Click the link to see an edited transcript of a BimmerBoost interview with Chris Bergemann owner of HPF. As this is E46 month, we wanted to do something interesting for the E46 community. I conducted a phone interview with Chris asking questions that had been on my mind about HPF for some time. The raw interview is also posted in MP3 format if one would like to listen to it. It is about 30 minutes in length and I want to take the time now to thank Chris once again for taking the time to speak with me and answer all my questions. It was a good conversation and we went a bit over the time limit as we delved into some topics so I just want to make it clear that we appreciate Chris taking the time.
BimmerBoost: How did Horsepower freaks come about and what is your role?
Chris @ HPF: Horsepower Freaks came about because I used to race my 1995 Toyota Supra. I was a computer programmer so I put the two together and created this company to sell parts for other enthusiasts and to kind of live my dream.
BimmerBoost: How long have you been in business?
Chris @ HPF: 9 years
BimmerBoost: When did the decision to turbo the S54 come about?
Chris @ HPF: That came out in February of 2006 and it came about in August of 2006.
BimmerBoost: What were the challenges in doing that?
Chris @ HPF: Probably lack of information. Lack of information, lack of parts available, lack of off the shelf parts available. We had to design our own... everything from scratch.
BimmerBoost: You have an exclusive deal with AEM, the hardware is one aspect but the tuning is the cornerstone that allows you to do what you need to do, correct?
HPF: We don't have an exclusive deal. I hired their engineer so he works for me. What we did is we designed the hardware to run the car and we told AEM they could build the hardware for us and put their name on the box.
BB: Are other people able to source this AEM ECU if they wish?
HPF: From AEM?
HPF: No, no. We made it so that would be... the other thing is AEM does not make all the circuit boards that are in our turbo kit, we make some ourselves.
BB: If I wanted to build my own turbo kit I would not necessarily be able to do it with the AEM setup?
HPF: Well, you could, but you would have to buy a generic Civic or some other generic AEM box and then you would have to build your own hardware to run the car. You would have to build all the hardware that runs the injectors, drives the VANOS, and reads all the sensors. When you do that you realize that the car is extremely finicky. If anything is out of whack the factory DME shuts down.
BB: How many kits have you sold at this point?
HPF: We have sold 80 turbo kits.
BB: With that many kits sold do you feel you have recouped the investment cost and there is room to drop the price?
HPF: No. We haven't recouped our investment. I just spent way too much money developing the kit. I spent about 3/4 of a million in total to do all of the stages. It is going to be a long time before I recoup the investment, I wish I did, but unfortunately I didn't.
BB: So it sounds like you are doing this more for the love of it than the money?
HPF: Well, we have to make money or we won't be in business. I think now that I'm racing I'm actually getting to enjoy what we've done but before I was racing it wasn't as much fun. Now, with racing, it is a lot more fun.
BB: How reliable do you feel the kits are? There have been some motors that have blown. How do you resolve those issues and how reliable are the kits overall?
HPF: I think that our kits are... let me put it this way, we have had cars come into our shop that are NA that have had broken ring lands that had never seen any boost whatsoever. We found that out because we do a leak down before any car gets worked on. So if we are going to put a turbo kit on it we are going to a leak down and we have literally found NA motors with broken ring lands. Who knows why that is, maybe they got really, really bad gas and it is a hot day. The cars will seem like they run ok but they will be down on power a little bit so there are inherit weaknesses especially with the factory pistons. Once our kit is on it is extremely rare, extremely rare that we see a failure in the engine. So if it does happen then we have to look at different things and so far there have been a couple cases where the finger pointed back to us. One was a wastegate dump tube that got plugged on amgetr's car. Had that dump tube been built the way we wanted it to... a couple of dump tubes got built with a different kind of flex section that imploded which normally we have safety devices that prevent the car from over-boosting. So I'm not sure why it over-boosted, but we saw this was a problem and we fixed his car for free. Typically, if a car is going to blow up it really is going to be something else wrong with the car that caused it to happen. Especially on the built motors as they are almost indestructible. You have to be doing something stupid, I mean you have to be listening to your knock siren, there is a 120 decibel knock siren in the car, so you would have to put the wrong gas in and listen to the knock siren for a while before it would go as it is stout. I beat on these cars and race the car an hour at a time full throttle, braking, full throttle and we have cars with built motors nearing 50,000 miles now.
