I've had the pleasure of driving numerous high-powered turbo cars. I drive both a big-turbo BMW M3 and Toyota Supra. But I have just one thing to say about ICS' yellow turbo M3: It scares me stupid. A couple of months ago I received a call from ICS Performance owner George Kakaletris. "I hear the magazine is looking for a 1000-whp car," he said. "Give me two weeks and I'll have one for you."
Just a few weeks later I'm at ICS' Stamford, Conn., headquarters, where Kakaletris wastes no time introducing me to the company's newly acquired M3 project car, also known as the Bumblebee. Upon initial fire-up it roars to life, sending deafening combustion waves through its turbo-back exhaust. Trust me, it's loud; heads from all directions are turning our way.
As the car warms up, the Sias-tuned Electromotive TEC3R engine management system continues sending the appropriate pulse signals to half a dozen 152 lb/hr Precision injectors, which squirt nine times more fuel than factory '95 M3 injectors. The engine finally calms down to a completely streetable rumble. Kakaletris tops off the tank with some VP Racing C16 super-octane juice to ward off detonation. Then we drive.
Traffic is at its peak in downtown Stamford. The exhaust note bounces off walls as commuters and pedestrians continue to rubberneck. The Bumblebee appears totally stock and people can't seem to figure out why this car sounds like it's on its way to an NHRA event. As we make our way toward open roads, Kakaletris drives somewhat cautiously to warm up the engine oil. Despite the low 8.5:1 compression, with more than 250 lb-ft of torque by 3000 rpm the car feels way quicker than a stock 3.2-liter M3 thanks to aggressive ignition timing and a wide-open exhaust.
As the engine warms we start to see what the turbo response is like. By 4200 rpm the massive PT76-GTS turbocharger is already making more than 400 lb-ft of torque at the wheels-fairly uncharacteristic of such a large turbo on this size motor. The Clutchmasters twin-disc clutch is considerably grabbier than a stock clutch but fares well around town. The car continues to warm up and Kakaletris starts to lay into the throttle a little bit. As we predicted, there is simply no traction at these low speeds. In second gear, at 4000 rpm, the car starts to ramp up so quickly it breaks the rear tires loose, and at this point the peak boost recall only registers about 8 psi.
Now is a good time to mention this car put down a mind-boggling 1025 whp on ICS' Dynojet chassis dyno. Thanks to the buttload of torque-860 lb-ft-it cracked 1000 hp at an astonishingly low 6200 rpm. Considering the all-turbo (i.e., no nitrous) pull was done at a low 32 psi manifold pressure, indicating a very non-restrictive motor, it was obvious we were going to need to throw it into high gear to feel any of its real power.
Third gear, Kakaletris rolls into it-4800 rpm on the tach and more than 500 lb-ft of torque breaks the tires loose again. Once we hit the highway we test fourth gear from a 60-mph roll. Throttle pedal down. The tach starts to flip quickly past 4500 rpm and by around 5200 rpm-or about 700 lb-ft of torque-at full throttle the tires break loose at more than 90 mph. We're not talking traction loss like the tire chirp you'd get from a stock E36 M3 in damp conditions. No, I mean literal ice-like loss of traction that breaks the car sideways, preventing any further acceleration and zinging the tach needle to redline in the blink of an eye. At this point I'm simply amazed. The sound of the copious amounts of air rushing through the 76mm compressor belittles me.
"Have you ever felt this sucker pull in fifth gear?" I ask.
Kakaletris replies: "No. Wanna try it?"
Although I've had enough, there's something inside me that needs to feel the yet-untapped 200-plus lb-ft of torque. Kakaletris finds an open stretch of highway, and what happens next I will remember for the rest of my life. The car accelerates smoothly back to 90 mph in fourth gear. Kakaletris shifts into fifth. Silently I pray to live through this.
The throttle pedal drops. Ninety mph... 91... 92... the turbo is already starting to make some noise... 93... 95... 97... serious turbo sounds, boost continues building quickly. Triple digits; I've got tunnel vision and cannot move. In the next nanosecond, with a sound coming from the engine compartment that can only be described as frightening, the tires break loose into a stomach-dropping fishtail. Obviously this car needs a set of warmed-up slicks just to get traction, even in fifth gear.
