Let's face it. Some people get to do things most of us will never experience; things so far-fetched and adrenaline-filled we can't even imagine the feeling. This occurred to me after watching a video about wing-suit base-jumping. With people literally flying alongside cliffs in excess of 100mph, it's the closest we can come to playing Superman.
We'll probably never get to do that, but we recently had our own unique experience; something you can try to imagine - driving the menacing HorsepowerFreaks 900whp BMW M3 turbo.
Based out of Portland, OR, Horsepower-Freaks (HPF) is dedicated to building some of the fastest, most reliable cars on the road. They've done so well that Entrepreneur Magazine included it in its 2007 Top 500 fastest growing companies.
While HPF provides a plethora of go-fast parts for a variety of cars, it's focused on the E46 M3 and developed a turbo system for it in four stages, ranging from scary-fast to stupid.
HPF Turbo Systems
When looking at the turbo kit, the most noticeable item is the huge intake plenum feeding pressurized air into the individual throttle bodies. Flowbench tested to a 1% variance between all six cylinders, it won't lean-out one cylinder during tuning. Its design also optimizes mid-range and top-end power, and houses one of two supplied HKS sequential blow-off valves.
The intake piping is 3" (stage 4 is 4"). It connects to the turbo under the engine, that's bolted to HPF's unique two-piece exhaust manifold. This manifold features short-runners for quick spooling, yet unlike a log-style manifolds, it also features individual flow paths for optimal flow. All six runners direct air to the wastegates, helping prevent boost spikes. And because the turbocharger sits low, oil running through it is pumped to the pan via a silent oil pump.
Attached to the exhaust manifold is the 3" downpipe (stages 1-2.5), which works with the factory exhaust system. Stages 3 and 4 use a 4" downpipe to allow the larger turbo to spool quicker. A Tial wastegate is then plumbed into either downpipe.
The tuner supplies a bar 'n plate intercooler system in either a polished or black finish. It houses the second HKS BOV. Despite its size, the intercooler retains the factory crash support and fan, so engine cooling and vehicle safety aren't compromised.
Boost and air-fuel ratio gauges are installed in a steering wheel-mounted pod for easy viewing. It features a small key that toggles between race and pump fuel modes to prevent others driving in high-boost.
Probably the best feature of the turbo kit is its plug-n-play engine management system. Developed to work in conjunction with the stock DME, it allows every other components to work as BMW intended. The EMS uses an AEM 3.5bar MAP (manifold air pressure) sensor, eliminating the MAF (mass air flow) sensor, and provides precise dual Vanos control based on RPM and boost.
Each map is tuned under a number of parameters, including altitude, gear selection, boost, weather, etc. In case of knock from poor fuel, a loud 120db siren alerts you to get off the throttle. With this system, HPF also has precise control of its high-impedance fuel injectors and is able to use the factory coil packs without an auxiliary ignition system.
For stages 1-2.5, HPF's kits use with 750cc injectors and an extra Walbro 255 liters-per-hour inline pump. Controlled by the EMS, the pump is programmed to activate at 3psi.
For stages 3-4, an additional Walbro pump matches the higher volume of air pumped by the larger turbo. Stage 4 also has 1200cc low-impedance injectors, an AEM fuel-pressure regulator, Edelbrock and Aeromotive fuel filters as well as a dual-feed fuel rail.
Everything except stage 1 features a methanol injection system, pre-mounted to a bracket that installs under the front bumper and plugs into the EMS. The system uses a modified FJO methanol pump and a unique FJO fogger that creates a cool, high-octane methanol fog.
The system is fully automatic. When methanol is detected, higher boost and timing is provided and fueling compensates for the methanol in the system. It's like having race fuel when you need it, and HPF reports up to a 60?F drop in charge temps as well.
HPF's entry-level stage 1 turbo system uses a Precision T67 turbo with a P-trim turbine encased in an .81 aspect ratio housing. Because of the stock 11.5:1 compression and 91-octane pump fuel, stage 1 is conservatively tuned to 6psi and 450whp with flat torque curve peaking at 330 lb-ft. With 110-octane, however, HPF tunes it to 626whp and 455 lb-ft at 13psi.
Stage 2 benefits from the meth injection, allowing more aggressive tuning. Here customers see 595whp and 430 lb-ft on pump gas at 13psi - more than double the stock output. With racing fuel, the number jumps to a whopping 655whp and 470 lb-ft.
Considering we're still talking stock compression, this power output is amazing for the S54 engine. In fact, while trying to find the limit of the engine, HPF found the limit of the 67mm turbo first. "We tested the stock compression motor with three back-to-back runs at a maxed-out 24psi, and while we all stood back expecting something to blow, it held together with all three pulls over 720whp!" reported Chris Bergemann, president of HPF. "And they're reliable, too. Collectively our customers have covered over 750,000 miles. My car alone had over 2000 dyno pulls with the bone-stock motor."
