It's Bob's car. Sure, his business partner, Pete, told me it's a company car, but Bob is the one who goes into mother-hen mode anytime anyone goes near the silver Avant. Bob always keeps the car locked, even when it's safely tucked away inside his garage.
"I bought an Audi as a winter car," said Bob Hamme, "when I was driving a 535. I got in and said, this is pretty nice. That was 50 Audis ago!"
"He's had all the kooky cars," continued Pete Ryckeart. "BMWs, Saabs, and he's got to tinker with them. Bob has been in retail a long, long, time. He co-owned the biggest audio-video place in Rochester. Of course, when you sell retail, you don't like to pay retail, so he tried to find a way to be officially anointed to do things for people."
All the tinkering with his Audis led Hamme to Jo Hoppen Motorsport; soon he was listed as an official dealer. Starting with MTM software, Hamme began chipping friend's cars. Customers of Hamme's audio-video stores were next. "People had some rides in these really fast cars, and that was it," he said.
"Bob helped me get one of the first TTs here in the States," said Ryckeart. "He had one of the first 100 TTs (#16) available." Shortly thereafter, Hamme sold his retail stores and played with cars while he thought about what to do with his time. Rykeart helped set up a retail Web site named after one of Hamme's audio businesses, and the idea of making it a full-time business was hatched.
Fast forward a year or so, and we find Ryckeart at the Essen Motor Show, meeting Austrian tuner Markus Oberscheider. Discussions followed, and soon Stratmosphere and O.CT (Oberscheider Chip Tuning) were working together.
"We decided we needed to do serious performance products for the S4, so we sent a car to Austria. Then O.CT could do U.S.-specific development on the car and change the car to mimic the running changes Audi made to the '00, '01 and '02 models," said Ryckeart. "The car was taken apart and put together a million times. The idea was to develop right through the highest turbo kit and end up with a showcase car."
Oberscheider is trained as an electrical engineer and is a Master Mechanic (of the European system-4 years of study, 3 of working and then the Masters training starts). His father had a repair shop but did little tuning. That changed in the early '90s when the S4, S2 and Audi's five-cylinder gas and diesel turbos first appeared; O.CT was born.
The company now has a dozen employees and earns stringent TV approval for most of its products and upgrade kits. However, said Oberscheider, "When we take a Golf IV to Stage 6 with 300 bhp, it's not TV-approved. You have to certify the whole car, because it has over 40% more power than it started with. If you start with 150 bhp, the most you can take it to is 210 bhp without the whole alignment-basically, crash-testing! It gets crazy money-wise. The laws are different in Germany, Austria, Switzerland-it's always something different. We make it very clear to our customers what has TV approval and what doesn't," he said.