Monday, December 7, 2009

LeMons CHAMPIONS! Well, sorta...

Dateline, Mooresville NC...

It's no secret that Bayerische Motoren Werke AG makes fantastic vehicles. That's one of the reasons we chose to race a BMW in the 24 Hours Of LeMons. They key to success in the endurance race for $500 cars is a good solid & reliable runner. While most teams decide to run the "E30" chassis (cars from '84-'89), or the old 2002 model from the early-mid 70's...we decided to jump in with a 1983 320i, chassis designation E21. In typical LeMons fashion, the E21 is the most unloved of the 3 series cars from BMW so what better car for us to attempt to endurance race?!

While Hammer's Heroes haven't broken the Top 10 just yet, the marque's consistency has earned it the LeMons' Constructor's Championship for 2009!

Congratulations BMW for an award most companies would run from!

Here's the official piece from LeMons' HQ...


Much to the chagrin of the judges, the relentless stream of LeMons E30s actually paid off in the end. Though plenty of Bimmers performed embarrassingly badly in '09 LeMons events, enough scored top-ten finishes to snatch the crown from 2008 champ Mazda. OK, E30 dudes, you've proved your point--now go get a Fiat and prove you can do it the hard way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hammer's interstate debacle? Perhaps!

We've had some success so far, running two 24 Hours Of Lemons events at South Carolina's Carolina Motorsports Park. Then, today I got the 2010 schedule. THREE times next year at CMP, but then I saw it...

October 9th & 10th, 2010 the Lemons comes to Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI...MY HOME TRACK!

It would be a fair amount of work to make it happen, but towing back "home" to race with some friends there could be an amazingly fun experience! It wouldn't be cheap. It would be a real pain in the arse. But, damn...what a great adventure!

Keep your fingers crossed & perhaps it'll happen!


23-24 January: Auction-Weekend Gavel-Trap GP (Phoenix AZ)
Firebird International Raceway, Chandler AZ
"For every auction, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

6-7 February: Southern Discomfort (Charlotte NC)
Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
"Who says it never snows in South Carolina?"

20-21 February: Gator-O-Rama (Houston TX)
MSR Houston, Angleton TX
"Slide into the pond. We dare you."

6-7 March: Sears Pointless (San Francisco CA)
Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA
"Come crash where the stars crash."

7 March: Concours d'LeMons Crapfest & Track Tour (San Francisco CA)
Infineon Raceway, Sonoma CA
"Overlooking the lovely, peaceful cluster-F of LeMons' Infineon race."

17-18 April: American Irony (Detroit MI)
Gingerman Raceway, South Haven MI
"The chickens have come home to rust."

1-2 May: Cain't Git Bayou (New Orleans LA)
The Circuit at Grand Bayou, Belle Rose LA
"Get your dash signed by Jürgen Shrimp, lovable mascot of the Louisiana Region Mercedes-Benz Dealers."

8-9 May: Goin' For Broken 24-Hour (Reno NV)
Reno-Fernley Raceway, Fernley NV
"A.K.A '24 Hours of Snake Eyes.'"

29-30 May: LeMons South Spring (Charlotte NC)
Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
"Still-crazy after all these years."

5-6 June: North Dallas Hooptie (Dallas TX)
Eagle's Canyon Raceway, Decatur TX
"Bringing bad driving, terrible cars, and arbitrary rule enforcement to the northern half of Texas."

19-20 June: Capitol Offense (Washington DC)
Summit Point Motorsports Park, Summit Point WV
"From the fine folks who brought you the TARP."

10-11 July: The B.F.E. GP (Denver CO)
High Plains Raceway, Deer Trail CO
"One mile high and 60 miles from anything."

24-25 July: LeMons New England (Providence RI)
Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs CT
"Official home of the Cranky Yankee."

7-8 August: LeMons Arse-Sweat-Apalooza (San Francisco CA)
Thunderhill Raceway Park, Willows CA
"And you thought winter was bad here."

14 August: Concours d'LeMons (Monterey CA)
Toro Park, Monterey CA
"Where the elite meet to greet cars that excrete."

28-29 August: Mutually Assured Destruction of Omaha (Omaha NE)
Mid-America Motorplex, Pacific Junction IA
"Endurance racing on the world-famous Ømahanebråskarring."

11-12 September: Yee-Haw, It's LeMons Texas (Houston TX)
MSR Houston, Angleton TX
"Watch the crotch-rot and athletes-foot race for your kneecaps."

25-26 September: LeMons South Fall (Charlotte NC)
Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw SC
"Just the tell the missus you're 'hiking the Appalachian Trail.'"

9-10 October: Detroit Bull Oil Grand Prix (Detroit MI)
Gingerman Raceway, South Haven MI
"This close, and Lutz still won't show up."

23-24 October: Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500 (Chicago IL)
Autobahn Country Club, Joliet IL
"From the city where 'Whacker' has multiple meanings."

20-21 November: Laissez les Crapheaps Roulez (New Orleans LA)
The Circuit at Grand Bayou, Belle Rose LA
"By 'let the crapheaps roll,' we didn't mean 'onto their roofs.'"

4-5 December: LeMons Arse-Freeze-Apalooza (Los Angeles CA)
Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Buttonwillow CA
"Lots of Celebrities, but mostly the upper-case kind."

30-31 December: 24 Horas de Cuba del Norte (Miami FL)
Palm Beach International Raceway, Jupiter FL
"Presented by Havana-Negila, the original kosher-for-Passover rum."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hammer's Heroes taste the Lemons!

