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How to Win a LeMons Rally, the Rally Series for Misfit Cars

The best way to see America has always been via a slow, scenic and winding route, and what’s slower than an overheated car going faster than 60 mph? Welcome to the Lemons rallythe cross country rally for cheap and weird cars.

Destinations shift to off-road Americana, which includes geographic wonders and man-made oddities. The rallies are group trips for hooptie fiends. An offshoot of the wacky 24 Hours of LeMons, the LeMons Rally shares the same spirit as its endurance racing counterpart.

While it’s fun to show up in whatever you’ve got and just drive the route—the event even has a special class for rental cars—the ultimate achievement is going for the overall win. Want to dominate at a future LeMons rally? Here are some tips that should improve your chances of doing so.

how to win a lemons rally cars

Stef Schrader|Car and Driver

Choose the right (wrong) car

Your choice of car is worth a huge amount of points, so it’s almost impossible to win the overall without entering something unusually strange or interesting. Fortunately, the LeMons rally has a scorecard to clear things up: Warsaw Pact cars get 250 points, while instant cars using Volkswagen Beetle pans receive 300 points. On the other hand, the entry of a shiny media car leads to a deduction of 2500 marks.

However, using a Beetle pan as the basis of your strange home-built creation isn’t the only way to earn lots of points. One previous LeMons Rally winner, the Wedgeused the undercarriage of an old Pontiac LeMans as a base.

If the points difference between two competitors is virtually non-existent, then the vehicle entry that is more difficult to get to the finish line of the event often ends up on top.

committed to some lemons rally ford mustang convertible yellow dot

Stef Schrader|Car and Driver

Commit to a bit

If there’s one thing the LeMons Rally judges love, it’s a good theme. Not only is it worth a lot of points for an overall score to do, say, an entire winter rally dressed as a road crew while driving a Department of Transportation-themed Ford Mustang goblin with a pre-mounted not plowing, but good themes can score LeMons Rally competitors one or more of the various awards handed out by the event’s judges.

how to win a lemons rally

Stef Schrader|Car and Driver

Map it out

It helps to plug each LeMons Rally checkpoint into Google Maps before you leave for the day. You can easily drag and drop the order of different stops to prioritize the places you want to go to the most and skip the others if your car is just too slow.

Also, mapping everything out in advance is a great way to spot extra stops along the way. If the rally route passes by something you’ve always wanted to see, then make the turn! Document your side quests on social media with the tag #lemonsrally to get some potential bonus points. The LeMons Rally is very much a choose-your-own-adventure event—as long as you make it to the finish line in time.

While you’re mapping things out, you can also thoroughly read the event’s information pack. After all, there’s nothing worse than finding yourself disqualified from a LeMons rally because you accidentally broke a rule early in the journey.

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Stef Schrader|Car and Driver

Make sure the judges understand your story

Want to earn some extra bonus points or earn an award or two? Then you better have a good story to tell.

Did you drive across the country to compete in the LeMons rally? Are you a 16-year-old kid roughing it with your dad in an MG Midget? Is your theme a little dark, but funny to whoever gets it? Exactly how sketchy or last minute was the purchase of your vehicle? Awards are subjective, so make sure the judges are tuned in to your LeMons Rally-related stories.

silver volkswagen rally at lemons

Stef Schrader

While it’s possible to make things easy for yourself by entering a nice and comfortable modern car in a LeMons rally, this kind of behavior isn’t going to get you a spot on the podium. If you want to win, then you need a vehicle that lives up to the ethos of this event which is all about driving sketchy cars to faraway places.

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