| European Car Magazine - October 1993
Wretched Excess One - Lurching Toward Success:
by David K
PHOTOS BY DAVID FETHERSTON
in June, 1987 VW & Porsche - for such were we then - ran a story
about Techtonics engine builder and general hot-shoe Collin Gyenes'
personal car. Cohn's Jetta was fast. Its two-liter 8-valve motor
relied on tried-and-true tuning deep - breathing and big compression
- to make big power. It had 11.9:1 pistons, a custom head with
huge ports and oversize exhaust valves, and ported and polished
manifolds with days of hand labor in them. From the outside it
looked almost stock, but it put out 161 bhp on Techtonics' dyno,
with a wide powerband and tons of torque for sweet, easy driving.
What it was not was streetable. The high-compression motor needed
aviation gas to live; for pump fuel Collin had to put in 10.5:1
pistons, which unfortunately took the edge off its heroic performance.
To this day, though, its high-compression quarter-mile timing
slips - 14.73 sec at 93.75 mph - rank among the best european
car has seen for a normally aspirated Volkswagen.
lot has happened in the VW high-performance world since 1987.
Can technology put on the street, today, what was tantalizingly
out of reach back then? The answer, happily, is yes, and we've
demonstrated it with a major makeover of european car's East Coast
project GTI, the "Lurching Toward Success" car that's been the
subject of several previous stories. This article will detail
the core engine work, which has been a resounding success; it
ranges from major mechanical surgery - for only the most committed
- to more subtle touches for every extra bit of power. Articles
to follow will cover one more major engine modification, and chassis
work to balance the fire-breathing motor. And thanks here at the
outset to the many, many people who helped bring this project
together; first and foremost, Brian Mushnick, ace high performance
wrench at Brian's
Garage in Dedham, Massachusetts (now located in Needham MA). The power mad
could hope for no better partner in crime.
The Big Squeeze
We make our power the same way Collin did, with compression and
breathing. And the biggest news here is that the aftermarket can
now give you a quantum leap in pump-gas compression: squeeze that
puts to shame even paragons of combustion sophistication like
the Corvette ZR-I and the twin-plug Porsche Carrera 2. Even with
a lowly 8-valve VW cylinder head, Collin's biggest stumbling block
is a thing of the past, and the result is tire-spinning muscle.
The key is Evans Engineering's propolyene glycol zero-pressure
cooling system. We've written about this stuff before (see the
December 1990 and October 1991 issues). Propylene glycol is an
environmentally friendly high-performance coolant with properties
that let it work at atmospheric pressure and higher bulk coolant
temperatures (no more burst hoses or volcanic overheating failures).
Its main high-performance attraction is that it cools hot cylinder
heads evenly and effectively enough to forestall detonation at
higher-than-normal compression ratios.
An obvious advantage of this project is the Audi 80
intake manifold which offers a bigger plenum and larger
Cooling system modifications, up to all-out reverse-flow systems,
are required to get the most out of it, but simple tweaks - a
zero pressure radiator cap and small plumbing changes - are enough
to convert an otherwise stock car.
european car has already shown, through testing on the
APS chassis dyno, that propolyene glycol works well enough, even
under very heavy load, to prevent detonation and preserve power
on a knock-sensor equipped 10:1 GTI. Evans Engineering said it
would work well enough to allow up to 12:1. They supplied the
coolant, and Techtonics made up a set of 11.5:1 pistons for my
Audi 1984cc block (these are actually German factory pieces, beautiful,
light castings made for alcohol racing engines, of all things).
We were aiming for what Evans Engineering calls a "Stage II"
system, which relies on increased coolant flow to deliver most
of the benefits of a full-house reverse flow system. A larger
diesel crank pulley, combined with a custom undersized Evans Engineering
water pump pulley, increased the water pump drive from the stock
1:1 to 1.9:1. (We later figured out that on my car, without air
conditioning, a stock diesel water pump pulley would have worked
just as well. Cars with air and/or power steering will have to
mix and match stock parts or use custom pieces, which Evans Engineering
is set up to provide.) Contrary to my fears, the additional speed
doesn't seem to do the pump any harm. Mine's endured a year of
very aggressive driving without complaint. And increasing the
flow rate really works; we played with different size pulleys
at various times, and detonation was gradually dialed out as flow
Not altogether, it turned out. That required, on Evans Engineering's
advice, a head gasket modified to direct more coolant to the very
hot exhaust side of the head. This is no cut-and-try project;
the size and placing of holes in the head gasket helps determine
the pattern and proportion of coolant flow in the head and is
very carefully developed by the factory. Oettinger, though, can
be counted on to have done their
ExtrudeHone's patented process did a better job at
polishing the interior surfaces than a week's worth of
tedious hand grinding.
