Bill Caswell and DIY Motorsports -- ROAD TESTAMENT

Uploaded by drive on 31.05.2012


MIKE SPINELLI: Hey, welcome to Road Testament.
I'm Mike Spinelli.
We're here today with Bill Caswell
coming up soon on Skype.
You know him for changing the face of grassroots motorsports
by bringing a $500 Craigslist BMW down to Rally Mexico, and
competing alongside WRC cars and top name drivers, and
doing pretty well, and doing awesome stuff.
Hit us up on @DRIVE on Twitter, where you can get in
touch with DRIVE, and DRIVE can get in touch with you,
right back.
But without further ado, Bill Caswell, the man who quit his
life in the financial industry to pursue his dream of racing
BMWs and rallying, and doing all that stuff.
He's a legend.
You know him.
Bill Caswell.
So what the hell are you up to right now?
And where are you?
You're in like in the
Nottingham Forest or something.
BILL CASWELL: No, this is my backyard in San Diego.
It's kind of nice.
I'm tucked up against the wall here, and there's like a
little bird feeder.
I can turn the camera if you guys want to see where I live.
It's actually not that exciting.
It's kind of beige to be honest.
But next time we'll do this from my shop with my Baja
cars, the M3ers.
There's a bunch of weird stuff getting built.
And that electric M3 that's running at
Pike's Peak is there.
So we'll do some fun stuff.
You won't have forest in the background next time.
It'll be race cars and other cool stuff.
BILL CASWELL: So where am I at now?
Like you said, it's been three years--
three years ago of June, 2009, that I first quit my job and
started racing.
It was about nine months after that that I found my way down
to WRC Mexico.
So in March of 2010, I entered that first race.
And then, sense then, went on to do Pike's
Peak, the Baja 1,000.
I went back to Mexico the last two years, and finally, this
last year, we came back with trophies.
We finished second in two-wheel drive with these big
silver WRC trophies, which is kind of nice.
And the event was an absolute train wreck.
We went to go leave and the motor was cracked.
So you'd think that after like two, three years of doing
this, I'd get better at it, or that I'd plan more, or I'd
stop squeezing less into the period of time that I have,
but I haven't.
We just went from one race to another.
We ran three races in four weeks back in March, which was
kind of nice.
MIKE SPINELLI: When that story first broke on Jalopnik, it
just exploded.
It turned out to be one of the biggest stories I think
they've ever had, and for you, it just sort of launched you
into the limelight.
What does that say about racing?
Or what does that say about what it is that you did, that
got so many people--
I mean, we're talking like millions of
people read that piece.
BILL CASWELL: The old school dream of a kid grabbing his
helmet, building a car in his garage, and showing up the
track, and becoming a
professional, is kind of broken.
Randy Pobst did in the '80s.
Started off autocrossing, and is now a
professional club racer.
It does happen.
It's just it's just pretty broken.
And so I think when you look around the United States at
how many thousands of kids wrench on their car every
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday night in anticipation of a
race on Saturday, I think it's cool to get the recognition.
And to have brought a story like that so the surface, it
kind of really shows how many kids are busting their tail in
their garage trying get racing.
I think a lot of companies, manufacturers, and
sponsors miss that.
It's a powerful passionate message.
I don't know if that was the answer to your question.
MIKE SPINELLI: No, no, it is.
And really, I don't know if that is either, but the proof
is that the movie, right?
So Jeremy Renner, Hurt Locker, you know him from there, is
producing a movie about that event, about somebody who does
that grassroots thing.
BILL CASWELL: But the theory is, I did
everything right in life.
I went to good schools.
I went and got good jobs.
I wanted to be a lifty in Vail.
I wanted to go work chair lifts when I got out of
college, and just ski everyday.
My parents told me I was insane, put me in a bank, and
started working.
So a lot of this is about doing all those things in life
that I never had a chance to do.
And so the movie's more about someone who's done everything
right, taken all the right jobs.
