When you see something, you try to identify it, then categorize it and then either pretend to understand it or admit to being clueless. Then something like this comes along: 680-plus hp, four-wheel drive and under 3,000 lbs. Would you file it under "madness" or "genius" or has the fine line between madness and genius just been blurred by four 50-yard strips of soft-compound drag tire?
EIP Tuning has forged a reputation for power on the street and on the strip. It helped introduce Rotrex superchargers to the market and has had more fun with the 1.8T than should be allowed by law. However, it is the venerable VR6, the big block of the VW line that is the company's mainstay. Its engineering exercise is a Golf that has that has been taken to incredible heights. The car, owned by Rich Chavacci, of EIP Tuning, has been the test bed for EIP's staged turbo kit program and has made the rounds drag racing on a nationwide basis, all while retaining street-able performance.
As Chavacci and his crew at EIP gradually developed and refined their VR6 turbo kit, upgrading it in "stages" and pumping as much as 4 bar worth of boost into the chambers, horsepower figures skyrocketed and the numbers on the timeslips started dropping. Prior to the four-wheel-drive conversion, Chavacci piloted this car down the quarter mile in a scant 11.1 seconds. Spectators of the spectacle later told him that the tires were smoking until he let off the pedal at the finish line, essentially a quarter-mile burnout. He thought about adding wheelie bars, replacing the glass windows with Lexan and going with full slicks to get it into the 10-second bracket, but four-wheel drive had always been his first choice.
To make it work, Chavacci had some contacts in England locate the essential ingredients. They include parts from the coveted Rallye Golf, the Golf Country and the A3-based VRSynchro sold in Germany. The most complete section consists of the Rallye Golf's rear driveshaft, viscous coupling, differential and independent suspension. To make that fit, the gas tank was removed and part of the spare wheel housing had to be cut away. A racing fuel cell now sits under the hatch.
The front half of the system includes the transmission bell housing from a German-market VRSynchro. The swap was made easier, as the VRSynchro is based on an A3 chassis. Inside the transmission exist hardened and machined steel gears from the same company that supplies VW Motorsport. An EIP Competition Series limited-slip differential distributes the power along with its Stage 4 Competition Series clutch and pressure plate. And to handle the extra forces in back, EIP designed a new rear cross member. The driveshafts come from the Golf Country; however, new chrome-moly pieces are being made as Chavacci believes that they're a weak link. With all the pieces in front of him, Chavacci said the install took two weeks of after-hours wrenching.
The engine is what EIP calls its Stage 6 version. It's as far as they can go without having to use a full-race or alcohol-derived fuel. The block was bored to accept EIP's 2.9-liter, hand-edged, thermal-coated pistons. The rods are 4340 chrome-moly and utilize EIP's custom rod bolts as well, while the crank stays the same. Between the head and the block resides a custom copper gasket. On top are big-valve, high-flow, CNC-machined cylinder heads. The intake manifold and throttle body are also modified EIP pieces. It's all kept tight with a set of EIP's head bolts. To feed the required fuel, the VR6 relies on EIP high-flow injectors and a proprietary fuel system. To clear the space taken up by the driveshaft, EIP designed a custom steel exhaust manifold, upon which sits a turbonetics T04 turbo with a special compressor section and 4-inch outlet. The Stage 6 package also includes the external wastegate and GReddy "S" blow-off valve used in all its turbo kits, plus a Stage 5 intercooler and a Stage 4 3-inch steel downpipe with dump tube. Specific to Stage 6 is EIP's Competition Series air intake. It's all managed by an EIP/Electromotive TEC-II distributorless ignition that's laptop programmable. Boost is controlled by an Apex AVCR digital controller. The exhaust is an EIP custom, 3-inch unit that exits out the side.
Pumping a "mere" 28-29 psi or 2 bar, the engine dyno'd at 683.6 hp. Chavacci estimates up to 750 hp, with 40-plus pounds of boost. Up until the 4WD system was installed, 750 hp wasn't needed, as 683 hp was already too much.
Exterior enhancements now include A4-style headlights from a late-model Cabriolet, flanking an Abt grille. Down low sits an Abt spoiler and out back sits an Abt rear spoiler. The bumper covers, side skirts and mirrors were all color-matched to the factory white paint.
Controlling suspension compression are complete Bilstein Rallye/Race front struts in front, while in back, Koni five-way adjustable shocks are paired with custom-rate race springs on each corner.
Before I got behind the wheel, Chavacci had me ride along for some orientation. After closing the door, I reached behind to grab the seatbelt. Then I turned around to find the belt missing. To shave weight, Chavacci and crew had stripped the car of all unnecessary hardware, including the passenger seatbelt, grab handle and the temporary seat I sat on. "Just don't kill me, Rich," was all I asked as we motored away.
Late afternoon traffic kept Chavacci from really stepping into it. Instead, he'd get into the boost for short bursts before getting hard on the brakes. The massive surge of torque was enough to make it feel as though there was a black hole in the seat sucking me into a void of exponential gravity.
The moment of truth came right after the car in front turned off, revealing an empty B-road that stretched to the horizon. On a roll, Chavacci nailed it, causing a slight jerk to the left, a correction by Chavacci, and then the car compressed and then...bolted? No, catapulted? No, took off? No. Imagine a missile being released from an F-16. For the first second, it seems to wag its tail. Then it gathers itself and disappears. EIP's creation has the power to cause tunnel vision, blurring everything except that pinpoint furthest down the road, and until you get used to it, your mind is always playing catch-up. It makes you believe in wormholes (theoretical shortcuts in space).
"You should feel it at really high boost," Chavacci said as we turned around. Boost was set at 1.4 bar or 21 psi. Giddy. Delirious. Without a point of reference and paralyzed by fear, I told him, "I don't need to drive this thing, Rich." That blink in time had us in the (mid) triple digits before I could realize that I was scared out of my mind--which had left my body a mile earlier in its refusal to participate.
We reached the point of takeoff and found four long strips of Nitto drag tire smeared into the asphalt. The first two strips veered to the left and after that, when the viscous coupling engaged, were two lengthy smears from the rear tires. Chavacci plans to experiment with different thickness of transmission fluid until he finds the viscosity that hooks up the rear earlier. And to the side of the road, in the weeds, shivering and bruised, was my courage. I brushed it off, gave it a cigarette and got behind the wheel of insanity.
Snugly strapped into the four-point racing harness, I stepped into the rock-hard racing clutch. Because of its quick engagement, it required deft feathering of the accelerator to get off the line smoothly. Although the Electromotive TEC-II ECU was programmed for the full-throttle world of the drag strip, drivability at low revs was more than acceptable for such a highly stressed engine. Boost can be felt shortly after 2500 rpm, building progressively as revs climb. Passing maneuvers called for very little throttle and anything more than half throttle put the car in the upper echelon of acceleration. Going full-throttle is a privilege; 600-plus hp is something you have to work up to. Master it and everything pales. Tame its wild nature and tendency, under full power, to squirm like a giant python and you'll think you can drive anything.
People talk about "taking it to another level" or "pushing the envelope," but mad scientists, such as Chavacci, will be the first to tell you that when this work in progress is completed, there will be nowhere else to go. Chavacci has given some thought to making it more well-rounded with suspension mods, big brakes and the right wheel and tire combo. Such tweaks would make it a serious road course terror, and, already, there are other cars in the shop waiting for the same treatment, with the intention of making them more street-able. That means less boost, quicker spooling turbos and even better drivability. Whatever the form, or the purpose, it's safe to say that EIP builds some of the most outrageous Volkswagens on the planet.