Automobile

That Viral Pikes Peak-Inspired PT Cruiser With the Huge Aero Is Really Going Racing

Not all of the aero is strictly for the look, though. Josh says that the splitter is functional, and it’s also made out of budget-friendly 5/8-inch plywood. Extra cooling vents were also hand-hammered out of the hood and fenders. The scoop, of course, sits over a giant hole in the hood, so while it might not be as purpose-designed as the original Escudo’s, it’s at least bringing some cooler air into the engine bay. 

Most of the car’s more serious modifications so far have been about not failing tech inspection for the race, which the 24 Hours of Lemons series thankfully takes pretty seriously. (The PT Cruiser passed tech Friday and will start the race Saturday.) 

One of the team’s drivers, Roger Gestner, built the roll cage. The build has to be silly but safe, so it got a full fire suppression system, Conquer six-point racing harness, a Kirkey racing seat, Hawk Blue racing brake pads, R1 Concepts slotted brake rotors, and an in-car radio system that lets the driver talk to other team members in the pits. 

“Those are the only real expensive and new parts on the car,” Josh noted. “The rest is keeping with the theme of Lemons: Cheap, used, affordable and creative fabrication.”

Josh says that it’s mostly been himself, his brother and a friend working on the build, so they’re keeping any performance upgrades pretty simple for now. 

The PT Cruiser now has adjustable coilover sleeves and heavy springs press-fit onto its factory struts, which cost the team a whopping $35 from eBay. In addition to the roll cage, the chassis itself was stitch-welded for extra rigidity. The entire setup is stiff but functional. The PT Cruiser’s 18-inch wheels and low-profile tires don’t provide a ton of cushion on track, but they definitely look the part. 

“It doesn’t handle too bad. It helps that we dialed in the alignment multiple times to get it right. Cut two coils off the rear springs, too,” Josh explained. “Tried to just gain as much as possible by adding as much lightness as we could too! It is gutted as gutted can be,” he continued. 

Tossing stuff out is a budget-friendly mod, after all. The rest really do fit squarely with Lemons’ low-buck DIY ethos. The steering wheel and quick release were no-name eBay finds that had to be modified to work with the car. The PT Cruiser has a nice aftermarket set of gauges, which were a swap-meet find. The rod ends for the splitter, seat sliders and uprights for the rear spoiler also came from a swap meet. 

There’s also a glass pack muffler on it, which will no doubt make you do a double-take thinking it’s that neighbor-kid’s obnoxious Neon for a second.

All in all, Josh says the team has only spent roughly $4,000 on the entire car—including the handful of performance upgrades, dress-up bits, the car itself and $500-budget-exempt driver comfort and safety mods. 

This isn’t to say they won’t show the PT Cruiser off on the roads, either. The PT Cruiser is titled, plated and insured to run on the street. As a fellow Lemons car owner, I can confirm that it makes life easier if you don’t have to trailer your car everywhere. (Also, it makes people laugh in traffic.)

For now, the Yikes Peak Escudon’t is mechanically a simple, mostly stock non-turbo PT Cruiser with a five-speed transmission. If it survives this race weekend—good luck to ’em—the team already has plans for other mods. 

“We ran out of time, but we do have a $Free.99 twin scroll turbo from a BMW that my brother pulled from the scrap bin at work since it makes ‘Ric Flair’ noises!” Josh told The Drive. “We are also contemplating taking this on Lemons road rallies and a possible trip to Pikes Peak maybe next year.”

Alternately, that BMW N20 twin-scroll turbo could go on something else. 

“We have been kicking around the idea of putting my brother’s Honda Goldwing 1500 flat-six bike drivetrain in this as a mid-engine, rear-drive conversion,” Josh said. “Maybe that’s where the turbo will go.”



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