The financial crisis hits, and just wipes their career out
from underneath them.
Like the industry I was in was basically decimated.
And I was securitization, mortgage-backed securities,
CDs, all those structured finance bonds.
So what do you do?
It's sort of about like, when your wife gets shaken up, take
some time to go enjoy it.
Take some time to go enjoy your dreams, to go see those
things you never had a chance to see, and
I got really lucky.
I showed up in Mexico, even after they rejected my
I just put the car on the trailer and towed the couple
of thousand miles there.
And when they saw me, they started laughing.
We rejected your application.
You can't race here.
But you know, sometimes you got to try.
You know what's super cool about this, Mike, is that
Renner's an awesome guy.
He's a car guy.
He's a motorcycle guy.
He's way into triumphs.
He's got a Porsche 914 with a 350 stuffed in the back, and
he keeps ripping the engine out for like, doing wheel
stands and stuff in.
I mean, he's a car guy they bought a car movie.
That to me is exciting.
MIKE SPINELLI: There are some Bill Caswell legends.
Some of them may be true, may not be true.
I'm going to sort of throw a couple by you, and you tell me
if they're actually true, whether they happened or
didn't happen, right?
MIKE SPINELLI: All right, so true or false.
You built your own FIA-legal roll cage, so that you could
spend the rest of the money on beer.
BILL CASWELL: Oh, God, there's so many statements in there.
Yes, my roll cage did pass FIA tech.
It passed on the first pass through, as one--
I think, that year, there was only one other car actually
made through tech without any re-welds or changes
to their roll cage.
So I was pretty proud of that.
But all the stuff's online, man.
Just Google FIA rule 253, appendix J, and there's 30
pages on what your roll cage should look like.
Just make it fit all those rules.
It's like, 100 millimeters from this, and 100 millimeters
from that, and you build the cage.
Did I do it to spend more money on beer?
No, I figured I'd be writing off a lot of rally cars.
I figured I'd be throwing them into the woods, like event,
after event, after event.
And if I can buy the cars for $500 and fix them in a night
or two in my garage.
Really, my biggest expense is a fabrication shop knocking
out the cages.
And they all have these like two three week lead times, and
I can do it in two, three days.
So I figured I'd just by a tube bender and a welder, and
I built my own cages just more of the speed of it, the
quickness of it.
And it's fun, man, like I've got a big flat
panel TV in the garage.
We've got cable and Apple TV, and my friends come over, and
we're cranking tunes, we're watching car racing movies and
welding together roll cages.
Like, I can't think of a better way to spend my night,
and I'm going it in my mom's garage.
Like, my mom comes out, and it's like, I think I'm going
to order some pizza for dinner.
It's just couldn't be better at age 38 to have been back to
my mom's house for year, hanging out with all my
friends, like it was high school.
It was kind of special.
BILL CASWELL: So that's why I did it.
And as far as the free beer, no, I had a good job.
When I quit, I had tons of cash.
I could have dropped off three shells, and had them all caged
if I wanted to.
It was more about doing it myself.
It was more about learning to do it myself.
And it was more about me wanting to build
my own rally car.
MIKE SPINELLI: Maybe there's a--
not to get too far into this--
maybe there is a bigger question about, sort of the
same thing as the DIY movement anywhere else, or hackers.
You just, literally, you're one guy with a welding kit who
hacked an FIA-capable roll cage.
Because you could, because everything's out there, sort
of open source if you want to call that.
BILL CASWELL: It is out there.
You just need to go do it.
We should step back for a second.
I think a lot of people miss sort of my background.
They think that I like, quit my finance job, bought a
welder, and tube bender, and car and just started racing.
And Rally Tennessee was the first time I was ever in a
competition before.
So prior to the five years of investment banking, and the
two years of business school, I was like a weekend warrior.
I was entering like SCCA Midwestern Council events in
the Midwest.
I was autocrossing every weekend, and I still stacks of
my autocross rubber sitting in the basement.
