine-like aerodynamics makes that feat more impressive. It’s a pretty standard 5.0-liter Mustang GT, aside from the pink paint, 55-gallon-drum nose, and big ol’ wings.
#713 Placebo Racing – 1987 Merkur XR4ti, 302 Swap – 19th Place
For whatever reason, turbocharged Fords don’t last long in LeMons. Placebo tried in vain for a year to get the original Merkur engine to work, and it just wouldn’t. They gave up on it, and instead opted for a 5.0-liter junkyard engine. They’ve kept it simple with a carburetor setup. As a result, the reliability has doubled.
#88 MBTL – 1988 Ford Thunderbird – 44th Place
The “Mistake By the Lake” team from Cleveland paired their Fox-Bird with a matching Thunderbird Wine-like product livery. The car’s 5.0 LO (“Low Output”) was true to its name, but slow and steady wins … 44th place. At least they had ample, lacquer-like booze for sorrow-drowning.
#555 My Little Pony – 1981 Ford Mustang – 51st Place
Run in some capacity by people associated with SuperLite Cars, these old four-cylinder Mustangs were, at one time, SCCA improved touring cars. And by “at one time,” we mean “during the Reagan Administration.” They certainly haven’t gotten fast in the meantime, but the team had an interesting weekend, just the same. At one point, the fan on the front of the alternator ripped from the pulley, bounced off the fender well (cutting a bundle of wires), and then left a dogfight-sized shrapnel hole in the hood.
#33 Tiki Time Racing – 1989 Ford Mustang – 60th Place
Normally, naturally aspirated 2.3-liter Mustangs do well in LeMons. The old Pinto engines tend to be up to the task of a solid beating all weekend long, and Tiki Time’s engines have been durable. However, the old gal finally gave up on them, and they ran out of time to swap in a replacement.
#667 My Little Phoney – 1982 Ford Mustang – 64th Place
The sister car to the #555 suffered through some driving-standards issues. A few too many black flags kept them from putting in appreciable lap counts.
#917 Dixie Normus – 1997 Ford Mustang – 70th Place
Like the NA four-cylinders, SN-95s with the 3.8-liter Essex V6 have skewed toward the reliable end of LeMons engines, probably moreso than 5.0-liters, and far more than 4.6s. When Dixie Normus gave up on their horrendous Honda CRX after 2016, they bought a V6 Mustang that had run a bunch of races without issue. They made it the world’s worst “Eleanor” clone with a set of original ’66 Mustang fenders they found on CraigsList for $30.
However, after one lap, the engine went kaboom. After tearing down the heads, they soon found the culprit: a washer had worked its way into the cylinder and mashed up everything. Whether that came from their own work or the previous owner’s, we’ll never know. However, they swapped in a junkyard V6 overnight, and got back to racing the next day.