DOUBLE EAGLE

THE VOLKSWAGEN TDI-POWERED, 237-MPH STREAMLINER

Land speed racing is one form of motorsport that, up until modern times, had never been regularly frequented by diesel-powered vehicles. However, over the course of the last two decades the rapid rate of advancements occurring in diesel technology undoubtedly piqued the interest of many land speed enthusiasts. As a result, we’ve seen a variety of compression-ignition engines infiltrate this prestigious sport. How about the Cummins-powered Dodge Dakota from Banks coined the “Sidewinder,” the Duramax-propelled “Mormon Missile,” or the record-holding, twin-engine’d JCB Dieselmax streamliner? And who could forget the 215-mph “Rocket Ranger” furnished with a Hypermax-built 6.0L Power Stroke…

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A 147,000-mile, completely unmolested 5.0L V-10 TDI out of an ’05 model year Touareg lives in the engine compartment of the Adler brother’s streamliner. The only internal trip into the engine entailed the installation of a set of bench-tested unit injectors equipped with Fratelli Bosio Race 783 nozzles. Custom, freer-flowing exhaust manifolds route exhaust to the turbochargers, while dual air-to-water intercoolers keep intake and exhaust gas temperature in check throughout the course of the streamliner’s long course runs.

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After toasting both OEM variable geometry turbos due to overspeeding, a pair of these fixed geometry units feed the engine a fairly conservative amount of boost. Originally manufactured by BorgWarner and modified by Apex Performance Turbochargers of Oxnard, California, each K16 unit features a titanium compressor wheel with a 44mm inducer and a 63mm exducer, and a 55/46mm (inducer/exducer) turbine wheel. Both units also make use of internal wastegates, controlled by TurboSmart actuators.

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Early on in the engine-to-chassis integration process, Andy Fabbro and Gabe Scott of AG Autowerks realized that retaining key portions of the factory engine wiring harness (and its respective controllers) would save considerable time. Thanks to repurposing the factory wiring harnesses, the streamliner thinks it’s an ’05 Touareg—and believe it or not, the remote keyless entry still works. Here, you can see the OEM wiring harness spanning the length of the engine and wrapped in a protective heat shield. Also notice the Kerma TDI Q Pro tuner in the midst of uploading a calibration to the ECM, as well as the top-mounted aluminum radiator.

V-10 TDI?

Without question, some truly unique means of propulsion have been used in diesel-powered land speed vehicles. Recently, we came across what is perhaps the most unlikely candidate we’ve ever seen. It’s a streamliner called Double Eagle, and it’s Volkswagen TDI powered—but not by one of the mini-engines that typically come to mind when you picture the VW badge. Instead, brothers Davidson and Doug Adler campaign the unit-injected 5.0L V-10 that once graced the Volkswagen Touareg. Few knew about the 5.0L when it was available in the midsize SUV and even fewer know anything about it now—but so far it’s proven to be a solid foundation to pursue records with.

Partnering with AG Autowerks

As the owners of Adler Land Speed in Southern California, the Adlers—along with Frank Klos—found themselves knee-deep in the process of building a streamliner chassis in 2011. Looking to build something unique, they sourced a Volkswagen 3.0L V-6 TDI and approached Andy Fabbro and Gabe Scott of AG Autowerks—a shop that specializes in all things VW—about juicing it up enough to make them competitive out on the salt. After advising them that the late V-10 diesel would be a much better candidate to start with, the Adlers wasted no time sourcing a takeout engine and transmission. “A week later, they had a V-10,” Fabbro remembered. “And I said to myself: ‘Now we’ve got a platform we can work with.’”

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The pair of K16 turbochargers send exhaust out dual, rear-facing stacks. Combined overall boost for the twin-turbo configuration checks in at 24 psi—well within the system’s 30-psi safe zone. We’re sure the V-10’s factory head bolts appreciate seeing the relatively low boost number, and there is no reason to believe each charger isn’t being kept happily within its map. To survive the extreme heat produced by the turbos, the engine cover is made of formed aluminum.

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This is what the 5.0L V-10 TDI employed in the Adler brother’s streamliner came out of: a Volkswagen Touareg. From ’04 to ‘08, the midsize SUV could be optioned with the V-10 diesel in North America, with the exception of the ’05 model year. Stickered at $70,000 and on the verge of failing to meet stricter U.S. emissions regulations, the V-10 quietly disappeared from the Touareg’s ranks in ‘09.

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In factory trim, the 5.0L V-10 TDI belted out an underrated 310 hp at 3,750 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. The 90-degree, 300 ci mill’s compression ratio checked in at 18.0:1 and fuel delivery came by way of cam-driven, unit injection. Coined the Pumpe Duse (PD) system, it produced a peak injection pressure of 29,700 psi. A twin-turbo configuration placed a variable geometry Garrett GT1852V at the rear of each bank—effectively making the Touareg more of a 5,800-pound rocket ship than an unassuming family truckster.

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As is par for the course among streamliners, the Double Eagle’s long, lean shape better resembles a high-velocity bullet than it does a race car. All red panels on Double Eagle are made from composite reinforced fiberglass pulled from molds of Ron Main’s World Record-holding, flathead-powered “Flatfire” streamliner. Instead of glass, Lexan polycarbonate is employed, which is a Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) requirement. Tandem 22x4x17-inch Goodyear Eagle Front Runners and rear 28x5x15-inch Goodyear Eagles are fully enclosed and rated for better than 300 mph.

