For a long time, I’ve been contemplating entering a car in a LeMons race. If you read my blog, you know I tend to have extremely outlandish thoughts, which thankfully don’t end with me spending any of my meager amount of cash attempting to fulfill them. These involve things like wondering whether I should buy a Centennial-edition 2003 Ford Mustang GT as an investment to installing speakers in the headrest of my car.
A couple weeks ago, with that “I want to race in LeMons and I don’t care what anyone thinks” spirit, I wrote a piece about getting a Ferrari into LeMons. This, of course, ended up being the Mondial, since so many of them are available under $30K. I even came across three potential cars which I referenced as potential race winners, because I didn’t expect the B.S. judges to give me penalty laps based on the fact they’re actual Ferraris and I’d be in the pits most of the time.
Of course, nobody read it, because other than that article, the words “Ferrari,” Lamborghini,” “Aston,” “Martin,” “Pagani,” “McLaren,” “Bugatti,” and “Koenigsegg” have been written nowhere else on that site, as my car enthusiast friends keep on reminding me. All of this hasn’t contributed to my Google search rankings, which is why I felt compelled to bring it up here, on Jalopnik, where at this point you’d rather watch Travis getting pranked by Jeff Gordon yet again.
At this point, we all know how to enter cars in LeMons. (If you don’t, Stef Schrader might like to have a word with you.) But I’ll summarize. Basically, you have to find a car under $500, or find a car for a price above $500 but sell off enough of its parts to get the final price under $500. Of course, there must be receipts for all of that. There are a few other safety rules but I’ll gloss over all of that because you’re racing a Ferrari.
But that’s the most difficult part of getting a Ferrari into LeMons. It's getting the price under $500. Everything else just takes money. Installing the roll cage. Getting a fire extinguisher. Buying race suits and a helmet. Putting on good tires and brakes. As well as for the first time in the car’s life, getting the fuel delivery system to work totally right, which I can totally justify to the BS judges as an integral part of driver safety. After all, they don’t want a fire breaking out on track, as Ferraris tend to do.
Now, I only seriously contemplated using a Ferrari after I read a piece by Murilee Martin about teams that created their own (fake) Ferraris for LeMons. Much of that involved teams painting their MR2s, Fieros, 240Zs, and even an Opel GT red and giving them undeserving painted-on Ferrari badges. However, I thought if I was to enter a Ferrari, I would go all out, and you know, actually use a Ferrari. After all, it couldn’t be that difficult.
I thought of Ferrari models I could use. A 400i? The GM automatic would go soon and working on the engine is a nightmare. Especially when it has to be removed from the car. A 250 GTO? I’d have to rob a bank only for the race organizers to “claim” it for themselves. A 308? I'd have to grow a mustache to make it worthwhile. How about a 360? Doug DeMuro would come after me with a fire extinguisher. But then I decided on the Mondial.
Why did I choose the Mondial? An important reason was the fact that the drivetrain parts are interchangeable with the 308 and 328, which helps maintenance costs, compared to a Ferrari with a V-12, like a 400. Also, there are many of them populating consignment shops and upper middle-class individuals’ garages across the country, evidence of expensive mistakes, short of that time they invested in Enron stock back in 2000. And on my fun mid-engined cars list, I regretted that my reason for its inclusion didn’t involve racing against other cars on the track, like Enzo would’ve wanted.
I’ve referenced the Mondial in prior posts, where I listed it as an “affordable” mid-engined, rear-drive vehicle which was fun for all the wrong reasons (like being an actual Ferrari owner on FerrariChat). Clearly, I didn’t bother including maintenance as part of the equation. (If you wanted that, the same list included the Fiero, which I’ve been told has the same tendency to catch on fire as a modern-day Ferrari.)
Eventually, I came across a decent Mondial example on eBay Motors. It was a 1988 Mondial 3.2 convertible with 60,000 miles, and all the service records in Southern California. Fittingly enough, it was also the most expensive of the Mondials I considered and had the most mileage, which to me is a good thing. That’s because someone cared about the car enough to warrant driving 4,000 miles a year, substantial for a Ferrari, and which is much better than examples I found that had under 30,000 miles over 30 years. I also wanted a convertible, which tends to go against the ethos of most used Ferrari buyers, but my rationale was that the roll cage would be easier to install (read: by myself, someone who’s never welded anything in his life), and if rain fell, the car could be covered with a tarp.
To look for ways to get under the $500 limit, I made a list of parts I could strip off the car. This included the steering wheel (which could be replaced with one stolen of another race car), all the seats, the radio and speakers, the convertible top, the gear knob, the trunk lining, the interior carpeting, interior trim bits, the Ferrari badges, and maybe a few of the engine internals that wouldn’t affect reliability and/or handling. I even contemplated selling the side window glass and the power motors and sell those too. The horn and gauges too since that would just be another thing to go wrong. I would only have to focus on the engine and transmission for a change, rather than complaining loudly about the electrical systems.
Then, for ideas of parts value, I went to eBay Motors where I searched for Ferrari parts that were already for sale. I actually created an Excel spreadsheet and listed all the parts I’d take off the car. While original Ferrari wheels could go for almost $1000 each, I would have had to get new wheels for another $300-$400 each. I was already $2,000 down. The air conditioning unit? Maybe another $500. The stereo would be another $100 while the convertible top mechanism might go for $700. Meanwhile, the horn would’ve gone for $300. (At some point I may have been coming up with numbers off the top of my head.)
About seven parts in, I finally realized that the parts I remove would be sitting in the garage to get the final total under $500. After that much boring itemization, I realized even after selling off the unnecessary parts, I’d still be in the five-figure range. Sure, I could find some straw buyers to pay inflated prices for each of the parts so I could present the requisite receipts to the BS judges to achieve my goal of being the first person to race a real Ferrari. But eventually I realized it wasn’t worth it anymore, not least of which would involve scores of money, time, and effort. That last part was the deciding factor.
I had to admit to myself that using a Ferrari for LeMons is a very bad idea. While I was trying to show that a Ferrari could be (cheaply) repurposed for the racetrack, making scores of Ferrari enthusiasts proud, I sadly realized it was anything but.
Darn. I was really looking forward to showing those FerrariChat posters that Mondials could indeed be fun and showing those Fauxrraris a thing or two in the LeMons paddock.
Satish Kondapavulur runs Clunkerture, named because "Clunker.com" is $82 at auction which was better spent on Gran Turismo 6. In between contemplating entering a car in LeMons, he's planning to buy a P38 Range Rover to exhaust the ever-so-dwindling savings. Tweet at him with a listing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know anyone
angry at the service costs and getting rid of selling theirs.
Photo credit Ferrari.