I’ve always found the progression of turbochargers in production cars quite fascinating. They arrived at a time when the technology just wasn’t there to support their full potential; astronomical levels of power were created, but they were tough to control and thus really only benefited motorsport applications.
As knowledge grew, the first production turbocharged cars hit the scene, providing an ‘experience’, but also receiving plenty of criticism due to their inherent on/off power delivery. Natural aspiration was crowned as unsurpassable and manufacturers evolved ways to generate more horsepower per liter than ever before. And then they hit a wall. Variable valve timing, direct injection, lighter and more refined materials, better manufacturing tolerances – there was only so much they could try to throw at performance motors.
These days, due in part to the pressure manufacturers are being put under to conform to emission standards, almost everything with a sports or performance derived badge attached to it is turbocharged. There’s enough knowhow and technology out there to extract an incredible amount of performance from a turbocharged motor. Turbo lag is all but a thing of the past, and instant peak torque is the norm now on most production engines. But the real potential of modern turbocharging is revealed once you add quality aftermarket parts to the mix.
And thinking smart about turbos is pretty much what Turbosmart is all about. Given its name, I don’t I need to explain what this company’s core business is, but when I was in Australia for the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge a few months back, I made it a priority to stop by Turbosmart’s state-of-the-art facility, just a small distance from Sydney Motorsport Park.
Last year, the guys at Turbosmart hooked me up with a couple of their blow-off valves for Project GT-R, and ever since then I ‘ve really wanted to see what goes into the creation of the Australian designed and manufactured products.
I met up with Richard Shumack, who’s in charge of Turbosmart’s marketing, at the factory and posed him the usual question: is there anything I can’t show? His reply: “Nothing, mate!” I always like a company that has nothing to hide.
My tour started in front of a massive stock of billet aluminum rods, the material of choice for most of the products that Turbosmart produce.
To tell you the truth, I was initially taken aback by just how massive the Turbosmart factory is. But with most automakers going turbo there is obviously a demand for turbo-related applications, and that’s on top of the already strong demand in the performance and tuning market. Oh, and let’s not forget the line of products for diesel engines too.
The mill turn lathes are usually left in auto mode overnight to ensure that Turbosmart can keep up with the growing demand for its products.
It’s pretty straightforward, the loaders are stacked up with rods – you can see the rack that holds them up above – and then automatically fed into the lathe.
Each machine runs its own program so it can get on with the job at hand.
I don’t know what it is about the machining process, but I could sit and look at something like this for ages. It doesn’t even matter the level of complexity involved, just to see a circular part like this being sculpted out of a rod is mesmerising.
Once completed the part is dropped into a tray, and from here it gets cleaned up and moved to the assembly area.
There are a ton of smaller components that get manufactured too.
Not every Turbosmart component is produced from billet aluminium, and here you see an external wastegate body – formed from cast stainless steel – receiving some refining. After the casting process, these bodies put on the lathe to have their two circular ports cleaned and machined to a mirror finish prior to assembly.
Depending on application, other components that make up blow-off valves, wastegates and fuel pressure regulators are anodized, a process that’s outsourced to another Australian company. They are then sent back ready to be stacked in the assembly line.
A Quick Nose Around
When I spotted a couple of interesting cars in the back of the shop, I just had to go and have a look.
This is Turbosmart’s Toyota 86 R&D car, which over the course of the last year or so has been used to develop a variety of different parts. The 4U-GSE (FA20) was out at the time getting fully built up.
Richard told me the car has more sensors than your average time attack machine, and while I didn’t know what he meant when he said that, one look inside the 86 explained it all. The multitude of MoTeC data acquisition sensors let Turbosmart’s engineers keep an eye on every engine parameter possible while evaluating parts.
Further up was Turbosmart’s FC3S Mazda RX-7 time attack car from a few years back, which you might remember from the feature we ran in 2015. The founder of Turbosmart is rotary mad and was building his own motors before he even started the company. In fact, it was through this passion that he start making his own bits and pieces and the business was born.
The RX-7’s engine bay is home to a pretty serious 13B that makes a ton of power.
As you’d expect with a build of this nature, the interior is fully stripped out with the just the bare essentials retained. In the footwell I spied a Haltech Platinum standalone ECU connected up to pretty much every single extra module and sensor that company has to offer.
Although the Mazda still sees track time when Turbosmart is developing and testing new products, it would be cool to see the car make a World Time Attack Challenge comeback. Aero is probably the only thing holding it back, as that side of things has evolved greatly in the WTAC domain since the car last competed.
For a few days prior to my visit, the guys from Okuma Australia had been setting up this huge 5-axis lathe, which had just been adjusted to sit absolutely flat on the workshop’s concrete floor. This machine will allow Turbosmart to tackle even more complex tasks, so it will be cool to see what cool products they will be offering in the future.
The other side of the building is set aside for the assembly line and of course warehousing of completed parts.
Assembly Starts Here
On this side of things, the first area I took a look at was where Turbosmart’s wastegates are put together. Here you can see them in the soft foam packaging that will eventually be dropped into the appropriate box.
But before that they are fitted with their internal diaphragm and the appropriate spring, ready to have the top billet and anodized cap fixed down in place.
And here is the completely assembled item.
Another process that piqued my interest was the laser-etching that features on the top aluminium sections of Turbosmart blow-off valves and wastegates. Once these components come in from the anodization process they are laid out in a tray and slid into the laser machine which etches away, line by line like a printer, at the top surface. It’s pretty neat and surprisingly quick.
Much the same assembly process happens with Turbosmart’s blow-off valves.
Turbosmart produce six different type of blow-off valves, from your bolt-on replacement of OEM plastic valves all the way to the sort of monsters you see on drag motors. On the left you can see the main billet bodies to some of these, while on the right is the piston assembly. The larger picture at the top shows the four different sizes of FPRs that Turbosmart also produce.
While the machining may be automated, all assembly is manual. This guarantees that all parts are built to spec and of course work as they should.
The blow-off valves above are the sort you’d likely see fitted to the VR38DETT in an R35 GT-R, allowing the user to choose to either vent to atmosphere or recirculate, or both to avoid issues with over-fuelling and potential stalls.
Once fully constructed, every blow-off valve and wastegate is tested to ensure it does its job to the pressure it’s set up to, which is dependent on the tension of the spring used to keep the piston sealed.
Among quite a few other parts like boost controllers and boost gauges, Turbosmart also make its own fuel cut defenders, like the FCD-2 you see here. These are extremely popular for those wanting to run blow-off valves that vent to atmosphere on a stock ECU.
Again, each electronic unit is thoroughly checked before being boxed up and sent onto the very final step – shipping.
It’s from this part of the factory that orders are shipped around Australia and out to the rest of the world via Turbosmart’s distributor network.
I ended the tour by checking out this collection of posters taken from popular Australian performance and custom car magazines. Again, I seemed to have found another Aussie company full of car enthusiasts pushing themselves to design and build the most innovative products they can.
Long live the turbo!
Dino Dalle Carbonare