There is something very wrong with Jeff Bloch. “I always get asked what drugs I’m on. I’ve never done drugs. I just have a very creative brain that won’t turn off. I look at objects and see potential ways to transform them into things I personally would find more fun or interesting.”
Well then, here are a few things that Jeff finds fun and interesting: a plane that’s a racing car, a helicopter that’s a racing car, a pop-up camping trailer... that’s a racing car, a Camaro that drives upside down, a Honda Accordion – bellows and all, a faithful tribute to the Griswold family trickster, and a VW microbus rolled over on its side, which – you guessed it – is a racing car.
The 24 Hours of LeMons is a crap-can crucible of really terrible, stupid, absolutely wonderful ideas, and Jeff Bloch seems to be the Leonardo diDemented of the bunch. Better known as Speedycop (he’s a straight-laced and committed police officer by day), he’s been involved with the LeMons budget-racing phenomenon for nearly a decade now. His team is known as the Gang of Outlaws.
Recently, Bloch’s amphibious helicopter caught on fire while driving to an appearance on a local radio show. Because the words “amphibious,” “helicopter,” and “driving” rarely appear in the same sentence, it seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at some of the Speedycop crew’s crazier creations.
The first of the more famous builds, the Upside-Down Camaro (or UDC for short), is a fourth-generation car, taken apart into panels and assembled around a compact Ford.
“Getting the Camaro shell rebuilt upside down was tough. Having all the panels line up on a framework that still cleared the Festiva underneath, and was sturdy enough to race, wasn’t easy.”
Too bad Bloch’s neighbours don’t seem to appreciate the effort. When he briefly left it outside on the driveway, a huffy letter arrived from his local home owner’s association. One man’s upside-down race car is another man’s eyesore.
Spirit of LeMons
Built on the bones of a late-80s Toyota van, the Spirit of LeMons is a kinda-sorta tribute to Charles Lindbergh’s historic cross-Atlantic machine. Assembled from a 1956 Cessna 310, this one’s a stalwart of the Speedycop fleet, and sees plenty of use.
“I’ll continue to drive it on the street, autocross it, show it, and enjoy being the only guy with a Cessna racecarplane.”
Racecarplane. It’s a thing.
Inspired by a joke in the back pages of Motor Trend, the Honda Accordion is a pun come to life. And, like most puns, it was a bit groan-worthy.
“Toughest part of that build was getting the 2.5-inch square tubing in the front, and 2-inch square tubing in the rear perfectly aligned, so that it could telescope in the middle. If they weren’t perfect, it wouldn’t be able to slide open and closed.”
The team persevered, and Honda polka music was born.
Trippy Tippy Hippy Van
Far-out cousin to the Upside-Down Camaro, this hippy van looks like it hit the bong a few too many times and, like, had to lie down for a nap, maaan.
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“The Trippy Tippy Hippy Van was harder to build than the UDC, due to visibility issues. I used one-way vinyl on the roof and undercarriage to be able to see out of the left and right sides, and another one-way panel in the nose to see forwards. We built it in less than a month, which is impressive considering easily a thousand hours of volunteer labour built it in that short time.
“For a sideways vehicle to work, you pretty much have to use a van, and I needed a van with a very iconic appeal. The classic VW camper van offered iconic looks, and also the extra few inches of roof height needed to hide the small VW Rabbit inside. I had a Festiva that would have worked (same model the UDC sits on), but a Ford-based VW would have lost some appeal to VW enthusiasts,” he noted.
“These vans have a cult-like following, and I wanted to garner their interest internationally. Instead, I used an ’88 Rabbit. It worked, because there has been a huge, viral response to this thing globally.”
“[A helicopter] seemed a natural successor to the plane to me, but it was a nightmare build. It fought us every step of the way. I had to over-engineer it, of course, by making it not only amphibious, but also powering the boat prop and the wheels with the same Audi Quattro drivetrain, It wound up being a beautifully engineered and packaged vehicle, until it broke. Then, it was almost impossible to repair, and a simple engine swap became a three-day ordeal. And the Audi 3.0 30V setup, although initially cheap ($500 donor car), proved just as unreliable as its reputation had indicated it would be,” he lamented.
“Two hundred and twenty horsepower in a compact, lightweight V6 package sounds great, but the motor grenaded after two laps on track, and the transmission started slipping after just a few hundred street miles on the LeMons Rally. We trailered it through the mountains of West Virginia and Tennessee, got a trans flush at a Ford dealer (which left the employees incredulous), and limped it, slipping often, all the way to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.”
Regrettably, the ’copter is no longer with us after that ill-fated fire on the road to Philadelphia. Luckily, no one was injured, so the crew is now ready to tackle...
Unnamed Crazy Train Project
“I have far too many bad ideas, and far too little time and money. We’re hoping to work out a TV show deal with one of the production studios I’m talking to, and start building more frequently. Next up, we’re planning a steam-train-style race car for LeMons. They will not allow steam power, but the look could certainly be attained...”
It certainly could, though not easily, and not by a normal bunch of people. Happily, Speedycop and his crew of mad scientists aren’t interested in normal, not one bit. There’s something very wrong with all of them, and I mean that in the best way possible.