Mooresville, NC
John “Hammer” Palazzolo

A 27 year old German car. 24 Hours of racetrack adventures. 114 teams all gunning for one goal. 4 men joined together to have a run at it…

For the second time in six months, Hammer’s Heroes took on Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC for the 24 Hours Of Lemons, the endurance race for $500 cars. The idea is to purchase & prepare a car while spending no more than $500 on the budget (outside of safety equipment). The Heroes pulled it off in dynamic fashion!

“We had only spent $47 in parts in the “off season” to get our BMW ready for this race” said John Hammer, the team principal. “Our expectations were higher than the Spring race when we ran 49th of 94 cars.” In the end, the Fall edition of Lemons turned out to be strong for the team; 55th overall out of 114 teams and 26th of 65 in their class. Hammer says “We had more fuel system issues which really frustrated us, forcing fuel stops every 30 minutes during the first 8 hours. We lost a lot of time doing that.” There was a black flag penalty against driver Andrew Anderson Sunday morning as well…to get out of the penalty box, the team had to find a penny, nickel, dime & quarter from 1983, the year of their BMW’s manufacture…the team lost 30 minutes begging for spare change among the crowd!

Ultimately, the team pulled together to nurse the ailing BMW to the finish; the brakes had warped, the tires were flat spotted, the engine was leaking oil and the temp gauge was pegged… “Taking the checkered flag under our own power was a HUGE accomplishment and I’m proud of ALL the Heroes; Andrew Anderson, Jim Ballard and Ed Calcote. I’d also like to thank Dr Bob Calcote of for his support of our team, for the access to spare parts, Wickens Auto Repair for the great alignment & Safety Solutions for the Hutchens Hybrid that kept my head & neck safe. Also, to our families & friends who put up with us as we built the car & spent way too many hours in the garage making it run!”

Up next? You can bet the Heroes will be back for another Lemons race at a track near you! Follow the action online at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lemons South Fall...Day 1 is complete...

...and Hammer's Heroes are still alive & kicking. But, not without issues. Fuel system troubles, metal on metal contact, brakes going soft, Ed's earpieces kept coming unplugged...

And at the end of day 1, we're in 39th position. Our team name is highlighted on the sheet to "See Timing & Scoring"...that can't be good. We'll check it out in the morning & see what's up.

I'm sending updates on my Twitter page; check it out for occasional updates:

See you in the morning!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Well, Here We Go!

I'm as shocked as anyone, but yesterday's tragedy of a leaking slave cylinder turned out to be no real big deal. I made some phone calls & found one in Winston Salem (about an hour away) AND... my local parts store had one in their warehouse: "Give me yer credit card number & I'll have it here by noon" said Floyd. HELL YES! I got it after lunch, installed it in the afternoon, bled it before dinner & loaded the truck last night.

This is the 2nd Lemons race we've run the BMW 320i, so Jay (Lemons Head Perpetrator...yes, that's what he calls himself!) gave us a residual value of $ us $75 to play with. As it turned out, we spent $9.95 on a quart of Bars Leak for the engine and $35.99 for a rebuilt slave cylinder. Heck, we've still got money left in the budget!

We'll be at Carolina Motorsports Park this afternoon for tech & registration, then take the green flag in the morning. If you'd like to come cheer us on... Wait, who am I kidding? Despite that, if you'd like to come, check out for directions. No open alcohol while cars are on track (Yes, I have to post that for my friends!). This isn't a "free" spectator event so be ready to pony up a few bucks at the gate.

BIG thanks to...

* for stocking so many things for such a crappy car
* for spotting us a camera system to memorialize our mess forever
* Safety Solutions ( for the Hutchens Hybrid that keeps my neck safe in an otherwise totally unsafe car.
* Roger Sigears, who despite the car's crappy unsafe-ness (is that a word?), built a great cage for us to keep us in the seat
* Craigslist, Grassroots Motorsports, Wives, Girlfriends, Families & Co-workers who've put up with our crap up to this point.

Fingers we go!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nooooooooooo... You f'ing German POS!!!

A day & a half before the 24 Hours of Lemons, my 27 year old BMW's slave cylinder has died. Uuuggghhhh!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

With less than a week...

We're buttoning up the final items with the car. This weekend we got the fuel tank re-installed after a thorough cleaning. Here's hoping that fixes the fuel issues we had in the Spring. The big trouble we have is that there's nowhere to test the car; last time we tried that (in the industrial park at the end of my neighborhood) I got pulled over! I still have to swap out a fuel filter which will be delivered on Tuesday. Oil is changed with some leftover stuff from the shop (shhhh, don't tell them!) and then to mount up some used (but cheap!) tires from a Legends Car and we'll be set for Friday's trip to the track.

The best news: we FINALLY got the driver lineup finalized! My buddy Chuck is already going to be at the track with another team & is going to become the 4th Hammer's Heroe. He's a great guy, a damn good driver & can fix stuff when we break it. How do I know we'll break stuff? Ummm, have you paid ANY attention to us? I thought so.

We'd love to have you at the track with us for the race, drop a line & make plans to be with us then!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hey, you've got a warm body? Sweet, we need it!

Well, our 4th driver just backed out on us...we need you!

We're going to have a team of 4 drivers, probably wind up with about 3.5 hours of seat time over the course of the 2 days. Cost: $300 plus the split on fuel/tires (maybe another $75-100). We're running a pretty decent '83 BMW 320is.