I had a lot of time with cars.
I lived above a Barnes and Noble.
I was way into chess.
I was playing a ton of chess, and I ran out of modern chess
books to read.
And I was wandering around, and I found this car section,
and that's what started this whole thing.
So all my knowledge came from those couple of years living
above a Barnes and Noble.
I read every book in the automotive section, like, two
books on welding, three books on body shop, two books on
engines, a book on turbo charging.
I don't even have a turbo charger.
It just seemed relevant to learn about how air gets
forced into an engine and can reach its terminal velocity,
restricter plate.
It all starts to add up.
So yes, I had a little bit more knowledge than just
buying the welder.
I get a message probably like once a week from someone on
Facebook looking to do the same thing.
I've got to remind them that that roll cage is the last
thing that protects them from dying.
It is the final thing that saves their life.
So unless they're super comfortable with their welds--
and I tell them, would you be comfortable building one of
those like steel octagon things they drop
eggs in high school?
You build a little egg crate, put the egg in it and drop it.
Would they feel comfortable building one of those for a
human being and dropping it off a building
with them in it?
Well, if they do, then weld your own cage.
Go for it.
I feel confident enough in my welds that I would be willing
to do that.
MIKE SPINELLI: Caswell legend two, at Rally Mexico, you
asked Ken Block to loan you a pair of racing shoes.
BILL CASWELL: That is correct.
That happened the second year with Ron Erickson.
Ron is in his senior year of college, kind of at the time,
really didn't have any money at all.
I flew him down to the event to be my co-driver.
And I should step back for a second.
And I did that, because Ron, I barely knew him.
I got a message from him saying, you're
going to need help.
I'm going to drive through the night to help you.
I'll see you at STPR.
He lived in, like, Missouri, and drove to Eastern
Pennsylvania, showed up at 4:00 in the morning, slept in
the back of the enclosed trailer with us for like two
hours, got up, and he had the welder fired up before I was
back from the bathroom.
So next thing I know he's welding on the car.
The dude's a machine.
We blew our motor in the second stage-- rod bearing,
spawn, whatever, we're out.
I was so happy for Ron, I'm like, dude, you've got to
start racing with me.
We go to Mexico, but he didn't have his own safety gear.
I know, long answers to simple questions.
But I brought my old pair of racing shoes for Ron to use,
and the FIA tech inspectors started playing with them.
They pulled back a piece of rubber, and they pulled back a
piece of leather, and he stuck his finger down through this
hole, and the next thing you know, his finger's
down inside the shoe.
And he's like, yeah, sorry, these aren't legal.
So you're down in Mexico.
You need to find a pair of FIA racing shoes.
What do you do?
Well, you go to the only other American you know in the
entire service park, Ken Block, and you say, Ken, man,
you've got the entire Ford WRCT team back there.
Someone's got to have a pair of shoes.
We don't care what size they are,
they're for the co-driver.
Just get us some leather nomad shoes.
Ken had to make sure it was OK, but yes, Ron Erickson has
a pair of shoes worn by Ken Block.
They're his old used shoes.
They were worn in the first year he was in the WRC, and
now they're on Ron Erickson's shelf, and he continues to
race with them.
Yeah, we borrowed shoes, and he was super awesome about it.
Him and Derrick, great guys.
MIKE SPINELLI: Well, and that's interesting.
When you were down there, how did the other, sort of the big
pro WRC drivers, how did they respond to you kind of showing
up there, and doing like full lock slides through the--

BILL CASWELL: It's wild, but at first, it was kind of like,
what the hell is this?
And it was really a case about all the organizers, the whole
service park.
But the first day people were like, what the
hell, almost annoyed.
But it was clear that we had no team.
We had to do everything ourselves.
When we showed up, we had to get the car through tech.
We had to register.
We had to get the stickers on the car.
We had to get the GPS installed.
Normally, a team shows up with 20 guys, each guy gets a task.