BB: You recently got BattaM3's car in, what is the status on that?
HPF: We don't know, we have a few cars in front of them. John will be looking at his car later this week. We know his car had an issue but we don't know what it is yet. We will have to wait and see.
BB: Active Autowereke I believe currently has the strongest M3 which is Taza's car, what is limiting you guys from going for more power? Could you put out more? Is the turbo size limited?
HPF: We could make any power we want. So, I would argue that we maybe did make the most horsepower because there is no real proof that the dyno that was posted was from Taza's car. There was no video of it, there were no races, there was just a dyno published that didn't even have his name on it. So the dyno looked... I don't know, I like Vik and I like Active so I don't think either of them would lie. But I think if you are really going to have a verifiable dyno you can't just post up an arbitrary graph. You need to at least have a video of the car on the dyno. You see when we do dynos I always shoot the car it does the dyno pull and then I pan the camera to the dyno graph. That dyno they posted started at 3500 rpm and it was just odd. I'm not saying they didn't do it, but then on the flip side, if I thought that was a reason for me to make power I would just put a bigger turbo on the car.
BB: So you are not limited?
HPF: I'm not limited at all. We haven't done any headwork, we haven't touched the valves, we haven't touched the cams, we haven't even run a bigger turbo. We could do any number of things. we made a 1022 to the wheels and we put videos of that up.
BB: Just for the record, you do believe there is room for the S54 to grow and there is still power to be made down the line?
HPF: What I am planning on doing, right now, is when we first started everyone wanted Stage 2, because that was the upgrade from 1. Then everyone wanted 2.5 and now we get a lot of cars coming in for Stage 3. So, I'm gonna let that peculate for a while. The next person who says he wants Stage 4, we have been working out a deal with BMW and we are actually getting bare blocks shipped to us now that are under bored. So we can create thicker cylinder walls so our Stage 4 builds are going to include this new bulletproof block. There is an inherent weakness in the S54 block with the thin cylinder wall between the cylinder and the oil cooling jacket.
So The next guy that comes in for Stage 4, we may be messing around and say, Stage 3 is 800 wheel which is nice and we can set Stage 4 at a nice even 1000 so you have 1,000 all the time. I don't really feel safe selling any more Stage 4's unless people buy a block that is thicker. We haven't been able to source the thicker blocks, we have tried sleeving blocks, which we have a sleeved block that is on its way back to us that is 4 times stronger than the standard block but we are still playing with the idea and we are going to try them both and see which one we go with.
BB: The standard block is iron, and if you are sleeving it, it should almost take anything you throw at it, right?
HPF: Well, the cylinder sleeves from Darton are 4 times stronger than the material you are replacing.
BB: You had a Stage 4 that you were racing but you went to a Stage 3, you mentioned your racing, please share some details on why this change was made.
HPF: You just want more power down low when you are on a race track. 1,000 horsepower is just very hard to control. You don't want 1,000 wheel on the racetrack. It doesn't always translate to a faster time. When you track your car enough you will realize you don't always need more power.
BB: Would you be able to share the compression ratio you use for the built motors or are you still not publicly disclosing that?
HPF: We are not publicly disclosing that.
BB: Do all the built motor stages use the same compression?
HPF: All of the built motors are the same. So a 2.5 built motor is already prepped for a Stage 4. A 2.5 motor is built for around 1200 horsepower so running 600-700 through those motors is child's play.
BB: You are currently offering $1,000 for somebody to run 10's. What does that entail?
HPF: Yes, A stage 1 or 2 needs to run 10.99 or faster and publish a timeslip or video. A 2.5 needs to run a 10.75 or faster.
BB: The main issue is definitely the launch, the cars are easily capable of 10's.
HPF: Oh ya, and what we may be doing is I envision a time where we will be building a drag kit that will come with an automatic transmission and people will be able to run 9's with the real easily with the amount of power they have.
BB: You make me wish I still had my E46.
BB: I have to ask you on your view of that Stage 2 car in Canada running those high traps that we now feel was attributed to faulty timing equipment?
HPF: Robert Born, ya, the one who had 11.00 @ 139. I think that the track was probably wrong.
BB: Were there any tuning changes on his car? Did you do anything different specifically for him?
HPF: No, no, he just got a Stage 2. I think the mph is wrong at that track but the ET was probably right.