We race September 12-13, tech is 9/11 afternoon & we'd need you there for registration.

I'm asking several folks trying to get any interest...I know it's last minute, but the offer is out there for the first person interested!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hammer's Heroes Have Gas...

...but the car doesn't at this point. Ed, Jim & I spend the afternoon wrangling the fuel tanks out of the car on Sunday.

If you recall from our Spring race, we had a lot of coughing & sputtering & what felt like fuel starvation (even though it was essentially full)...or a clogged fuel filter (even though we'd changed it twice) or... We really weren't sure what was causing the issue but a look into the tank showed 27 years of corrosion and gunk getting sucked up by the fuel pump.

So, yesterday we took the tanks out & are having the main side cleaned & treated by a shop. We're only going to use the right side tank when we reinstall; first off, that tank still holds all the fuel we need and the weight savings is at least 15 pounds of hard gear plus the weight of the fuel we carried, but didn't need.

Should be a good move & we're excited to get the tank back & reinstalled in a couple weeks!

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's Official, we're doing it again!

Just got the email...

5 July 2009

Hi, Team Captain:

Good news--I think. Your team has officially been ACCEPTED for LeMons South Fall at Carolina Motorsports Park on 12-13 September. Now what?

A: Read this email completely.

B: Forward it to the rest of your team
, one of whom is certainly smarter than you are. (You agreed to be captain, so clearly you're not the genius.)...

Blah blah goes on...but the great news is that we get to throw a bunch of money at these guys so we can spill oil on their racetrack. Wanna be part of it? Of course you do...bring an EZ Up, some chairs & a cooler full of beverages. And wrenches. Lots of wrenches. And fuel filters. You think I'm kidding?!

See you there!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh Crap! ...and... Here We Go Again's 2 posts in 1!...

Oh Crap!

I crashed. The good lookin' Spec Miata in the previous no longer good lookin'. I got greedy at Road Atlanta & stuffed it into the wall at Turn 3. Not good. I've begun the process of rebuilding, but essentially my season in NASA-SE's Spec Miata Championship is over.

Here We Go Again!

But wait, Hammer owns another racecar! Hella! We're going back for a second try at the 24 Hours Of Lemons. Like we did in the spring, we're going to make some repairs to the POS E21 chassis BMW and get it back on track. I've already signed us up for the fall event the weekend of September 12/13th at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC.

Details are coming soon; follow our action here at!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

So, now what?

The Hammer's Heroes / BMW is clean! Yep, I brought out both racecars & gave them a much needed bath yesterday.

Our intent is to run the September LeMons race; we had a great time with the Spring event. Of course, we need to make repairs and that means the LeMons folks have to assess our beast. We've not taken it apart yet, but at each pit stop we had a noticeable puddle of oil under the car. We fear it's the rear main seal which means we'll have to take the engine out of the car. Yikes.

In the meantime, I'm running the / Hutchens Hybrid Spec Miata with NASA-Southeast. Our next event is just a couple weeks away; Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, AL. If you're in the neighborhood, swing by!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hammer's Heroes Fight The Battles, Survive The War!

Man VS Man, Man VS Machine, Man VS Himself. The weekend featured all the classic conflicts...

Ahhh, who are we kidding...they raced a junker car, fixed the junker car, then raced the junker car some more.

Dateline, Kershaw, SC

Hammer's Heroes is a team of drivers from the Carolinas determined to take on the 24 Hours Of Lemons, the endurance race for $500 cars.

The guys bought & prepared a 1983 BMW 320is, a sporty little sedan in it's day...but in need of some real love after 26 years. Thanks to sponsors like Wickens Automotive in Concord, NC, and Dr Bob at, the team was able to turn this once comfortable autobahn cruiser into a scrappy little racecar!

The first hurdle; get through tech. Now, understand that the schtick of this race is that everything is tongue in cheek. They hand out penalties for silly things like not bribing the judges enough, or for having too clean a car. The Heroes? Docked ONE HUNDRED laps because they read this blog & figured it was a cheater car. It wasn't, but rule #1 at Lemons; No Whining.

Once on track though, it was obvious the guys had built a decent little hot rod. "It drove WAY better than it should have" says John Hammer, team principal and the first driver on course. "Honestly, we had less than 10 miles on the car before we had to race it, it was a total crapshoot!" Driver Ed Calcote fessed up "I was REALLY nervous" since it had been many years since he'd raced in competition. Same for Jim Ballard who hadn't been on track since a very serious accident sidelined him at Road Altanta last Fall. Geoff Moller brought an international flair; the South African native has raced at circuts around the world, including the Formula 1 course at Kyalami.

Hammer's Heroes; John Hammer (with Alex), Jim Ballard, Ed Calcote, Geoff Moller

However, as each driver rotated though, making pitstops for fuel & driver changes, they each came back with the same impression; the car was light, tossable & had great road manners. Until...

The brake fluid boiled. The engine was stumbling. Geoff rear-ended a Saab and smashed the front end of the car disabling the hood latch (which we "fixed" with 200 MPH tape). Then there was the oil leak. The worn tires. You get the picture. Saturday night The Heroes worked on the car until 12:30 AM (Sunday!).

The rest of the race was the same; overcoming minor issues with the car, finding enough time to pee, hoping none of the idiots on track ran into the BMW.

And it was good.

In the end, the team passed half the field! Starting 92nd of 94 teams, Hammer's Heroes drove the BMW presented by Wickens Automotive & to 49th place!

