Eddie Bello – Building The Perfect Porsche
Eddie Bello Takes Aim At 8 Seconds
Richard S. Chang Writer Aug 1, 1999
Raise your hand if you’ve heard one of these three popular/tiresome-by-now media tidbits about Eddie Bello (probably most widely proliferated and repeated by yours truly): 1)
He drives his ’93 Porsche 911 drag car to and from the track, whether it’s 2 hours from his home in Riverdale, New York, to Atco in New Jersey, or two days to Moroso in Florida; 2)
He races on Toyo Proxes street tires; 3) He does Tsunami-sized Second gear wheelies.
So far, that’s all that’s been printed about him. For as big a name as his is, I’m probably safe in assuming that these are the first photos you’ve seen of him. About time for some more rampant proliferation. Let’s start off by saying that Eddie Bello is quiet and shy. Hands in pockets, slight slouch, that sort of thing. Mellow is the best generalization. When he speaks, he has a slight hint of the Bronx in certain words. He doesn’t look at you, and any eye contact seems accidental and brief as he quickly turns away. He is also very aware of everything around him, that he chooses not to speak about it is his choice, not his ignorance. For instance, his soft-spokeness is something he recognizes. He knows it worries his sponsors.
“The interviews are kind of hard,” he says. “I’ve got to break this shyness. My girlfriend hates that I’m shy when it comes down to interviews. She knows I can expose myself more [in the media] when I talk more. But I don’t feel comfortable. Eventually, it will come to me, but not right now. Once the camera’s on me, and you got people watching me, I start worrying about how I look.”
Right now, that’s not really a concern. He’s in a rumpled T-shirt and jeans with a baseball cap pulled over his short-cropped hair. He’s wearing glasses and hardly looks the part of a proper Porsche owner. Right now, I’d nab him for more of a Camaro guy.
We are inside a Ford Expedition at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. I have jutted my microcassette recorder within millimeters of his face. My knitted brows are the consequence of equal parts interest in what he has to say and concern that the recorder’s condenser mic isn’t picking up his words over the din of air conditioning and the muffled commotion coming from outside. And what is exactly going on outside? Let’s see, apart from the usual ear-bludgeoning roars and rumbles indicative of any NIRA race, there’s an ESPN2 camera crew circling the Porsche, swallowing shots from every degree, and a self-feeding mob scene surrounding and swallowing them.
Just 16 months ago, the Porsche would have never drawn this kind of attention. It was a novelty act, an oddity among the hundreds of Japanese imports. The car was plain (as plain as a Porsche can be) and white with a single Bellotech banner (advertising his shop) pasted across the windscreen and little else. But then came the 10-second timeslips and his eventual season-ending best of 9.51 at 162 mph. Numbers like that draw attention, the kind that lures big-time sponsorships previously reserved for the likes of Adam Saruwatari. In this case, the trail of drool leads to Toyo Tires. But somehow, one gets the feeling that this is only the beginning. With more horsepower and weight reduction in the chassis (most of it from in the front end) for this year, the car is now more than shouting distance from street-legal and thus trailered, which will, at least, put to death Media Tidbit Number One.
Speaking of media tidbits, here’s a quick word about Number Two, that he races on Toyo Proxes street tires. In a sport where tuners and drivers are willing to give up their first born for a tenth of second, that may sound outrageous, but with Bello, running street tires is sort of in keeping with the history of the car. “It started out basically as a street car,” he says. “I didn’t even care about running it at the dragstrip. I was doing some work to the car and just wanted to see what it could do. I saw the new twin turbos running 12.20s, so I cranked up the boost a little, went to the track, and the car ran an 11.90. Everybody was shocked and surprised that a street car could do that on street tires, so I said let’s go a little further with this, let’s do a little more work.” A little turned into a lot. And now the car cranks out nearly 1,000 hp, and his sights are now set on 8s.