Powertrain Integration

Once the Double Eagle project was officially underway, all chassis, body, and suspension changes were handled by Adler Land Speed, while the folks at AG Autowerks were tasked with integrating the engine. While mounting the V-10 mill was easy enough, the electronic side proved much more time consuming. With the high-tech TDI requiring countless lines of communication between its various control modules, the original intention to built a custom wiring harness was quickly aborted. Instead, most of the engine’s original wiring harness remains. In order to effectively control the Aisin transmission, the factory TCM was reused as well. After separating the OEM transfer case from the transmission, the act of sending power to the rear, quick-change axle called for a one-off combination of a broached sleeve incorporating a standard U-joint and an 18- inch long driveshaft.

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The truss-style chassis (and safety case) is constructed of 1.75-inch thick wall mild steel, contiguous length tubing from bow to stern. The chassis also incorporates in-line-tandem steering controlled via Schroeder steering box and bell crank. The canopy, fabricated by Specialty Aircraft, was another piece handed down from Ron Main to the Adlers, which they added an aluminum perimeter frame to.

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While strapped into his 5-point, RCI harness and piloting this bullet train across the vast space that is the Bonneville Salt Flats, driver Davidson Adler keeps an eye on two very important engine vitals: EGT and coolant temp. Unlike drag racing, land speed records require long, sustained intervals of full throttle acceleration. The six or seven seconds your pyrometer is buried during a quarter-mile race won’t hurt anything—but do it for an entire minute and you’ve got serious problems. To keep the [factory] pistons from melting, Davidson and his crew like to see no more than 1,400 degrees F worth of EGT—and the streamliner has been tuned to run no hotter than this pre-established threshold. To keep the head gaskets alive, the crew also prefers to see water temp remain in the 195-to-215-degree range.

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This is the record-setting time slip that was handed to Davidson Adler and his team at the 31st annual World of Speed race on September 17, 2017. Not only was the world record for a 5.0L or smaller diesel-powered vehicle achieved, but the 237-mph exit speed earned the Double Eagle the honor of being the fastest Volkswagen racer currently in existence.

Streamliner Specs

VEHICLE: Adler Land Speed Streamliner (“Double Eagle”)
OWNERS: Doug and Davidson Adler
HOMETOWN: Newbury Park, California
ODOMETER: 147,000 miles (engine/transmission)
ENGINE: Volkswagen 5.0L V-10 TDI
FUEL: Fratelli Bosio Race 783 unit injectors with 163-percent over nozzles
AIR: Apex Performance Turbochargers’ twin fixed geometry, internally wastegated BorgWarner K16 turbos with 44mm (inducer) titanium compressor wheels and 55/46mm turbine wheels, dual water-toair intercoolers (one per turbo)
EXHAUST: Custom with a high-flow manifold feeding each turbo
ELECTRONICS: Factory Bosch EDC-16 ECM
TUNING: Kerma TDI custom calibration via Q Pro tuner
TRANSMISSION: Factory Aisin six-speed automatic and TCM, custom 18-inch driveshaft to rear quickchange axle
HORSEPOWER: 390 hp (est.)
TORQUE: 795 lb-ft (chassis dyno)
TIRES: 22x4x17 Goodyear Eagles (front), 28x5x15 Goodyear Eagles (rear), rated to 300+ mph
AXLES: Speedway Engineering custom-narrowed quick change (rear)
SUSPENSION/STEERING: Traditional four-link (rear) located via panhard bar, adjustable Bilstein coil overs, rigid custom anti-roll bar, adjustable trailing arm (front) with inline steering controlled by Schroeder steering box and bell crank.
SAFETY/BRAKING: DJ Safety parachute (to 150 mph), Wilwood brakes with Dynalite calipers

The 795 LB-FT Package

Though the 147,000-mile engine has been left completely alone, the factory injectors were replaced with a set of flow-tested units equipped with Bosio Race 783 nozzles from Kerma TDI. Matching the added fueling are a pair of 44mm, fixed geometry BorgWarner K16 turbos built by Apex Performance Turbochargers. The boosted air is dramatically cooled via dual water-to-air intercoolers before entering the engine. All ECM and TCM tweaks are performed by Kerma TDI, and the streamliner’s biggest tune sends 795 lb-ft of torque to the wheels.

World’s Fastest VW Racer

After a period of trial and error that included a failed oil cooler, two blown factory turbochargers, and a best of 201 mph, the Double Eagle team set a record on September 17, 2017. While participating in the 31st annual World of Speed event at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Davidson Adler piloted the one-ofa- kind streamliner to a 237-mph exit speed— making it the fastest Volkswagen racer in the world. Even more promising was the fact that a mild ECM tune was used on the record-setting pass—indicative that the powertrain has a lot more left in it.

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Looking to the future, it’s been rumored that the Double Eagle team plans to pursue Bonneville’s diesel-powered streamliner land speed record of 317 mph, which is currently held by the JCB Dieselmax streamliner. As you can imagine, picking up at least another 80 mph won’t be an easy feat, but it’s one that all parties involved believe can be accomplished.

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So what’s it like to go 237 mph? According to driver Davidson Adler, it’s “oddly calm.” “Only wind noise… lots of wind noise. The speed is misleading, but I imagine it’s like going fast in a speedboat on smooth water,” he told us. In fact, “on our maiden run this year at World of Speed, we learned that our GPS was broken roughly four minutes before we were going to push off to start. We hadn’t done the math for reference to the tach, so we figured we’d just watch our gauges, not push anything too hard, and be comfortable. At the end of the run, I couldn’t tell you if I did 160 or 240 mph. Well, 227 mph was our average over the measured mile. To say we were happy with that would be an understatement!”

Looking to the Future

According to Andy Fabbro, 250 to 255 mph is achievable in the streamliner’s current state. However, a much bigger plan may be in the works: becoming the world’s fastest diesel streamliner. Being that Double Eagle’s chassis is loosely based on a design that’s already gone more than 400 mph, there is no reason to doubt it has what it takes to give the current Bonneville record holder of 317 mph a run for its money.