The big thanks; Go see Steven; he has the parts you need. Also, Dr Bob Calcote is Ed's brother and an orthodontist in Charleston. His sponsorship helped with our at track expenses. Wickens Automotive in Concord, NC did the suspension alignment which made the car a joy to toss through the corners. Roger Sigears of the Richard Petty Driving Experience did the safety cage & fabrication; what should have been a couple evenings turned into nearly 2 weeks of his work. Finally, to the families who had to put up with the team (and who now have to spend a few days while they come off their adrenaline rush.

And to all supporters of Hammer's Heroes, thank you for making this the most fun weekend any of us had ever had on the track!

So, the question is "What will the team do with the car now?" Easy answer; they'll freshen up a few things then race it again in September!

For more information on how you can be part of Hammer's Heroes, drop a line & be ready to laugh!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Sponsor!

After getting to the track, we found out that Ed's brother, Doctor Bob The Orthodontist, offered up to sponsor the team! We're putting his bucks towards our fuel budget which we're estimating in the range of 5 gallons an hour; it can get expensive fast.

So, when you need an orthodontist, my new favorite endorsement goes to Dr Bob Calcote in Charleston, SC:!

Friday, April 3, 2009

100 Miles Behind

It's everything I was told Lemons would be.

Quick recap: my buddies & I built the BMW for the 24 Hours Of Lemons at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC. It's an endurance race for $500 cars. EVERYTHING is tongue in cheek. EVERYTHING.

They have a group of "Judges" (complete with robes & silly white wigs) who assign "BSPs" to each car as it's presented. BSP stands for Bull $#!t Points. Each one is a one lap penalty. They knew we were coming.

They didn't look in the car, or under the hood or in the trunk (where we'd stashed a big bottle of Scotch for them!)... Turns out, they've been reading THIS blog (Hi Fellas!) and saw that we'd brought the car to Billy's shop to fix the vacuum issues...or as they put it, we'd had the car massaged " a professional BMW Speed Shop" and docked us the largest penalty we know of so far; ONE HUNDRED BSP's...that's right, we haven't even taken the green flag yet and we're ONE HUNDRED MILES behind everyone else.

Is it fair? Well, there's a really trick BMW E30 that's here...essentially a full-on racecar. They got 25 BSPs. But, it's Lemons & that's the way the game is played. So, we have a totally unproven car (remember, we have less than TEN MILES of testing on it) and we're starting 100 Laps down.

Now, the good stuff; the brakes seem to be great. The engine is running strong. The radio system I borrowed from Petty is working perfectly. BIG thanks to & Wickens Automotive of Concord, NC! We are all set to go! I'll be the first driver in the car; I take the green flag tomorrow at 11am. I'll post updates as often as I can!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This Is It: the FINAL NIGHT Before Heading To The Track!

Last night was crazy; we found chunkers of schmeg clogging the in-tank fuel pump. Why? Because the filter screen that originally covered the thing had long since destroyed itself. We had to fabricate something...Wait, how about Nylons?! I stole some from Mrs Hammer, Geoff found some mesh screen & we tied it all together with zip ties...stuffed it down in the tank & viola!

We HAD to try out the system, right? So we put 6 gallons of fuel into it & went down to our Top Secret test facility (the industrial park at the end of my neighborhood). 5,000+ rpm through third gear...NO hesitations, the car feels great! Down to the cul-de-sac, make the loop, the car runs strong...back to the gas...OH SHIT.

The cops....

Now, understand, I'm driving an unlicensed, uninsured car that I've never actually registered as mine. Oh sure, I have the title & bill of sale, but that's not IN the car.

Long story short, he lets me go... Even the cops in Mooresville are race fans!

With that behind us, we're getting together for one last thrash tonight before heading to the track Friday. But it's not easy; we have to replace the clutch master cylinder which began leaking 2 nights ago. VERY tight quarters mean small fingers & flexible wrenches will be kings of the evening.

Then, we'll have to decal the car. They're being delivered today. Yeah, more last minute stuff.

And packing; we need to get ALL of our things in the trucks tonight so we can leave in the morning for the track.

We'll be at the Garagemahal tonight. If you're in the neighborhood, swing by & lend a had. The 24 Hours of LeMons is THIS WEEKEND!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Want the good news first?

The brakes feel great & have more than enough power to lock up the wheels. The lines are bled & feel good. The rear brakes are adjusted & we should have good balance.

Then we added some Lucas fuel system cleaner & fired it up. We took it down the street to the industrial park & began bedding the brakes. The car ran up to 5,000/5,500 rpm beautifully... Then I went to turn left in the cul-de-sac. Cough, cough, stall. Fuel starvation. Stopped it, hit the key, re-fired without issue. A few more passes and then she started sputtering...a lot. Stalled. But, then after letting it idle a while, it cleared up again. There MUST be some sort of gunk that's getting up from the tank. Geoff thinks we should drain the tank...I think that's a decent idea, but we're tight on time...


When we got back to the house, I saw moisture on the firewall. The clutch master cylinder is leaking. Bad. Replacing it looks to be a massing bitch, and a cylinder is $80. A rebuild kit is $32 and Pelican Parts should be able to overnight it to us for a Thursday install. There is a small chance NAPA may have one in stock too; Geoff is calling everyone first thing in the morning to find parts. The only good news: we CAN do the rebuild from inside the footwell.

So...yeah. I'm frustrated. We're lucky we found the issue now, but damn...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Alllllllmost there!