Eddie Bello was born on December 10, 1965, and grew up in the Bronx. Where his biography differs from many of the top racers is that he never had a garage relationship with his father. His father, an electrical engineer, pushed him toward a career similar to his own and steered him away from any profession resembling a hobby. Even now, Bello says that his father finds what he’s doing to be a waste of time. But don’t feel sorry for him. His mother, an in-home caretaker for the elderly, picked up where his father fell short. “I can talk to her about racing,” he says. “She listens and sees when I’m having a problem and knows when something is wrong. She’ll do whatever she can to help me.
“She also changes with the times. That’s the nice thing about her. That’s why we could always relate. And I try to do the same, too. I try to move on and find out what’s new–you have to, otherwise, you’re not going to go anywhere in life. There’s a lot of close-minded people out there that just believe in their way and their way only, and [to them] nothing else works. I just can’t think like that. I read and search to see what new product is out there. I’ll analyze it and see if it’s a better thing. If it sounds good to me, I’ll try it.”
What sounded good to Bello as a young teenager was dirt bikes. He started off racing in the 80cc class and moved onto the 125s. “I wanted to be a famous motorcrosser,” he says, laughing at the thought of it now. “Every day I would ride my ass off. I ended up practicing with a kid in an 80–a little 12-year-old kid. But he was so fast, I couldn’t catch him. He went on to race [in a Pro 125cc class], but bailed. That really disappointed me. That kid was so fast, and if he couldn’t compete, I knew I didn’t have a chance. Right there, I just bailed out and went into cars.”
For those just starting out in the import scene and daydreaming of the day they take out Tony Fuchs, take heart, even this 9-second Porsche tuner started out with his mom’s car: an old Volkswagen Rabbit. Although he managed to tune the car down to 13 seconds, he really got serious with his next car, an ’85 RX-7. He kept the 12A rotary motor naturally aspirated and, at first, was hesitant to step into turbos. “I saw a turbo,” he remembers. “I kind of wanted it, and I kind of didn’t. I raced against one, and I beat the guy.” The two cars raced again, and the turbo car beat him by a fender. That’s when he told his cousin that he didn’t want a turbo (ironic because his nickname is “Turbo Tito”). “It didn’t impress me. All that money invested into the car and the turbo, and he was barely beating me.” But during the ride home he changed his mind. “[On the highway] we both nailed it from a rolling start, and the guy disappeared on us. So it was basically traction problems he was having. So I said to myself, I’ve got to get a turbo.”
Instead of turbocharging the RX-7, he traded it in for a ’90 Nissan 300Z and stuffed a turbocharged V-6 Buick Grand National motor in it. “That car, street racing, must’ve been a 10.80 car at around 133 mph,” he says. “I was destroying everything, including Porsches. I remember saying to myself I don’t want a Porsche. The shifting on it sucks, and the car’s not that fast. It’s [only] fast when you get the boost, but it’s not fast shifting, so by the time you get the gear on, I’m already finishing the Mile.”
That’s the Mile with a capital M, a wavy stretch of road on the Westside Highway on the outskirts of New York City, from the Dykeman on-ramp to Exit 14-15 for Riverside Drive/George Washington Bridge/Cross Bronx Expressway, approximately a mile-and-a-half, ending with a slight bend to the left. Since the late ’80s, it has been the proving grounds for every make and model of street-race car. With that much room to roam, racers reach speeds upward of 160 mph at the finish. Bets range up to $15,000 per race. “You need to go to the Mile to see who’s got it, and who doesn’t,” says Eric Kozeluh of Performance Factory and former Mile spectator. “If you can’t run your sh– on the Mile, then you better not bother running the quarter-mile.”
The Mile is where Bello earned his stripes, first with the 300Z, then later with the Porsche. He beat everything and became an underground legend. “He was untouchable,” recalls Kozeluh. “He must’ve been running a six-speed tranny and going well over 200 mph. That was painfully obvious.”
