The white '91 Mustang was wasted. Dead. A heap of scrap worth barely more than the gas Bob Thomas spent to go and see it.
But in his eyes, and in the eyes of The Old and the Reckless race team, the car represented "Life, the Universe and Everything." And, boy, was it pungent.
"That thing smelled worse than any car I've come across and I've come across thousands," said Thomas, a former insurance appraiser.
Thomas and five friends are part of an independent racing subculture that turns wrecks into racers, a gaggle of speed freaks who find cars for $500 or less and compete in 24-hour events. Called the "24 Hours of LeMONS," the races are like Pasadena's Doo Dah Parade, only faster.
I met Thomas, a Burbank resident, and his teammates at a North Hollywood trucking company where they house three racers and a parts car. The '91 Mustang is the crown jewel of their collection, numbered 42 in honor of Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In the sci-fi novel, it is revealed that this number is the answer to "Life, the Universe and Everything."