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The Gymkhana Slalom Test

Our second, and last, activity in the 2015 Club Le Mons mini-gymkana was a test of our car’s handling ability. As mentioned previously, a nice skid pad and some proper instruments to measure G forces would have been good, but all we had was a bit of airfield and some cones. So a slalom it was to be!

And fun it was! Anyway as they say, a picture tells a thousand words..

Bruce having fun on the slalom course

Bruce having fun on the slalom course

Bruce taking the slalom course very seriously

Bruce taking the slalom course very seriously

Angela giving it all she's got!

Angela giving it all she’s got!

Neil trying really hard in the SLK

Neil trying really hard in the SLK

The GT86 on the slalom course

The GT86 on the slalom course

The RX8 coming up to the end

The RX8 coming up to the end

The Z3 showing off some bodyroll

The Z3 showing off some bodyroll

The FTO going round for another go

The FTO going round for another go

The MR2 caught mid slalom

The MR2 caught mid slalom

Can you believe the G forces?

Can you believe the G forces?

Getting ready to go. Concentration faces on!

Getting ready to go. Concentration faces on!

 

So, what were the results?

Slalom results

Well, in the absence of the S2000 and MX5 – two very strong contenders – it looks like the FTO, with its sticky tyres and handling focused chassis takes the win.

Considering the SLK’s performance in the brake test it did surprisingly well here, but once again the Toyota GT86 was disappointing.

 

The Points

So, what does this mean for the overall points?

Well..

Brake Test Driver Car Distance Rank Points
Bruce RX8 29.70 1 100
Alex FTO 30.00 2 90
Angela Z3 30.30 3 80
Simon MR2 30.40 4 70
Adam GT86 30.90
Becky TT 33.80 5 60
Michelle MGF 35.75 6 50
Neil SLK 38.30 7 40
Steff S2000 Joker 30
Duncan MX-5 DNF 20

 

Slalom Test Driver Car Time Rank Points
Alex FTO 33.61 1 100
Simon MR2 34.56 2 90
Neil SLK 34.67 3 80
Bruce RX8 35.77 4 70
Adam GT86 37.00
Michelle MGF 39.78 5 60
Angela Z3 40.15 6 50
Becky TT 48.55 7 40
Steff S2000 Joker 30
Duncan MX-5 DNF 20

 

And with the May points awarded the final drivers leaderboard stands at:

Driver Car End of Month Points Difference
Simon MR2 1524
Bruce RX8 1425 -99
Alex FTO 1395 -30
Steff S2000 1320 -75
Neil SLK 1287 -33
Angela Z3 1218 -69
Becky TT 1099 -120
Duncan MX-5 1055 -44
Michelle MGF 944 -110

 

Simon still leads, but Alex manages to claw back a place from Steff, and Bruce is closing in on number 1!

 

And The Best £2,500 Sports Car is?

So, after 11 challenges and 12 months of ownership we decided to have a look at how the cars have done, points wise.

As you know some of our challenges have been based on the drivers (driving test, etc), so if we take all of those out and leave in just the points awarded to the vehicles, we *could* say that this point, that the best £2,500 sports car is:

 

The Mitsubishi FTO

FTO Review

Driver Car Points
Alex FTO 925
Angela Z3 899 -26
Steff S2000 842 -57
Simon MR2 835 -7
Bruce RX8 788 -47
Neil SLK 711 -77
Becky TT 705 -7
Michelle MGF VVC 677 -27
Duncan MX-5 654 -24

 

 

 

And Don’t Forget..

Our gymkhana will be best experienced in an upcoming episode!

 

Video Coming Soon

So, as you know (and if you don’t, then shame on you!) our next event is our Concours d’Lemons. Apparently this is based on something called the Concours d’Elegance which is basically a very fancy car show.

Ours won’t be that fancy. That said, everyone has to show up with the cars looking as good as they can, and we’ll all judge each other’s ride.. plus we’re going to drive them too, which I’m very excited about, as I’ve not driven any of the others, except the awesome FTO.

So, how do you make a £900 MGF look as good as possible? Well, she’s going to get a proper clean, but that’ll be closer to the date, no point with all the rain and road muck.

In the mean time, however, thanks to my friends at the T-Bar Forums and a gentleman called David (MissionMGF on ebay) I picked up some awesome new blingy parts.