But soon after recording his best track time of 9.30 at the ’94 Pan American Nationals, he put the 300Z into a wall at Atco (“I ran a 9.80 sliding through the traps sideways.”) and went on the hunt for his fourth project. He gave Porsche another shot and tested a ’94-model 911. To his surprise, he liked it. “I couldn’t believe how it shifted. It shifted like a Japanese car. The power band was strong. The shifting on it was like driving my Mazda. I said That’s it; this is the car I want; this car has got potential.”
But there was one bite-sized problem: Prior to buying the 911, Bello had never tuned a Porsche. “I was actually scared of the motor,” he admits. “But I knew an engine’s an engine when you break it down. So, I just studied the engine a little more. I got a couple of books on it. And got the car to where it is now.”
Bello makes it sound so easy–jumping from VW to Mazda to GM to Porsche–but few tuners have done what he’s done. So, with his 911 comfortably settled in single digits, he is in uncharted territory. No books can guide him. No person can advise him. The best Porsche tuners in the world aren’t making as much horsepower to the wheels. The only source of information for him right now is a blue notebook he keeps on a shelf in his apartment. In it are sketches and diagrams, brainstorms from eclectic sources. “I don’t follow Porsche. I’ve seen what they’ve done,” he says. Indeed, Ruf, the legendary Porsche tuner in Germany, hasn’t come close to generating the same level of horsepower (albeit, Ruf doesn’t build drag cars). “What guides me the most now are the Formula 1 cars. I know the amount of money that goes into those cars and that’s what I follow. Any type of information you want, you go to those cars. They’ve done it all.”
So, that’s his equation: one half research and one half common sense. Now, he’s relying more on the latter to take him further. But just how much is there left to go on a rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive car with such a short wheelbase?
“I’m just trying to break an 8.50 or an 8.60, and I think the potential ends right there,” he says. “So, that’s the goal. I don’t think there’s much more to go after that. If I make more horsepower, I think I’m going to split the crank in half. I’m being realistic. Even right now the car is starting to get real twitchy.”
He is, of course, talking about the wheelies (Media Tidbit Number Three, for those keeping count at home), which are, at times, so immense that you fear a strong gust might send the car 50 feet into the air. With the engine behind him and the decreased weight up front–partly from a carbon fiber hood–that fear may be fluttering precariously close to reality, which is something Bello recognizes: “That’s what I’m trying to cut down on. Wheelies are pretty. They impress people, but they don’t give me the times I want. I just want to get a foot off the ground and have some more control of the car and make good times.”
So, here is a bit of controversy. Is the sponsorship with Toyo Tires hurting his performance (the company doesn’t currently produce a wrinkle-wall drag slick), not to mention compromising the safety of the car? This isn’t a question Bello hasn’t heard before, as he insists that the sponsorship deal isn’t just a matter of money. “The first day I mounted the tires, it shocked me. They were actually better than [my previous slicks]. I don’t know what Toyo does to its tires, but they work great. I’m not just saying it to promote them. They really work; obviously the times show they work.”
Nobody is disputing his times. In the world of Porsches, it is beyond compare. Whether he can hit 8s is something else altogether. He has the horsepower and the will to do it, that is for certain. What remains unclear is his future after that. He has hinted toward building a tube-chassis Porsche with an engine up front, but readily admits that a creature of that sort would only serve his ego and nothing else. Whatever car he chooses to do, he tells me that his ultimate goal goes beyond the dragstrip.
“I want to bring my name up to the way the name Ruf is known in Germany and known here. I want Bellotech to be known in the same way,” he says. I tell him that he’s got big shoes to fill. He responds with vivid elan. “Well, I’m beating their cars so I’m not worried about that.” He’s right, he has surpassed his closest competition and is now his own measuring stick–that much he has accomplished–though he will be the first to tell you that life is much more than just cars. And on that front, the future is still up in the air. “Finally, I think I’ve found the car that I want to stick with. I haven’t really found myself, but I think I’m going in the right direction. I’m finding my way.”
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