The Ford Crown Victoria has proven itself to be one of the most reliable cars in 24 Hours of LeMons racing. The Crown Vic handles well, it comes from the factory with big brakes that rarely melt down under the rigors of road racing, and the Ford Modular 4.6 V-8 engine is just about impossible to kill. There’s just one real problem with this car as a LeMons racer: lack of power. Metrocard Racing went ahead and solved that problem by adding twin remote turbochargers, Megasquirt DIY fuel injection, and alcohol injection to their stretched-wheelbase P73 Crown Victoria.
We first met this car, which spent the initial portion of its driving career as a New York City taxi, at the legendary 2009 Lamest Day race at Nelson Ledges. It finished 101st out of 122 entries, with some miserably slow lap times. Clearly, the problem was lack of boost!
Fast-forward three years, all of which were spent turning this car into one of the wildest Crown Victorias we’ve ever seen anywhere. When the Metrocard P73 rolled into the BS Inspection at last week’s Capitol Offense race, one glance at the hood told us that this wasn’t your usual Panther.
Inside, there’s what appears to be a set of instrument panels taken from the Space Shuttle. Note the laptop, which makes on-the-fly tuning of the Megasquirt system a reality. You can’t see it in this photo, but there’s also a shifter for the Mustang five-speed manual transmission.
The turbochargers are mounted under this enclosure, in the spacious area where the back seat once lived. Supposedly throttle response is near-instantaneous, despite the distance between engine and turbochargers.
We bought this car in 2009 for the Nelson Ledges race because I read about Lemons in a NY Times article and thought that would be a killer thing to do with my two best friends from high school. We all went to Aviation High School in NYC, where we learned to be aircraft mechanics, but only one of us actually went on to do that.
As Paul and I were trying to decide on a car (we thought a third gen F-body would be perfect, Geoff thought that we should run a Delta 88) I was on the phone walking across 23rd Street threading my was past a traffic jam of taxis and thought one of these would be perfect. I knew from reading somewhere that the TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) didn’t allow medallions on taxis older than five years because they are too blighty to be on the streets. In looking up craigslist ads, we found a 2004 taxi with 356,000 miles, still painted and still retaining the taxi barrier and map of NYC.
We jumped on the car and bought it for $ 700. I drove it to Ohio, where Paul was living, that day to get prepped.
We hired a race shop to build the cage and add the safety gear. Besides the requisite safety stuff we bought brand new all-weather Eagle GT 225R60s and changed the oil. We drove the car to the track (we sincerely thought we were going to win—rear-wheel drive and a big V-8 in a late model chassis, no one ever thought of that before). When we got to the track we noticed that some of these guys on the other teams seemed to actually know what they were doing… when the flag dropped, I couldn’t understand why I was being passed left and right when I had the V-8.
After losing our transmission seven hours into the race, it took us a year to get our schedules organized to do it again- the 2010 Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez in Louisiana. A faulty MAF sensor took us out, and we didn’t know enough about cars to figure it out.
I got the car delivered back to NY on Jan 1st 2011 (where I found a large garage in Queens I could rent to work on the car). The plan was to get it ready for the NJMP race that year, but as I tore into the car and read books on fuel injection systems, race car aerodynamics and the lot, I dug a deeper and deeper hole until there was not a single wire in the car, no engine, no transmission and no fuel system.
We went through four turbochargers getting this car to work (the first two were Holset diesel turbos I found on eBay). I figured out how to read compressor maps and they looked perfect on the map. I forgot to divide the airflow by two, because we decided to run twins. With those scrapped, I found turbochargers from a 300ZX- perfect! Until I under-oiled them and seized them up. We ended up with Garret T-3′s.
Complicating the whole build up was that I don’t own a daily driver. I take the subway from Manhattan to Queens (we MUST be the only lemons team without a car, never mind a pickup truck). Getting parts meant eBay and craigslist. I use Zipcar when I need to go to the junkyard (which is always a $ 200 minimum trip because it means a drive to Pennsylvania.
Anyways, so he were are. I’m very happy that we made it through Saturday with only minor troubles. The crash on Sunday was stupid on my part, but we are fixing up the car for New Hampshire where we hope to swap out the original 356k 2v taxi engine (people said we were dumb for boosting this engine, and they were right- we had valve float above 4000 RPM and on the dyno only made 230 HP) with a 250k mile Mark VIII 4v.
For 2013 we are considering building a compound boost quad turbo setup (I have an idea of how to do this with external wastegates and an onboard air compressor) or a twin-charged setup (roots blower with turbos).
The team started out with a goal of staying within the LeMons-mandated 500-buck budget, but three years of fabrication fever stretched the budget well beyond that limit. The team didn’t try to lie about the cost—which came to close to two grand and would have been impossible to hide—and so the LeMons Supreme Court was compelled to start the team out in a deep penalty-lap hole. Yes, some LeMons teams love racing so much that they don’t sweat over their place in the standings.
That was fine with the Metrocard Racing guys, who just wanted to see what their creation could do in a real-world wheel-to-wheel race. The car turned out to be quite fast, turning in a best lap of just over 1:55. This was 5 to 10 seconds slower than the quickest machines, but still very respectable.
Then, disaster struck on Sunday afternoon. The Crown Vic lost its brakes coming into Summit Point’s fearsome karussel, got airborne, and smashed into the tire wall.
Trackback from your site.