Well, there's just two of us.
So we're trying to do everything at once.
We're installing the GPS, we're on the way to tech,
everything's a mess.
And people were kind of annoyed.
But then, the second day, we're still in it, and I'm
wrenching like mad on the car.
And they see us jump out during a
20-minute service stop.
I peel my suit down, fire up the tunes on the iPod, and
start changing tires.
People start smiling, like this is a little retarded, but
they kind of like it, right?
And by the third day, we had a crowd around the car, people
super amped up watching us.
And that same emotion was kind of true with the WRC drivers.
Some guys took some amazing pictures of Petter Solberg and
Sebastien Loeb checking out my car at 7:00 AM in the service
park, with huge grins on their faces.
Expressions like, what, what is this?
And there's just great pictures of us
in the service park.
The super awesome thing about WRC is, especially Mexico,
they have this amazing after party after the end of the
three days.
It's just the WRC drivers and the teams.
So then, I actually got to hang out with Solberg.
I really didn't hang out with Loeb too much, but I'd hang
out with Madds and Miku, and they're like, dude, you're
driving a two-wheel rally car.
And right now I get a high five.
They're like, dude, [INAUDIBLE] drive rally car.
And the Ford guys who work on Ken's team came up to me, and
they're like, man, we were out on the stage today-- you came
through so sideways, dude.
You're just totally out of control, over
the crest, just awesome.
And I'm like, so did it look good?
Well, I mean, like you're slow, but
yeah, it looked awesome.
And that's just it, I'm in a 240 horsepower rear wheel
drive car, on stock suspension.
run Bill Stein HDs just like you buy
from the local retailer.
These guys are like $10,000 shocks per car, They can just
run over everything.
Yeah, the reaction was really cool.
The reaction was super awesome to have guys who are my
heroes, that I've been watching on TV since I was 16
high five me, or give me a hug, and buy me a beer--
hey, Caswell, I'll buy the first two buckets of beer.
Let's go run around this party.
You get the second two buckets.
It's like another WRC driver, I spent the night running
around crushing beers with them,
hanging out with everyone.
That to me, was the biggest recognition of my work.
Not the movie.
Not anything else, but to be at a party with all the other
drivers, who I would like to consider my peers, but in
reality, they're faster.
They dedicated their whole lives to this.
They're in $500,000 rally cars.
We're similar in that we have the same pursuit, and the same
passion, but very different in how we went
about getting there.
It's cool to get that recognition.
Well, you have to edit the hell out of this.
MIKE SPINELLI: It's better to have more than less.
One last Caswell legend story.
The legend is that you once almost got into a bar fight,
because one thing that your fans tend to do, is just like
a punk rock band, they plaster your stickers
all over the place.
So how close were you to getting into a bar fight
because of your fans and the stickers?
BILL CASWELL: Real close, I would say.
The Monster World Rally Team is like, Caswell, if you've
got a problem, you need to get out of here.
It wasn't just me, I just kept laughing it off.
They're just stickers.
It's no big deal, and yeah, you're right, I print stickers
by the 5,000 and 10,000 quantity.
And they're free at races.
I sell on my website, but if you're at the race, yeah, I
hand you stacks for free, and people
like to put them places.
And people like to tag things like, porta potties, and stuff
that gets cleaned and removed.
It's not like a permanent defacing
of someone's property.
But yeah, one of the guys that watched the rally freaked out,
and another driver of a rally car freaked out, and I walked
into the bar, and I'm looking one way, and he knocked me to
the ground.
Knocked me clean to the ground in the bar, and I got up, and
I'm like what the hell's your problem?
He said, I'm just so sick and tired of all your stickers.
I started laughing.
I was like, you've got to be kidding me.
A $0.20 sticker is driving you to this kind of anger?
Why don't you redirect it to something positive, maybe
build another rally car, entering another event.
Maybe you shouldn't be in a bar, getting hammered, pushing
people around.