Stage 2.5 goes a step further with a built short-block, including forged rods and pistons for a lower 9.5:1 compression. With higher boost and more aggressive tuning, this stage sees an average 580whp on pump gas, rising to 630whp with methanol. With race gas and meth, it jumps to 690whp and 570 lb-ft.
Stage 3 is where things get a crazy. A large 74mm turbo with a giant GTS turbine provides a ton of flow. On 91-octane alone, HPF has seen 637whp, jumping to 780whp with meth, and 820whp on race fuel.
Finally, stage 4 uses a massive 76mm GTS dual ball-bearing turbo and 4" intake. With racing fuel and meth, Bergemann's own car has repeatedly surpassed 900whp and 679 lb-ft, and he aims to crack the 1000whp mark soon.
Each turbo kit includes stainless feed and return lines, a motor mount, silicone couplings, all hardware and instructions. It should be noted that a sturdier clutch is also required.
>strong>Stage 4 Experience
By now you're asking if these cars are streetable. To answer the question, we rendez-voused with Oscar Trevizo's HPF stage 1 '03 M3 and Chris Bergemann's own stage 4 '02 M3 to find out.
At first glance, the cars look menacing. The amazing Azuka Design carbon fiber body kit is to blame, with wheel arches so wide they easily accommodate the Enkreuz HS10 19" wheels wrapped with 285/30 Nitto Invos up front and Viper-sized 345/30s in the rear.
Any other day, I'd normally drive stage 1 first, but I wasted no time and jumped in Bergemann's monster. Inside, the car looks and feels stock, until you fire the motor. Thanks to its 4" exhaust, it's one of the loudest streetcars I've driven.
The triple-disc OS Giken clutch is very aggressive, taking calf muscle and finesse to properly slip. The fact I didn't stall it makes it almost streetable, but I wouldn't want to be caught in traffic...
Despite the clutch and decibel level, the car is docile to drive. I took my time warming it up, and I'm sure Bergemann thought I was a pansy. But having never driven anything with over 700whp, I wasn't taking any chances.
The KW coilover suspension felt solid, and with so much grip, the steering feels razor sharp. At part-throttle, the engine felt almost stock. But give it some boost at around 3000rpm and the revs start to ramp up. After a couple of smooth, low RPM pulls in third gear, I finally got the nerve to keep my foot down. Come 5000rpm, hell breaks loose with a VBOX-registered 0.7G acceleration thrusting me into the seat (for reference, the same force as our 236whp Project M3 in first gear). Everybody in the car stops breathing, and not a moment later I'm hitting the 8000rpm rev limiter at 100mph.
Shifting into fourth gear, the pull is still phenomenal. I momentarily notice a flickering yellow light in front of me and think it's the check-engine light. Unbelievably, it's the traction control fighting to keep the 345mm-wide rubber from breaking loose! Exactly three seconds later we pass 130mph. In fourth gear, we still experienced more than 0.5G of acceleration (the same as Project M3 peaks in second). Yet today it's with three guys in the car, a full tank of fuel and at 4000ft of elevation. Truly amazing.
At the top of fourth gear, I nail the massive Brembo GT braking system. From 130mph we slow at -1.1G and come to a stop in just 7sec. I slowly regain my senses. This car is unreal.
After 20 or so pulls, the car continues to perform effortlessly. The only thing maybe not happy with the abuse is the cooling system, with the needle passing the center mark momentarily. But it comes back down within seconds of cruising.
While stage 4 power is breathtaking, the delivery is actually controllable thanks to the adjustable traction control and HPF's boost tuning, which is trimmed for vehicle speed. This ensures you don't have too much in the lower gears, causing a dangerous situation. That said, stage 4 is definitely streetable with the right clutch because you don't see the full 900whp until well into triple digits.
Stage 1 Experience
Oscar Trevizo of kautospa.com is the main distributor for the Azuka widebody kits seen here. While aesthetically similar, his '03 M3 painted Lamborghini grey is a different animal from Bergemann's. With a stage 1 turbo system, it sports a T67 turbo and stock compression. So at start-up, the engine sounds stock. And while the exterior looks similar to the stage 4 car, the interior gets a six-point rollcage and Status seats.
Driving this car is much easier, thanks to HPF's stage 1 Feramic clutch. While cruising, you can't tell the engine's modified. But when the throttle is pressed it took me by surprise how quick and hard the T67 hit. Second goes by fast but it's traction-controlled, otherwise I'd fry the tires. Pop it into third. Wow! It feels like an extra 100 lb-ft of torque just kicked in. I've got full use of Trevizo's 620whp, and this turboed S54 feels divine.