As we decelerate it becomes evident from all the racket that the ZF five-speed transmission has spun its last. The drive ends with a fifth-gear limp back through the crowded Stamford downtown, and now we're wiping away tears of hysterical laughter from the sheer disbelief of what transpired. Now the drivability of the Sias-tuned Electromotive TEC3R engine management becomes really evident as Kakaletris is forced to launch from each traffic signal in fifth gear and cruise between 1000 and 1500 rpm to stay under 40 mph. Off boost this car is totally street-friendly.
Back at the shop, the ICS techs begin a transmission transplant. When the martyred gearbox is removed it's left in gear. Even so, I can spin the shaft effortlessly with two fingers; the teeth on the gear have been completely sheared off. It's what 800 lb-ft of torque will do to a stock tranny.
You might expect not many factory parts would be left on a mega-horsepower car like this, but in this case the transmission is far from being the only veteran piece. In fact, the car retains A/C, a full interior, and the differential, suspension (save the much-needed solid rear toe bushings)-even the brakes-are all bone stock.
The heart of the turbo system is a giant PT76 turbocharger. It flows through a large GTS turbine wheel spinning inside a .96 AR T4 housing, and it's bolted to a Boostlogic exhaust manifold. The turbo's 76mm compressor draws air through an ICS low-mount, 4-inch intake pipe and filter. From there, the 3-inch ICS intercooler piping takes the compressed air through a custom 3-inch-thick intercooler, continuing to a 68mm custom throttle body, and into the stock OBD-I intake manifold. Amazingly enough, the 1000-hp dyno run was done with a stock 64mm throttle body. A large, gravity-fed Weldon fuel pump delivers juice through a -12 fuel line into a custom ICS fuel rail feeding the 1,600cc injectors. Fuel pressure is maintained by an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator.
In order to make full use of the pressurized airflow, ICS had the cylinder head built by Headway Performance in New York. Headway's port and polish resulted from extensive flow bench testing for maximum power using oversized valves, dual springs and recessed valve guides. Custom-grind Schrick cams keep the valves open longer, and the head is clamped onto the block using ARP head studs and a VAC Motorsports 1.8-mm multi-layer metal head gasket. A custom set of CP pistons and Pauter connecting rods compress the air/fuel mixture and spin a stock S52 crankshaft.
The factory main caps are fastened by ARP main studs and the engine bearings are stock. ICS also modified the oil pump for higher flow capacity. Fluid temperatures are kept at a normal range thanks to a drop-in Zionsville high-flow aluminum radiator and a trick, simple bolt-on oil cooler setup that Victory Product Design sells for the E36 M3. The Setrab oil cooler core cools oil coming from the VPD oil filter housing cap and directs it back through steel-braided hoses and AN fittings supplied in the kit.
With this much horsepower you would think this car would have a sick quarter-mile time. But given the limited amount of grip and the relative strength of the driveline, the car's stupid power will never be put to good use until it gets a totally revamped driveline and new tires. When that happens, ICS should expect to see standstill passes exceeding 155 mph. Not surprisingly, George Kakaletris has higher hopes.
"If not this car, we'll be turning one of our M3s into an all-out drag car with a goal of 1500 whp," he said. "This should be good for over 175 mph in the quarter mile."
Pencil me in for another ride, George.
1995 BMW M3
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
3.2-liter (S52) inline six, dohc, four valves per cylinder, CP 8.5:1 compression forged pistons, Pauter forged rods, ARP head and main studs, ported and polished head, Schrick camshafts, oversized valves, VAC metal head gasket, ICS intake pipe, PT76-GTS turbocharger, custom intercooler, Sias Electromotive TEC3 EMS, 1,600cc injectors, Weldon fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, ICS fuel rail, 3.5-inch turbo-back exhaust
ZF five-speed manual
Stock springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, solid rear toe bushings
Wheels and Tires
Factory alloy wheels, 7.5x17 (f) 8.5x17 (r) Michelin MXX3, 225/45-17 (f)245/45-17 (r)
Peak Power : 1025 whp@ 6700 rpm
Peak Torque: 860 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm
*measured at the wheels