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DSR VR6 Bumpstick Install

Let Them Eat Cams

Photography by Wes Allison, Cullen Clutterham

Way back in the days of the Golf III, the VR6 was the engine of choice among performance freaks. With an ample amount of power from the factory and plenty of aftermarket parts that could help the engine pump out more, it’s easy to see why. Then came the Golf IV. With the ’99.5 Golf IV, Volkswagen had updated the exterior but had also messed with the VR6, allowing it to make more power, leaving the aftermarket out of the loop. Then the 1.8T became available in 2000. With so much more power potential in simple bolt-on form, this became the engine of choice. Not coincidentally, the new VR6, though still popular, is thought of by some as a bastard engine.

Even bastards deserve aftermarket parts. With exhausts, intakes, spark plug wires, and an occasional, elusive supercharger, the parts availability for the current generation VR6 is slim. Dynospot Racing of Mountain View, California, has developed a product that adds power with minimal amount of risk. Its DSR 256 cams are the answer for those people with the current generation VR6 searching for more power. For a mere $725, chip and reground cams can be had.

DSR has regrinds as well as billets available. There is a $200 core charge when ordering the reground cams, but this is credited back to you when DSR receives your stock camshafts. Just as important to the cam’s performance is the GIAC chip. The Garrett chip is specially mapped to the characteristics of DSR’s bumpsticks and results in smooth power everywhere in the rev range. Test vehicles have gained an average of 22.3 hp with the cams, chip, intake, and exhaust, but we needed to see it for ourselves.

Dick Chiang, owner of Dynospot Racing, was more than willing to prove his product’s worth. He noted that for maximum gains to be realized, an aftermarket intake and exhaust should be installed with the cams and chip The ECU of our ’99.5 GTI VR6 was pulled and sent to DSR’s facility via priority overnight at the final FedEx pickup and arrived two mornings later back in our hot little hands. From our offices in Los Angeles, we then headed southeast to Huntington Beach—more specifically to VW Specialties. VW Specialties has been in the business of servicing and repairing water-cooled Volkswagens and Audis for years, and the staff’s reputation precedes them. Being known as one of the best is difficult to live up to, but it is immediately apparent that these guys know their VAG automobiles.

The install of the cams themselves is about a five-hour affair, though Scott at VW Specialties was able to do it in a little under four hours. Just by circumventing the superfluous step of removing the front bumper, and the fact that he knew exactly what each subsequent step in tearing down the engine was— like it was something he had designed himself—he was able to cut an hour off of the projected install time as well as demonstrate why VW Specialties is one of the best in the business.

Before we had the cams and chip installed, we went to R&D Dyno in Gardena to establish the baseline of our modified VR6. With the intake and exhaust, as well as 19-inch wheels, power came in at a three-run average of 161.5 hp, while torque came in at an equally healthy 160.7 lb-ft. After getting the numbers and a printout of the dyno plot, we scheduled an appointment to return about a week after the cam install to again have a run on R&D’s Dynojet 248C dynamometer.

Upon installation of the chipped ECU and the drive to VW Specialties, we were very impressed with the kick that occurred after the second set of butterflies on the intake manifold opened. After the cams had been installed, we were even more impressed. The power curve felt much broader and didn’t drop off at the top end as it had in stock trim. The rev limit was raised to 7,200 rpm, making power available at virtually any speed, with a simple downshift. Torque was increased by 1.2 lb-ft to 161.9 lb-ft, and power by 9.5 to 171hp. Impressive, considering that the motor is essentially bled for all it’s worth from the factory. Also, consider the fact that our baseline numbers came from a car already equipped with an intake and exhaust, rolling on 19-inch wheels.

Follow along as we show you how to remove your ECU to send to DSR and as we try to keep up with Scott installing the cams.

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