Interview with HGP managing director Martin Gräf:
Many know the brand HGP, but in the movie you can see the face too. Martin Gräf and his wife Ute have been pulling the strings of the legendary manufactory since 1989.
Below is a short interview that Martin gave me personally (MG = Martin / MO = Oli).
MO: Thanks for your time and input. You conjured up a cool product as always. What interests me personally and certainly also the fans is the question: How long has HGP been in existence or how did you come up with the idea of taking a closer look at turbochargers - and what was your first car at all?
MG: Dear dear Oli, I also had a lot of fun with you. HGP exists since 1989. Like so many things, the foundation stone was laid rather accidentally - although there are no coincidences, as it is known - and resulted from my passion for screwdrivers. As a trained toolmaker, I have always had to deal with naturally aspirated engines and have been constantly working on them. Camshafts, larger cylinders, etc. This was all a relatively large effort and had little performance effect. Unfortunately, every now and then, engines also literally blew up in the air, because of course we always wanted to have more power and that is mostly possible with the vacuum on the speed. At that time turbochargers were not very common.
Incidentally, I had a Ford Escort RS 1600 with at the time, had the 115 PS, I believe, and at some point from a crashed Ford Escort Turbo, a turbocharger with manifold fallen into my hands. I just tried and made a little bit. As a result, I suddenly had around 200 PS at moderate speed instead of high speed with a rather manageable power output.
200 PS were then a real house number and relatively speaking, much easier to implement over the turbocharger. I have focused on this ever since and have continued to optimize and perfect the installation. At some point, people wanted to have it too. The cornerstone of HGP was thus laid.
MO: Cool, so a Ford was at the beginning. And what was the first vehicle upgraded by HGP?
MG: Well, we initially rebuilt the engines in a small group, privately, so to speak, and there were some VW products. From a technical point of view, I personally liked the engines very much, so I (mostly) concentrated on Volkswagen products and somehow we stuck with them.
The first vehicle upgraded by HGP was a Scirocco 2 16V. He had the 130-140 PS in the series without Kat. After our turbocharger conversion, it was about 260 PS.
MO: 260 PS at that time are already at Porsche level. I can well imagine how poor customers from Zuffenhausen felt when they had to clear the left lane for a Scirocco. Many Porsche drivers still do that today - especially when the 3,6 Bi-Turbo shows up and releases its 745 PS. The question arises: Which car do you drive privately?
MG: (laughs) Yes, it may well be that our vehicles are often underestimated. We consciously refrain from spoilers and extensions. Understatement is the most important thing for the vast majority of customers and frankly looks better too. Some of our customers still have a Porsche in their garage and are always impressed by the performance of our vehicles.
What I drive privately? Of course HGP. I constantly develop and test mostly myself, because only then do I get the perfect feel for our products. Especially in this day and age of modern high-pressure engines with a lot of software and the technology "all around" (note: MG says DSG polls, intelligent four-wheel drives and launch control etc.), this is unavoidable. That's why I always like to drive another vehicle from our fleet.
But the most frequently used vehicle, our “Daily Driver”, which I use to tow trailers or drive children to school, is a Passat Variant R36. Here we had installed an invitation version with 502 PS. This car was used as a long-term tester for test purposes and has stayed with us since then. He drives and drives and drives, why not (laughs). Has meanwhile over 250.000 KM on the clock and an end is not foreseeable.
MO: Why is HGP always a manufacturer rather than a large company with an expansion course?
MG: Very simple, we value the highest quality and concentrate on one area instead of covering a little bit everywhere. In this area, in this niche, we bundle all our experience and continuously build on it. This is only possible if you keep this focus. A little bit of everything and here and there was never our thing. Better a thing right and good, than a lot of halfhearted and with little heart and soul. It's still like a hobby for myself and I think HGP is no longer HGP if it were suddenly run as a huge company with a number of product enhancements. This quickly gets out of hand and becomes organisationally tiring. It is important to me that I can develop myself at the front and push ideas forward, rather than having to coordinate with any shareholders or other third parties.
MO: That sounds plausible and I couldn't really imagine HGP any differently. What is your greatest passion besides screwing? I always see some off-road machines with you. Not only the latest, but also a beautiful old Yamaha.
MG: That's right, you absolutely have to drive. I have been a passionate MotoCrosser since I was a child and I have kept that to this day. Of course you can take it a little easier now, because I can't use broken bones. But I enjoy it as much as I did before and have been riding since the first 4 stroke enduro. But I have never operated this professionally, but always as compensation by the way. Logically, a lot has happened in this area, but the old Yamaha has grown to my heart and is new. It will probably never be given away.
MO: I like to drive, logo. Look too cool, the parts. Something spontaneously occurs to me, since I would be affected myself: Why doesn't HGP actually do diesel tuning?
MG: We also do diesel tuning. but only occasionally and on request for vehicles from the VW Group. When it comes to software, of course we adapt everything to the respective vehicle. Is not the main business, but in principle possible.
MO: I once saw a Mazda MX5 with HGP Turbo - how did it come about?
MG: I even have loaders here. In the 90er years we also worked with high-revving Japanese engines, e.g. Honda engines, and especially with the Mazda MX5, it is relatively easy to install a turbocharger. The engines are ideal because they were designed for normal gasoline and with better fuel plus loader with standard compression needed no major changes. To put it bluntly: turn on the low-pressure loader, fill up with better fuel and you're done. The performance then amounted to 180-200 PS, but the drivability of the relatively light MX5 with rear-wheel drive and without driving aids required a more experienced hand, especially when it was wet. They are always fun, of course, also with rear-wheel drive.
However, as already mentioned above, our focus is on the engines of the Volkswagen Group and specifically on the new 2.0 liter TFSI, which is used in various versions by Skoda, Seat, Audi and VW. You can cover a lot and serve a large number of customers. The era of the V6 engines is unfortunately passé by VW at the moment.
MO: HGP therefore remains true to its line and is forced to subordinate itself somewhat to the requirements of the group. I am wistfully thinking of the R32 versions and especially the "bomb", the Golf R36 Bi-Turbo, which caused extreme eddies last year with its performance of 745 PS. Do we have to do without something in the future?
MG: (grins) Well, you can see that we still have some R36 engines in the workshop and there are still enough of the Golf 6 R on the market. However, our focus is indeed on the current 2 liter engines. (Pause)
But it is certainly possible that in the future another - you called it a bomb - will come (grins again).
MO: Then tell us immediately 🙂 And thank you for the interview!
MG: With pleasure.