When Tym brought me back a few months ago to write for and run this blog, it was with directions to tell the “behind the scenes” stories about Switzer Performance that haven’t been told in the press. So far, I’ve only told a small fraction of those stories, and they involve record-setting mile runs or innovative, mean green monsters. Some of these stories I’m here to talk about, though, are probably best shared by the people who experienced them first-hand. This, I think, is one of those stories: the story of the first 1000 whp R1K GTR.
Like most development cars (if not outright prototypes), the first R1K build had some teething problems. That’s not news, and it’s not a story worth telling (regardless of who’s telling it). What is unique about this car’s story – the story that is worth telling, in other words – was how those teething problems were handled, from the customer’s perspective. That’s what I’ve got for you, below. If you get all the way through to the end, you’ll find some sikk, high-resolution photography at the bottom of this post.
Thought it was about time I shared my experience at Switzer Performance. Some of you know that my car was the original Switzer R1K. I sent my car to Tym in November of 2009 originally for a P800 package, but told Tym I wanted a little more once it arrived and gave him the green light to do some more R&D on the car.
My goal was to maintain excellent spool and response characteristics and reliability of the P800 but with a little bit more topend. Tym felt he could extract that out of the stock manifold housing. (As he did the next Spring in the first E900 car)
But one thing led to another (as most of you know when deciding to step up in power, it is a never-ending journey) and soon Tym was making custom manifolds, larger turbos, cams, etc. Which necessitated a bigger fuel delivery, exhaust and intake system and many additional supporting mods to step above the P800 power level. The biggest challenge to overcome at that time was the tuning solutions as the Cobb wasn’t up to the task of supporting 1000whp predictably.
I can’t say that it was a journey without hardship. I am an impatient person, and Tym is a perfectionist.
I took delivery of my car in April of 2011. It was delivered to Spokane Washington and I had an amazing 3 hour drive back to the Okanagan Valley of B.C. The car ran flawlessly and the acceleration was breathtaking. I can’t describe the feeling of being back behind the wheel after so long.
The car was more than I had bargained for. Not only did it maintain the response characteristics of a stock car, it was making over 800whp on 93 pump fuel and over 1000whp on race gas. More power than I ever expected with the response I had demanded.
I drove my car home, washed it lovingly and put it away in my garage for the evening…just to take it out again the next day with the intentions of taking all my friends and family out for a joy ride.
I made a slight dent in the lineup of joyriders. But before my adventures for the day were over, the transmission went into limp mode. I managed to limp my way home and spent over an hour with Tym on the phone (well past midnight Eastern Time). No amount of clutch relearning or adjustments fixed the issue.
So the day after I received my car I had to pull the transmission. Within a week I airfreighted it back to Tym and John Sheppard. They discovered a broken 4th gear in the box. A broken 4th PPG gear, as my car had the full gearset.
PPG waranteed the part, but wanted to inspect why their gear broke. Once they received the gear, they made some design changes before they sent out a new gear. It took nearly 5 weeks to get a replacement gear. And it was nearly 2 months before I received my transmission.
Switzer not only warrantied the transmission but airfreighted it back to me.
Switzer had sent me and my friends, both certified journeymen mechanics very clear instructions on how to pull down the transmission, how to reinstall and the fluid refill procedure. Everything went quickly and smoothly until we went through the procedure to start the car, put it in gear and top up.
The car immediately stalled when started up. I tried it a few more times to no avail, and finally decided to feather the throttle for a few revs to see if that would help. Bad idea, the car noticeably rocked when I did this, and it quite frankly scared the shit out of me. We spoke to Switzer, reviewed the install and refill procedure, then reinspected…and found a cracked transmission case. A hairline fracture in the case with some fluid dripping out. Heartdrop.
Had to pull the transmission and 2 days later was airfreighted back to Switzer and Sheppard. I was thankful that there did not appear to be any damage to the internals of the transmission according to Shep, but he had to pull the tranny apart to fix the housing.
This was the first case that Tym and John experienced where an airpocket developed during the refill procedure in a solenoid that caused the transmission to shift into gear. When we tried to start the car, the gear engaged while the transmission was in Park, causing the Park Pawl to twist and cracked the case of the transmission. Forgive me if my terms and explanations are off, I am no mechanic and am explaining to the best of my knowledge.
Needless to say, Tym and John do not support remote transmission reinstalls any longer, and advise a consult at any and all refill procedures.
