Monday, October 2, 2017

So How Much Does This Lemons Thing Really Cost?

Following Team Coronautski's first race, we've had a ton of people asking about Lemons and what it takes to actually get started.  It's just a $500 car and we're racing right?

The 24 Hours of Lemons is a pretty awesome opportunity to get on track and go wheel-to-wheel racing. They've made it way more affordable than even the cheapest other major organization. Sure Lemons is more for fun than the other more serious competition of SCCA or NASA club racing, but for most of us, that's what we're looking for anyway. Here's what it takes to get going...
The "free" car that only took 9 months to build!

1. Find a team = FREE! We're off to a good start! Grab a few buddies, 4-6 total and decide to be a team. You'll need at least 4 and up to 6 drivers to actually register.  Not only that, you may want to some help covering the 14ish total hours per weekend the car will need to be racing on track.
One free team, check!

2. Find a car = "$500". What's with the quotation marks? The car needs to be valued at $500, excluding all safety equipment.  More on that in item #3. Some people buy a more expensive car and document how they sold enough interior parts and junk to bring the total cost of the car down to $500. Some people find a junker on Craigslist for $500 or less. The key is you need to buy and document some piece of crap with 4 wheels and body panels and convince the judges it's only worth $500. Another solution is to buy a car that's already run in Lemons online (eBay, Craigslist, the Lemons website). Expect to ad to read something like "$6,000 Roll Cage and Safety Gear, car included for free".

One free car, check!
3. Make it safe! = $$$$. This is where the real "hidden" expenses come in. You will need to remove all the interior parts and seats, headliner, carpets, etc (hey, that should be free at least!). Next you need to fabricate or have a professional fabricate a roll cage that meets Lemons safety requirements, install a fire extinguisher or full suppression system, add a proper racing seat, racing harnesses, wire in a master kill-switch to cut all electrical power in an emergency, and optionally add window and side nets.  You can scrounge around and pick up some used equipment online and maybe get it all done for about $4,000-5,000.  Going all new might run a few thousand more depending on what you choose.
Luke demos the not free safety gear, check!

4. Consumable Costs = $2000. Only three dollar signs, must be a little cheaper than safety equipment! For the Coronet we needed two sets of beefy brake pads up front at $250 per set, let's just say another $140 in rotors to go with those pads, two full sets of tires at roughly $1000 total, and then all that v8 glory cost us about 150 gallons of gas for another $360.
The last team didn't invest in proper brake pads and they ended up like this when we got the car.

5. Personal Safety Gear = $1000. Prices here could be all over the place, but around $1000 seems like a safe estimate between driver suit, helmet, HANS device, gloves, shoes, any nomex(fireproof) underwear, nomex socks, and nomex balaclava. Throw a few more bucks into the mix if you want to get fancy and have a helmet headset and radio system for the team.

The team picks out shoes and other gear.
6. Registration Fees = $360. You can expect to pay about $600 per car (divided among however many on your team), plus $175 per driver. On top of that, you need to pay $60 per driver each year for an annual membership/license. If you camp at the track, you're team might factor in another $50.
Want to be a millionaire racing? Start out as a billionaire.

On top of those six items, you get to factor in travel to the track, car transportation to the track, food for the weekend, and if you don't already have a transponder you'll need to rent one for the weekend as well. Oh, and don't forget to figure out common parts that will fail or break and bring some spares to the track with you!
We keep it cheap and camp at the track and cook out as a team.

By this point you should be pretty much broke and considering a second mortgage just to go have fun, but oh man is it fun! Have more questions about how to get going on track? Drop a comment or shoot me an email: nixonbt at gmail dot com.

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