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Zen and the Art of a Well-Tuned Mid-West

Great Garages #2

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
– Bruce Lee

Like the aforementioned martial arts master, Fluid MotorUnion (FMU) in Plainfield, Illinois practices automotive repair and modification with a certain poetry. Over the last decade, master automotive technician OJ Lopez has developed legions of loyal customers who depend on his brand of mechanical justice with vehicles ranging from Mazda Miatas to Mercedes ML55s.8725103141_c0c3839688
“Most of the techs at FMU are classically trained European car specialists,” said OJ. “But we don’t have play favorites here and we own/drive pretty much everything. It doesn’t’ matter whether it’s an old Pontiac or a new Porsche. We treat everyone with the same respect.” said OJ.
Typically, I’d “round-file” such statements but in FMU’s case, it’s the real thing. They’re great guys, very talented technicians/fabricators and dedicated to keeping their clients ambulatory without charging dealership-level prices. Fittingly, the name Fluid MotorUnion is based on Master Lee’s teachings.
Someone said a good doctor, a clever accountant, and a forgiving priest are must-haves for a contented existence.
There needs to be an addendum: a trust-worthy mechanic.
As a long-time 993/911 owner, I’d be lost, broke and probably living in a dumpster without my mechanic, which essentially places the mechanic at the top of the list.
If the South West had an FMU, I’m pretty sure we’d consider it a temple or something.
While a lion’s share of FMU business is maintenance/repair, they’ve developed a solid reputation as a high-performance tuning specialist.
“We like projects with significant engineering challenges behind them” said OJ.
“A Honda with 19-in wheels and an exhaust is great and all, but it’s not really our thing.”

FMU’s Performance and Fabrication Shop enjoys a broad client base and like their Service Department, its customers are totally devoted. A recent FMU project included a pavement-ripping Dodge Ram SRT-10 with a custom-built Garrett GT42R-based turbo system. It spun the big dyno rollers to more than 800 lb-ft of twist and 700 hp. A client in Saudi Arabia was anxiously awaiting its completion as well as an FMU-built BMW X5 and a 750LI.

edit7-625x356edit21-625x415edit4-625x415dsc_0184-625x4498725102349_ffa7631ba4While being a formally trained Audi/BMW/Mercedes tech never hurts, the theory needs to be forged with real-world application. FMU has tons of it, the type of granular, old school knowledge that’s priceless.
“We love cars, we love working with cars, we play with cars after work.” said OJ.
8725102101_0d1b5fc1ef“We’ve been doing it long enough to recognize what works well and what doesn’t.”
“The VF-Engineering supercharger system goes into the “works-well” category. The VFE kits are well designed, well crafted and easy for my techs to install. The kits are packaged so that the bits you need first are on top…that’s pretty smart. When a VFE-supercharged car leaves FMU, you pretty much know the driver won’t returning for any technical issues. And if they do, it’s usually a few months later and they’ve “just gotta have” another 150 hp and a new set of tires”

“We recently did a VF-650 supercharger install on a client’s E90 M3…it was the high-horsepower system and a straight forward 1-day install except for a missing bolt or something. VFE priority overnighted the piece that afternoon. That’s another thing I like about VFE…when you have a question or issue they immediately respond and make it right. “
“Anyway, this M3 left our shop with the VF-650 supercharger and a lot more horsepower. The guy leaves in a cloud of tire smoke and we move onto our Gran Torino project.DSC_9060
“A week or so later he’s back and wants even more. We could do that within the VFE system but not without strengthening the engine, transmission and driveline. The gentleman didn’t want to wait so he asked us to apply a nitrous-oxide system. I’m betting he’ll be back soon. It’s never enough for some guys. We understand that all too well.”
From my experience, a well-engineered NOS system can deliver a sizable boost to engine output…for a short time. Get greedy and you will quickly learn that the oxide portion of N2o is not a fussy eater. If it can’t find fuel it will happily dine on a piston or two.
“Some guys love the “build” part of a modified car. As car guys ourselves we get that. But some of the aftermarket components are marginal at best and we need to re-engineer before it’ll actually work. In the end, we end up making it ourselves or suggest an alternative.
“In regards to the VF-Engineering supercharger systems…we want to do more of them. The kits are totally complete, very durable, easy to install and make solid hp gains. For the money, we think VFE is one of the better options out there. Most importantly, the VFE systems make our customers happy. And that’s a good thing.”ericse38dsc00575-625x352

Side Note: Weld quality is a good barometer for measuring a shop’s expertise. Look at these freakin welds, man! Perfect little rows of dimes. Someday, I’ll be able to weld like that. Currently, my welding skill (singular) is burning holes in metal.fmu


