Thursday, November 26, 2009


Awesome, awesome fun.

Full write up to come of the chaos leading up to the race (and there was chaos a-plenty), but here's the nutshell: ran strongly and we were running 75th (in a field of 160) when a conrod bearing gave in Sunday around noon.

The team drove clean and the car was quick (105mph on the main straight). Not too bad for a 330,000km engine.

Volvo, we salute you.


Photo credit: HeadOn Racing

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Time's ticking down and we are still progressing, but despite the good run we've had with great people and with helpful people and awesome deals, sooner or later we were bound to hit trouble:

The internet is ripe with deals a-lenty, but what the internet giveth the internet taketh away.

Bought a hitch for our F150 Tow vehicle - found out yesterday it's for a GMC.
Bought a pair of seats from someone of the web, a month later they're nowehre to be found.
Ordered a set of sweet 15x7 rims for the race rubber... 3 out of the 4 rims were bent.

On a better note, Jason tuned the mix and we're now using 1/2 the gas we were, the cage is installed, and the racing seat & pads are days away.

(Jason has to explain to us what an engine is)

Still going to be a little tight, but we're still on track!

Friday, October 16, 2009

We've been busy!

New member to the team, say hi to Jason.

Jason is a mechanic AND rally drives a 240. Great addition to the team, and by God he knows his way around a Volvo.

We though we had lightened the car pretty well, but Jason & his air tools proved us very wrong. Another 40-50lbs of excess trim were pulled out of the car (most of it in the enormous cast iron bumpers.)

Using my rough calculations, that 50lbs should equate to an extra 300+ hp at the wheels. Handy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

AutoX results: 4th!!*

* In our class*

* A class of 5.


Turns out, running rear springs with rates twice that of the front results in marginally severe oversteer (surprise!). Liftoff oversteer, power oversteer, trail braking oversteer... you name it, & the car would perform a smoky sideways oversteering version of it.

Not exceptionally competitive, but epic fun.

However, in the spirit of a true AutoXer I'll place the blame squarely on the tires.

Motomaster Tires: When you absoulety, positively 100% don't care about performance.

Big thanks to VCMC for the awesome day!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Got the confirmation back, out of 180 teams vying for spots we made it in! Woohoo!

Still a lot to be done. AutoX on Sunday, time to shake the car down.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I gained 6 pounds in 1 week!

And all I had to do was send away for it.

I'm holding 6 pounds of boost in my hand (though it feels lighter than that). It's a manual Boost controller for $20 from NXS Motorsports.

Now to turn the 240 up to 11.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

She's Alive!

There's now a Volvo-sized hole in my garage.

After waaay too long being parked up, Tiago & I plugged the 400ft of vacuum hoses back and tried our luck.

Defying all expectations, she started first pop and ran like a dream. There's no more clunk in the rear, the intake actually has vacuum, and most importantly the heater now blows cold air.

With the rear now 3x as stiff as the front and still on stock shocks it's a little lively, but new shocks are slated for the rear shortly.

We pulled parts off a car, put them back on and improved it. Holy Crap... we must be mechanics.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Junking in the Rain

We celebrated Labour Day by treasure hunting out in the mud and the rain at Chilliwack Pick-A-Part.

The rain eased off enough to grab a quick snap of our prize: a pair of fronts shocks from a 1990 Chevy S10 to go in the rear of the 240. Sweet riding Volvo here we come.

$15 for the shocks, that brings the total cost of the rear suspension up to... $26. Still on budget.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Recurring nightmare...

Putting this back together.

It looks the aftermath of a explosion at a rubber tube factory.

(Clicking on the link for larger image doesn't help either.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New favourite tool

Sears had a sale on & I picked up a set of Craftsman (aka GearWrench) Ratchet Wrenches with flexible heads.

Freaking awesome.

They operate with less than 5 degrees sweep and can get places that nothing else would work.

The oil pressure sender screws into an elbow which screws into the block. A socket won't fit on it and there wasn't enough room to swing an open end on it. These things saved the day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

4:1 our ratio. For every 1 part we attempt to replace/install, we seem to end up taking 4 more off.

On the upside there are only so many parts that can be removed, so I reckon we'll hit that point and day now.

Out oil temp gauge had been decidedly sketchy so we decided to check the connection to the sender, which is thoughtfully placed between the altenator, the oil filter, and the 7th gate of Hell.

To check the sensor we have to pull the filter (cue several emails telling me how wrong I am) Pulling the filter means draining the oil. Then trying to reach the filter by pulling off the tire, the heat shield and the skin of my left hand.

Two hours to remove the damn thing.

See you in Hell oil filter.

Splice, splice baby.

Bit of cleaning and retaping they're good as new. Hard to believe it's the same wire. Spent a few hours going through cleaning up our the connections.

