The 24 Hours of LeMons event is something we’ve always looked at as a goal pretty much since Sparesbox was born, but this year we finally decided to take the plunge, sourcing our now-beloved sub-$1000 entrant . It’s safe to say we may have chosen with our heart over our heads.
Meet our Alfa. Our objectively beautiful, incredibly light and totally out of place in an endurance race Alfa, which will be taking part in the 2017 version of the race. For those who don’t already know, the 24 Hours of LeMons is a bi-annual endurance race for cars that have to be purchased for (and have a value of) no more than $1000.
The format is split into 2 12 hour races over 2 consecutive days, and all cars have to be fitted with standard safety equipment like a roll cage, race seats and a fuel cell. All proceeds from the event go towards prostate cancer research too, meaning we get to slowly shred some rubber for a great cause!
To give a little bit of context on the car itself, it’s a GTV Twin Spark that we bought for exactly $999. Of course, the GTV was in absolutely no way fit to race when it first arrived at our warehouse-turned-workshop, so it had to undergo a lot of tweaking and treatment to not only fit safety regulations, but also make sure it could put up with (and do well over) 24 hours of racing in a weekend.
So what exactly goes into building a $1000 endurance racer from the ground up? After all, for most reading this, LeMons is about the most realistic form of competitive motorsport we could ever hope to take part in, so we sat down with James, our chief mechanic and head mechanic at Sparesbox Service, to find out exactly how it went from a street car to the vinyl-clad weapon that sits in our garage today.
Could You Give Us a Brief Run Down on the Car and How It’s Been Modified?
It’s a 1998 Alfa Romeo GTV 2L. Modifications are very limited for the 24 hours of LeMons, however safety equipment is of key importance. The car has had a 6 point, CAMS-approved roll cage fabricated for it, a fibreglass VELO race seat installed along with a Sparco 6 point harness for use with a HANS device. All our guys are using HANS devices as even at low speed there is really no reason to skimp on safety.
The car has a fire extinguisher within easy reach of the driver along with a Battery isolation switch which can also be operated via a pull cable near the drivers side A-pillar in keeping with CAMS requirements should it have to be reached by a rescuer.
Besides the safety items we’ve added some ducting to help guide cool air into the engine bay and replaced a few key things like the thermostat and housing, radiator hoses and timing belt.
When the Alfa First Rolled Into the Garage, How Confident Were You that it was Up to the Task?
Reasonably confident, they’re not a bad car and the twin spark engine is quite resilient and dependable. Having said that we haven’t ran yet so it might bite us yet.
What’s the Difference Between Building a LeMons Entrant as Opposed to Just Turning a Cheap Performance Car into a Track Day Car?
Budget is probably the difference. There’s a lot of finger crossing involved with LeMons, at the end of the day the car is an old abused heap that, while it has received a little love from us is largely a car that has no place being on a race track.
Pace is the other difference….you aren’t going to get anything quick for $1000 so we’re resigned to the fact its going to be slow going and the key is to just keep going around and around.
Building a Car That Can Run for 12 Hours Straight is One Thing. What Was the Most Challenging Part About Building a Car that You Know is Going to be Competitive on the Day of the Race?
Building a car we “hope” will run for 12 hours straight haha. We don’t know if we’ll be competitive at this point, and looking at past LeMons events the cars that set the best lap times aren’t necessarily the cars that finish well. We won’t be competitive with our lap times I’m sure, but if we can keep our car out there and fix anything that goes wrong in a timely fashion, we’ll be fine.
I guess the hardest thing about it is picking a car to start with that serves as a reliable base (this is the part where everyone laughs at the fact we have an Alfa), and making sure everyone gets in their heads the idea is to make the car last the distance and employ a little bit of mechanical sympathy.
What Tips Would You give to Anyone Looking to Enter a Similar Style of Race to This?
Pick the best base you can from a reliability, parts availability and ease of work stand point(i think this is a “do as i say, not as I do” kind of point )don’t skimp on safety gear, and most importantly have fun!
At the end of it all LeMons is for charity and every man woman and dog there is there for the same reason as us: to have a blast and make some new mates in a great environment that lots of motorsport disciplines sorely lack.