Just wanted to send a shout-out to the
thoughtful individuals who left another sofa
behind the shop. If stains could talk, this beauty would be a romantic tome
on par with 50 Shades of Beige.
And now it’s here…behind our shop.M4 and Big Beige
Gosh we’re lucky.
Sadly VFE’s M4 took an immediate
dislike to the taupe recliner and promptly suffered a seizure. It’s
been on limp-home mode ever since.
PageLines- VFEs-new-M4-and-red-couch1-1280x853.jpgThe Red Sofa of Tuning will make
things right with the Blue Bavarian.
Stay Tuned


Running a bigger compressor? Then you’ll need a set of these…performance-pulley-e46-)

Intended for ultra-high output applications,
VFE’s S/C Pulley Kit is designed to optimize
rotational speeds when using larger
superchargers pushing 12-18 psi.
The units are carved from
aerospace-spec aluminum stock and
then triple-hard anodized before being
rotationally balanced.



Supercharged M3s are drawn to
the Red Sofa of Flash Tuning.

Science cannot fully explain
the phenomena despite years of
electronic tagging and field study. Perhaps
next time they can send a mechanical
engineer rather than a Prius-driving salmon biologist.
This particularly gorgeous example
drove 400 miles to be with us and
departed with 625 bhp.


BMWE46SLIDEVF-Engineering has finished preliminary testing of
a high performance E46 M3 oil cooler and the results look good.

With almost twice the surface area (1.3m vs. 2.4m)
of the factory oil cooler, byCSF M3 oil cooler radiator (6 of 6)
default the radiator increases
the M3’s oil cooling capability.

Typically, E46 M3 oil temps remain within factory limits, even during moderately aggressive driving where the factory oil cooler does
a decent job.
Under sustained load however,
the factory cooler can become overwhelmed (talk to anyone who tracks their E46 M3).
CSF M3 oil cooler radiator (1 of 1)Temps rocket and oil starts to break down, which is a bad thing.
Some drivers have used the filter
assembly from the Euro-spec M3
with some success. And while
it does slightly increase thermal
scrub capacity, it’s expensive
with modest results.
Designed just down the road from VFE,
this CSF radiator is a direct bolt-on
replacement for the factory unit with
pre-tapped inlets and mounting tabs.
The cooler features robust,
generously-welded end caps,
smooth internal passages and
a very clean finish. Priced well
below comparable oil coolers, we
decided this oil cooler was worth a
closer look. We like it (and now use it)
because our clients tend to drive their boosted cars harder than most.

And that’s a very good thing.
CSF M3 oil cooler radiator (4 of 4)CSF M3 oil cooler radiator (3 of 4)CSF M3 oil cooler radiator (2 of 6)CSF M3 oil cooler radiator (1 of 4)


I was hoping to give our new BMW a proper welcome. Sadly, the dev-team had other plans and they tore into it like Honey-Badgers in a marzipan factory. The number I keep hearing is 500 hp. Also, whoever got the grease stain on The Couch of Tuning….you’re gonna pay.
Stay Tuned VFE's-new-M4-and-red-couch


This gentleman found a gorgeous 996 in C4s trim for some 8k less than what he was prepared to pay. Its intermidiary shaft and rear main seal had been replaced and… had new Michelin Pilot Sport tires.
We helped him put the extra cash to good use.
He left a day later with the VF470 supercharger system which left him 470 hp and 360 ft/lbs of twist richer. Apparently, the window was down for a few of these and much of the desert came inside.

Power makes you mad.


This big-ass red couch…I’m pretty sure it’s haunted or something. It disappears for weeks and inexplicably shows up in weird places.
Last Friday around 7:30 pm, it showed up about 10 feet from the dyno. Not one to waste an opportunity, Nik worked some code in supreme comfort.
The red couch is gone but its cushy legacy left a new M4 with another 88 horsepower. IMAG0138Friday afternoon at VFE

red couch (1 of 1)


Getting ready to introduce a new product line. VW, Ferrari, Bugatti and Lamborghini owners will be happy.
Here’s your Friday Gif.


We are having a special on gif files…every Friday this monthvfegallardosc-with-vfe-logo.
This Gallardo includes VFE’s VF760 supercharger system featuring a Roots-type compressor, an integrated air/water aftercooler and HEX Tuning software. It spun VFE’s Mustang Chassis dyno to more than 750 hp and the ensuing shockwave ripped a hole in the space/time continuum.
It’s now stuck in a temporal loop.


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