Seventy-seven. In all of motorsport, there are few car numbers so thoroughly double-stuffed with significance, so deserving of legacy and yet so easily cast off by their owners. Although Eyesore Racing's car number was originally intended only as an intimidating declaration of performance (it perfectly matched the car's peak horsepower), it transpired that the number also served as a deadly accurate predictor of the car's finishing position.
Not once, not twice, but... well, ok, twice... car number 77 endured the 14 or so hours of the 24 Hours of LeMons, suffering the indignity of being spun by a Miata, the shame of being out-cornered by a Cavalier wagon, the crushingly unfair disadvantage of incompetent preparation, and the seemingly unrecoverable setbacks of being rolled once and crashed repeatedly, withstanding a bent control arm, having its strut tower torn open, and its engine falling out, only to finish a fateful 7th place both times.
Facing this numerological correlation, the team had little choice but to retire the number in favor of something fated for even greater results. The number eleven. For racing is not about reverent historical musings, it's always about the next race, and it's always about what number you're going to finish in the next two events.
Magazines, it turns out, are largely about reverent historical musings, and so we take a look back at the long and storied history of one of the few cars with the fortitude, durability, and low standards of functionality to enter the storied 24 Hours of LeMons a remarkable four times.
We intercepted Eyesore Racing's 1984 Lincoln MK-CR-XXX just days before its fourth and final outing, as the glue was still drying behind the new number 11 graphics. While photographer Brian Booth tried to avoid lacerations positioning the car in the studio, we picked the sleep-deprived and likely malformed brain of team captain Dave Coleman in order to learn some of the dos and don'ts of LeMons competition. Coleman's ability to wring slightly better than expected performance from utterly shit cars is legendary among his dozens of fans. The lessons learned from his long history of near-success at LeMons, therefore, should prove valuable enough to any would-be competitor to at least make it worth the five minutes it will take you to finish this story.
His advice, in no particular order:
Lesson #1: Pick A Good Team.
Only the Flat Rock Michigan race is actually 24 hours long. The remainder of the LeMons calendar avoids late-night competition in deference to the poor, defenseless residents of neighboring communities who had no way of knowing, when they built their homes next to racetracks, that racing makes noise.
"Still," Coleman points out, "even if you only have to tolerate the rest of your team for 14 hours of racing, there are months of preparation involved in any race effort, no matter how half-assed." Beyond good oral hygiene and tolerable personalities, he recommends populating your team with poor, or at least stingy people who know how to drive a stick.
Coleman credits his team's diversity both for their string of respectable finishes and for the fact that they never actually win. "We're kinda like BRE..." he asserts, referring to the Brock Racing Enterprises, the famously successful factory Datsun Trans Am team of the early '70s, "...but we're also a lot like the Village People. We'll have brilliant preparation, a flawless pit strategy, fast, clean driving, and then, suddenly, the gay cowboy will get in the car and start crashing into people."
Eyesore Racing's six-man team boasts three turbo engineers, two automotive journalists, two professional test drivers, two marketing professionals, a biomedical engineer, a rocket scientist, and insiders from both Nissan and Mazda. He never did say which of those was the gay cowboy.