Inside AMS Performance: Making Fast Cars Go Much Faster
20,000-25,000 horsepower; that’s how much power is residing at Chicago-based AMS Performance. That is a hugely impressive number made more impressive because this shop is actually pretty small. It can work on a total of nine cars at a time, with a few more in storage. With builds like the Alpha Omega GT-R and its insane 2000-horsepower output, AMS became the shop known for some of the best and wildest builds on the planet. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to tour AMS’ facility, and it’s about as close to heaven as you can get on Earth. AMS Performance started off in 2001 modifying DSMs and Evolution 8s a couple years later, becoming the go to shop for high-horsepower builds. Their cars ran strong and held together, unlike many other tuning shops you’d see. When the Nissan GT-R came out, all bets were off and AMS went from regionally known to a global sensation. RELATED: See Photos of the 545-Horsepower Nissan GT-R
However, the outfit doesn’t want to be known just as the GT-R shop. They tune every type of high performance exotic out there to astonishing numbers. That's evident when you pull into their parking lot.
The lot at the shop is small but overflowing. In front sits a 997 Turbo that, from its stance, has obviously had a bit of work done. It was followed by a line of some of the best exotica in the world trailing towards the rear. Standing there and knowing the reputation that this shop has will send shivers down any enthusiast’s spine.
As we walk through the doors there’s an unusual reception area, and by unusual I mean completely bad ass. A complete racing seat/steering wheel is setup to play Forza and a line of performance Michelin tires greets you on display. My guide for the day was still a bit busy so I sat down and played for a bit; let’s just hope he didn’t see my car after I was done driving it.
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While most people think the shop starts in the garage area, AMS’s heart really begins in the front office. Picture and magazine covered corridors lead you through the building stopping at customer service, marketing, and most importantly engineering.
AMS’ engineering department shows off why this shop is so dominant. Not only do the engineers have all the latest 3D modeling and CAD software you can dream of, but their desks are lined with the actual parts they are either modifying or building, like the 72mm turbo that was sitting on the desk the day of the tour. Their engineers are always tweaking, always modifying something to make more power more reliably. AMS also just became the latest Authorized Garrett Performance Distributor, one of only 5 of in the US, which speaks to their talent.
While still amazed at the level of engineering from the front of the shop, entering the shop floor becomes a whole new wonderland of breathtaking sights. A bunch of GT-Rs in various states of undress, a few Mercedes E63s, an Evo, and an Audi R8 V10 on the dyno howling like a banshee.
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In between the bays and work stations, AMS employs a total of 33 people, with countless stacks of parts everywhere. From tires and rims, to complete and disassembled turbos, and an entire wall of radiator cores that can be quickly built into the needed application.
Then you turn the corner and come face to face with Omega.
I’m not sure how else to describe this car other than jaw-dropped-to-the-floor amazing. Looking at it, you’re overcome with both a deep sense of fear from the 2000 horses this thing can deliver, and the need to truly test this its limits. Even on the lift, with its twin-turbo heart sitting on the ground being carefully taken apart for its next round of upgrades, the car is menacing. Consequently, Omega just smoked the competition at the Fall 2014 Texas Invitational and set a new GT-R quarter mile world record two days later.
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While leaving the shop and setting up my next visit (stay tuned), I asked my guide what the average horsepower rating was for a car that leaves the shop, and what the best part of their job was? 900 horsepower was the answer to the first question, which is frankly insane.
The second answer, they said they’d have to get back to me. It wasn’t until later that I got an email saying this: “Seeing the look on a customer’s face or hearing their voice when we deliver on every bit of the HP we promised them. Then getting a phone call three months later because they now want more.”
In the realm of these super horsepower cars, nothing is ever enough. That sense of speed becomes addictive, and the need to go faster becomes just as strong. That’s why AMS Performance exists, to funnel not only our drive for the spectacularly insane, but to see what’s technically possible and push the limits of road cars.
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