Only problem is once we were done, we found a 'spare' on the ground. Kinda looks important.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Them wires don't look healthy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spring Cleaning

The intake is a mess, the bretaher hose venting the blowby back into the intake was taking perfectly good engine oil and moving it to the parts of the car that don't need oil. We spent a day removing all the intake tubing and flushing the gunk out. The amount that poured out of the intercooler could have filled a glass.

I hope this stuff goes back on as easy as it goes off.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Toys Toys Toys

Not just any springs, you're looking at NASCAR springs. Sure, the lengths may be a bit off, and the spring rates might not be dead even (300 vs 325lbs). Some may even call them mismatched. But we call them $10.99. And we love them like our very own.

We splashed out in the front with $60 Summit racing 600lb springs.

Off to the wreckers tomorrow to get a second pair of spring seats to hold them in place.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The bushings are in. After taking an hour to get the first sleeve out we made the executive decision to outsource the bushing removal to a third party.

Only problem was the third party wasn't in the partying mood. Every place we went into could spot those damn control arms from acros the road. "Are those from a Volvo?" they'd ask, then quote us $100/hr.

So in the spirit of LeMons we cheaped out and did it ourselves. It took a bit longer than we had hoped, but the bushings are in. All it took was a hacksaw. Hacksaws and heat. And a big honking sledge.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Go with the Flow

It's not just any muffler. It's a MAGNAFLOW Muffler, with 3" of center-in center-out flowtitude.
Cause the old one isn't in the best of shape:
Incidentally, those are not 'back pressure reducing speed holes' in the pipe (as I mistakingly told Tiago).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beating 'round the bushing pt2

Turns out these buggers are tricky to get out. The rubber core falls our easily enough, but the remaining thin metal which has now rust-welded itself to the control arm takes a bit more persuading.

Yes, we are using the hallowed turbo "Virgo" wheels as a workbench. We make not apologies.

Oh, and to answer all those that accuse me of slacking off with a camera while Tiago does all the hard work?

Yes I am.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beating 'round the Bushing

We have our bushings (+ trunk of spares, thankyou Brent) 12 bottles of Liquid Wrench and a breaker bar. Time to tackle the rear.

If you look carefully, you can see slightly more wear on the old bushings. See if you can spot it.
I think it's safe to say we've found the source of our clunk.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Seek and ye shall find

So we've been trolling Craigslist looking for bargains, and sure enough a set of busings turn up for a 240. A quick pitch quick lowball offer (with the accompanying LeMons pitch) and we've scored a set of rear bushings for $30!

Next evening we go around to pick them up from Brent.

It turns out Brent likes his Volvos.

They're littered everywhere as we enter the garage (two Turbo Wagons were in incredible condition) and what he didn't know about Volvos wouldn't be worth knowing.

So he brings out the bushes and a box chock full of spare parts... that he thought might come in useful for the race. For free.

You name it's there. Spare altenator, spare fuses, spare relays, spare radiator overflow water bottle thingy.

Hey, he says, what condition are your front strusts in? They can get rusty so hold on, I have a SPARE SET OF FRONT SHOCK ASSEMBLIES!

Me & Tiago can not believe this. The man is a legend.

(And after all this he was still nice enough to suffer through my photo shoot)

We left 3 hours later having cleaned him out of almost every 240 part he owned, and he was still giving us golden nuggety tips of Volvo advice as we pulled away.

So far it's been two for two. If we come a third person that's been as helpful and friendly as Brent & Jim then I'm only buying 240s for as long as I live.

Brent we salute you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Interior has been stripped & sold for $220!

Sold to Jim, a great guy who found himself an even cheaper 240 with a tired interior.

Thanks to his help we were able to strip ours out in just over an hour.

While we were there he kindly offered to run a compression test on the enginem, the results weren't as bad as I had feared.. 130, 120, 120 & 90.
Not catastophic, but oil consumption may be an issue in the race.

Thanks Jim!

During this he also noticed that the plugs weren't tight in the block, so he gapped and reinstalled them properly.

Driving home, it could be a function of the extra noise, but the car feels a lot quicker now.

unfortunately there is a slight issue with Carbon Monoxide entering the cabin while driving, which means the car will need to be parked until we find some kind of leaky-free exhaust sorted out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Commuting Challenge: Week 1

Driving Impressions of my first week in commuting in the Turbo Brick.

So far so good.

I haven't dynoed the car yet, but I'm guessing it makes peak power somewhere near idle, because there's certainly none in the rest the rev range.

That's possibly a little unfair, because she cruises on the motorway quite happily and between 3-4000 there is a gentle push of turbo, (though the redline must have faded because 5500rpm seems wildly optimistic).

Oil continues it's desperate escape from the car, but hopefully it's the result of an clogged oil separator, which is next on the list.

Summer is tough. I notice I'm becoming jealous of people with working windows.

Smug bastards.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Oil, oil everywhere.

In the intake, coming out of the filler cap, leaking around the gearbox, coming out of the diff, the underside of the car is a glistening coating of fresh oil.