I started by putting on a new gear knob, to match the interior trim.

New Gear Knob

New Gear Knob

And a new clock to replace the broken one, which was covered up by a small digital one. That was a pain, taking the whole centre console out, losing screws and everything!

Put a new clock in!

Put a new clock in!

 

Then it was time for some shiny bits!

I got both the interior and exterior kits from David, a value of about £80 (which should be a good 8 points at the next count). So, here’s part 1 of the blingfest.. the interior kits.

MGF Bling Before 3

Demister Vents Before Blinging

Demister Vents After Blinging

Demister Vents After Blinging

MGF Logo Before Blinging

MGF Logo Before Blinging

MGF Logo After Blinging

MGF Logo After Blinging

Lighter and Ashtray Before Blinging

Lighter and Ashtray Before Blinging

Lighter and Ashtray After Blinging

Lighter and Ashtray After Blinging

I also had vent surrounds, but seemed to be missing one, so have left those off for the moment.

Lastly I had a bunch of stickers that needed to go on as well.

Firstly, my naughty sticker!

Firstly, my naughty sticker!

Then, of course, the actual Lemons sticker!

Then, of course, the actual Lemons sticker!

Can't forget Lets Race, who are awesome!

Can’t forget Lets Race, who are awesome!

And lastly, my other naughty sticker!

And lastly, my other naughty sticker!

I’ve now still got the exterior kit to do, and, with my recent success on the MPG challenge (details to be revealed soon) I have high hopes for the MGF..

– Michelle

What a weekend! What an absolutely awesome weekend!

Challenge 5 saw us visiting Santa Pod near Wellingborough, for a weekend of RWYB and the JapShow Finale. Before we get into the detail of what that meant, for us as drivers and competitors, we need to take a moment to do two things.

1. Thank the Santa Pod management team. Guys, in all seriousness, thank you! You were accommodating to the extreme, helpful beyond words and just generally the most pleasant people to deal with. We wish all the UK’s circuits, car clubs and automotive locations we’re as in touch with car culture and it’s fans as you guys. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

2. Implore you to go to Santa Pod. If you haven’t been, you need to go. It’s fantastic. As a spectator or as a driver, you will not regret it. We were all a little nervous. Worried about our clutches. We needn’t have been. Some of us want to go back with our other cars, both of the sports and family variety. If you like cars, and lets be honest, if you’re reading this then you probably have some affection for them, then you’ll have a great time at Santa Pod. And it seems like there’s always something on, too!

That said, back to our experiences. But, for a change, why don’t we let everyone tell their own story. So, here goes.

 

BeckyAudi TT

Santa Pod - BeckyI’d never heard of Santa Pod before becoming involved with the Club Le Mons Challenge. So what was my experience of the event? I headed up bright and early to an old airstrip near Newport Pagnell. Arriving there I was quite amazed at the normality of some cars and the artist workmanship of others. Who’d have thought nitrous oxide would make a car go so fast, no laughing included!

For a newbie testing my Audi TT on the strip it was amusing to hear the comments from the ‘boy racers’ watching. So after a reaction time of 0.5215, I guess I proved the TT wasn’t just the car ‘looking like it was waiting in a traffic jam’ at the start, as I left my competition behind!

Would I do it again? Yes probably if I was asked but I didn’t get the buzz those around me seem to get. Great to see so many makes and ages of cars being tested though, especially the granny who had the car fuelled with Nitrous Oxide and also the Hearse.

 

Santa Pod - The QueueSanta Pod - Roww

 

 

DuncanMazda MX5

Santa Pod - DuncanWow … what a weekend! If I’m honest I had my doubts about both the drag racing and the JapShow Finale. Racing in a straight line? Surely that can’t be fun. Looking at lots of souped up cars? Well, it’s a bit Halfords, isn’t it?

I’m very happy to say I was utterly wrong on both counts. Despite all the waiting around for 15 seconds of fun I now completely get drag racing; how accessible it is in ‘Run What Ya Brung’ format, how addictive it can be and how friendly and approachable the people doing it are.

As for the JapShow, I seriously underestimated it. The cars ranged from the sublime to the frankly ridiculous, but, unlike so many car shows, there were no beard-twiddling experts. There was no wringing of hands at the thought of non-standard modifications. Nobody was ostracised for what they did; everything was accepted in the spirit in which it was done.

