The Cadillac Limo: The Race And The End
The goal of taking a $560 1980 Cadillac Fleetwood Formal from the backwoods of central Kentucky and turning it into some kind of corner-carving monster is probably the best proof anyone can provide when they finally choose to have me committed to an insane asylum. But, after it's showing at the first round of the 2018 King of the Heap series, held at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I could certainly use some good drugs and the jacket that forces me to hug myself. I want to be up-front: there is no seriousness to the car or the racing series. If you are familiar with the comedy program "Whose Line Is It, Anyways?", especially the American version with Drew Carey, you'll understand immediately how the points system works. I got more points for showing up with the only big-block car to date in the series, the largest by a good margin (the runner-up is a 1990s Buick Roadmaster) and so far, the only limousine. None of that was a good thing.
The fun actually began the night prior. Just like other bad situations in life, a missing belt started a series of problems. The alternator belt flung itself and the 368ci engine got nuclear-hot. The cause: the cooling fan on the alternator was eating into the belt. The solution: the fan isn't needed, so...hell with it, remove it. That's not too difficult, except I was pulling that stunt in the parking lot of a parts store ten minutes before they were closing, with rain threatening to start pouring at any minute. By the time the car got home, I had enough time to kiss the wife, pet the cats and collapse in bed.
The next morning came early. I'm sure the neighbors absolutely loved hearing the big tank fire off at six in the morning sharp, an hour-something before the sun actually came up. After going through the process of getting my team of drivers together, getting them their safety gear, filling out the paperwork, and collecting all of the stickers and additions the Cadillac would need, Mother Nature unloaded with both barrels. One guy was drying glass with a towel while yours truly was getting soaked to the bone trying to get the stickers to stay put. At least we were first in line for the roadcourse...and since I've spent the last year looking at this eyesore, I was going to be throwing it onto NCM's East Course first.
Yes, the track was as soaked as you think it was. In fact, just before NCM's "Sinkhole" corner, a drop-in right into an uphill left, there was a pond deep enough to start stocking small fish in. I'd like to say that I powered through it and drifted the 22-foot-long brick, but sadly six liters of big-block Cadillac was maybe choking out fifty rear-wheel horsepower at it's best. I was genuinely concerned that if the Caddy lost traction, that the next noise anybody would hear would sound an awful lot like Armco barrier being destroyed. No, thank you. My suspicions were further cemented when a Mitsubishi Eclipse did the most perfect pirouette into the grass after hitting said pond. In the corners I was heeled over as if I was on a racing catamaran, holding onto the steering wheel for dear life while asking the Uniroyal tires (the spec tire for the series) to perform a magic trick and make grip out of absolutely nothing. The Cadillac had all the urgency and speed of an impacted bowel, but it came off of the track just fine.
The problems really kicked in on the third driver. With all of the water around, spotting an oil leak wouldn't be hard. Just look for the rainbow puddles and follow the clues. We had been warned in the driver's meeting that oil leaks would be a problem. Being a race of automotive garbage, a drop here or there wasn't a concern. But we weren't experiencing a drop or two. We somehow managed to get an empty power steering pump to puke up fluid like the little girl from "The Exorcist". It was so bad that we ended up voluntarily removing the limo from competition after the road course, which meant that we didn't get to take advantage of an all-afternoon autocross session.
The other members of the team were over the moon at racing. None of them had hit a road course before and they all want to replace the Cadillac. I, on the other hand, spent the rest of the day boiling mad. The only positive thing I could admit was that the Caddy drove to the track and drove home again. But that's faint praise...the engine has a light rod knock now, the transmission is slipping a little bit, and then there is the body itself. Hard cornering cracked pretty much every Bondo-heavy area on the car, and out of curiousity I started smacking the surface with a hammer just to see how much filler had been used. Two swings found this gem...this is on the driver's side "C" pillar and that isn't a rust hole. Half a container of body mud was filling in a hole that was made with either a 12-ga. shotgun slug or a .50 caliber machine gun round.
This story is the end of the Cadillac Limo. The car was unsafe when it showed up at the Garage, but it lasted a year, worked hard, and went out with it's boots on. It might get sold, it might get parted and sent to the scrap heap. It's too early to tell. There is a good chance it will get replaced with another rolling dumpster fire for the next KOTH race in January. But there are other projects at the shop that need attention, so here is where we leave the 1980 Cadillac Fleetwood Formal sedan - disgraced and DNF'd.