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Replica Daytona Car Draws Crowd - South Bend Tribune - March 14, 2008

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Ron Stealy, left, who re-created the '63 Ford Galaxie replica seen here, and Ken Good, son of the original car's Daytona 500 driver, attend the car's unveiling to the public at Studebaker National Museum in South Bend recently.

Studebaker National Museum displays Hammes' 1963 Ford race car.

Tribune Correspondent

Forty-five years ago, Jerry Hammes' Ford placed 37th of 50 in the Daytona 500, and Hammes moved on from the circle track.

A re-creation of that 1963 race car was a winner that accelerated attendance at the Studebaker National Museum recently.

The front-window exhibit of the gleaming, decorated No. 81 drew more than 300 people to the museum on the day it was unveiled. The museum also has a muscle car show going on that includes Hammes' re-created 1962 Ford Galaxie No. 717

and 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt.

It's a marketing strategy that depends on visitors' interests in old cars -- regardless of brand -- especially when there's a local connection.

"That would draw people in here so they would also see Studebaker cars," he said. "We're all local. The local connection was really the push for people to come in. They all remember."

Hammes went decades without remembering much about the Daytona car. He'd paid $25 to join NASCAR for the event and won $750, with Dick Good as driver and Everett Wood as chief mechanic, both Mishawaka friends. (Both are deceased.)

"Between Dick Good being a fantastic driver and Wood being the kind guy that knew how to tweak the car, it was a fantastic combination," Hammes recalled. "We qualified in the 125-mile race to get into the big race," with a starting position of 21st.

"That's the only circle track I was ever involved in."

The car, which belonged to Romy Hammes Ford Corp., was lost to history, but the memory strengthened a few years ago for Hammes, who decided that if he couldn't have the original he'd settle for a re-creation.

"A car was discovered that would fit this criterion," he said. "We bought it sitting next to a barn. It had an excellent frame and an excellent body. Everything else is new," down to the 1963 radiator cap.

A crew led by Ron Stealy, who had re-created the 717, and including Jerry Buczkowski, Walt Egieski, Jerry Sieradzki, Jim Wise, Dick Szabo, Jimmy Gorski, Vern Talboom and Austin Feitz accomplished the re-creation at odd times in less than a year.

"They worked on it many nights, during the days," Hammes says. "The engine that drove it is they're all excited about putting this car together. What drove them was their desire to have fun and put this car together.

"The enthusiasm to make it right and get it done was all these guys."

The enthusiasm spread last Saturday to museum visitors seeking Hammes' autograph and staring at the car, which will be on display until April 27.

"It's worked," museum curator of collections Tony Smith said as he looked over the crowd. "They're all car people. They just want to see the cars."

Tribune Photos/JANAR STEWART
Studebaker National Museum vistors peer under the hood of the '63 Ford Galaxie on display

From left,Dick Brannan of Romy Hammes-Brannan;Ron Stealy and Ken Good prepare to unveil a '63 Ford Galaxie replica at the museum. This car is like the one sponsered by a local group in the 1963 Daytona 500.

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