The Greatest LeMons Car Of All Time is in my driveway! This eight-wheeled wondercar is truly a marvel of over-the-top design and engineering. From the thirty-six (yes, thirty-six!) fully functional push buttons in the ceiling, to the 15 digital gauges in the dash, to the barely three foot overall height that requires you to wiggle your way in and scoot down to reach the pedals until you are reclining on your back, this thing makes no sense whatsoever! And yet, it somehow makes perfect sense to me. Why build a normal supercar when you can build something so completely over the top? If four wheels are good, eight wheels must surely be twice as good!
The saga of the design and construction of this supercar is a complete mystery. Prior to being listed on Ebay November 9th, 2010, it would seem no one had ever seen or heard of it. The auction revealed very little about the car, other than a brief list of some of the components, and eleven small pictures. The word from the Ebay seller is that a relative bought the house where this car was stored. The woman selling the home told them it was her late son's creation, built before he became ill. She related virtually nothing about it, other than claiming that he had invested almost $100k in its construction! The Illinois tags show an expiration date of 1988, and the fuel in the tank smells like varnish. It had a thick layer of dust throughout, as though it hadn't been touched in many years. I'm fairly certain it wasn't. Supposedly it had been transported there from Florida at some point. As she was unable to locate any title for the vehicle, and the running condition was unknown, the no-reserve auction only fetched $4,494. That was incredibly fortunate for me, as I'd determined I was really only willing and able to spend as much as $4500!
The car was transported 750 miles by a shipping company to my door in an enclosed car trailer for less than a dollar a mile. Long wooden temporary ramps had to be constructed for the ultra-wide body to clear the inner trailer fenders, and ratcheting in on with a come-along was required, so that was a bargain! I would have spent that much in fuel and tolls to go pick it up, not to mention the hazards, wear, and fatigue involved in a 30 hour round trip. When it arrived on December 2, I was ecstatic! It was too wide to walk around in the trailer, so I had to walk on the sturdy fiberglass body to climb inside the cockpit. The car was far cooler in person than I ever expected! Clearly this was a labor of love for at least several years for the builder. The several hours it took to build ramps and drag it out of the dark trailer and into the sunlight were torture. I wanted to examine every detail! At last we extracted it safely, and began our inspection. No one could have wiped the silly grins from our faces as we ogled this beauty!
The twin Mazda 12A rotary engines have Racing Beat intakes, Dellorto carbs, and one MSD box and coil PER spark plug. It should make in the neighborhood of 400 HP once it's running properly. This car could easily weigh 4500+ pounds. Heavy guage square tube steel looks like it belongs under a Freightliner, not under a svelte fiberglass shell! It's absurdly over-engineered, and in the best possible ways. I'm guessing the builder was an aircraft engineer, in addition to being a talented master fabricator, as many of the bolts are drilled and wired to prevent movement. I was able to get the engine to crank over this evening, but it's not ready to start just yet. The transmission is missing hardware on the rear mounts. The brake system is bone dry, and the dual master cylinders feel seized. There's a parking brake handle that isn't connected to anything. The two rear differentials are not connected to each other, so the rearmost one isn't going to be powered until I build an adapter. There's two new Holley fuel pumps, one for each tank, but one is missing a filter. The fiberglass door skins are unfinished and have yet to be installed, and the lexan t-top/windows are not attached either.
The construction inside the cabin is also serious safety overkill. Numerous 2x2 square steel tubes form redundant support structures. The bare gullwing steel door frames are so heavy, I doubt most people could open them while seated in the car! I'll have to rig up a strut system to assist in entry/egress. The giant hood probably weighs over 300 pounds by itself, and the trunk isn't much lighter. The fiberglass is thick enough to walk on! Even the quad side exhaust exits are heavy gauge square tube steel. The rear axles look like they are out of a full-sized truck, yet they are welded to 4-lug hubs. Strange, indeed.
I have my work cut out for me! While it's readily apparent thousands of hours of skilled labor have already been invested, many more are needed to finish the dream. I have no experience with Wankels, so there will be a steep learning curve. The clutch pedal is incredibly stiff, so I would think there's a beefy racing disc and pressure plate in there, but the car was able to move slowly while in gear. It's possible the engine was turning over as we slowly pushed it out of the trailer in gear, instead of the clutch itself slipping. Given the unfinished state of the car, and the incredible attention to detail throughout, I can't imagine the builder cut any corners in the drivetrain.
More updates and pictures coming soon! If you have a name suggestion for this beast, feel free to send it to me on Facebook or Twitter. The car was initially called The Greatest LeMons Car Of All Time by LeMons Judge Phil, aka Murilee Martin. For now, I'm using the acronym from that moniker in a play on words, calling it Project G.L.C.O.A.T. (as in fiberglass gelcoat). The Loco Ocho and The Black Widow are two of the permanent names we've batted around already. Feel free to send your suggestions to