I've known Eric Hsu for a minute-over ten-years worth of minutes. I remember him before he partnered up to open XS Engineering, before he was a Chief Engineer at A'PEXi, and before he was placed in charge of parts development at legendary motor builders, Cosworth. I remember when he was reflashing ECUs for cash and drag racing his second-gen Eclipse at Palmdale. And from the beginning, he was the kind of guy that didn't give a flying fart. He does what he wants and says what he feels. So after nearly breaking our age-old Time Attack record, I thought it was about time I caught up with an old friend.
What Was The First Ride You Modified?
Back in '89, I had an '87 Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R with a Garrett T04 turbo; HKS cams, AIC, wastegate; and a big-ass 5-inch Flowmaster muffler. You had to fabricate everything back in those days because nothing was off-the-shelf. I was only 16 so I had to learn how to figure it out, install it all and tune it. And trust me, I made my share of stupid mistakes working on cars.
What Got You Into Tuning?
When I was 14, my uncle Norman used to tune BMWs, Porsches and Benzes. We're talking turbo M5s and 911s with 16x13 rear wheels with K28 turbos, etc. I was his slave for about a year before I started tweaking on Mazda rotaries and Mustang 5.0s on my own.
What Was The First Part You Ever Developed?
The first part I ever developed for production was a Garrett T3/T04 bolt on for the second-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse for XS Engineering back in '96.
The Future: VIP, Show, Drag, Drift Or Time Attack?
That's a good question. I would say VIP and Drift, but I would also like to add Time Attack. Drift is fun to watch, but you won't see me building any drift cars anytime soon because of the subjective judging. I'd rather stick to just tuning the drift cars. Time Attack is the best. It's basically drag racing with turns. It's much harder than building a drag car because it uses every single aspect of the car: brakes, suspension, chassis, engine, drivetrain, etc. I love Time Attack because it separates the dyno queen tuners who use the word "Engineering" in their name (C16 + 40psi of boost = 800+whp?) and real tuners like XS who can build a truly fast car.
What Did You Think About Our Time Attack?
I thought it was fun and a well-organized event. I'm sure you didn't do crap and Elliott did all the work, though. What was kind of bull$#!+ was the GMG World Challenge GT3 Porsche Cup car. What the hell is a full dry carbon fiber, magnesium/carbon fiber wheeled, Moton triple adjustable damper racecar doing at a tuner challenge (Uh, we're not too sure, either - JN)? It's a beautiful car, but that freaking car is worth $400+k (well, $150k - JN)! It was our bad our boost controller failed, but we still almost took out the GT3. We were short 0.12 seconds.
What also sucked was that we were less than 0.3 seconds away from the Cyber Evo record. The XS R32 GT-R has only been on the track twice since the Street Tuner Challenge show on SPEEDTV, so I know the car has a lot more in it. We did mess up the GMG 997 GT2 street car though. That shows that a $160k German car with $20k in mods is still weak. German cars are great and I love them-if I want to cruise around wearing a striped button down shirt and pick up girls.
What Was This Cash Bet We Heard Of That Happened At Our Time Attack?
The ex-street racer side of me came out and I wanted to offer the GMG team $1,000 cash heads up. If they won, they would take the overall win and a grand out of my wallet. If the XS car won, we would just take the overall win and no cash. That's a win/win situation if I ever heard of one. Troy at XS spoke to the GMG driver James Sofronas (who is a badass driver) and they said they didn't have enough fuel, tires or balls (I threw the balls in there).
If You Had To Pick A Drifter To Drive Yourgt-R At The Time Attack Who Would It Be And Why?
Are you kidding me? Outside of Samuel, Rhys or Tanner, I would pick myself and I don't drift. Sorry, but most US drifters have absolutely no idea what a race line is. Out of those three, I would choose Samuel. He's driven our BNR34 GT-R for me before and he's fx@#ing fast.
You're Always Clowning Me About JDM, Why All The Anti-JDM?
I'm actually not anti-JDM at all. I just clown you all the time because you are so damn pro-JDM. I mean, how many fools go out and buy a JDM JGTC300 car (it's a former GT500 car, but who's counting - CJ)? I just think JDM is over-hyped is all. JDM for the exterior is dope. I love the wheels and body kits, and Japanese tuning products are still better than American products (especially turbo systems and definitely electronics). Without the JDM influence I don't think our market would be where it is today.
The fact of the matter is that Americans have more ingenuity and it's easier to race in America. Because of this and the American do-it-yourself mentality, you have a superior general knowledge base of racing and racecar parts which are simply more affordable and accessible. However, when it comes to tuning, I would have to say on the whole JDM tuners are better than American tuners. There are some serious hack shops in the US and I'm definitely not proud of that. I will say USA all the way when you talk the best USDM vs. the best JDM tuners.
A perfect example of JDM vs. USDM tuning: our daily driven 580whp R34 GT-R that came out to a Time Attack a couple years ago. We were 0.1 seconds slower than the Signal R34 GT-R with 750whp, full cage, no interior and a sequential transmission. Both cars were driven by Tarzan so you can't say it was a driver issue. That's when I first learned that JDM tuning is just hype. Look at all the Spoon cars that come to the states-a f*@$ing joke.
