How I Overdosed on Horsepower and Blew up my Car

There is no feeling comparable to the rush of creeping up on red-line only to stomp on the clutch, grab the gear selector, and throw it into the next gear to watch the revs climb again. The problem, though with having horsepower is similar to other vices. Drink your favourite type of alcohol every day; you’ll get tired of it, and your enjoyment fades. The same is true with adding too much power to your car. In your search for that feeling, you become blind to all else; your goal is simply to feel what you once felt. You become an addict.

I drove a Volvo approaching the 330 awhp figure. Before the Volvo, I owned a Subaru Legacy that graced me with 200 hp at the wheels even before passing the 4000 rpm mark. Power was something I breathed in, and I got to have it every day. I was living the life. I was, in essence, drinking my favorite whiskey on a daily basis.

Then one day, A guy – no, a kid – in a white Mk.6 GTi wanted to show off. There was a girl in the passenger’s seat, maybe a girlfriend, I wasn’t sure. For some reason, I got a little irritated at the poor little VW. I mean, how could a little toy with no more than 250 bhp dare even think about passing me? So I stepped on the throttle and jumped from my 110 km/h cruising speed to somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 kph in seconds. Then nothing, I didn’t smile, there was no pleasure, no joy. The car that once put a smile on my face every time I stepped on the gas now felt slow.

I did the only thing I could do: add power. I ordered a bigger turbo. Two weeks later my family was away for a weekend; My friends and I disassembled half the engine bay, installed the new turbo and tuned it. Power rose. I got it on a dyno weeks later and found I was creeping up on 390 awhp. Pretty soon I outgrew that power and began adding more boost, advancing timing and rebuilding the transmission to handle more power. I passed 400 hp to the wheels and got a new fuel pump and injectors. I then hit a hard stop at just under 420 whp. I could now hit 100km/h in under 4 seconds from a standstill. But it wasn’t enough to stave off my growing urge for more. To squeeze more power from the car, I installed a thick head gasket and continued pushing it. New cams, a new throttle body, new valve springs, and I raised the redline by a few hundred RPM.

With over 270,000 km on the car and making somewhere around 450 whp, boost spiked and the engine detonated lifting the whole head off the block several millimeters. I thought it was a head gasket at first, and then I realized the whole head was warped. The valves needed replacing, the camshafts were probably damaged and the exhaust header that my friend painstakingly made for me was also cracked. 

I lost. It was over. Months of work, more money than I can count, and it was all ruined by a faulty control valve. All my savings, plus numerous loans, gone.

Getting back my tax return this year will help me dig out of the small debt I put myself in . In a way, it could have been worse. The fact that the engine obliterated itself before I began working on the finer details stopped me from plunging into larger loans. I just didn’t realize how much damage I was doing to myself. Chasing horsepower is incredible: You push your knowledge to the limits. Doing so irresponsibly is insane. Going into debt to have a fast car is one of the single dumbest decisions you can make.

Milan Svitek is our newest DriverMod contributor and photographer, and his mighty Volvo S60R was our official camera car until it well… blew up.