Speed: the elusive feeling, that utterly satisfying sensation of fastness. It's the number one reason so many of us are drawn to this automotive pastime.
You could deny it, sure, but then you wouldn't be entirely honest with yourself, would you? Whether you lust to drive a 500-hp Lamborghini or prefer a 50-hp Austin-Healy Sprite, the end game is usually the same: pursuit of that sensation of rapid motion, speed (whether or not you're actually going fast is a different matter entirely).
There's just one problem: the posted speed limit. Given, you don't have to deal with them if you live on the Isle of Man, the one place on Earth where there is no generally accepted speed limit, or if you're blessed with access to roughly half the German autobahnen that remain unrestricted at the top end. Otherwise, you're a gambling man (or woman). And speed, as it happens, can be detrimental to your good standing as a responsible motorist. Don't ask me how I know.
All things considered, driving a fast car fast in any one of the fifty United States of America could be one of the more frustrating and frightening proposals you're likely to face as an automotive enthusiast. But what if you could, nearly literally, fly under the radar? See speed traps coming before they see you? Listen in on big brother as he attempts to listen in on you?
Enter the Performance Outfitters Group R8 Raptor. This car is purpose- built to drive fast-really fast-and stay utterly off the radar while doing it. The car's owner-a shadowy individual who we'll call Mr. R-had it assembled for one specific task: taking the top spot and requisite bragging rights in that exhibition of speed, excess and debauchery known as Bullrun.
As I type, with the event still two weeks hence, we have no idea if he'll be successful. But given the tools at his disposal, I'd say nobody has got a better chance. And even if it all goes south, Mr. R has certainly stirred things up. The R8 Raptor has become something of a legend by now on the East Coast.
Performance Outfitters Group out of Stamford, Conn., got the nod when it came time to do the work. An unknown number of man hours have been invested into the project to date.
At first glance it may look nothing more than your basic R8. You'll note the lack of a contrasting "sideblade" panel; move in a little closer and you'll note the paint is a custom matte-finish black. Outwardly, this car is probably about as subtle as an R8 can get.
To accomplish the paint job, every exterior panel was removed and the interior was gutted. The latter was a necessary step anyway to make room for the host of electronics modifications planned for the project-more on that in a minute. The panels were also stripped of their R8 badging, and the side markers and all three taillamps were smoked.
Reportedly, when the time came to decide on an entry for the 2009 Bullrun rally, Mr. R had narrowed the field to two vehicles: the R8, and a Ferrari F430 Scuderia. While few would doubt the 430's on-track prowess, the R8 won out mainly over comfort and ergonomics, as well as the option of reliably supercharging the R8's 4.2-liter FSI power unit. At the time of the initial teardown, the R8 wore white paint and no other performance modifications outside of a Milltek exhaust.
Performance Engine Software, PES, out of Shouthampton, Penn., was tapped to provide a means of forced induction: supercharger assembly with integrated intake manifold, intercooling provisions, and the requisite support software. PES claims, unofficially at this point, an approximate 103-hp gain over the stock peak power figure. With the free-flowing Milltek pipes in place, Performance Outfitters Group estimates this R8, only the second such supercharged example in the United States, to put down around 558 hp and 437 lb-ft of torque (corrected for measurement at the crank).
The exterior was reassembled with custom CAD-designed "R8 Raptor" badges (named after the USAF's newest superjet, the F22) were applied. The wheels were replaced with 20-inch HRE M47s wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber. The HRE alloys were endowed with custom R8 center caps, and the Milltek exhaust tips were custom powdercoated black.
What makes this car special, however, is really what you can't immediately see. The interior is a technical work of art, a triumph of reverse engineering. I remember a quote from the original Knight Rider where David Hasslehoff refers to KITT's interior as something akin to "Darth Vader's bathroom."
There's no toilet inside this R8, so I won't reckon it approximates Vader's privy. But it does make the Knight Rider TransAm interior look like so much 1980s high-tech baloney. The amount of technology sunk into this cockpit basically makes the Raptor a high-speed mobile command center. Which, essentially, it is.
Start with GPS; the R8 Raptor incorporates no fewer than five separate GPS devices, four of them able to interface directly with the cockpit inhabitants. One: Garmin 855T molded into the A-pillar. Two: Thinkpad laptop folded into the glovebox by way of a custom sliding and locking tray. Three: Apple iPhone molded into the driver's sunvisor (what Performance Outfitters Group techs lovingly refer to as the "iVisor"). Four: Alpine IVA-W505 touchscreen head unit mounted in place of the factory MMI display screen. And five: a GPS locator device that can be accessed from any external computer (with the appropriate credentials) and which updates the vehicle's real-time position every three seconds using Google Maps.