homework, and their gaskets feature several additional and several
enlarged gaskets on the exhaust side. We copied that, and it worked
very well. These gaskets no longer seem to be available in the
U.S., but both Techtonics and Brian's Garage can supply modified
factory pieces. (A word of caution: This coolant will burn if
you get it on hot parts like exhaust manifolds or turbo housings.
Make very sure that fittings on the hot side of the engine, like
turbo bearing cooling lines, are secure.)
The result of the cooling system buildup is extraordinary. My
car, even with all the cylinder-packing breathing enhancements
eventually grafted on to it, is happy with premium gas, stock
advance, and the hot 1986 knock-sensing maps unless the weather
is really hot, when it starts to ping on part-throttle. Resetting
to the milder maps banishes all knock. Brian Brown, a VW enthusiast
in Milwaukee, performed a similar conversion at 12:1 on a less
all-out Scirocco. It worked perfectly, even with a non-knock-sensing
early-model GTI ignition system. With the knock-sensing ignition,
he runs the hot maps and 12 degrees advance.
This in an incredible accomplishment: There isn't a factory car
in the world that does as well. The extra torque is enough to
make you think you're a gear - or two - lower than you are, and
the flexibility is amazing. Near my parents' house in Maine, a
fast two-lane road winds through a small-town speed zone that
includes a steepish hill. I can drive in at 70, crawl through
town and up the hill at 25, and accelerate briskly away - all
without changing down from fifth! And my guess is that a similar
conversion would work even better in conjunction with the more
sophisticated later-model heads. Anybody want to try for a 200
bhp 12.5:1 two-liter 16-valve? A high-boost 9:1 Corrado?
Although untested, twin throttle bodies do look impressive.
Expensive modifications to improve airflow have yet to
yield big gains.
In Goes The Good
Air Breathing was next. Cool air for the high-compression motor
was key, so we started by cutting a four-inch hole in the bottom
of the airbox (removing the restrictive winter valve assembly/intake
pipe altogether), a matching hole on the inner side of the left
front fender well, and connecting the two with flexible pipe.
Clothes dryer exhaust conduit worked perfectly. The setup gives
low restriction and keeps hot under-hood air out of the engine:
a good base for the rest of the intake and exhaust mods. (Caution:
You may find that this modification is in violation of local or
federal smog regulations. Check before you cut to be sure.)
Next in line down the intake tract is a controversial piece
of VW performance news (Sam Michalopoulos, one of theBrian's Garage
regulars, figured this one out). Meet the SewerPipe. Replacing
the S-shaped plastic pipe that runs from the boot on top of the
air meter to the throttle body, it's nothing more than a 3-in,
inside diameter piece of copper tubing with a 38-degree bend toward
one end, flattened into an oval to match up to the throttle body.
Installation is a matter of loosening three hose clamps, rotating
the airbox boot a little, slipping the SewerPipe in, and tightening
everything down again. Nearly the same piece, merely a little
shorter on the long arm, will fit a Golf. Does it work? With one
exception, every car we've tried it on, even a dead-stock 1.7
Scirocco, has seemed to have gained strength all through the rev
range. Subjective impressions have been that power comes on earlier,
the mid-range is fatter and the motors stay on song right up to
and through redline. It was one of the last parts in this buildup
fitted to my car, which even with a Quaife torque sensing differential
now spins its wheels - both wheels, with sticky Yokohamas on 7-in,
wide wheels - not just in first but also in second gear. And,
curiously, it seems to have had some positive effect on several
cars with low-end detonation problems: One Golf that knocked at
stock advance is fine, post-SewerPipe, at 12 degrees. Strange,
but how true?
For instance, editor Greg Brown's A1 Jetta, fitted with a Techtonics
1.9 and a Streetport II head, gained nothing from the SewerPipe.
Neither on the APS chassis dyno, nor on the road, did the pipe
make any difference. My guess is that Greg's car, which is already
making almost 140 bhp through an almost stock intake, is already
too maxed out on either the induction or exhaust side to benefit.
