I acquired a 1986 Prelude with a friend for the 24 Hours of Lemons racing. We worked on it in New Orleans (located right next to the sun on a map) for the months of June, July, and a portion of August. We didn’t have as far to go because we acquired it from a man who dreamed of racing Lemons himself. I’ll never be able to fathom how a Japanese engineer could have said, “Nailed it,” after looking at that horrific vacuum system.
We proudly trailered our infant to the closest Lemons Race—Can’t Get Bayou at the Circuit Grand Bayou in Belle Rose, Louisiana—during the late 2000s. 4 billion degrees were present. We performed some practice laps with the Prelude on the course.
And we screwed up because we never dropped the oil pan. The pan had been RTV’d by someone in the line of ownership, and while the car was being raced, it melted and plugged the intake, drying the oil and damaging the engine.
The two other competitors, one of whom was the original owner, who were traveling from Texas to race with us are canceled. They begin searching Craigslist for appropriate donor cars rather than turning around. We locate one that will definitely work, they purchase it EN ROUTE for $500, and we are ready to install the new engine in our car. All throughout, the race directors and every team in the paddock have been behind us. Most of the time, we had no idea what we were doing, and people were always offering us tools and suggestions. One of the best groups of people are lemon racers.
The first day of racing’s evening is when the car arrives. As we proceed, we rip the new engine from its auto transmission (and original car) so that it can fit with our manual transmission. We learn that the engine and transmission are, in fact, NOT compatible at 2 am that night. We adjourn and enjoy some beer.
We stay to celebrate the winners the next day when the race is over only to discover that we’ve won the You Got Screwed award, loud shouts from our teammates, and a $500 prize, which we promptly signed over to the people who purchased our fatal donor car.
At some fantastic southern racetracks (Barber absolutely rules), we would go on to complete many laps in our scruffy but cherished carbureted Prelude. But my favorite memory of the sport is of that first race, in which we never actually competed.