So Who, In Your Opinion, Are Some Of The Best USDM Tuners?
Most US tuners aren't into road racing yet. But a good tuner is someone who can build a car for whatever application and in the US it has been drag. However, I would have to say AMS Performance, Skunk2, DynoComp, RPM (out in New York), Comptech, HPA Motorsports and of course XS Engineering are the US' finest.
What's The Most Dyno-Proven Horsepower You've Ever Extracted Out Of A Motor?
1,069 whp out of a 2.6 liter RB26 on a Dynojet. And yes, he daily drives it at 720whp on pump gas. I don't build dyno queens unless the client wants one-and as long as his money is green.
What Is The Singular Aftermarket Product That Makes The Most Power?
ECU/ECU tuning. Most don't realize that tuning is the beginning and everything. I'm not talking about piggybacks either. People, piggybacks are f*@$ing jokes. Take them off your car and sell them to all the cheap-asses who buy crap from eBay. Always use a standalone or have the factory ECU ROM-tuned.
What's Your Favorite Motor To Tune?
I would have to say the RB26. 2JZ's [Supra motors] are too easy. The 2JZ is why you have so many dyno queens these days. Even if you make 1000whp, Supras are useless on street tires. You need slicks just to move forward in a Supra when making over 600whp. You're moving forward in a GT-R regardless of power.
The Most Overrated Motor?
The 2JZ is way overrated, especially in street car trim. In drag trim the 2JZ is truly impressive, but who drives around with cement in the block? If you are talking engine only, what tuners in America don't realize is if you spent the same money you would building a 1,000whp 2JZ, you could have a 1,600whp small-block Chevy. There's no replacement for displacement unless you're talking motorsport engines. Only then can airflow replace displacement.
If You Had To Pick One All-Around Turbo, What Would It Be?
For four-cylinders: HKS' GT2835S 56T. For six-cylinders: XS Engineering's T04X2. I've had nothing but success with both of these turbos. Overall though, you can't go wrong with Garrett's GTs. Just go on the forums to figure out what turbo size to use. Forum contributors are the true tuners-psyche! I think HKS GT turbos are better sized for the smaller Japanese high-revving engines, but they cost more.
Which Japanese Tuner Would You Want To Challenge To A Buildoff.
Oooh...that's a tough one. I talk all this crap about how Americans can build better stuff, but the reality is that JDM tuners have been doing it much longer. Let's see, who's way over-hyped. I'll just pick the most over-hyped one. I would think in the US it would be Signal.
If You Could Spend One Day With Someone To Pick Their Brain, Who Would It Be?
Mr. Kobayashi from MCR, who is the Shutoko [Tokyo highway] GT-R specialist. He gave me a ride on the Wangan about four years ago in his 600hp R34-f*@$ing sick! We hit 300km/h on a straight, zipping through traffic while accelerating, and I think he must have downshifted four gears and slammed on the 14-inch Brembos because I swore my eyeball popped out of the socket right before the turn. Kobayashi-san is known to be one of the fastest on the Shutoko in Tokyo and has been for many years. His knowledge of the GT-R is immense-I'd still compete against him in a Time Attack though.
What would you be doing if you weren't building cars?
Day trading stocks and options. I thought about doing it full time before I started at Cosworth.
Why Did You Make The Switch To Working Full-Time At Cosworth?
Cosworth approached me because they had an open position to do product planning and R&D to expand their street engine product line. I thought it would be a great opportunity to, A, learn new things, B, help Cosworth expand and, C, be around real race engines. It's worked out really well because everybody here is way cool and has been really supportive of the Performance Parts program.
So You've Worked At A'pexi USA, XS Engineering, And Now Cosworth. Which One Did You Like The Best And Why?
I can't really say which one I liked better. I like them all for different reasons. Being the Chief Engineer at A'PEXi for five years was definitely a learning experience. I'm glad I was able to develop and bring the Power FC to the USA because I still think it's the best sub-$1,000 ECU on the market today.
At XS Engineering it was cool because I was basically the head tuner/manager. A lot of people ask me, "Dude, what's XS gonna do without you?" The fact of the matter is that the XS staff is still the best in the industry today and Koji can probably tune better than me, now. We've been tuning together for the last eight years so we learned a lot together. Since Koji's tuned more cars than me now-I was more managerial-I can honestly say he's better at it than I am. I still work with XS, especially on their high-dollar and race projects, so my relationship with XS is still good. Not to mention a couple of my project cars are still over there.
Cosworth is still new so I'm learning something every day and I enjoy the challenge. It's probably one of the best work environments a person could ask for-it's easy-going, cool managers, dope co-workers (most are enthusiasts), but everybody gets their work done. Hit me up in another five years and I'll let you know.
What's Your Biggest Vice?
I don't have one, I have many-like every other single, 30-something year-old. I'm not exactly a role model, with smoking, alcohol, fast cars, girls, gambling, profanity and long work hours. I've got most of it under control though
Your Top Three Import Models.
Rowena Galam-she isn't around much anymore, but she was very nice.Joyce Lex-I've never met her, but she's way hot.Francine Dee-I wouldn't mind doing some damage to her even if you say she's [wild].