WOW. I dont think Ive EVER hit triple digit speeds that quickly, began my post-drive e-mail to Martin Musial, president and founder of AMS Performance. It wasnt 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. Hed 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 wed passed the 120-mph mark, and there were still three gears left to go.
Despite its modest, nearly bone-stock looks, this isnt your run-of-the-mill Nissan GT-R built off the automakers Tochigi production line. Id call it an evil American-ized twin designed to shock your senses with its awesome performance. Its a Godzilla doped up on a high-octane cocktail of HGH, steroids, and every other performance-enhancing drug you can imagine. Its one bad mutha capable of more than Ridiculous (or Ludicrous) Speed. Yes, in five seconds, I went Plaid.
Its creator isnt 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 youll get the approximate power output of the completed car. I say approximate because each car and the fuel theyll 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.
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. Theres 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 Transmissions 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 youll see somewhere in the 1500 horsepower/1050 lb-ft of torque range. Whoa.
Ive 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 its 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 wasnt beat up and my ears werent 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 cant 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