Drag racing is something I love to do," said Bernd Arndt. "It's fun racing V8s with VWs!" While Arndt makes his living repairing Jaguars, his passion is bracket-racing VWs. Owner of the only two imports competing against the 80 or so other PRO class muscle cars at Woodburn (Oreg.) Dragstrip, not even fixing a finicky XK120 turn signal relay-that hadn't worked since 1969-makes him happier than sending a Mustang or Camaro home for the night.
(Bracket racers pick their e.t., the tree takes into account the difference in the selected times and the first one across the line-without going faster than their selected e.t-wins the round. Consistency and thousandths of a second matter...a lot.)
Arndt started racing his Rabbit street car at 16. When pushed hard, the little hatch ran 17s. A few years later, a friend bought an alternator for $40 and gave Arndt the Rabbit it came with. Despite having almost no budget, he built a dedicated race car. Over the years, he toyed with road racing and thought about rallying but kept coming back to the 1/4-mile. The now VR6-powered bunny has run 11.56 and over 117 mph at Woodburn. But after 10 years, Arndt wondered, "If I started from the beginning, how would I build a race car today?" His answer is the red car, "A little prettier, more aerodynamic and more appealing."
Arndt started by stripping a '93 Corrado SLC and dipping the bare shell to remove the paint and undercoating. The shell was seam-welded and a 1 3/4-in. five-point cage was installed. The exterior was finished in Tornado Red complemented by a smoked gray interior
With weight the enemy, all the glass save the windshield was replaced with Lexan. "The glued-in glass windshield is stronger, plus you can see on a sunny day," said Arndt. "The Lexan windshields also tend to bow in, that's kind of scary when you're doing 120 mph." A carbon fiber hood saves a few pounds as does the one-off fiberglass hatch, complete with wing, hand laid by Fred Fogg.
"An important thing with my cars is that, from 20 or 30 ft, they look like a car you might see on the street. A lot of people take the rear bumper off so it doesn't act like a parachute but that looks really ugly." Instead, Arndt used sheet aluminum to fair in the bumper underneath the car. Up front, rather than leave a blank sheet of aluminum in place of the headlights and grille, Arndt took a photo of a stock Corrado and had a large sticker made. "From a distance, it looks real; that's tricked a lot of people. Pretty thin headlights though," he said.
After helping prep the shell and build the cage, Dustin Harris of Matrix Integrated next assisted Arndt in fabricating a 15-lb rear axle, featuring drums from a '77 Rabbit (the lightest VW rear brakes made) and Jaguar XJS rear shocks and springs.
Up front, they cut down and re-welded the subframes, reinforced the A-arms and pressed in the urethane bushings. Arndt uses the stock 9-in. brakes and after a "moment" went back to the tried and true Bilstein Sport shocks and H&R springs. "You learn the hard way," he said. "Testing with a stock motor, I'd just beat a Mustang and hit the brakes doing about 110 mph and the front end started to bounce 2 ft up in the air, probably five times. The engine bottomed out and I bent the steering. I thought I'd blown a tire, then I let off the brake and the car started to relax. I thought I had a great idea for the front suspension but it was too stiff-the tires became the suspension."
Chris Riehl used APR's bolt kit and Schrick 268 cams when he built the 3.1-liter (85mmx90mm) variable-cam-timing 24V VR6. He also came up with the design parameters for the custom 12.5:1 compression ratio Ross Racing pistons, and polished and match-ported the head and manifolds. Arndt purchased a SCE copper head gasket, "Because that guy knows how to do things right the first time."
On the intake side, Harris and Arndt designed a rather plain-looking intake manifold. Inside however, there are six airhorns-those feeding the rear cylinders displace 3 in. to keep the runner length equal-fed by an 80mm BBR throttle-body. A TEC-3 fuel management system was dialed in with help from Collin Gyenes on Techtonics Tuning's dyno.
Techtonics also supplied the custom exhaust manifold, downpipe and modified 2 1/4-in. exhaust system. "It seems small," said Arndt, "but when we dynoed it versus a 2 1/2-in. system we found an additional 8 hp. There's a big difference between what works and what really works. We're not done yet; the downpipes are 2 1/4 in. I think we're going to take them down to 2 in. Collin and I still have some experimenting to do."
Autotech supplied the Quaife limited-slip differential Techtonics Tuning's Dave Baxter installed along with a 4.24 ring-and-pinion set in the otherwise stock VR6 transmission. The Driveshaft Shop built the custom axles using larger-splined Rockford outer CV-joints and Mercedes SUV CV-joints inside that send 285 hp (based on the initial e.t.s) to the gigantic 24.5x9.0x13 Mickey Thompsons wrapped around custom 8x13 Bogart aluminum wheels.
Held snug in his seat by RCI Safety belts, Arndt launched the Corrado at 2600 rpm. "There's plenty of torque, I don't want to break anything and it's very consistent," he said. Arndt crossed the finish line in fourth gear turning 7300 rpm. A 1/4-in. steel flywheel shield is in place in case the Kennedy four-puck clutch disc or stock flywheel ever fragment. "We just had the first runs with the new motor. Ran 11.6 at 119. Not bad. When we get it on the dyno and finish the tuning, it will most likely be run 11.2," reported the pleased Arndt.
Why? "The challenge, e.t. racing takes intelligence and skill. You dial in your e.t. by hundredths and still lose by thousandths," said the bearishly built Arndt. "I figure I'm pretty much the first guy to have two normally aspirated, fwd VWs that run 11s; 10s are unlikely with the 1,750-lb weight of the car-and me. My cars would be faster if I could get a 10-year-old to drive but I don't think that would be a good idea.
"I couldn't do this without my friends of course. Anybody who says they can do this all by themselves...you always have to give credit. A lot of my friends help, there's nothing in it for them [they would probably disagree]-they're certainly not getting the big bucks." And the Rabbit? A friend's son has been helping Arndt at the strip. Arndt said the recently licensed 17-year-old Chris Fogg, "Had fun last weekend beating up a 454 Corvette. Now he knows the feeling."