BB: You had issues marketing your S54 kits on M3forum, do you mind describing what happened?
HPF: Initially, when I started talking about my ideas for turboing that car people seemed to be pretty receptive over there and they were pretty excited about the opportunity to have a turbo car. Then when I actually did it, October of 2006, they sent me an e-mail saying if you want to talk about your car that is fine but you are going to have to sponsor the forum. I said ok, tell me how much and where I send the money. So they sent me a letter telling me how much and I waited about a week because they didn't tell me where to paypal the money. So I started e-mailing them asking them where to send the money. They wouldn't respond to me and 3 weeks later I finally got a hold of... I can't find the name right now but anyway, they told me that all of the moderators had to approve me as a vendor for me to be accepted. Some of the moderators didn't approve of us and I asked why, because that is strange. I've never had a forum tell me they don't want to take my money, I didn't understand. So I asked what the deal is and they said the moderators are concerned that I am making too much power which will blow the engines and we don't want to support that. So I said, how about if I get a couple cars done and I let you know and you guys can approve me then. They said well ok, sure. In the mean time people started ripping my product apart. I'd never go over there but then people on m3forum confused me with a company called torque freaks. They said we had shady business practices and that we are liars and all sorts of things. I would go over there and say we aren't Torque Freaks we are Horsepower Freaks we are developing a turbo kit. Then they said we were lying about our dyno numbers, so I started saying what can I do to prove it to you? I take videos of the car on the dyno, video of the boost gauge, video of the dyno itself. Then they started saying we were lying about the fuel we were using, it just got ridiculous.
BB: This is all led to a lawsuit, correct, I remember you asking if m3forum discouraged you from purchasing a kit. Whatever happened with that, did it go further?
HPF: Well what happened was they left a lot of deffamtory comments about our company on that forum. So I did a lot of research and I have about 7,000 pages of documentation on that forum and I could certainly sue them.
BB: Is that just in limbo?
HPF: That is in limbo. My attorneys sent their attorneys letters. They replied back saying we don't feel we have any legal responsibility to that. Basically, they said fuck off. Then they banned my IP address from even being able to see their forum. So they are going to be talking about superchargers and home made turbo kits forever.
BB: Well, that is their loss as far I am concerned it is not a good forum to begin with. This all happened under the watch of Alexander Sabet, you probably are familiar with him, Beowoulf, and he got thrown out. I assumed this might have had something to do with what happened with you guys. It is their loss.
HPF: They have a big liability, still, I can sue them at any time. I just have to decide do I want to move forward and you know do positive things for the community and spend my time and money making new kits and new products? Or do I spend my time going after old wrongdoings and sue people? I prefer to move forward.
BB: That is the correct attitude to have and I think you absolutely right. That leads me to my next question. I believe HPF needs to evolve, the products are great, but you are also looking beyond the E46 M3. What is your product offering for the N54 going to entail and do you intend to put more focus on other BMW platforms?
HPF: Yes. We did an exhaust system but we are still working it out. We had some issues when a car came in last week, nothing major, but we had to re-focus our attention on some other things. I have 4 techs and I have a lot of E46 M3's coming through. We have more business than we know what to do with right now. So sometimes I have to pull attention away from the 335 unfortunately and put it on the E46 M3.
BB: Is the 335 single turbo kit still coming?
HPF: My goal is to be the same for the 335 as we are for the M3. I feel like we took the M3 to the highest power level. We engineered the parts that would make it capable of exceeding those power levels. We provided a reliable platform for people to drive around. I plan to do the same thing for the 335. I plan to take whatever everybody has done and try to raise the bar above what the competitors are going to do. I am going to be getting to the game late, I know other companies have already started, once I get into that game once I get there we are going to look at what they have done and now let's figure how to we can outperform them.
BB: Is there anything about Horsepower Freaks that maybe we don't know about or that you would like to share? Anything coming down the pipeline?
HPF: The RHD we are working on, that will be a big hit. The turbo is probably going to be a little smaller than the 67 we are running on the Stage 1 and 2's. I'm trying to think what else that nobody knows about.... that is pretty much all I would want to say at this point.
BB: I understand, no problem. I definitely want to thank you for your time. I'm going to put this up on BimmerBoost on the front page. I know you haven't spent too much time on BimmerBoost but I have a feeling you will be. Thank you.
Some extra OT discussion available in the raw audio.