A few weeks ago, I was wandering around the local RGruppe meet, just minding my own business and snapping photos when I noticed a crowd around a certain individual.
I thought maybe it was someone who hadn’t been out for a while or something, so I moved on with the rest of my day and that was that. A few hours after getting home, I was greeted with a message from a one of my buddies that was also there, introducing me to said individual, mentioning that I needed to check out his shop, TurboHoses R&D.
My friend didn’t speak much on it, but I presume he knew what he was getting me into. A few messages went back and forth, and eventually we came to an agreement that I’d come by that following Saturday to check out the shop and do the shoot.
If I’m honest, I was quite skeptical of what was coming. I mean, how special could a shop that seemed to specialize in silicon hoses really be? Well, I’ll let you guys decide that after finishing your read.
I’ve been living in the Bay Area pretty much all of my life, and have tried to keep up with the automotive culture at large for as long as I can remember. With that said, I was quite surprised that I hadn’t known of the shop, or even heard about it until recently. But it’s better being late to the party than never attending at all, right?
And if I’m truly honest, I think I found out just in time, as there are some seriously amazing stories being developed in this small and privately owned facility lost in a little corner far behind the rolling hills of the East Bay Area.
As I pulled into the shop parking lot, I can vaguely recall nearly spilling my coffee. There were a handful of tasteful, but random, vehicles lined up in the designated parking area, and directly behind them was a first generation Tesla Roadster, and a Noble. The garage doors were wide open, and I could already see some seriously interesting cars being worked on inside.
Owner and head of product design, Hoover Chan, gracefully greeted me with a huge smile on his face, and immediately asked if I was ready. I thought, why wouldn’t I be? But his statement made a bit more sense as we walked through the gates into engineering heaven.
Before I dive into the ridiculous amounts of different projects going on at the shop, allow me to give you some background on Hoover.Cue Hoover Chan
For as long as Hoover can remember, he’s always had two goals set in mind – being self employed, and doing so in the realm of the automotive industry. He can guiltlessly say he’s accomplished both.
Circa 1983, Hoover started working on his Datsun 240Z in his father’s driveway. He was merely a teenager at the time, but this became the fundamental premise of what TurboHoses has become today.
After this first turbo conversion in the Z, the turbo connectors started exploding under pressure, which ultimately prompted Hoover to begin his endeavors in researching and developing materials that could withstand a combination of sustained high-heat and pressure.
After some time, he began manufacturing his own parts, and not only becoming a reputable supplier for builders, but also for the United States Department of Defense. Hoover leveraged his opportunities and soon became renowned in the realm of air/fluid transfer hose manufacturing, and eventually managed to pivot back into his true passion – specialty automotive development.
Today, TurboHoses is a fully fledged research and development facility, specializing in turbocharging engines, metal fabrication, engine calibration, structural designing, prototyping, racing, and even automotive design.Noblesse Oblige
TurboHoses began working on the Noble M12/400 in 2005 when Joel Lipkin came into Hoover’s shop and requested a few clamps for his newly acquired sports car. This simple transaction ignited a spark of interest for Hoover in the car, and the following weekend he met up with Joel to look over the Noble at a local car show. Being the engineering guru he is, Hoover immediately noticed room for simple upgrades, and pitched the idea of re-engineering some of these parts to improve the car’s performance.
Within the first year of this event, Hoover built a reputation amongst the Noble enthusiast community, and people all across the US were shipping cars to his facility for performance enhancements and HPDE modifications.
For the next five years, this would be the sole niche of TurboHoses.
Come 2010, privateer Robert Green would reach out to Hoover to turn his Noble into a full race car, and support his efforts for racing within the California region. Green’s car became the platform to further develop components that would withstand the rigors of competitive racing.
In 2013, after eight full years of servicing, developing, and racing Nobles, Hoover finally had the opportunity to meet Lee Noble, and personally thank him for developing the car.
A year after meeting Mr. Noble himself, Hoover’s SCCA/GT-1 homologated M400 would land him a podium finish at the 2014 SCCA Runoffs. Yet again, Hoover found himself intrigued with what would be his greatest venture yet – vehicle design and manufacturing.HVR GT1
Taking everything learnt while mastering the M12, the HVR GT1 is Hoover’s first attempt at developing and manufacturing a car from the ground up. Hoover’s goal: develop a machine that he believed boasted the best version of what a race car should be.
Hoover recollects, “The learning curve was huge, and I made many mistakes, but with that I made many friends as well. After the first year of body design, my friend Rueben Zammit flew all the way to the US from Malta to help me craft the body. When he left, I was a bit apprehensive to move forward as the skills necessary to continue construction were out of my scope of expertise.”
Fearing not though, Hoover continued on with the development of the car. He subcontracted experts within his network, and that paired with continuous technological advances in tooling within the industry allowed Hoover to educate himself enough to finish the car. It turned out to be a rather expensive reality check for Hoover, both in monetary terms and value of time invested, but nonetheless it was an investment that is still utilized in the way TurboHoses functions today.BMW Motorsport
Amongst all the havoc at TurboHoses, numerous side projects are progressively unfolding.
Starting with the most obvious, Hoover has known the crew chief of the authentic BMW IMSA race cars for nearly 30 years. As time served close to the crew chief’s retirement, he has asked Hoover to take on the Turbo E21 race car, and yes, this is the real deal David Hobbs machine.
Hoover explains, “I was very hesitant as there are a few people that understand how mechanical injection integrates with a turbocharger that needs a fuel curve. After visiting the car stored in a private facility, I felt awful that something so iconic was sitting there with so much frustration and screaming to come back to life. So I agreed to take it on.”