In fact it's everywhere except in the engine.

Probably should look into that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Introducing the Crew

"The most International LeMons team Ever Assembled."*
*Probably not.

Tiago aka 'El Santos'
Portugal - The Instigator

The brains of the operation. Which is either unkind to him, or unkind to us. Tiago is a spiritual guide on our quest to find peace and solitude amongst the chaos of Thunderhill raceway.

John aka 'JC'
New Zealand - Co-owner

McLaren, Amon, Dixon. As a kiwi, racing is in the blood. (All New Zealanders must complete a mandatory season in an open wheeler before their 18th birthday). Entering the LeMons may give John the credibility to be let back into NZ.

Moritz aka 'Das German'
Germany - Ministry of Transport

Strengths: Precision, speed & control.
Weaknesses: Germans do not have weaknesses.
Combine coming from a country that houses the Nordschleife with the invaluable skill of owning a truck & Moritz is an obvious addition.

Dan aka 'The Chainsaw'
London, UK - Pit Chief

Dan's car control skills are unparalleled among his peers; which is surprising as he doesn't actually own a car. Or a license.

Either way, all we know is this: Don't make Dan angry.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fuel Problems... no more.


A dodgy ground was the cause of our fuel problems.

New wires and a solid connection and we're back in business.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fuel Problems

Just finished day two of trouble shooting the fuel system.

The buzzing main pump & hesitation lead us to believe there's an issue with the in-tank fuel pump. Since there was also spare pump in the box of spares that came with the car, we deduced that must be it.

We pull the pump and decide to test it before swapping it over... and it runs fine. But there's a broken ground leaving the top of the tank. Aha! Success.

But we need another spade connector so down to the hardware store for a $2 part.

$20 later (crimper, more wire, hand cleaner, WD40) we return, fix the wire and put it back together.

Connecting the outgoing fuel line proves tricky. The line is brittle plastic, impossible to put back on, so down to the hardware store for fuel line.

Back at base, Tiago installs the new fuel line and we're in business.

Start her up and.... fail.

Maybe it's electrical. We'll try again tomorrow.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bringing her home

Introducing the pinnacle of automotive perfection:
1983 Volvo 240 TURBO (Intercooled)

So packed with performance, some of it started to leak out into the driveway

There are only two things I want to know when evaluating interiors: How blue and how plush?

The Powerhouse!
(note FIA approved battery restraint bottom of pic)

The Good
Interor (can sell to offset buld costs)
Engine runs & idles
Drives straight

The Bad
321,000 kms
Clunk in drivetrain (engine bushings?)
Hesitation in mid range, fuel delivery issues perhaps.
Power windows broken & only blows hot air

The last one isn't a huge issue for LeMons in winter, but it was for my teammate when we drove the car back to my place during a heatwave:
32° (89.6 ºF) day + windows broken + only blowing hot air = unhappy Tiago.

Least I assume it was uncomfortable, the AC was icy fresh in my car so it was hard to be subjective.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

We have a contender!

My teammate Tiago (who has a Volvo fetish bordering on disturbing) is focused on the swedish bricks & has found what he thinks is a gem in the rough. A 1983 Volvo 240 Turbo (with intercooler!) with a mere 321000 kms.

While I was leaning towards small, light and Japanese, the appeal of a RWD turbo sedan has it merits.

It spent most of its life in Northen BC, so there's now more rust than metal, though the interior is immaculate for a 26 year old car, and mechanicals are in surprisingly good shape. Drives straight, turbo spools up well. The couple selling it have a baby on the way so it had been parked up for a while.

It has LeMons wirtten all over it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Criteria

The criteria for the car is simple. Cheap (obvioulsy) but light and japanese is a good starting point. This race is about endurance, so while power would be nice, it's a distant 2nd to having a car run for more than 15mins on a track. Reliability is king. Jalopnik has a good guide on choosing a car.

Thanks to Craigslist, finding sub $500 cars isn't hard, finding a decent sub $500 is. So far the general rule of thumb seems to be this; for every 10 cars that are rubbish, there are 4 that are crap.

Not a good ratio so far.

If I had a dollar for the number of times I came across a car that 'only' needed a $10 air filter to fix it (which would also magically fix the dead clutch, the 0psi compression in the #4 & blown head gasket)... I'd have at least $15 bucks.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Beginning

Welcome to the beginning.

Follow along with us and mechnically inept guys attempt to build a racecar for an sub-$500 24-hour race out of a 26 year old car.

Cringe as we apply out lack of knowledge of all things mechanical to a simple dream...

Run at the prestigious 24 hours of Lemons at Thunderhill in November.

The rules are an entertaining read, but the premise is simple: Car & mods must done using a $500 budget.
Which gives you an idea of the caliber of "racecars" that turn up to this sort of thing.

So far the team consists of Tiago & myself, and we need 4-6 people in order to race.

But first to find the car.