Gabe Adams is a fairly unassuming man, his demeanor tranquil. But beneath the placid exterior is a junkie looking for a fix. His need for speed is completely contrary to his persona. But you have to watch out for those silent type As. They are the really insane ones. And while he walks softly, he carries a big stick in the form of his company's flagship vehicle: the Bluewater Performance Volkswagen R32.
Of course this is no run-of-the-mill R32. It couldn't be if it's attempting to become the fastest VW in the world. Adams is attempting to break a land speed record in his class at Bonneville by cracking 222.961 mph. Along with that, he also is attempting to become the world's fastest R32 and possibly the world's fastest Volkswagen.
"With the gearing and horsepower expected from the engine, 275 mph is not unreasonable," says Adams.
The process of turning a stock R32 into one that rockets across the desert halfway to the sound barrier is not one that happens overnight. So let's go back to where it all began.
Adams has been around cars since he was a little shaver. Like many of us, his father worked on hot rods and passed the torch along to him. "My dad raised me to be a Chevy man but obviously that didn't work," he says. "Nonetheless, it was a great experience and I never knew at the time how much those days and nights spent in his shop would affect my life."
Adams funneled his automotive passion into the German marque, becoming a proficient mechanic in the process. "We officially opened Bluewater Performance in 2009 because I was overwhelmed with people who wanted me to work on their cars," he says.
Adams acquired the R32 a few years earlier. "I had been secretly looking for an R32 behind my wife's back," he says. He found one at a local dealership, bought it and then decided to tell his wife, Nina, the news. "She seemed excited so I let her drive it home in the snow. I figured that would seal the deal."
It was a little after that when we ran into Adams at a local racetrack at Morrison, Colo. At the time he had it twin-turbocharged and was running 11s. Remember, that's at a mile above sea level. Nonetheless it wasn't exactly the only twin-turbo in the world. Years later the turbos were ditched for a single snail and the vehicle, although street legal, is a dedicated land speed record seeker.
At present, the R32, or bastard offspring of one and a thousand crazy bastards, is churning out 945 hp on a Mustang dyno. Compensate for drivetrain loss and the flywheel figure is more like 1,100 hp. Not too shabby for a VW. In order to handle this much power it had to be built to the tightest tolerances possible. Luckily, Adams lives next door to a machine shop that specializes in race motors. The pistons are Wossner 8:1 and a set of Integrated Engineering rods pushes them around. This forced-inducted motor is built to last.
The turbo setup consists of a Precision Billet 6865 turbo with an 0.81 aspect ratio mated to a custom tubular exhaust manifold and a 4-inch stainless Vband downpipe. Other plumbing consists of a stainless 2.50-inch hot side intercooler piping connected to a Treadstone intercooler and 3-inch cold side piping that ends at a C2 short-runner intake. The air inlet starts out with a 4-inch dry filter connected to a Pro-M 80mm high-flow mass air meter. This meter was installed to accommodate the additional horsepower and is capable of supporting up to 800 hp.
Other areas needed to be modified to cope with the power, namely the fuel system. If you can't get enough petrol in the combustion chambers you might as well be spinning your wheels. So to deal with this issue Adams came up with a system that has increased flow capacity and runs on E85 to boot. Take that, you tree-hugging nancy boys. The petrol starts out in a 10-gallon cell and travels through dual -8AN stainless steel mesh filters then onto dual Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps that each flow 700 lb/hr at 45 psi.
"Because of the E85 we needed 50 percent more fuel," says Adams. "We also wanted a system that would still be capable of feeding the fuel even at max injector duty." The dual fuel pumps lead to a Y-block that steps the fuel line from dual -8AN to a single -10AN feed which in turn goes through the custom fuel rail onto the 2,200cc injectors and then out to the Aeromotive Pro EFI regulator then returns to the tank. "To keep the tanks from running at full duty, we installed a controller at one pump. This allows the pump to pulse, which makes it run at a low speed. Then around 3000 rpm the controller kicks into high speed." Finally, there's a Hobbs pressure switch (set at 15 psi) that activates the other pump to engage at full speed.
While it is an advantage for the fuel to flow freely, the driver needs to be as stable as possible when surpassing speeds at which aircraft leave the ground. Ingress is made easier by a rollcage that extends outward from the cabin into the space where the door panel would be.
A shakedown run at Bonneville last September got Adams thinking about what could happen during a 180-mph rollover, the speed he attained on Bonneville's shorter track to run with the big dogs. "I wish I would have made the cage a little bit beefier," Adams says. "Some parts will have to be cut out and a few bars will have to be welded in."
He approached the starting line last year nestled in a Pro ADV seat and a five-point Formula belt. A 10-pound Safecraft Halon fire suppression system with three nozzles-one for the engine, one for the fuel cell and one for the cabin pointed directly at him-may have added either a sense of confidence or trepidation at the thought of being sprayed in the face with Halon as the car bursts into flames.
"I had been dreaming of that moment, sitting at the starting line in the salt with a track that goes on forever," he says. This wouldn't be the first time he took the car to triple digits and beyond though.
"The first time I tried to run some logs out on the highway on the E85 setup, I passed a Honda with Lambo doors doing 150 mph. He thought I was trying to race him, so he flew up on me, then the cops pulled us both over."
As it turned out the kids in the Honda were wanted. The cops complimented Adams on his car and told him to get out of there. The moral of the story: People with Lambo doors on a vehicle that's not a Lambo are most likely drug dealers.
At Bonneville there are no cops. The only speed you need to worry about is your own two-way average. A proper suspension helps though and in this R32's case it consists of H&R RSS coilovers, Neuspeed front and rear sway bars, and upper and lower adjustable rear control arms from Bluewater Performance.
During Adams' last run there was no sort of undertray and he admits that there will be a lot of aerodynamic additions, or subtractions as the case may be, before they gun it for the respective records. "It might not be the best design aerodynamically, but I wouldn't feel safer in any other car," said Adams, partially in reference to the R32's AWD system.
After finally getting the green light at the lake that day, grabbing the Diesel Geek short shifter then snicking up through the gears, he admitted he had some apprehension.
"The Salt Flats is unlike any other place on Earth," he says. "The traction has been described as like being on everything from concrete to wet pavement to ice. I personally would describe it as wet pavement with a layer of marbles."
Let's just hope Gabe Adams hasn't lost his.
Bluewater VW R32
3.2-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve. Wossner 8:1 pistons, Integrated Engineering rods, Precision PT6865 turbo w/3-inch inlet pipe, tubular exhaust manifolds, Treadstone front-mount intercooler w/custom piping, 4-inch downpipe, 272/272 Shrick cams, 46mm Precision Turbo wastegate with 25-psi spring, Forge Supersize DV, 2,200cc injectors, Custom United Motorsports E85 tune, Custom -10AN fuel rail, Fuel Safe 10-gallon fuel cell, dual Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps, Aeromotive Pro EFI fuel pressure regulator, Cusco oil catch can, PRO MAF, C2 short-runner intake, 4-inch dry air filter, Mishimoto radiator, Aeroquip coolant overflow tank, Forge Unos manual boost controller, custom 4-inch aluminum V-band exhaust, VF motor mounts, Kinetic racing battery relocated to rear
Six-speed manual. Southbend Stage 5 OFE clutch and flywheel kit, Diesel Geek short shifter
H&R RSS coilovers, Neuspeed antiroll bars, Bluewater Performance adjustable rear control arms
Stoptech four-piston big-brake kit, Hawk pads, stainless lines
Work Emotion 11R alloys, 8.5x18
Full custom rollcage w/NASCAR door bars, New South Indigo boost and oil pressure column pod gauges