Nick Pon: It goes back to an event called the Double 500. Jay Lamm, the founder of LeMons, had participated a few times in the California Mille classic-car rally– a super- high-end rally with 1950s Ferraris and the like. After observing these million-dollar machines break down constantly during the Mille, he challenged the organizer Martin Swig with the idea that a $500 car could complete 500 miles more successfully than a million-dollar Ferrari. Martin called his bluff and the Double 500 was born–500 miles (on public roads) in a $500 car. Well, not only was Jay right that $500 cars would do better than million-dollar Ferraris, but the event turned out to be easy. You’d find some old Toyota with a bashed-in fender for $500, and it could do 500 miles without even trying. So, Jay came up with the idea to up the ante and bring the idea to a racetrack, where the $500 cars would be at full throttle, racing wheel-to-wheel, for hours on end. And, really, when he came up with the name, 24 Hours of LeMons, we just had to make it happen.
The themes came somewhat later. Since the event was a parody of Le Mans, we expected the teams to parody Le Mans teams, but we never envisioned stuff like Cessna airplane bodies mounted on Toyota Van chassis. I really give a lot of credit to the participants for bringing the visual spectacle to levels we never could have imagined.
The Burnout: What are your top three team themes from recent years?
The Burnout: Which car is the most popular choice for racers? And which car did you think wouldn’t make it off the starting line, but surprised everyone with a good finish?
The Burnout:Why this race? What attracts people to the LeMons series, and do you see the sort of participants that you expect to. What’s been the biggest surprise?
The Burnout: Have you ever had to tell someone, “No, you cannot race that. It’s unsafe/falling apart/doesn’t meet the criteria/hideous beyond the telling of it.” Have you every wanted to but couldn’t?
The Burnout: What is the one piece of advice you’d like to give participants?