But yeah, it got really, really bad.
And the owner of the bar is super awesome and loves me,
and we were hanging out there the night before.
He has like a huge stack, and was trying to tag his fans at
high speed in the bar, which was kind of amusing.
You ever try to put a sticker on a fan spinning at a couple
of hundred RPMs?
He kicked them out, and they called all their friends, and
there was a whole posse of guys in pickup trucks out in
the parking lot in rural Missouri waiting for me.
And that's when someone pulled up on their phone, a man was
shot and killed in that parking
lot six months earlier.
And so now I'm going, you mean someone died right out there?
Oh, yeah.
And there's 20 people out there waiting to kill us
because of some stickers?
And my co-driver's like, there's
no way this is happening.
No way.
He runs out the door, and he doesn't even get a foot out
the door, and sees the crowd, and comes back in-- dude,we
got a problem.
Yeah, yeah.
I called the State Police.
I didn't know what else to do.
I called the State Police and three squad cars showed up and
escorted us out of the bar.
We didn't have a car there, because remember I drove my
rally car to the race, and I flipped it over in the woods,
and then I had it towed to some kid's front yard, and
left it there.
So I didn't have a way home.
The cops are like, where's your car?

That guy's.
I picked a random guy's car, and got in, and begged him to
take me and Paul Damond to the Holiday Inn, which they did.
So things happen.
MIKE SPINELLI: So things happen on the road.
Well, actually, one question, which came from a reader, and
this sort of goes into a bigger question.

Would you ever enter the Dekar rally?
BILL CASWELL: Oh, I'd love to enter Dekar.
That's how the Baja thing started.
I went up to go see Miller Welders at a two day meeting.
And again, long answers to short questions, Mike.
But I go up to the Miller meeting, and they want to take
me to this fancy Italian restaurant.
We're in Appleton, Wisconsin.
This is insane, where's the bratwurst bar with beer?
And sure enough, we never eat there.
And we go to this little bar, and we proceed
to get really drunk.
And after beers, and beers, and beers, Miller's like, so
what do you want to do?
What is it after you've done WRC Mexico, what's next?
Well, there's this guy named Schlesser, and he built this
buggy of his own design.
It was half truck, half buggy, and he went to Paris Dekar and
just dominated them.
I'd like to build my own bizarre BMW buggy, and run it
in Paris Dekar.
And I started to lay out the design for the whole thing
they're all like, mouth open.
I didn't realize they were taking me seriously.
And it's like they thought I was really insane, and maybe
they'd made a terrible mistake.
And the night ends, and I come back in for
the next day meetings.
They're like, Cas, we bagged the entire
second day of schedule.
We've got something else we want to talk to you about.
We'd like you to build your Paris Dekar thing, but we'd
like to build it on the floor of [INAUDIBLE], and instead of
going to Paris Dekar, go to Baja 1,000.
The problem is, you've got 14 days.
So that's how the Baja 1,000 thing started.
A lot of people, after they saw that, said hey, do you
want to go to Dekar?
So really I wanted to go to Dekar, and got to Baja.
Yeah, without a doubt I want to go to Dekar.
My co-driver, Ben Slocum, entered last year with another
rally driver, and they said it was amazing, the
time of their lives.
It's a $20,000 entry fee.
I've got to ship a car down there, and I need like a month
of my life to live out of a tent.
We've driven the Baja car home every 1,000 race.
I've been able to make repairs in the desert, and get the car
to a hotel, or back home.
So oh, mid-400 I blew the clutch up.
I didn't drive that one home.
I take that back.
You know what I mean, so Paris Dekar should be my thing, man.
Limited tools, limited spares, give me a welder, stick me in
the desert give me 21 days to finish an event.
That's kind of the Caswell profile.
So the Caswell legend lives on.
What's next for you?
And what about the movie, how's that coming out?
BILL CASWELL: Sure, the movie is moving along really well.