Switzer took care of the second repair of the transmission.
Tym asked me to send my car back to Ohio, as by that time there were some other hardware and tuning updates for the R1K he wanted to upgrade my car with, and we did not want a repeat of the tranny install fiasco. So I trailered the car back across the border and met the transport truck and my car went back East.
I flew back down to Spokane at the end of July to pick up my car for the second time, and had another enjoyable ride home. The car shifted flawlessly.
I enjoyed my car for a couple of weeks on pump fuel before I decided to finally try the Q16. With my cousin in the passenger seat and a Escalade ESV full of family and friends we did some freeway pulls on the lowest racegas settings at about 2am. Just thinking about the stomach drop free fall sensation of that incredible acceleration still raises the hair on the back of my neck. Wow. But…the story isn’t over.
On the 3rd big pull 2nd through 5th gear, with my cousing frantically telling me to slow down because there was a bend in the road, I let off. I pressed the brake and looked behind us for any sign of the Escalades headlights, but could only see a cloud of white smoke. I put the car into neutral and immediately pulled over, then shut the car off. I stepped out to a billowing cloud of white smoke out the back of the car that smelt like coolant.
WTF? The car was pulling like a freight train till I let off, there was no sound or sign of a hiccup, the car was idling smoothly when I pulled over and shut it down.
2 hours later I had the car back in my shop. No sign of any coolant in the oil, but no coolant in the car. The turbo housing shield and downpipe on passenger side was soaking wet. Did a coolant line to the turbo break perhaps? Did the turbo cartridge have some catastrophic failure?
I only have a 4 post hoist at home so a few days later later took it to my cousins automotive shop and put it up on the 2 post. We pulled the passengers side turbo (seemed fine), then connected the coolant lines together so we could pressurize the coolant system to see where it was leaking. Well didn’t need to do that, water poured out of the manifold as soon as I tried filling. Fuck.
Tym did not want us taking the car apart. He wanted to analyze and detail every aspect of the package and motor as it was pulled apart. So we packed the car up and sent it back to Ohio. It was middle of August.
Tym and Tym Sr. tore down and analyzed every aspect of the motor and fuel system. Unusually, the drivers side bank was unscathed, but the passengers side bank had catastrophic damage including a hole through the head which drained all the coolant through the exhaust system.
When I sent my car back to Ohio after the tranny casing housing cracked for upgrades, one of the things that was changed out was the fuel pumps. While the pumps in the car were tested and proven, the same? company had come out with a new higher volume pump that Tym decided to put into the car for a greater margin of safety.
The pumps were cut open and analyzed, and the secondary fuel pump was found to be the culprit. It did not shut down completely, but under high load was not able to provide the volume of fuel needed, gradual enough to fool the safeguards Tym had built into the ProEFI … and the passengers side bank paid the consequences.
Did I mention that Switzer is a perfectionist and is synonymous with Integrity?
He replaced my entire motor, from the crank up at no cost to me. He gave me all the newest and latest hardware and software updates (including reverting back to the original fuel pumps).
I picked up my car for the final time in this story on November 12th in Spokane. I drove through 3 inches of snow and ice till I reached the Canadian border where I was met with sunshine and dry roads. The anywhere anytime Switzer R1K GTR.
I got home, lovingly washed it and put it away. It snowed the next day and was iced in for the next week. But it has since melted and I have been driving and flogging the shit out of this goddamned car for the last 10 days.
It is simply amazing. This fully built transmission with Promax and full gearset drives smooth as butter. The car starts, idles and drives through town better than stock, yet spools and takes off like a banshee when the throttle is feathered.
I know Switzer and other shops have built more powerful GTR’s since the R1K was developed, but I don’t believe there is a better overall package for balance between spool, response, and power than what the R1K delivers. And as others have mentioned, I believe even after all the shit luck I experienced, that the 1000whp mark can be reliable.
So first it was a PPG gear that broke. Then it was a fluke air pocket in a gear solenoid. Then it was a faulty fuel pump. Hardware failures that were not foreseeable or controllable and could not lay fault at either my feet or Switzers.
Yet Switzer stood behind me and took care of me all the way. For each and every incident. That’s Integrity.
The Switzer R1K GTR is Excellence.
And that is the point of my story.
You can CLICK HERE to check out the original thread, over on the North American GTR Owners’ Club (NAGTROC) R35 forum, and check out some of the promised high-resolution images of this first “prototype” R1K GTR, below. Enjoy!