Whether it was to have killer ICE, the biggest turbo or the most capacious tailpipe, the skill, effort, money and passion that had gone into creating the cars was evident everywhere. They were enthusiasts in the truest sense of the word.

Santa Pod - Yellow Car Santa Pod - Red Car Santa Pod - Fiat 124 Santa Pod - Engines

 

JennyCharity Director

Santa Pod - Smiling MiaWhat a weekend!

The support Santa Pod offered Club Le Mons completely exceeded our expectation and we are indebted to the team for all the help they gave us across the two day event.

The highlight for me had to be the infectious enthusiasm Luke, the commentator, had when talking about our Challenge across the PA to all the spectators.

 

To watch two of our cars, shiny and wrapped with all our branding, race down the drag strip in front of us with a captive audience listening to what we are trying to achieve gave me such an amazing feeling. This year is going to be a hell of a ride and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life! (thanks to the audience member who shot this on their phone – you’ll have to wait for the episode to see what we shot!)

 

Check back in a few days for Part II

Goodbye!

Some sad news this weekend, as we’ve had to say goodbye to one of our competitors. Unfortunately, due to a change in personal circumstances Amy has had to drop out of the competition. We’d like to thank Amy for being a part of the Le Mons 365 Challenge and all the time, effort and money she put in to it. This also means we’ve had to retire Amy’s car.. as to what happened to it.. we’ll you’ll just have to watch the show!

Drivers_Amy_Profile

 

Hello!

But it’s not all bad news as we say hello to a new driver. Patiently waiting in the wings, and helping out as part of the unofficial crew we’re really proud that Michelle Matthews has stepped up to the plate and joined the club! Michelle has been part of the club since the almost-beginning and has always wanted to play a role. Welcome Michelle!

Images_Drivers_Michelle_Profile

But what will Michelle be driving? Well seeing as we started the competition with an MG-F in the line up it only seemed right to have one MG-F replaced with another. Except Michelle’s gone slightly more competitive than Amy, with a VVC-engined version of the roadster. That means she has 145hp vs Amy’s 118hp, and a manual gearbox vs Amy’s steptronic CVT jobbie. Duncan is starting to worry.

MGF VVC (6) The MG-F VVC MGF VVC (4) MGF VVC (3) MGF VVC (2) MGF VVC

 

Plus, as Michelle is jumping in to save the day the other drivers got together and had a vote.. and decided Michelle should get some bonus points, bringing her starting points to 500. Duncan is starting to sweat!

Good luck to both Michelle and her MG-F!

You can read more about Michelle here: http://www.lemons365.co.uk/the-drivers/michelle-matthews/

And you can read more about Michelle’s car here: http://www.lemons365.co.uk/cars/mg-f/

 

 

Our Frequently Asked Questions

 

So, what exactly is the Le Mons 365 Challenge?

Well, in short, it’s an opportunity to help raise £50,000 for two amazing charities – the Kent, Surrey, Sussex Air Ambulance and the Make A Wish Foundation UK.

Le Mons? How do I pronounce that?

However you like. Some of us say lemons, some of us say Leh-Mons. We’re sure you’ve already figured out that it’s a combination of the term ‘lemon’ – meaning a bad automotive purchase and Le Mans – the biggest event of the Challenge – will we all make it?!

Sounds like a bunch of rich friends having fun, what’s the deal here?

Rich friends? Not at all. This is about nine relatively normal people getting together with two great charities to raise money and awareness. Most of us didn’t know each other before we started. We’re accountants, therapists, small business owners, stuff like that – no city-boys, trust fund babies or euro-millionaires here.

Why don’t all nine of you just donate £2,500 to the charities and be done with it?

When this idea was conceived, there were just three of us. This would have been a total of £7,500. That wasn’t enough for us… By creating the Challenge we have an opportunity of raising so much more, not just from the other drivers but corporate sponsors and the general public as well.

Why £2,500?

The reason we set our budgets at £2,500 is that every time a Kent, Surrey, Sussex Air Ambulance has to take off, it costs £2,500. No matter what the outcome of the flight, that money is spent. This amount also goes a long way towards helping the children who are supported by Make A Wish Foundation UK.

I still don’t get it, so you’re going to go have fun for a year and you want us to pay for it?

