Builder Profile: Hammer Performance
Doc Rader 12.08.22
Hammer Performance didn’t just materialize as an off-road/Overlanding shop out of nowhere. Like many businesses, it started off small and as something else.
Hammer Performance was founded by Lance Levine in 2015 as a one-bay, 1,500-square-foot hot rod shop. After running that for a year and building clientele, he started adding diesel as a service offering and other performance upgrades. The business started growing, and in 2017, Lance secured financing and bought the new building. Hammer continued doing hot rods and diesel and added in a dyno, growing from five technicians to over fifteen. They also started working on fleet servicing for industrial and commercial clients.
A year later, in 2018, Hammer added in off-road servicing–mainly doing suspensions. In 2020 they went full Overlanding after reading the tea leaves and added a retail shop that sells everything from rooftop tents to recovery gear to medical supplies. Not only can you get a build done, but you can outfit your trip pretty completely.
Hammer is not really doing as much with performance due to changes in regulations and a reduction in interest from the market.
The core staff of Hammer Performance is a motley crew of people from various backgrounds. It is refreshing to work with a shop that has identified the roles needed to make a business successful and put the correct people in the jobs.
Too often, we see shops driven by ego and personality and not so much by business acumen. These shops have flashy marketing and overly sexy social media to make up for the lack of quality control and rounded-out business management.
Lance is the founder of Hammer Performance and started the original shop. He’s hired a number of key people to manage the parts of the business he was not as strong in, including mentorship for himself.
He is now focused on building Hammer Built (the webshop) and working on some custom components to fill gaps in the market.
Bud joined Hammer in 2017, originally to push fleet business (industrial and commercial vehicles). Before Hammer, he’d worked as a general manager for a large distributor (for nearly 16 years). Bud also owns a side fabrication business (Norseman Fab) which he started after leaving the Navy a number of years back.
As a kid, he worked on hot rods and has always had an affinity for mechanical things. Having run several businesses in the past, he also fulfills a role as a business advisor for Hammer, helping steer toward new trends and manage the shop.
Tristan is one of the linchpins of the shop. He manages logistics and operations and serves as the shop and service manager. Part of that is managing the schedule (of an 11+ bay shop that can accommodate around 20 simultaneous builds) and working as a liaison with customers.
He came to Hammer from the roughneck world, working pipelines. He’d been working for a local construction shop as a fabricator, and Lance hired him to work in the fabrication bay. He worked in fab for a year before moving into his existing role.
If Lance and Bud run the “40,000-foot view”, Tristan handles the “500-foot view” and helps remove roadblocks for the technicians.
Brett is the resident “tech geek,”–which is the role I fall into more often than not at places I work. He is more involved on the performance side and is the person that helped set up the Tazer we installed on the Power Wagon. Brett is more involved on the performance side, dealing with tuning and tech applications. He also fills roles managing the books (accounting) and IT.
This is arguably one of the more important roles of a mechanic shop. I’ve seen many examples in the automotive and firearms worlds where you have excellent technicians that fall short in the bookkeeping side of the business.
Tyson is primarily sales and runs the webshop Hammer Built (founded in 2021) along with Lance. He does a lot of networking/schmoozing and helps with product idea development. Tyson is also the Raptor “specialist” and focuses on more desert racing applications.
Any professional shop needs someone as the front line of defense. Hammer’s is Dominique. She manages intake and front-of-shop sales and handles the phones (from status communications to relaying messages to the correct party).
One of the things that differentiates a good shop from one less professional is its organization and cleanliness. Shops that are dirty, or cluttered, should be warning sign.
The shop’s mechanics may be talented, but if there are old dirty parts, empty packaging, or fluids and grime built up in the work area, that should indicate a lack of attention to detail. It is easy to lose small parts or create a dangerous/hazardous situation when you let things go.
Hammer Performance’s shop is anything but disorganized and dirty. While in the shop, I saw the work floors being swept and mopped daily. Boxes were broken down after parts were inventoried and accounted for. Vehicles in the shop for build-out or service had an area (outside the direct work area) with individual tables set up for each system being worked on. Tool boxes were clean and organized. It is clear that someone was in charge of enforcing a standard in the shop.
Other builders I have worked with were…..less organized. Dirty shops, lost parts, etc. You don’t need to be able to eat off the floor, but it should not look like a couple of Gundams battled it out on the shop floor.
Choosing a builder or shop to work with can be a little like a marriage. You will likely invest a lot of time and money and want to ensure the relationship is going to be enduring. You should have compatible philosophies.
The shop should be competent in all aspects you need and treat you as a respected partner in the build–complete overland and off-road rigs are not cheap. I’ve learned important lessons when working with a shop–opposed to doing the work yourself. The most important thing is to find a shop that can “talk the talk” and ” walk the walk.”
Hammer Performance is such a shop. The entire staff, from management to technicians, brings a wealth of experience and skill. You’ll find the owner on the floor turning a wrench next to the newest technician. The shop is clean and organized. They take pride in their work, and the technician on your vehicle constantly communicates with you about decisions. This is not a “their way or the highway” kind of shop.
If you are looking for a complete build or even some light work, and you are in the desert southwest, you should call Hammer Performance. Even if you aren’t local, they are exceptionally accommodating, and their work stays on budget (time and cost).