"Everyone in my family-and almost all my friends-have rear-wheel-drive domestic cars," says Eric Thompson. "Still, I bought this '92 Corrado as a daily driver and fell in love with it."
Being the only kid on the block with a front-wheel-drive import brought some unique pressures, though. Little brother Elliot recently set a world-record ET (in just 30 passes) with his Heavy Street Camaro. Middle brother Evan drives a supercharged 5.9-liter Dodge Ram and Dad loves his Corvettes. Things at home definitely influenced Thompson when he decided to look for more performance.
The deciding factor in the project's direction, though, was probably a ride in Brian Berwind's beautiful single-turbo VR6 Corrado (see SPTurbo.com for details). Feeling the front tires break loose while accelerating over a buck-twenty convinced Thompson that radical thinking was required. "Brian has the ultimate front-wheel-drive street set-up," says Thompson. "I just wanted to go past that. I wanted my car built the way Volkswagens should be built-with the engine in the rear and rear-wheel drive. Old Beetles are fast. I don't know of any water-cooled Volkswagens that can beat the air-cooled cars [at the dragstrip]. You have to have respect for those guys. Traction is key."
Thompson teamed up with VR6 turbo guru Bill Schimmel at Schimmel Performance and set to work. That was three years ago. "Bill is the 'skills guy' behind the project, but I helped. It was pretty much a joint venture and definitely a learning project for me," says Thompson.
Determined to keep the outer sheetmetal stock, most of the interior sheetmetal from the front seat mounts back was removed. A combination roll cage/tube frame chassis was formed to replace the missing structure and provide mount points for the engine and new rear suspension crafted from Porsche Carrera 4 front A-arms and hubs, and C4 Bilstein PSS9 struts with custom Hypercoil springs (matching Corrado units live up front), all located by A-1 Racing (of dirt track fame) torsion rods. Carrera 4 front brakes took up new duties in the rear, while Porsche Big Red calipers grab 12.9-inch Stoptech rotors up front. An adjustable-bias Tilton double master cylinder and pedal set distributes the pressure. After a year, they had a roller. It would take another year of after-hours thrashing for the pair to build and install the twin-turbo, 24-valve, 2.9-liter VR6, plus all the cooling and fuel systems and drivetrain. Schimmel used 82mm forged JE pistons on Manley 4340 connecting rods tied to a stock crank, and assembled the engine with ARP fasteners. Schimmel Performance also fabricated the downpipes, air-to-water intercooler, radiator, exhaust, thermostat bypass plate, alternator bracket, and assorted pipes and plumbing for the twin turbos.
Installing the Quaife limited-slip diff and six-speed 'dog-box' gearset was simple compared to fabricating the shift linkage. And if God is truly in the details, He'd appreciate the Aeroquip hoses and fittings, Adel Wiggins clamps and 18-inch HRE 542 wheels.
A DTA engine management system switches from stock injectors to the 45-pound items (soon to be 90-pound) mounted in a Schimmel Performance intake when the twin Turbonetics T3/T4 43-series turbos ("my training wheels, I'll get a real set soon") start pumping boost. Currently limited to 10 psi by TiAL wastegates and blow-off valve while Thompson fine-tunes the project, over 500 hp is expected when boost hits the planned 20 psi.
"There are no golf bags or kids in the back," says Thompson. "This isn't a show car, there's not even a radio. It's not the quietest or most comfortable ride, but you're not getting in for a cruise. I want to drive it." Held snugly in the Sparco seat by Simpson Platinum four-point belts and finding whatever information you could possibly want in the Stack display just beyond the tiny Sparco wheel, there's no question it will be quite a ride.