Pay for it? No! Everything we do over the next year, from buying the cars, running them, attending events, doing challenges, filming everything and our fund-raising activities will be paid for by us.

We hope as our reward for your support you will be entertained enough by our antics, our banter, our successes and our failures to want to donate. Oh, and if you like cars anyway then you might be interested in our exploration into the UK’s car culture. But to get back to the point – not a penny of your donations come to us, it all goes to the charities.

Ok, so you guys are making a, what, TV show?

If you count online as TV then yes. We are capturing all the fun and adventure over the next 365 days for you to enjoy. If you love shows like Wheeler Dealers, Top Gear and Fast n Loud, you will love this as we have been inspired by them. That should give you some indication of what we are trying to achieve. Remember though, you aren’t limited to just the show – follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too!

And it’s a competition, how?

Well, just having a bunch of people owning some cars and driving around in them didn’t seem particularly challenging, or entertaining. So we devised the ‘Le Mons 365 Challenge’. The drivers will earn and lose points over the course of a year in an attempt to become the Le Mons Champion and avoiding becoming the Le Mons Lemon. We will be testing the cars, and the drivers, in various ways. Many of the drivers will be taken out of their comfort zone. For all of us it’ll be a new experience.

And what’s Club Le Mons then?

Coming back to the point about the TV show, about engaging with us – the ultimate way to join in, is to actually join Club Le Mons. Yes, that’s right, we’ve set up a non-marque specific car club for anyone who likes cars, or us, or bantering about cars or anything else for that matter. For a small joining fee you get a membership pack, entry into the competition to win the Mercedes SLK, invitations to upcoming events and maybe even the chance to have your car featured on the show. Oh, and there is one other reason to join – check out ‘What happens when you reach £50,000?’.

So remind me, how do you want to raise money and how do I vote?

OK, firstly voting and donating is the same thing. In order to vote you simply pick the cars and drivers that you want to support (could be one, could be all of them) and click on the image of the car(s) on the homepage. You can then donate as much as you want, as many times as you want. Your donation enters you into our competition to win the Mercedes SLK. At the end of the Challenge an independent adjudicator will select one person who donated/voted and they can win either the car (or the purchase value cash equivalent). The driver/car who gets the most votes will also get points in the competition!

Alternatively, come visit us at our public events. We’ll let you know which ones will have someone from the charities in attendance, and they’ll usually have a bucket or some other container you can throw money into.

Buy some of our merchandise. Everything is priced so that we can cover the cost of the product and have money left over to give to the charities.

Sponsor a car – get a year’s worth of advertising by getting your company name and logo on a car, on social media, on our website and most importantly, on the TV show. It’s a very cost effective branding exercise.

Remember, we don’t get a penny of what you give us!

What happens when you reach £50,000?

We keep on going… £50,000 is a goal, but doesn’t mean we’ll quit there and then. If we hit that number then a) we’ll keep on going till the end of the year and raise more money and b) we’ll look at doing this again, perhaps over a shorter period (winter for example – Le Mons 4×4), or with older cars (Classic Le Mons), or with Hot Hatches (Le Mons Gen X) – and if you’re a Club Le Mons member you will be eligible to participate!

And what’s the deal with the sports car vs. supercar thing?

We (well, most of us) love supercars, but we’re worried that they’re a bit too unaffordable! So we wondered what if you could have as much fun with a ‘cheap’ sports car as you could with a supercar? That’s a question we’ll hopefully be able to answer over the next year.

What if I love, or loathe, what you do?

Tell us!! We need your feedback to know what we’re giving you is what you want to see. This isn’t something on Discovery or the BBC, and this isn’t the X-Factor or some other nonsense. You can get in touch with us in various ways (email, Twitter, Facebook.)

And finally, how can I get involved?

If you drive something special, your car is a lemon or you have something to share, feel free to get in touch, info@lemons365.co.uk.

Be part of the Challenge!

Meet Simon, driver in the Le Mons 365 Challenge.

Meet the Toyota MR2, car in the Le Mons 365 Challenge.

Discover what happened when Simon met MR2 in the hills and valleys of Wales.

Some may say I was mad getting the Audi TT to compete against the boys in the Club Le Mons challenge. Audi to me says reliability, safety and comfort all rolled into a sleek well-designed body. For some reason Jenson Button just came into my mind then!

