How to barter your way to low-buck racing glory

By Staff Writer
Dec 17, 2023 | Datsun, Nissan, 24 Hours of Lemons, 280ZX, Low-Buck Tech, Low-Buck Racing | Posted in Features | From the April 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Aaron Cole

Story by Eric Rood

Competitors in the 24 Hours of Lemons are no strangers to taking wild swings at solving–and, more frequently, causing–problems in endurance racing. Sometimes we think we’ve seen it all, from a 1940 airplane radial engine in a Toyota MR2 to a top five-finishing Gremlin running all AMC parts. And then we discover that Lemons competitors–like Georgia’s Clay Crocker and his team, Un Gringo Racing–find new ways to solve old problems.

Clay runs the Nix Tank Company, a septic and portable-toilet pumping service for all of Georgia. Among its clients? Road Atlanta. Yep, you’ve seen the Nix logos all over the port-o-lets at the famed race track. 

Clay also happened to have a Datsun Z-car collection (read: many boxes of Datsun parts) and wanted to take his employees racing with him after he saw a Lemons race at Road Atlanta. 

When it came time to score a car to build, Clay did what anyone of the trades would do: He bartered. In this case, he traded septic pumping for a ratty old red 280ZX shell. Much of the mechanical bits came from Clay’s collection, but he let his teammates put their stamp on the ol’ Datsun. 

One team member is a dyed-in-the-wool Ford guy, so instead of a pesky SU or early electronic fuel-injection setup, he slapped a carb onto the old L-series straight-six. That carb happened to be an OEM Ford Pinto one-barrel, but anything can work for Lemons with enough J-B Weld. Clay had his teammates put one final personalized touch on the team: They chose the team name Un Gringo Racing since Clay doesn’t speak Spanish. 

How well did the one-barrel, traded-for-septic-cleaning Datsun work? If the Pinto carb didn’t give the engine gobs of power, it did deliver enough fuel to keep from burning up pistons. The car had enough power to manage Road Atlanta’s steep hills, too. With the fourth-slowest fast lap of the weekend, they still beat up on 17 cars (including a V8-swapped Pinto). 

So if you’re looking for a Lemons car, just remember: You don’t have to be flush with cash. Get a little creative and you might find some good crap.

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