However, tests run by Techtonics came to the same conclusion.
Faced with this, we organized an on-the-road test with a variety
of different cars. The results were interesting and seemed to
indicate improvements, although the mathematical scatter and the
less than state-of-of-the-art timing equipment muddled the objective
numbers. Whether it works or not, it appears that this is a piece
that falls outside the emissions regs. Until that's certain, Brian's
Garage is selling them for off-road use only.
Collin spent days with a hand grinder opening up his intake and
exhaust manifolds, ending up deaf, sore and happy. I sent mine
to Ed Melendez at ExtrudeHone, who shot them with his magic abrasive
silly putty. (Thanks to the folks at Pacific Performance in Huntington
Beach, California, who've had good results with ExtrudeHoned 16-valve
manifolds, for helping set this up.) I ended up just happy. (Expect
to pay about $350 for the procedure.)
Lurching Toward Success: A Performance
1984: Stock 1.8. 0-60: 10.6 sec.
30-50 in fifth: 10 sec (est). 50-70 in fifth: 12 sec (est).
Horsepower: 90. Weight/power ratio: 23.9 lb/hp
1988: Built-up 1.8. Techtonics intake,
large throttle body, Schrick 276 cam,10.5:1 compression,
StreetPort I head, European manifold, Techtonics catalyst
downpipe, Gillete exhaust, knock-sensing ignition. 0-60:
8.5 sec. 30-50 in fifth: 8.2 sec. 50-70 in fifth: 7.9 sec.
Horsepower: 130 (est). Weight/power ratio: 16.5 lb/hp
1990: Built-up two-liter. Audi 1984
cc block, with above and Schrick 280 assymetric cam. 0-60:
7.5 sec. 30-50 in fifth: 7.8 sec. 50-70 in fifth: 7.4 sec.
Horsepower: 145 (est). Weight/power ratio: 14.8 lb/hp
1993: Really built-up two-liter.
Evans Engineering Stage II cooling system, cold-air induction,
hogged-out airbox, SewerPipe, ExtrudeHoned Audi intake,
11.5:1 compression, StreetPort III head, ExtrudeHoned exhaust
manifold, Jetta downpipe, Corrado catalyst, Supersprint
S/C exhaust. 0-60: 7 sec. 30-50 in fifth: 7 sec. 50-70 in
fifth: 6.8 sec. Horsepower: 160 (est). Weight/power ratio:
ExtrudeHone claims not only improved flow but improved smoothness
from their procedure. In addition to opening up the air passages,
they balance flow through each runner for, in theory, even cylinder
packing and better dynamic balance. I started with a late-model
Audi 80 intake manifold, which offers a bigger plenum and longer
runners, but also required extensive welding to close off the
stock injector ports. Sticking with a moderate port size for good
velocity, ExtrudeHone worked on the runners, and especially the
join between the runner and the plenum, and improved flow significantly
Techtonics matched a superb StreetPort III cylinder
head to the new intake manifold. This is a further development
of the StreetPort II head. Starting with very carefully developed
and tested porting and grinding on the valve seats, Techtonics
went one step further and, as a test, replaced the stock VW valves
with BMW valves, retainers and keepers. The intake valves are
the stock 40mm size, the exhaust 1 mm larger at 34; there's enough
room in the factory valve seat (Techtonics is quick to add that
factory seats always seem to last longer than aftermarket seats)
to open it up for the bigger valve (they come from a 325e or a
528e). Both have 7mm stem diameters, against VW's 8 mm, which
helps airflow. Each valve assembly also weigh 9 grams less than
stock, which should help the engine rev and stay together at high
rpm, although this is not normally a stock VW problem.
The swap is a lot harder than it sounds, which is why the BMW
valves are prototype only and will not be featured in future Techtonics
StreetPort heads. The BMW stems are too long, so they have to
be trimmed to fit and have new keeper grooves cut. The stem material
is so hard that Techtonics has found only one place that can do
it (using a grindstone!), and then apparently only when the proprietor
feels like it. The valves from VW's new crossflow 8-valve head
also have 7mm stems and could be a good substitute when they become
available. Techtonics has recently made further progress in porting
techniques, which has resulted in a Stage III StreetPort head
with better performance still, but without the added cost of the
BMW valves. Cost of the head with the prototype BMW valves is
$1275, far too expensive for what the market would bear. and for
a tiny airflow gain. Three prototypes were completed, but the
heads with BMW valves will not be offered for sale.