Hoover alongside his lead engineer Jim Ochi, spent weeks on an engine dyno, studying the basics of how the engine was set up. It was a mesmerizing experience for them both, as at the time the Hobb’s E21 hadn’t run with the period correct engine in over a decade.
You may be questioning why BMW’s own team couldn’t figure the system out, but the truth of the matter is that the person who developed the system has moved on, and with him went the knowledge base. Hoover states, “Entering into someone else’s past work and learning on the fly wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but being as this car was so special, we couldn’t resist giving it a try at minimum.”
Call it luck, or call it expertise, Hoover and his team successfully had the engine and MFI system figured out within the first month. The following seven months involved completing the reassembly and a successful shake down at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Success with the Hobbs Turbo E21 has bloomed into a relishing relationship with the private BMW collection, allowing for TurboHoses to take on further projects within the BMW Motorsport realm. They’re currently working on the authentic 1975 Sebring-winning E9 CSL, driven by non other than Hans Stuck himself.
Along with this project also came the last authentic BMW Motorsports FIA-chassis E9 CSL for final development and assembly. That’s right, this is the last official chassis for the series made by BMW’s motorsport division, and was never raced or used. It is indeed, a brand new E9 CSL that Hoover gets to build.The Other Sides
As if being the most renowned Noble builder in the US and working on authentic BMW race cars wasn’t cool enough, there are quite a few other intriguing things going on at the TurboHoses facilities. Hoover seemed a bit hesitant to take me to his storage facility down the street, but I convinced him otherwise, and we set forth.
A few minutes later, we arrived at the hidden shop. To my surprise, the shop’s door opened up to where many of the body panels on the development cars are given life. The shop was covered in fiberglass dust and reeked of it too, but yet again I was blown away by more Nobles awaiting to be worked on.
Then, stumbling across a few front ends and prototyping pieces, I came across something very, very interesting…
No, your eyes are not deceiving you – this is indeed a jet-powered Lotus Elise. But not just any jet powered Elise, this is the Elise that is supposed to be the modern day version of the Chaparral, which was designed by Jim Hall.
Hoover elaborates, “We designed it for a privateer that wanted to break the world lateral-G record…” Now brace yourselves for what you’re about to read, because I still can’t wrap my head around this portion. Hoover further explains, “The base premise of the car is to create downforce before the car is in motion.” Yeah, let that soak…
Now, I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you guys how this works, but what I have been given permission to say is that the engineering on suspension work and prototyping still needs to be completed, but, a few years ago, they tested the car and were successful at unofficially breaking the lateral-G world record on a private skid pad.
I’ve made arrangements with Hoover to cover this car when it’s nearing completion and out to set the official record, so stay tuned for that in the coming months, or maybe even years.
Tucked way yonder in the farthest corner of the warehouse is Hoover’s previously mentioned turbocharged 240Z. He’s owned quite a few Zs over the years, but this one has always had a special place in his heart for numerous reasons.
It’s rocking a turbocharged L series that was built back in the ’90s, and integrates an authentic IMSA wide-body kit. Sadly though, when they took the car apart to turn it to a dedicated race car, the business started to grow, and with that came a loss for time. Hoover does plan on finishing it at some point, and you bet your ass I’ll be covering that as well. But what I found unique to both Hoover and this Z, was the way he looks at it. It’s a rather indescribable gaze, one that almost tells a story without any words. I think there’s a deep-rooted connection and energy that he shares with this specific car, and it would totally make sense as it holds stories within every part that Hoover has touched on the car.
I guess you can call it his time capsule into his own past, reminiscing on the journey he’s gone through and cars he’s owned.
There’s a ton of other projects in the works that I could continue to write about, but I’ll wrap up this chapter with one that hits you right in the feels.
Out front, there was a rolled over Volkswagen Golf GTI MK6 that I thought may have just been a street accident that someone randomly parked in their lot. So I asked Hoover what was up with the car, as it seemed absolutely unusable. With a smile on his face, he began explaining, “Every car has a story from its owner. The silver Noble we are building is for a very unique collector. He was a crew chief and world champion racer all over the world, until one day, where his life changed due to a terrible automobile accident. I received a call one day and a few months later, he asked if we could craft a custom Noble for him to his engineering specs. Little did I know that he meant every single nut, bolt, and wire.” I think you can get the gist of where this project is headed…
The Golf’s DSG paddle shift system will be incorporated into a Lotus Elise for this collector, so that he can get behind the wheel once more. It’s truly an act of honor, and safe to say that it serves as an astronomical challenge for Hoover to get this done right as well. Everything on the car has been, and is continuing to be made one-off to work within the special specs. But it too is nearing completion, and once it’s done, Hoover says it will be a huge milestone for the company as a whole, both from an engineering standpoint, as well as a good human perspective.This Is Only The Beginning
With a career evolving from working in his father’s driveway to opening up one of worlds most sought after automotive research and development facilities, TurboHoses has become a modest yet intrinsic facility in the automotive racing industry.
Whether it’s building bespoke race cars for racing enthusiasts and collectors, taking on the responsibility of ‘caretaker’ for invaluable pieces of motorsport art from BMW’s motorsport division, or even engineering some world record-breaking race cars, Hoover Chan and the rest of the team from TurboHoses will continue break through barriers and set their own standards within the industry. I’ll let Hoover send us off with this:
“We’re not afraid to dream and make those dreams a reality. Currently, we are taking the last 15 years of custom coach-building and pursuing our passion to build our own personal line of vehicles. We’d love to see a field of them at the race track for an event and spend the day shaking hands with the people that we’ve spoken to. It’s what keeps us young and alive.”