The Car

A little bit about my Corolla:

I chose the 24 Hours of LeMons way of thinking; take a junker car and make it work. From running a LeMons team in the past, I knew the ins-and-outs of doing it right. The LeMons rules are fairly simple; buy a cheap car, spend money to fix it up, but don’t exceed $500, excluding safety items. In LeMons, as in most motorsports, there is a fair amount of rule-bending taking place—judges can’t tell if you’ve replaced the clutch, water pump, oil pump, pistons, etc. That’s just what I did—bought a 1989 Corolla, with the famed 4AGE engine, for $300, rebuilt the engine, decked the block, and replaced the transmission with one that would actually stay in 3rd and 5th gear. I also found the lightest and cheapest wheels I could find to replace the steelies—more because I needed new tires and it was cheaper to buy some modder’s Mini Cooper take-offs than to buy just tires. I also took care of the safety aspect by replacing the brakes and getting a much-needed alignment. Aside from the new mechanicals, I kept the rest looking like that of a $300 car—some decent dents, missing running lamps, ripped seats, cracked dash, and a lot more bits of ‘character.’

A lot of this was planned—I knew I’d be going through Mexico, so why take a nice car to a war zone? I also figured that I wouldn’t stand out so much by having a ‘beater.’ It turned out to be a good decision—I wasn’t hassled much by the cops and my car was never burglarized. I drove the car 15,000 miles, all the way from Atlanta to Panama. I decided to sell it in Panama, as there is no land route linking Central America to South America, and I wasn’t willing to pay the $1,200 – $1,500 required to ship a car.