Currently, Techtonics is modifying stock valves to the reduced
stem diameter for $75 extra on the $675 price of a Stage II head,
bringing the new Stage III total to $750, a $550 drop in price.
(When did anything so good drop so far in price?)
And that's great news because even a Stage II head makes as much
power as a 16-valve: One fitted to a very mild 1.8 - small throttle
body and almost stock manifold - made 138 bhp, relative to 136
for the European 16-valve 1.8. With additional breathing work
there's obviously more to come. On Collin's flowbench, mated up
with either a Techtonics or an ExtrudeHoned manifold, mine moved
as much air as his old 161 bhp manifold/head combination, even
with its much bigger ports. Pulling the same amount of air through
smaller ports means higher port velocity, better cylinder filling,
more turbulence and more low-end torque. And Collin's extra attention
to balancing the flow numbers for each cylinder makes for very
smooth performance. I'm still sorting out which cam suits it best,
but even with a mild G-grind it climbs for the redline as eagerly
as any 16-valve. Except that that characteristic high-rpm surge
starts at 3000 rpm instead of 4500...
Exhaust is handled by the aformentioned ExtrudeHoned
manifold, a late-model Jetta GLI cast-iron dual-outlet piece that
looked something like a header even before ExtrudeHone breathed
on it (after, it looked so good that Ed Melendez wanted to take
it to the SEMA show as a company exhibit). The downpipe has a
very nice spring-loaded flex coupling, which is important, because
we proceeded to modify it to take a big-bore, high-flowing, but
heavy Corrado catalytic converter (thanks to the folks at A-2
Performance for helping me out with the cat). Don't let anyone
claim you can't have a powerful legal exhaust. This one make horses,
believe me, but it's so clean that the last time the car was emissions-inspected
the technician thought the machine was broken. Last in the chain
is a SuperSprint Street/Comp exhaust, modified to accept the Corrado
cat. Using slightly larger tubing than the standard SuperSprint
system, the Street/Comp is generally judged too loud and hard
to fit for comfortable street use. The catalyst quiets it down
- some - and with very careful attention to running pipe, particularly
to flattening it slightly where it crosses the axle beam, Brian's
learned to keep them rattle free. The whole setup flows so well
you can feel the exhaust pulses five feet back from the car.
So What'll It Do?
This is a very, very fast car. Traction limitations keep 0-60
times up at around 7 sec it's hard to get a good launch when,
even with the Quaife, you have to baby it in both first and second
gear. More to the point are in-gear times. The benchmark fifth
gear times come in at 7 sec from 30-50 and 6.8 sec from 50-70,
compared to 8 and 7.4 sec even for the torquey Techtonics 2020
Project A2 GTI. This is major acceleration. There's a little more
work to do before we take it to a strip for definitive quarter
mile times, but I think we'll match - at least - Collin's old
It's also a very sweet car. It's wonderfully eager; the slightest
pressure on the throttle brings instant urge. There's serious
acceleration from below 2000 rpm, and even in fifth by the time
you break 3000 rpm you're really moving. The real powerband starts
there, with a flood of power all the way up to beyond redline.
The torque peak, at around 4500 rpm, is enough to cause on-the-fly
dry road torque steer - again, even with the Quaife - in third
So, so far so good. We think there's a little more to come, what
with one thing and another, and then there's the question of wheels,
tires, and suspension work to bring the traction and handling
back into balance. We're working on it; watch this space.
Brian Mushnick, prop.
310 Whiting Ave
Dedham, MA 02026
Full-spectrum VW/Audi high-performance shop, from camshafts
to full motor build-ups. Evans Engineering high performance cooling
conversions, Qettinger-pattern head gaskets, SewerPipes.
(Formerly MECA Cooling Company)
255 Route 41 North
Sharon, CT 06069
fax (860) 364-0888
Propolyene glycol cooling conversions, custom pulleys.
8800 Somerset Blvd.
Paramount, CA 90723
flow machining of heads and intake and exhaust manifolds.
PO Box 295
Sheridan, OR 97378
fax (503) 843-3933
StreetPort III head, custom high-compression pistons.
#6 & #7-1610 LanganAve.
Port Coquitlam, BC
Canada V3C 1 K6
Schrick camshafts, SuperSprint exhausts.