It's been a Three Day Thrash on the BMW; our final weekend before the race found us turning wrenches, wiring electronics, spraying paint & hoping it all works.

It does!

Thanks to Geoff & Jim, between Friday & Sunday we...
  • Painted the interior
  • Mounted the instrument cluster
  • Installed the belts
  • Wired up the transponder
  • Taped all the lights
  • Installed the Master Switch (Roger's trick mount is flippin' beautiful!)
  • Finished the exhaust
  • Flushed & filled the radiator...again
  • Pulled out the big dent on the right rear
  • Bondo'd the roof, sanded & painted to fill in the now permanent "sunroof"
And probably a few more things!

Our graphics will be here in a couple days (yes, we'll probably be installing them as we load the trailer on Thursday!).

Jim would like to run the test sessions on Friday if the price is right. Geoff probably isn't available. I "may" be available to run a session or so. Ed; you could be the other test driver!

This week we need to do a few things to wrap it up; the Hawk Blue racing brake pads will be here Monday. The hydraulics need to be bled too. We have to finish the installation of the rollcage padding. Add in the Traqmate data acquistion system too.

We're jazzed to get on the track with this beast...and once we survive this event, we'll be looking to the future for more events to run at!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

With 9 Days Left, The Cage Is DONE!

Allow me to say it in a public forum, in a non-sexual kind of way...Roger Sigears is a studly welding biotch.

It took more work than we expected...and considering this was a "custom" cage for our car, there is still a lot of tubing leftover. However, we have a 6 point cage with some actual triangulation for stiffness. Dare I say, it's a better cage than the car needs...and better than it certainly deserves!

I'm packing the car up from the Petty shop & taking it home tonight; between now & Sunday it'll be a thrash to get the final items on the build sheet taken care of. At that point, we REALLY need to put some miles on it to make sure everything is perfect ( perfect as a clunker like this can get), then off to the race next week.

Team: we'll be at my house in Mooresville all weekend long.

Everyone else: come join us at the track April 4 & 5 at Carolina Motorsports Park!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wow, Saturday was BIG!

The guys all got together Saturday for what seems like one of our biggest build days of the whole process...and I couldn't be there to help. Fellas, I can't say it enough, but I'm SO SORRY I had to skip town at the last minute, but a death in the family tends to screw things up on many levels.

Now, I got an update from Geoff at the end of their workday & the list of things complete continues to grow. The cage is essentially finished, there's a race seat now installed, mounts for the belts complete...

I'll bring the truck to work in the morning & Geoff will get the car to the Alignment shop. I'm hoping not to find any last minute surprises there, but 26 year old suspension bolts & dried up bushings are always suspect.

I'm on an airplane this afternoon & can't wait to join the rest of Hammer's Heroes for another round of bloody knuckles & war stories!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Progress Continues...

Dateline Friday:
While test fitting the rollcage, we've realized that this kit requires us to take out the dashboard. What Jimmy, the cage builder didn't know, was that there's a big crossbeam under the dash, right where he had the legs coming down. So, we cut it out! It was the first time I'd ever used a Sawzall...that's a badass tool! With much work, Jim & I got the dash out.

While we had the dash out, it was pretty easy to make the decision to go all the way; we'd also remove the rest of the heating system. The fans, the heater core, the hoses, the ductwork...everything.

By the end of the day Saturday, we'd done all that work, bypassed the cooling system, test fit the race seat & decided to make more changes to the cage from what we had. Roger had done a yeoman's job of getting the cage bits trimmed, measured, tweeked & installed...and we still have more to go.

But, we'll ge there. And we're much closer now that ever before.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2 More Items Crossed Off The Build Sheet

I got the third taillight mounted (per the rules...they figure we'll knock the OEM ones out of the car!) I also got the brake sensor, repaired, I mean...I jumped the wires so the damn light on the dash won't flicker anymore.

Oh, speaking of flickering...looks like there's a short somewhere in the headlights. Moving the car last night they were intermittent as best. I guess I have to add that to the build sheet now...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We've Got Juice In Our Rear

No, I'm not talking about some automotive colonic... We moved the battery to the trunk of the car last night! The idea is that we help balance the car by moving that weight from the left front of the car (the heaviest corner) to the right rear (the lightest).

Doing that made space up front for our homebrew Cold Air Intake kit made from some plastic tubing and an old cone filter lying around my garage. I'm betting this won't be featured on the next Chip Foose project.

We're just about set to begin the install of the roll cage too. We test fit the main hoop, which is the tube that everything else comes off of. Turns out, the pipe was made for a car with no sunroof...our car had a sunroof...note the use of past tense. I cut it out with a zizz wheel the other day, gaining us a couple inches of extra headroom. We'll weld the old panel back in place when we're done with the interior.

What's next? Who really knows...but we'll have a chilly beverage in our hand ready to tell the story, no doubt!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Comedy Runs Rampant...

...and my face is crispy.

Let me explain; we did a test-fit of the rollcage today. It's a tight fit for sure, but we realized that it's been designed for a car without a sunroof. Colonel Klink has a sunroof. Check that, HAD a sunroof. Thanks to a high powered Zizz-Wheel and a sorta steady hand...I cut the sunroof mechanism out of the car. But, the cutting wheel throws sparks EVERYWHERE. Into my hair, my face, my arms, my... Anything not tightly covered with clothing was peppered with tiny meteorites flying through the interior of our 26 year old BMW. I was SURE I'd set something on fire, but luckily I only suffer from a few small burns and ringing ears.