The good news is, is that one of the producers and the
script writer, came down to WRC Mexico this year and spent
the entire weekend talking to WRC team, seeing the service
park, seeing my service area, checking out the stages,
checking out how WRC event works, seeing the contrast
between us low budget teams, and the full WRC teams.
And as a result of that, substantially rewrote a large
part the script.
So hopefully the movie's getting better.
And then the next step is casting and production
schedules and we move forward.
But Paramount started writing some serious checks, so
they're committed and on board.
This isn't like Paramount optioned my life rights.
They've actually exercised the option, purchased, and we're
moving forward, so that's great.
As far as what's next for me?
I really don't know, man.
I've been doing this for three years.
Every time I get in front of someone like you, or in front
of Jaloptik or Facebook, I'm like, what
should I do next, guys?
I've run the biggest rally in North America, WRC Mexico.
I run the largest hill climb in North America, Pike's Peak.
I've run the largest off road race in North America, the
Baja 1,000.
I've entered some of the rallies that I've always
wanted to run.
I ran a circle track up in Michigan in World NASCAR, and
it was a riot.
I've been kind of doing these things.
I want to get over to Europe and race.
I want to start running some bizarre events.
I want to go do like the Targa Florida recreation.
Even of it's not like true modern racing, I want to go do
some of these events that I read about in books like, The
Limit, and stuff like that.
So next up for me is Pike's Peak.
I've got that at the beginning of July.
I had an amazing ridiculously fast car lined up.
And, of course, this is racing, and things happen, and
not all the cash made it to the table, and I don't have
that ride anymore.
So I was offered and RX8 yesterday by a World Challenge
team, which is super cool.
And another guy's offered me a BMW to run up a mountain.
And I might prep my car.
I haven't figured that out yet.
But I just committed to running 24 Hours of Lemons at
Buttonwillow at the end of the month here in Southern
That should be fun.
That race ends Sunday and then I've got 48 hours to make tech
at Pike's Peak on Tuesday.
I'm most excited about Targa Newfoundland.
The event's iffy for me.
I'm a rally driver.
I'm used to time rally stages, actual real times.
Targa Newfoundland is this Mickey Mouse timing thing,
where they adjust your time by a coefficient.
So you might have finished in five minutes, but you're 83%
of your time.
Regardless, it's a week long tarmac rally in Newfoundland,
Canada, I'm running it on an E46M3, with [INAUDIBLE]
of VRPerformance.
Performance They've got the car in Michigan.
Their shop's prepping it.
Maybe you should check out VRPerformane.
Am I allowed to plug people?
It's their car.
They're putting me in it for Targa.
I'm super, super excited.
We're paid, registered and ready to rock.
So those are my next three motorsport events, and then
I'm looking for a job.
It's been three years.
Three years of me just running around the country partying.
I just got back from the 24 Hours of Nurburgring.
Like Le Man's is coming up.
I want to go see WRC Finland at the end of July.
But I can't just keep doing this.
No one's going to pay me to run around and party.
MIKE SPINELLI: Someone's got to pay you to live the dream,
and it's going to happen.
I know it.
Bill Freakin' Caswell on Road Testament.
Good to see you.
BILL CASWELL: My screen glitched out, Mike.
MIKE SPINELLI: Yeah, I'll talk to you soon.
BILL CASWELL: Yeah, was that good?
MIKE SPINELLI: Yep, that was good.
That I was great.
BILL CASWELL: All right.
I rambled a lot.
MIKE SPINELLI: That's cool.
We'll fix it in post.
BILL CASWELL: Yeah, just edit it out, just fade and blend.
Even put one in there, like Caswell goes on forever.
MIKE SPINELLI: Thanks, Bill, and remember, if you've got a
job for Bill Caswell that will let him do whatever the hell
he wants, and you'll pay him for it, just call us and get
in touch with us on Twitter, or something, and
we'll let him know.
That's Road Testament this week.
We'll see you guys next week.