When I bought my Audi TT for £2500 I knew it had a couple of glitches, which for an eleven-year-old car I’d expect. The LCD display on the cluster panel was missing lines. Instead of showing Heart as the radio station, ‘Hell’ seems to appear. Hopefully not a pre-warning to me!

TC Garage based in Copthorne as probably the friendliest bunch of guys I’ve ever met and they are Audi specialists and a few other brands.

When I described my predicament about not wanting to stare ‘Hell’ in the face all week, they knew exactly where to send the part off to for repair.

So now not only is my car all ‘Heart’, it’s also had a little Revo tune up to aid its performance. Now I know that’s not going to get me extra points but it runs like a dream now.

Audi TT LCD Fix

Did I mention I got a new radio with blue light to ‘bling’ up my car and parking sensors because I want to make sure everyone know when I’m heading backwards.Cost: £ 295.00

New Stereo for the Audi T

So how much did this cost me?

Cluster repair cost: £285  Labour: £132.00

A car that runs well: Priceless, as the advert says!

And for everything else there’s always that famous card.

 

And it’s official, we have an Audi TT in the ranks..

Images_Car_Reveal_TT (9)

But!

It’s not the 180 bhp or even the 225 bhp version. Nor does it have Quattro. No, its the low pressure turbo version, with 150 bhp.

How will she (and Becky, her driver) fare, in the competition?

Read more about Becky’s new pride and joy on her car page.

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Baby, You Can Drive My Car

My first 500 miles in the SLK

It’s amazing how quickly you can forget what happens, it’s just a month ago that I picked up the SLK and only two months since I assured myself owning a Mercedes wasn’t one step away from suede elbow patches and my own cigar humidor.

With 93,003 miles on the clock she just about felt run in. At nearly 15 years old, I was pleasantly surprised that there was no sense of old ‘classic’ about her as I found when buying similar aged Porsche’s and MG’s in previous times. Yes, there is a bit of corrosion on the vehicle, but nothing I can’t accept and/or rectify before it gets too out of hand (although it’s kept the rest of the Club Le Mons team united in silly quips and churlish gags).

The suspension stills feels fresh. The steering although not as pin sharp on my Lotus Elise is actually very intuitive and tells you more than I was expecting through the steering wheel as it’s not as over weighted in the power steering department. The striking blue interior….I love it, I don’t care what you (or the rest of the CLM’s gang who move to the interior once they’ve exhausted the external rust gags) think. I fell in love with this car the moment I saw her on Autotrader.

So, here we are at 93,553 miles and I’ve been pondering whether my SLK purchase was right for me. Afterall, it wasn’t a long planned purchase, not a dream to own, it was a moment of madness when the world has some amazing cars for £2500. Sensible options, safe options, dumb options (Alfa’s and Mitsubishi’s come to mind) and cool options (I’d have killed to find an RX8 before Bruce did)….but that’s the fun of the challenge.

And, I’m still pondering…why hadn’t I ever considered an SLK before? Why did I opt for the gas sucking V6 over the supercharged 4 cylinder 230 Kompressor? Why didn’t I play safe and buy an MX-5? Loads of questions remain.

But one that I can easily answer is, am I happy with my purchase? Hell yes, and it’s easy to explain why. The car is such a great balance between sportscar and GT car. It’s no elise when you throw it round a corner, but it is a great mile muncher on the motorway. It isn’t as painful on fuel as some of the other cars in the challenge and it is stupidly simple to drive with it’s auto gearbox and perfectly weighted power steering. The roof going up and down never gets boring. And the torque….the endless supply of torque from the hardly challenged V6, matched with it’s crisp exhaust note over 3.5K revs really floats my boat and is not what you’d expect you can own from a car costing just £2,500.

Weak points in my opinion are, the seats, they don’t feel quite sporty enough for me, especially the lower part. After years of quality potential upgrades for my Lotus being available, I’m disappointed by the lack of upgrades available for the R170 model SLK’s or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place….time to ask the amazing people at slkworld I guess!

But the most important aspect of the ownership I love is the fact that after years of owning a sports car my wife, Sam wasn’t comfortable driving, she has, like me, fallen for the charms of the SLK and loves driving her. It’s been great to finally share the joys of sports car ownership with her! That for me…has ensured that an SLK could be on my drive for some time to come.

 

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