To stay a few steps ahead of the authorities-or at the very least, to stay abreast of their activities-the Raptor is equipped with a Uniden BCD996T digital police scanner and Uniden BC RH96 remote head mounted in the new, all custom interior headliner. This R8 is also armed with a Passport 9500ci, with all-band radar detection and 360-degree laser shifting technology-pretty much the daddy of all radar/laser detectors, with its display located in the rearview mirror and its controls residing in a custom pod where the ashtray was.
To keep in contact with its immediate surroundings, the Raptor is also fitted with a Cobra 75 WXST CB radio. Performance Outfitters Group actually pulled the radio apart and added an additional microphone for the PA system (for saying hi to your adoring public, or for shouting at slow movers to kindly make way). There's also a switch to activate the police siren (yes, the Raptor has one of those too).
The custom headliner, engineered by Performance Outfitters Group fabricator Pedro Negron (who reportedly dedicated several hundred hours to the interior, and who also molded the center dash and designed the iVisor), incorporates pods at each upper corner of the windshield for the Whelan TIR3 flashers, one red, one blue.
Negron also supplied the custom center-dash surround, modeled after the contours of the factory unit, which houses the Alpine head unit and the new various control switches. The custom A-pillar, along with duties to wire the whole monstrosity, were undertaken by Performance Outfitters Group fabricator Jon Bacco.
In the lighting department, the R8 Raptor incorporates two clusters of white Whelan TIR3 "burst" lights: an array of six stealthily embedded in the trapezoidal Audi grille, and eight located on the underside of the speed-deployed rear wing. These are to encourage slow-moving traffic in front of the car to dive out of the way, or to discourage fast-moving tailgaters at the rear. Each light cluster can be operated independently of the others, or all at once using a pre-programmed "show" mode.
If the lights fail to modify ambient traffic patterns, the R8 Raptor is also equipped with a Hella industrial airhorn-attached to a toggle switch so the factory horn can also be selected-as well as the aforementioned PA system.
There are other various points of interest inside the car, too many to cover in great detail. The factory speakers have been replaced with Morel ELATE components with a subwoofer mounted centrally between the driver's and passenger's seats; cameras are mounted in the A-pillar, one trained on the cockpit, one pointed outside the car, to capture the whole event digitally; a motorized waste bin (dubbed the "Raptor Compactor") at the rear of the center console; an accessory panel beneath the bin offering 12 and 120-volt, Ethernet and composite audio/video hot links; red LED "fighter lights" and reading lights embedded in the headliner; a Zeitronix digital display gauge monitoring the PES forced induction system; Autonet WiFi for mobile high-speed Internet access.
It's enough to make your head spin. But is it enough to win the Bullrun? We'll know by the time this makes it to print. Of course, Mr. R has a few other tricks up his sleeve that are being kept mum until the big day-maybe even forever. And speculation swirls; there's even word that he has contracted a helicopter to pre-run the course for him. But at this point, it's all still speculation.
Rumor has it that after the rally he'll be returning to Performance Outfitters to turn the car back to "mostly stock." We're calling it a ruse. Whether or not Mr. R takes the prize at Bullrun, there's still one more record he may see fit to tackle. And this seems just the tool to tackle it.
N.Y. to L.A., anyone?
Performance Outfitters Group R8 Raptor
Longitudinal mid-engine, all-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. PES supercharger system and software, Milltek exhaust
Wheels and Tires
HRE M47, 8.5x20 (f), 11x20 (r)Michelin Pilot Sport 2, 235/30 (f), 305/25 (r)
Custom matte paint, smoked markers/taillights, Whelan TIR3 LED burst lights front and rear, custom R8 Raptor badging
Custom suede upholstery, Garmin 855T GPS molded into A-pillar, Apple iPhone molded into driver's sunvisor, custom fiberglass dash panel, Passport 9500ci radar/laser scanner, Uniden BCD996T police scanner with headliner-mounted head, Alpine IVA-W505, Cobra 75 WXST CB radio, motorized "Raptor Compactor" waste bin, Autonet WiFi Internet with antenna booster, glovebox-mounted Thinkpad laptop, custom LEDs in headliner and door panels, Morel ELATE speakers, Zeitronix LCD gauge
Peak Power: 558 hp
Peak Torque: 437 lb-ft
* Performance Outfitters Group est.