What? My personal dysfigurement isn't enough comedy for you? Fine, how about this...

Last week Jim & I were working on the car...he removed the radiator & flushed it with the garden hose (for you Nort Kakalaka natives, that's a Hose Pipe). All sorts of schmegma came out; who knows how long it had been since that cooling system had been flushed. He reinstalled it & we got the car fired up to much hoopla.

Later that night I was fighting with the tie rods & noticed the leak. Yeah. From our newly cleaned radiator. It appeared we'd knocked crud loose that had been holding the car's vital fluid inside... We were wrong. Today we unloaded the car at the shop & I drove it around the back...yes, the water was still dripping...then I saw it... "Hey Roger, is that coolant oozing from the radiator hose?" Roger gave the hose a tug... and it popped right off! LOL Jim forgot to tighten the hose clamp a week ago & had us ready to replace the friggin' radiator!

And THAT, ladies & gentlmen, is how things go for Hammer's Heroes.

Friday, March 6, 2009


It was a BIG night for us; Geoff came over to the GarageMahal and we dug into the fuel system on the Lemons BMW.

We'd been suffering from low fuel pressure that wouldn't allow the car to rev up past about 3500-4000rpm. Not good to drive on. We acquired more parts from Steven at (thanks Steve!) and started at the fist stop; a BADLY varnished in-tank fuel pump. Steven also sent us a fuel pump and fuel accumulator just in case. The short story is that the in-tank pump was the trick; we cleaned it up and installed it...wired the battery up & hit the key; varrooommm!

Okay, it wasn't quite that easy...there was another vacuum leak to deal with and the radiator is leaking and the mixture is pig rich & needs to be leaned out...

If our car hadn't been abused over the last 26 years, this is what the engine bay SHOULD look like., not so much.

That said, I drove it onto the trailer under it's own power tonight & will be taking it to the Petty shop to have our buddy Roger test-fit the cage. While he's up to that, the rest of us will be working on the items on our (very long) build sheet that still need to be done before we can race this thing April 4th & 5th.


Hammer's Heroes have a lofty goal for tonight; get the car running enough to get it on the trailer.


We're going to bring it to the Petty shop to work on a lift Saturday! We need to get in gear and the cage is the next big thing; while Roger is sizing up that task, we can work on other things there at the shop.

To Do List:
  • Get her running (fuel system issues)
  • Install Cage
  • Move Battery to the trunk
  • Fabricate exhaust
  • Fab cold air intake kit
  • Install seat & safety equipment
  • If there's still time...throw some paint on her!
It's Friday; if you're not up to anything, swing by my house in Mooresville for some fun tonight!

Spreading The Love

In between getting downsized at work, sucking up to a (way cool) wife, and fighting with the Hammers Heroes racecar, our buddy Geoff has his own track car to prepare. Yesterday, I came around the backside of our shop to see his car on a lift with him & Ron (who helped with our Tires last week) underneath it.

I wound up sticking around to help them for a couple hours...meaning we never did get to work on our car last night. BUT...the Car Gods have shone upon us & we'll have perfect weather the next 3 days. So, we're going to work on the car tonight at my place & see if we can get that engine running again.

Wanna come help out? We'll be at the GarageMahal all weekend.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Maybe We Could Get Milka Duno or Paul Menard...

...just like most Indycar teams and many NASCAR teams, we need a ride buyer.

Craver told me tonight that he's backing out on us, just 4 weeks before the race. That means we have to find a fourth driver for the team; Lemons rules state a minimum of 4 drivers per team.

Soooo... If you're interested, or know someone who is... Send them our way.

Tonight, we wrench.

I like that; turning nouns into verbs: "Wrench"

Geoff is coming by for his first look-see at the BMW; and we'll tackle the fuel pumps. This is what a good one looks like:

Yeah, well...ours doesn't look anything like that! We have a lot of cleaning to do before we can install it. Keep your fingers crossed; the car should re-fire for us this evening.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Well crap...

...I got the fuel pump for the tank today...and Steven was right; it's pretty bad. In fact, it's probably in worse shape than the one we have, well, other than the fact that ours is broken.

I'm not sure what to do. Grrrr...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Monkey Wrench?! YES!

A damn Monkey Wrench. Who knew?!

I'd been fighting with the tie rods on the BMW for quite some time, but no matter what tool I used, I couldn't get the grip I needed to generate the torque to get them off the steering rack. I sucked it up & called Billy Revis from Motorsport Connections (who was at the track; VIR). His answer; a pipe wrench. And? Sonofabitch, it worked! Easily, I'll add.

Once I got the tie rods on the car, I installed the front hubs that Jim repacked with some really nasty lube! Then, I reassembled the brakes & put our newly-mounted wheels & tires on...and dropped the car onto it's own feet. And took a big sigh of relief!

Today; put the fuel tank back together & see if she'll fire up.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Another weekend, a few more hours of wrench time.

I was on the phone with Steven at again today (that's getting to be a common thing!) ordering more parts for the car. He's got the fuel system pieces we need, but admits the in-tank pump has seen better days. It's GOT to be better than the one we have, but we'll see where it all plays out when it gets here in a few days.

This weekend, we're hoping to wrap up the front suspension & re-fire the engine by by-passing the in-tank fuel pump that we're waiting on (makes sense that we can & be fine; the early cars didn't have an in-tank pump & the early cars & later cars use the same external pump).

