Whenever any of us takes our car into a shop, it’s not just about getting something done. It’s about trust. We’ll go to a specific place because we can trust the guys there to do a good job for a fair price. However, it’s one thing to put a MINI in for a service and quite another to hand over a supercar worth the best part of a quarter of a million bucks for modificationswithout even driving it first.
It seems Fabspeed Motorsport USA is a tuner to be trusted. The customer who owns this brand-new 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia (MSRP: $225,000) is from Kansas, but purchased it from a dealer in New Jersey. It was then taken directly from the showroom down to Fabspeed’s Ambler, Pa., headquarters to make a magical car even more spellbinding. The same customer also has a Ferrari California, which went through a similar process. This apparently laid-back gentleman was kind enough to let Fabspeed hang on to both of his Italian machines for a sufficient stretch so the tuning house could work on prototypes.
It was a special day in Fabspeed’s calendar when the 458 arrived. I was very excited to get the car, says Jeremy D’Avella, general manager of Fabspeed. And then began the job of designing, making and fitting a complete exhaust system, as well as re-flashing the ECU for more power.
Each new header is made from 1.875-inch T304 stainless steel tubing; stock pieces use 1.5-inch tubing. But the Fabspeed items still manage to save a total of 13 pounds over the factory parts (at 13.7 pounds apiece) and help to raise horsepower and torque in the bargain. D’Avella points out that customers may buy just the headers and they will bolt directly to the rest of the OEM exhaust system.
Following the flow of gases into the catalytic converters sees some more weight saving. Whereas the stock 750-cell cats are 11.6 pounds each, Fabspeed uses German HJS 200-cell, tri-metallic, level-five racing cats that are only six pounds a throw. Fabspeed finds these to offer more power, less backpressure and no problems setting off the check engine light. The same units are found on Porsche cars. It’s the only one we use, says D’Avella. Replacing the muffler with a proprietary Maxflo unit is a simple unbolt/bolt on arrangement. However, Fabspeed claims another little power boost through being less restrictive. The muffler does away with the factory exhaust valves (put there to attenuate noise levels), while providing customers with the choice of using Fabspeed’s 458 Challenge Style dual tips or the factory originals. Naturally, this car has the Fabspeed tips, which are designed to fit any exhaust system, and a carbon-fiber surround.
The whole system is created in house. Power and efficiency are all very well, but the big question is: How does it sound? Every Ferrari has a distinctive exhaust howl that sends shivers down the spine. When I got in the stock 458, I knew this was going to be a hard system to make sound better. It was phenomenal, says D’Avella. But people who have heard this car think we’ve taken it to another level, that we’ve replicated the old-school 355 sound. He says it sounds amazing, but not too loud.
Re-flashing the ECU (actually, the 458 has two control units) called for even more delicacy. For this, Fabspeed worked with long-time collaborators, Evolution Motorsport, based in Southampton, Pa. By intelligent tuning (Evolution’s quotation marks) practically every top-end performance marque, the company has developed its EVOMSit ECU upgrade. But it was far from a walk in the park.
It being a brand-new car, we did as much homework as we could. Codes in the factory software had to be decyrpted, says D’Avella. And it wasn’t just a case of boosting power, it had to complement the new exhaust system. That’s why Fabspeed offers the two in conjunction as a performance package, which brings the stock 570 hp and 398 lb-ft up to 630 and 460, respectively, measured at the crank. Fabspeed was the first aftermarket company in the world to actually dyno the 458 Italia and show results for our package, says D’Avella.