“WOW. I don’t think I’ve EVER hit triple digit speeds that quickly,” began my post-drive e-mail to Martin Musial, president and founder of AMS Performance. It wasn’t necessary to include some of the profane superlatives I shouted while at the helm of his Nissan GT-R Alpha 12 a half-hour earlier. He’d ridden shotgun.
“We all do the same thing during and after every run,” he said after my first five-second throttle-smash. By the end of the sprint we’d passed the 120-mph mark, and there were still three gears left to go.
Despite its modest, nearly bone-stock looks, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Nissan GT-R built off the automaker’s Tochigi production line. I’d call it an evil American-ized twin designed to shock your senses with its awesome performance. It’s a Godzilla doped up on a high-octane cocktail of HGH, steroids, and every other performance-enhancing drug you can imagine. It’s one bad mutha capable of more than Ridiculous (or Ludicrous) Speed. Yes, in five seconds, I went Plaid.
Its creator isn’t your run-of-the-mill tuner, either. Chicago-based AMS Performance began its business by crafting the high-horsepower Merkur XR4TI. Yes, Merkurs. Eventually, Martin (a mechanical engineer by trade) grew interested in Mitsubishis, particularly the Galant VR4, then the Eclipse, and eventually, the Evolution platform.
Come 2008, Martin and his team focused time and resources on modifying the all-new Nissan GT-R. (They also service and modify everything from Hyundais to Porsches.) Nowadays, the team of 30-plus people engineer, prototype, and fabricate as many components as possible in their 18,000-square-foot headquarters in order to ensure their quality.
Back to the Nissan. AMS offers four Alpha power packages for the GT-R: 6, 9, 10, and 12. Multiply each number by 100 and you’ll get the approximate power output of the completed car. I say approximate because each car and the fuel they’ll drink (read: chug) is unique; cars are tailored in terms of tune and extremeness to what an owner wants.
Before any production package could be put on the street, AMS gutted the carefully installed powertrain and looked for any inherent weaknesses. Engineers scanned the entire VR38DETT engine and its bay using SolidWorks 3D CAD, then produced a precisely fitted prototype turbo kit. Then they performed numerous stress tests on the engine with the kit installed, specifically focusing their attention on the sand-casted block.
“We discovered that 1000 lb-ft of torque rips the block in half,” Musial revealed.
So they included a long list of reinforced internal parts — most of them custom made — to the Alpha 12 getup.
“All said and done, we probably went through 5 or 6 motors — or around $70 grand worth — to figure out that threshold and to improve upon it,” said AMS sales chief Eric Gaudi.
The finalized balanced and blueprinted engine is a piece of tuner art. It has a 4.0-liter displacement and is topped with an AMS CNC race ported cylinder head using Ferrea components and bespoke camshafts, among a mile-long list of parts. The turbo kit includes all the usual upgrades: bigger turbos, front-mount intercooler, revised air filters, induction kit, and blow-off valves. There’s a full fuel and exhaust system redo, too. Tying it all together is a barrage of reprogrammed computer software, MAF/MAP sensors, and the ever-important COBB AccessPort.
Aside from the engine, the six-speed BorgWarner dual-clutch transaxle is reinforced with Shepherd Transmission’s tried-and-tested Dodson kit (improved lubrication, cut gears, etc.). Axles can be replaced if a customer desires; the same goes for catalytic convertors, which, of course, come at an extra cost.
Total output for the Alpha 12 is an astounding 1100 horsepower and 900 lb-ft of torque on 93 octane fuel. Feed it race fuel and AMS says you’ll see somewhere in the 1500 horsepower/1050 lb-ft of torque range. Whoa.
I’ve tested AMS’ 800-horse Alpha 9 package before. It was a life-changing experience. Tack on another 300 ponies, and the type of straight-line violence the Alpha 12 is capable of is truly mind-bending. I reckon it’s what F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots feel every time they launch from a carrier: instant, massive, unholy, mega-positive-G-load thrust.
The quickness with which the turbos spooled was breathtaking. And even more amazing was how the gummy Nitto tires and the mightier transmission, in collaboration with a reprogrammed launch control program (LC5 for you GT-R nerds), got every pony to the pavement. As a cherry on top of this delicious rocket ship, my body wasn’t beat up and my ears weren’t ringing following my brief 20-minute drive.
Open-wheel Formula car, tuned rocket ship, exotic European ride — nothing compares in my experience. Well, at least nothing that costs less than a few million bucks. (I have yet to take a Veyron to lunch.)
I concluded my e-mail with one line: “We can’t wait to spend more time in it.”
(P.S. AMS got back and said they would oblige. So stay tuned for more coverage of the AMS Performance Alpha 12 soon.)
Photos by Michael Shaffer