If Craver comes over (hint, hint, Tim...I need your Sawzall!) we'll cut the exhaust off & do a quick fab of a Cherry Bomb system for cheap.

Jim has re-packed the front hubs...that's great for all the heat they'll have to put up with over the course of a long race.

I'm sure there's more; we'll get to it after I get off the radio shift tomorrow!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

We've got Rubbers!

The frustration: I can't get those flippin' original tie rods off the car to save my life. I'm being careful not to put too much pressure on them because I'd fear messing up the steering rack...which would be bad. Very bad.

The good: Geoff got us some plastic sheeting that I've riveted into place to form a front air dam. It's hardly show quality, but it'll work well & give us a place to mount brake ducts to.

Plus, last night Geoff & I went to the tire shop here at work & got our new-to-us used tires mounted to the wheels. BIG HUGE GIGANTIC props: to Zach & Ron for operating the machinery (and especially Ron for using his knowledge of camber shaved tires to help us decide which tires to put on which corner). We now have 2 complete sets of tires for the race!

In other team news, I've traded a bootlegged copy of some software to Roger so he loaned me some HUGE metric hex sockets. I need them to change out the transmission fluid (the drain & fill plugs are very odd!); hopefully I'll have that done tonight.

Fellas: I'm free Saturday & Sunday from about 1pm on...let's get the suspension finished up & the engine running...then we can get it to the shop for Roger to work on the cage next week.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Lap Forward, Two Laps Back...

A lot of work this weekend on the BMW...some good things, some not so good. Here's the latest...

Teammate Jim Ballard came over Sunday to help wrench on the car; ready for the tally?!
  • The engine oil & filter
  • The differential lube
  • The rear drum brake adjustment
  • Rear springs & shocks
  • Front springs & struts
  • A/C condenser removed (saved probably 20 pounds!)
  • Radiator removed, hosed out, refilled with water (we'll talk about this in a minute
  • Fuel pump in the fuel tank removed...and broken. ;)
Here's what we found; in an attempt to fix the low fuel pressure issue, we decided to start at the in-tank fuel pump. There's a filter on the bottom that commonly gets clogged. Well, we broke the damn thing getting it pulled out of the tank. We hear rumors that you can run the car without it...we're probably going to give that a try! Just to be safe, we'll be ordering replacement parts from Again. We're using them a lot. Yeah.

We pulled the radiator out of the car, gaining access to the A/C condenser which now completes the removal of the entire A/C system of the car. Our guess is that we've saved a good 50-60 pounds off the front of the car by taking those parts off. We rinsed out the radiator & a ton of gunk came out of it...reinstalled it & filled with water. Hey Jim, bad news: it's leaking just sitting there in the car...and it appears to be weeping from the fins somewhere.

The suspension went in surprisingly well: rears were a piece of cake, fronts were great thanks to leverage (grade school science class paid off!). The one bummer so far is the removal of the old tie rods. They're in there pretty tight & may need some heat to help them out. I'll work on that later!

While we had the wheel assemblies out, Jim decided it'll be prudent to re-pack the front wheel bearings. Good call!

So, it's been a weekend of good & bad. We got a lot done on the car, but we found more things that need work. Here's hoping we can beat the clock as our race date looms closer; the first weekend of April.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Colonel Klink Runs! Sort of...

Billy Revis of Motorsport Connections has been working on the BMW for us, trying to get the engine running right. He got it closer than we could; it IS running now & I drove it onto the trailer, then through the neighborhood last night.

There's still a bit of trouble; seems to be a case of fuel starvation; lots of coughs & sputtering at throttle tip in & up through the revs. It could be something simple like a clogged filter in the tank...or either of the fuel pumps, or the fuel accumulator, or... Either way, we'll be tearing into it later today & tomorrow.

This weekend's goal: get the coolant, engine oil, trans & diff lubes swapped out. The suspension too; install the Koni Sport shocks & Race Dynamics lowering springs from

We still have a pretty good "To Do" list:
  • Fuel System (obviously, this is the big one!) Got to get her running correctly
  • Suspension install
  • Re-bleed the brakes; pedal is a bit soft (although the clutch feels great)
  • Adjust the rear drum brakes
  • Exhaust; we'll probably just hack off the original one & hang a Cherry Bomb
  • Wheels & tires; got to get them mounted up but we now have 2 sets of wheels & 3 sets of tires!
  • Roll Cage; my (foolish) buddy Roger Sigears at Petty has said he'll help us out with welding the cage in.
  • Safety equipment; we need to fab up a seat mount, bolt in the seat, add belts and a window net.
The optimist in me felt great to at least DRIVE the car yesterday. The engine (despite the fuel issue) runs smoothly, the transmission shifted well & everything felt decent.

Want to lend a hand? Just drop a line: and bring your wrenches!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lemons update!

We're getting closer to the race and things are starting to look good. The bummer is that Kelly Childress has had to back out; financial issues & such. It's too bad, but I understand totally.

Now, the good news: came through yesterday & a set of Koni Sport shocks & Race Dynamics springs were delivered. They're not pretty, but compared to what's on the car now, anything will be better. Their support is greatly appreciated & helps us make budget. Now, I DID have to spend a few bucks on a set of wheels with them, but Steven hooked me up for a great price on a set of 13x6 basketweaves!

Craver & I are working stock cars in Atlanta this weekend, but once we get back, it's going to be a thrash to get the car finished up, then on track for a test day!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fixin' the Motor Pool...

