Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Motoring J Style MR2: A Study in Carnage

If you follow this blog you're probably aware of our exploits at the 24 Hours of LeMons in some of Japan's finest machines of the last several decades. We thought it might be inspirational to shed light on how a vehicle comes to be a participant at this fine motor race, with the goal of properly documenting carnage.

We found our MR2 while perusing craigslist one day last January. It lived on the mean streets of Berkeley with a rather optimistic asking price of $700.00. We arrived in the Lexus LS460 press car (hardly a good choice to roll up in when you're buying a $500 car), and succeeded in parking far away so that the owner would not realize we arrived in a $70,000 Lexus. That way, we thought, he'd be more susceptible to our bargaining tactics. We found the owner (pictured above, right), in the middle of a major street in Berkeley preparing his two cars for sale: The MR2, which simply had "$700" written in shoe polish in the back window, and a much worse '95 Mustang V6 Convertible (salvage title), which he was painting in high-quality Krylon flat black for that sinister "aggressive" look.

We drove the car around the block, and despite a truly horrible clunking sound in the right front suspension, decided it was worth buying. After offering $350, we settled on $450 and (cautiously) drove the car home.

The car was horribly rusted out, so bad, in fact, that there wasn't enough of the driver's floor left to bolt in a roll bar. Of course, we didn't find this out until after we dragged it home and ripped out the carpets. Well, nobody said it was going to be easy. The photo above shows master mechanic Mack of the Motoring J Style Racing Team trying to diagnose the loud clunking noises in the right front. I'm not really sure what he did, but it got quieter and we deemed the car "safe to race".

I'm going spare you all of the boring mechanical parts and maddening problems we encountered in trying to get this former East Coast car into race-ready condition. It was a real pain in the ass and I don't want to relive it now. Painting it was fun, and as you can see we assembled a large army of rattle-can wielding LeMons enthusiasts to help us with this task...

....which took us a long-ass time! Note to self: when you use grey primer, it takes a few hundred coats of flourescent yellow and green paint to cover it all. We painted, and painted, and painted until our index fingers were frozen to the Krylon nozzle and we had ruined several formerly-presentable outfits.

No, that's not our car. This is another LeMons devotee who shall remain nameless. He showed up in his MR2 to help us with our little artistic masterpiece. We quickly surrounded his car and demanded numerous parts be taken off, at which point he smartly backed up as quickly as possible and got the hell out of there. Look closely and you can see him looking over his shoulder trying to get out of this predicament as quickly as possible. Life went on.

There are few things in life more satisfying than a freshly painted race car. Isn't she a sexy beast?

Even better with numbers on! Finally at the track: Altamont, July 2007 before the MR2's first race. She wouldn't look like this for long.

And we're off! A little traffic, no big deal...

12th place finish and not too bad damage to show for it!

Race #2: October 2007 24 Hours of LeMons, Altamont

Moments like this gave some cause for concern...

But mostly we just chugged along without any mechanical issues, everyone driving well, always in the top a fine wine, she was getting better with time.

Then our man Jordan rammed a Honda Prelude with about a 30mph closing speed, causing grave damage to our front end and seriously rearranging the rear end of the Honda Prelude. Oddly enough, the Prelude guys got the sour end of that deal and lost precious time in the pits repairing their car. Prelude guys, if you're reading this, I'm still sorry about that.

We thought the race was over. Surprisingly, the MR2 has pretty good frontal crash protection (and I'm the one to know, I tested one before at the age of 16). Despite a gouged radiator core, the car seemed to be holding its water and continuing despite a few bent panels.

Looking pretty worse for wear here. This is in the last 30 minutes of the race. Amazingly, we finished 4th! More amazingly, we drove the car home on the public freeway.

Photo Credit: Jalopnik

Post Race Carnage:

And if you don't think we're stupid enough already, we're bringing this car BACK for the 24 Hours of LeMons on May 10-11, 2008, at our old stomping grounds, the riotous Altamont Motorsports Park in lovely Tracy, California. Come see us!

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