I’ve had a lot of turrible ideas when it comes to new LeMons race car builds over the last few years. From the pink ‘61 Caddy, to the ultra-rusty ‘63 Thunderbird with BMW V12 (and later BMW turbo diesel) power, to the Pontiac Bonneville “Donk” riding on 22’s, to the pink-flamingo-equipped pop-up camper turned road race car, my teammates are accustomed to my efforts to convince them that, if they will only help me build my newest unlikely relic into some semblance of a race car, LeMons accolades will be rained down upon us. Fourteen builds later, a partial list of the awards we have earned include 4 Index of Effluency‘s, 3.5 Organizer’s Choices, 2 Least Horrible Yank Tanks, an I Got Screwed, an Epic Repair Failure, a Class C victory, and a Judge’s Choice. Boxed nickels, welded scrap trophies, and the admiration of our peers would certainly be a sufficient testament to our hard work and creativity, but the infamy created by internet, newspaper, and magazine articles (and even a few TV spots) have only poured fuel on the creative fire. It’s gotten so bad, I can look at almost anything these days, and think of how I could turn it into a LeMons car.
Enter one very neglected 1957 Cessna 310.
Yes, you read that correctly. A Cessna, as in an actual airplane. Not just any old plane either, a sizeable twin-engine airplane from the fifties, a bygone era predating flight computers for such an aircraft. To fix the mechanical gauges mid-flight, you simply tapped on the glass cover until it produced a reading you agreed with. These planes are 27 feet in length, with a wingspan of 35 feet, and an empty weight of nearly 3,000 pounds. In other words, most definitely NOT a potential LeMons candidate, right? Well, okay, not in stock form, but then this forlorn-looking relic of aviation’s yesteryear no longer retains all of the accoutrements it was originally built with. Pesky, minor details have kept it on the ground since I was in diapers (the early seventies, if you must know). Little things like---oh, I don’t know---NO ENGINES, for starters. Then there’s the missing tail section, the damaged wings, and the lack of seats. No matter how hardcore an aviation buff one might be, this bird is not a viable restoration candidate, short of being the only remaining 310 in existence. It’s not. Believe me. I checked.
Why not an E30, or a Miata, if you want to go endurance road racing on the cheap? Why not? WHY NOT? Because anyone can successfully race an E30 or a Miata. Nobody looks at one of those in stock form and thinks “Man, that’s so badass! I wonder how they came up with that?“ No one has ever road raced an airplane before (as far as I know), and for obvious reasons. Some would call it logic, others sanity, still more would say it’s merely a matter of physics that would preclude such an endeavor. Rubbish, I say! Such naysayers would probably rule out the possibility of building a massive wall 2,000 miles long, or a skyscraper 2,700 feet tall, or a ship weighing 657,019 tonnes. These things are never the brainchild of small minds, rather they are the result of men and women who dream big, and who follow through, seemingly against all odds.
While I don’t have the formal engineering education and background that those designers and architects possess (I’m a self taught welder/fabricator/mechanic), I do have a creative bent that drives me, an understanding wife that tolerates (and sometimes even supports) my wacky ideas, and teammates that are both creative and willing to help. What more could a team captain want? Still, when I informed them that I’d found the airplane I’d been searching for at the bargain basement cost of two measly grand , they reminded me that I’d drained their wallets as well as my own with my harebrained LeMons schemes and builds. Running up to six team cars in a single race, and entering races all up and down the east coast, in addition to a few out west, tends to deplete both the extra income, the credit card available balances, and usually even the bill money. I don’t mind being broke as a result of LeMons fun---I’m used to it---but it seems not everyone likes to have debt, or cobwebs in their wallet. Fortunately, I was able to raise the money by working overtime this summer, and by recruiting a few of the less financially depleted team members with promises of making road racing history.
But wait, you say! Two grand is four times the amount you are allowed to spend on a LeMons car, and that’s before you even add a suitable drive train or suspension! Sure, that’s true, for your average competitive Bavarian or Japanese LeMon. The beauty of racing a gigantic airplane is that, while it will never truly be competitive as a laps contender, the LeMons Judges are not at all concerned with notarized bills of sale and parts receipts. Rather, they demand period-correct flight helmets, and roof-mounted Go Pro’s. Bribes come in the form of brief stints behind the wheel, in lieu of cash, or expensive bottles of single-malt scotch. Yes, the financial waiver has been issued, the blessing to go forth and create that which is unthinkable has been granted from our LeMons overlords, and half of the purchase price has already changed hands. Even the donor vehicle has been procured (more on that later). This insane project is a GO. Tentative launch date is early 2013, most likely at February CMP.
Want to join the insanity? Email me at speedy cop at comcast dot net, and I will fill you in on the specifics. There are two spots left, and preference will be given to those who are able to help with the construction later this year. Non-driver build volunteers will be most welcome!
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