One-Off, Hand Built Autocrosser

Cars that don’t exist show up in the darnedest places, like autocrosses…
…what AM I talking about here?

Five years ago George came across a wrecked 2002 Chrysler 300M.  The back end was badly damaged, but front end and powertrain were just fine.  It was still an almost new car.  He chose it due to the longitudinal engine layout, and that the engine/transaxle being a complete package.

George attended the 11/9/2008 SASCA autocross, driving all the way from Austin, TX.  He came to debut this one-of-a-kind car he built.  To say the least, it was interesting.  It’s called a Hammond, after his last name.

Working through the mechanical challenges of building the chassis with the existing engine/transaxle was relatively hassle-free.  But, George said, getting the wiring organized was a BIG headache.  The tricky part was figuring out what wiring was related specifically to engine functions, versus the rest of the car.  The engine is stock at 260HP, except for its location.

There sure is a lot of space back under that hood, for the go part…

If you’ll notice in the cockpit, George re-used most of the donor car’s hardware.  I’m not usually a fan of center mounted dash instruments, but in this case it works!

Luckily George is of medium height.  I don’t think I’d be able to fit my 6’2″ frame inside.  You might wonder where the body design came from.  So did I & many others who were asking.

With all the mechanics that defined the physical hard points of the car, George started to define the body.  He took small diameter PVC pipe, and, using a heat gun, carefully bent and formed them to what he felt would both work & look good.  Using this spidery network of laced PVC pipe, George used spray insulation foam to thickly cover the entire pipe form.  Then he carved & sanded the foam mass, eventually into the almost final form.  Following that, he covered the foam with body filler, and did the final shaping and sanding.  Next, he laid down some layers of fiberglass.  This was his mold.

Lastly, he laid in fiberglass inside this reverse mold he had crafted, to finally create the car body he desired.  It was a long process.  He said he designed it from the outside in.  If he had to do it over again, he’d have made the driver & passenger area larger.  Also, those doors are rather on the petite side.

After five long years of working on his Hammond, he wanted to see how it would handle in an autocross environment.  The chassis has been mechanically drivable for about 4 years, now.  Watching George having the car get its “sea legs” for autocrossing was interesting.  He really got to see what its limits are…

Observing George drive on course,  we saw him discover how rear biased his car’s weight is.  He did an almost 180 on the second corner.  But from then on he did fine, learning what he could (& couldn’t) do and then coming in for a “landing” at the end of the course.  Look carefully at the rear wheels in the photo below.  BOTH rear tires are in the air, at least 1.5″, while braking after the finish line timing lights.  Thanks to Vitek for both of these pictures, as I was on grid getting ready for my runs.

Racing Ready is “hand-building” this blog from scratch, although not on the 5 year plan.  Its form is taking shape to provide you with entertainment, knowledge and a growing archive of hard data.

Dan

P.S. – Click here to learn about George’s regular autocross ride

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One thought on “One-Off, Hand Built Autocrosser”

  1. George e-mailed me this comment on 11-21-2008. I felt it to be a valid addition to this post…enjoy!

    Hi Dan,

    The write-up looks great, thanks for the mention. The car went through all of the autocross abuse without suffering any problems. It cruised at 80 mph back to Austin after the event.

    Thanks again and see you this Sunday at SAR, I’m bringing my MR-2 Spyder back for this one.

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