After ages of fighting with the engine on this BMW, I've decided to bite the bullet, spend the money & have a pro look at it.


The BMW is now in the capable hands of Billy Revis. Billy owns Motorsport Connections in Mooresville & Winston/Salem. He's also a former Speed World Challenge racer. Yeah, he knows something about making a car work.

Hopefully we'll get it back soon, get the cage in it & start wrapping up the build.

Hammer's Heroes take a casualty

No surprise that the economy has everyone pulling our belts tighter. I just got word from our buddy Kelly that he won't be able to make the race this Spring. That leaves us a 4 person team, which should be just fine...but...

If you have something to add to our mess, drop me a line & let me know. We can use more knuckleheads like us!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Okay, we're IN!


I have officially registered the team for Lemons South, the Spring edition this coming April.

I hear you "But Hammer, your car doesn't run yet"
I know.
"But Hammer, you don't even have a team yet"
I know.
"But Hammer, you barely have 2 months before the race"
I know.
And yet, here I am fighting the good fight!

Now, every team has a schtick, a story, a "reason for being." Simply put, a Theme. Ours...

"Hammer's Heroes"

The Plot:

  • A handful of misfits come together while stuck under the tyranny of an old German. In this case, a 26 year old BMW 320i, lovingly referred to as “Stalag 13”

The Cast:

  • Colonel Hammer: John “Hammer” Palazzolo. Detroit, MI.
    • Senior ranking officer, electronics expert & radio operator. Shot down in an air raid while strafing the front stretch at VIR in a Spec Miata.
  • Tim “Kinchloe” Craver: Welcome, NC.
    • “Kinch” is an expert in imitating a racecar driver. With a penchant for wearing name brand race suits while performing half assed, he looks the part even though, quite frankly, he sucks.
  • James “The Sarge” Ballard; Mooresville, NC.
    • Excels in not shaving, wearing sweatpants & welding front clips. He brags he escaped the Third Reich, er…Turn 3…no, wait…he didn’t escape Turn 3 at all, he nearly totaled a car at Turn 3 at Road Atlanta.
  • Royal Air Force Corporal Geoff Moller. Capetown, South Africa.
    • He creates a total mess as the team tries to decipher his accent over the radio while on a mission…or simply coming in for a pitstop.
  • Lieutenant Kelly Childress. Atlanta, GA.
    • A master of covert operations; he sneaks in and out of traffic passing the enemy at will. Of course, his barracks are VERY close to the gas chamber, er, refueling rig…and it’s assumed he’s been sniffing fumes.

The Vehicle:

  • 1983 BMW 320i
    • With 26 years of Autobahn under this German’s tracks, it’s amazing it still runs. The comedy comes often as the car, dubbed “Stalag 13” does it’s best Colonel Klink impression and works to stop Hammer’s Heroes from victory. Watch closely as hilarity ensues!

Making Lemon-Aid (sic!) Update

We need your help! I'll tell you about it in a minute...but first...

Is hydraulic fluid bad for your eyes? Work continues on the BMW to turn it into a racecar; today's job; rear brakes. I'd never done drum brakes before today...and I'm not exactly sure they're on right...but, they're on the car. Trouble came calling a couple times; the shoes I got weren't exactly the same as the ones on the car...oh, they were close, but for some reason 2 of them needed at bit of grinding to fit properly. Once done, everything went back together well.

Then I had to bleed the system. Now, my buddy Jim (who says he's joined the team...yeah, he's another of "us")...Jim has this pressure bleeder thing; like a garden sprayer with some fancy bits added pressurizes the brake & clutch system so you can force new fluid through it without 2 or 3 people lending a hand. Perfect! Except... Just as I was directly under the center of the car bleeding the clutch slave cylinder, the seal let loose on the master cylinder up above me...which leaked...square onto my face. I rinsed it out immediately & it appears my vision is fine, but if you've ever wondered how caustic hydraulic fluid is, go pour some on your neighbor's truck (do it late at night...and don't get caught).

Quite a few folks have said "Hey Hammer, that car looks too nice for the Lemons race...and using the 30/30 rule I'd say you're right (30/30 = Looking decent from 30 feet at 30 mph). I finally got a good shot of the hood to show how bad the paint is. And the right rear shot shows the rust in the window opening. The floor of the driver's side has some rust too...although it's just on the surface.

Up next; flush the fuel system & try again to get this beast to run. can YOU help US? We need a theme. Teams in this race have themes; "Busted Knuckles Racing" or "Surrender Monkeys" (both real teams!). There's probably a play on "BMW" somewhere. Or, things you'd make fun of with a BMW; Members Only jackets, Izod polos with starched collars, divorced MILFS...

C'mon, you know you've got something smartassed in your brain...let'er fly here. Post it all! What is our theme? 4 guys, a BMW, tight budget...

Saut Cakalaka... That’s German for Redneck!

Work on my new racecar is coming along well; the '83 BMW 320i that I'm building so we can race in the 24 Hours of Lemons a couple times in 2009.

I'm mooching as many freebies as I can to keep the budget REALLY tight; even with $800+ in a rollcage, I'm expecting to keep the total cost of this car under $2000...hopefully closer to $1700. Most recently, I got offered some wheels from John Applegit of the Upstate South Carolina Vintage BMW Club. I swung by the BMW factory today to pick them up (he works there) & had a great visit at BMW's museum & visitor center, the Zentrum.

Stay tuned for more updates on the car (it'll be NOTHING like the ones shown here!)