Although it gets significantly louder on boost, the 3" exhaust in this car is much quieter than the 4" system.
After driving the two cars I pondered which of HPF's kits I'd choose if I had an E46 M3. And I while love the endless rush of stage 4, and the way we put football fields between us and other challengers, I'd need a widebody to make use of more than 600 lb-ft of torque.
The response and factory feel of stage 1 made a quite favorable impression on me. It's got awesome power and great response. And the stock compression means decent fuel economy as well. I'd want plentiful power on pump, a mild clutch, and a quiet exhaust system for a totally streetable package. In fact, HPF's 595whp stage 2 setup sounds perfect to me. And when I get it, I'll buy a big red cape to go with it!
With 600-900whp from a HorsePowerFreaks turbo kit, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know traction will be a huge issue. To address this problem, you need the widest tires you can fit under your car - the larger the footprint, the more grip you will have for acceleration and cornering.
The stock rear tire for an E46 M3 is a 255-series, although up to 285s will fit with some fender rolling. So the next stage is to extend the bodywork to allow wider tires.
Asuka Designs engineered a ten-piece widebody kit to address the E46 M3's need for more grip. The package consists of the front and rear quarter panels, both bumpers, side skirts, trunk and hood. It was built with HPF in mind, so there would be no rubbing or fitment problems. The front and rear fenders are 5.5" and 9" wider, allowing the use of 295 and 345-series tires, respectively.
Not just about tire width, the body kit is made from vacuum-infused carbon fiber, as opposed to hand-laid carbon. The vacuum-infusing process optimizes weight by removing excess resin while still keeping it extremely strong.
Parts of the widebody were designed with vents to help cool the car. For example, the hood extracts air from the engine bay. The front bumper was designed to house an HPF intercooler, while also providing large openings for either oil or transmission coolers. The rear bumper has a vent above the exhaust to alleviate heat from this area. While down the flanks, vents remove heat from the brakes.
"The heat from the brakes, exhaust and engine has to go somewhere. We're generating massive amounts of it, so why don't we let it out? All these vents keep things cool," said Oscar Trevizo from Karwerkz Automotive Spa, the main distributor and retailer for the kits which fit E46 M3 and 330ci (the carbon hood and trunk will fit any E46).
And here's what you're waiting for...The entire carbon body kit will run you about $14k. If that's too much, Karwerkz offers a different version in hand-laid carbon for $8k (www.kautospa.com).
2002 BMW M3
Owner: Chris Bergemann
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: President, HorsepowerFreaks Inc
Engine: BMW S54 3.2 liter six cylinder 24v with HPF stage 4 turbo kit including Precision HPS76 dual-ball-bearing turbo, two external Walbro 255 lph fuel pumps, Aeromotive EFI fuel filter, Edelbrock fuel filter, two HKS blow-off valves, 1200cc RC Engineering low-impedance injectors, AEM ten-channel peak-and-hold fuel injector driver, HPF/AEM engine management system, Denso Iridium IXU27 plugs, HPF-spec forged pistons and rods, ARP main and head studs, polished intake plenum, 4" turbo-back exhaust
Drivetrain: six-speed manual transmission, OS Giken R Type triple-disc clutch and flywheel
Brakes: Brembo GT six-piston calipers and two-piece 15" drilled front rotors, four-piston calipers and two-piece 13.6" drilled rear rotors, braided lines
Suspension: KW Variant 3 coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 19x10" front, 19x13" rear Enkruez HS10 wheels with 285/30 front, 345/30-19 rear Nitto Invo tires
Exterior: Azuka Design carbon fiber bumpers, fenders, trunk and hood, Sparco gas cap, Umnitza stealth grille, tinted corners and Predator Orion LED angel-eyes, factory HIDs, IS350 white paint
Interior: AEM six-in-one UEGO wideband, AEM boost gauge, race-fuel switch, methanol switch, traction control adjuster
Audio/Visual: Kenwood KVT512 head unit, MBQuart Premium 12" subs, PV1216 and PV1210 speakers, PV line tweeters, crossovers, DSC2000.1D subwoofer amps, DSC480 mid-range amps and DSC280 tweeter amps, Savv rear monitors, Knuconcept distribution blocks and main power wire
Thanks: HorsepowerFreaks (www.horsepowerfreaks.com 503/256-5600), OS Giken (www.osgiken.net), Performance Box (www.vboxusa.com), Karwerkz Automotive Spa (www.kautospa.com)