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!