Underground Racing's Twin-Turbo Lamborghini Gallardo Tempts with 1,000 hp
By Mac Morrison/Autoweek Magazine
The only way to get rid of temptation, Oscar Wilde wrote, is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing.
Just ask Izod IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal, age 21, who was sick during the second week of December--less than 12 hours before we met in Charlotte, N.C., to drive Underground Racing's twin-turbo, 1,000-plus-hp Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. A middle-of-the-night text message described symptoms in detail (we'll spare you) and appeared to wipe out weeks of planning.
Then we read Rahal's last line: "But I can't miss this!"
|Yes, it sounded like a decision born from bacteria-eroded judgment. Yet if any street-legal car could elicit such an irrational response from someone familiar with piloting an earth-bound fighter plane around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this is the one: 1,000 hp to 1,500 hp, measured at the wheels. Output depends on the package ordered, and prices range from $35,000 to $109,000 (plus the cost of the car itself). Opt for the full "race" conversion, and you get 1,100 lb-ft of torque, 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, 60 to 130 mph in 3.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 9.1 seconds at 169 mph. The car recently recorded a standing mile at 241.68 mph, and Underground says its most extreme tune will top out at 257 mph.|
All of this is the work of two polite, quiet, young Southerners and their nine-man staff working in a 5,000-square-foot shop in Charlotte. K. C. Howeth, 28, and his brother Kevin, 36, seem an unlikely duo to modify Italian supercars. The Texas natives were raised on American muscle by a family of stock-car and drag racers.
They moved to Charlotte in 1989, where Kevin began to buy, tune and sell Ford Mustangs while working in the family construction business. The Howeths developed a reputation for supercharging Saleen Mustangs in their spare time before opening a shop in 2003 and expanding their résumé to include turbocharging Dodge Vipers. Eighteen months ago, a customer asked them to modify his Lamborghini, leading to Bugatti Veyron power and performance at a fraction of the price. Their work is a hit in the well-heeled enthusiast community. Lambo business now dominates their original garage, and they will soon take over an additional 6,500-square-foot facility.
Underground's "race" Gallardo modification starts with a dyno test of a customer's stock car. From there, technicians remove the V10 and send it to Pro Line Race Engines near Atlanta, where it receives Carrillo billet steel connecting rods and CP aluminum pistons. Pro Line also removes the stock Gallardo's aluminum cylinder linings and bores out the engine slightly to accommodate steel linings while maintaining the direct-injection powerplant's 5.2 liters of displacement.
The engine returns to Charlotte, where Underground installs its own aluminum cylinder heads and custom twin-turbo system, which features TiAL Sport pop-off valves, Precision ball-bearing turbos, an air/water intercooler and a proprietary 3.5-inch stainless-steel exhaust system.
Further modifications include stronger rear driveshafts and reinforced CV joints, a Tilton Engineering triple-disc carbon clutch and flywheel, a GReddy electronic boost controller mounted in the glovebox, a triple-adjustable Penske coil-over suspension, Motech or AEM electronics, a taller final drive ratio to increase top speed and a reworked transmission with new, hardened billet steel gears. From a visual standpoint, the car can ride lower than the factory model if the driver sets the suspension to do so, and the car seen here features striking HRE CF43 two-piece wheels with lightweight carbon-fiber barrels and forged aluminum centers. The rear tires (305/30R-19) are wider than the factory's, while the fronts remain the same (235/35R-19).