Once on the track, with Laz in the driver's seat and me riding shotgun, it went roughly like this:
Laz: Oh yeah! Go baby go!
Laz: Come on, baby, you can do it. 5000rpm, you know you want to.
Car: coughcoughcoughvroom? cough.
Laz made a few more attempts at running it around the track in the hope of burning off the theoretically bad gas, but it was running so badly that he was basically a mobile chicane, so he retired it back to the paddock to troubleshoot.
The panda car in its natural habitat:
By the end of the day, we were no closer, and Laz and Rob were quietly muttering about taking it somewhere to drain the tank. But when they did -- surprise, Laz discovered that the fuel pump wasn't running right, and the fuel pressure regulator was not flowing fuel back to the tank on idle like it's supposed to.
(Meanwhile, en route to Chico in an extended search for brake parts for my own car, I got a call requesting that while I was at it, if I could please also return with a fuel pump for a 1990 e30, that would be much appreciated. In the background I could hear 80s music and the sound of beer pouring copiously in Willows' one Mexican restaurant. "You better hurry," Rob informed me. "Laz is drowning his sorrows, and he's already on his third giant beer.")
But the closest fuel pump I could find was in Anderson, CA, another hour away, and I was really hungry, so I called it a night and drove back to collect my share of the beer. We discussed replacing the fuel pump with an aquarium pump ("The fuel would melt the plastic," Rob pointed out, so I pointed out that it would clearly need to be a METAL aquarium pump.) Meanwhile, drunken Laz did the sensible thing and turned to the internets.
We tracked down an e30 fuel pump (right model and everything), for sale by a salvage parts dealer in Sacramento named SuperEuroBeat. The phone conversation went something like this:
Laz: Uh... no, I didn't really consider picking it up this evening. Let me confer with my associates... fifty dollars, you say? Yeah, uh, as a matter of fact, we DO need a fuel pressure regulator... and a set of injectors? Um. Wouldn't say no?
So we made plans to meet up with SuperEuroBeat guy at Euro Sunday (it's apparently a big deal?) in Sacramento at 8am Sunday morning. By Sunday lunchtime, Rob and Laz were back with the goods. (The goods, in this case, being effectively an entire fuel system replacement.)
"Sixty bucks," Laz explained happily.
And yeah, that was pretty much it. After a quick trackside fuel pump swap, the panda car was back in the game:
So it's still not as fast as Laz would like (he's contemplating further tuning plans) but it pulls well and handles better than expected. We drove it through the entire afternoon, and nothing fell off. An avalanche of bolts and other debris pours over your feet every time you go around a corner, and there's nothing for the passenger to hang on to except for razor-sharp bare metal, but if it wasn't kind of ghetto, it would hardly be Lemons.
It's going to be really cute with a panda face painted on.