Friday night at the end of a long week, the BFI team stood around their creation ready to turn the key for the first time on their B3 Passat G60 Syncro wagon. A group of ECS engineers, marketing staff, and some assorted associates stood holding their breath waiting to hear the sound of the twin-charged Volkswagen as it prepared to bark into life after a week’s worth of stressful work…

Where we left you from part 2 of our coverage, the downpipe had been fabricated by our own Mike Day to snake and spiral its way from the exhaust side of the turbo, down past the firewall, and out underneath the car. There, it finally was mated to another creation of his, the single-exit straight pipe dump tube that turned down shortly before the rear end. With much of the plumbing completed, this shiny new spent gas tube was something we were all excited to hear for the first time. However, it would be after a considerable amount of reinstallation work that anyone would have such a reward.

Friday was the last day Adam and his team were scheduled to be here. Despite the successes and how many challenges had been overcome, the painful reality became clear to everyone in the room. With more wrenching left, the likelihood that the Passat would see the road in time to make an overnight drive to Canada had dropped to zero. As the team took a minute to accept that reality, new definitions for success were imposed. Making it to Eurokracy was no longer feasible. 

In a somewhat hysterical turn of events, those special-built BBS wheels surprisingly arrived. As the red pizza delivery boxes full of precious metals were carried through the garage doors, they were greeted with a collective laugh-filled cheer. Jamie unboxed the wheels and Noah hurried to install them on the car. At that moment, we all enjoyed a small victory to carry us through the rest of the day. Unfortunately, even with those wheels now in Adam’s possession again, the reality was still that the team wasn’t going to make the show. More than that, several new questions arose and the brief respite of excitement and happiness was ended by more uncertainty. 

What about finishing the build for their drive back to Raleigh? Where would the team stay? What do we do if we can’t finish it? Without any time to sulk about the unfortunate news, more questions and hurdles bombarded the team.

As he faced those tough decisions, Adam became more determined to finish the car. With that simple declaration that the show was a pipe dream, his intentions were obvious. He didn’t care about publicity, about recognition at some event, or about proving anything to anyone but himself. The team wanted only one thing: to build a cool, unique, creative car that represented their interests and shared enthusiasm between them. Nothing so attention demanding as Insta-fame drove them. With no chance for superficial glory on the horizon, having fun with a project was their ultimate definition of success. That lack of care for others’ opinions or making a social media impression began to outweigh everything about the build. 

Maybe I’m just injecting myself too much into the story, but this was the point when everyone in the room was on the same page emotionally. We’d all had fun, made new friends, and experienced something completely unique. We all decided to accept whatever happens. With that in mind, the atmosphere became incredibly relaxed. The team continued to work throughout the day, sending many of us on parts runs all over the warehouse and to local parts stores, but the stress of a deadline no longer hung above anyone’s head.

With the tension largely released, the team made steady progress. The plumbing was finished, the engine was wired, and all the important bits had found their way into their permanent homes. No more mock-ups, this was the real deal. The countdown to the first start had begun and we all started to feel something that had escaped us or at least been overshadowed by the stress of uncertainty. We started to feel genuine excitement at the thought of seeing a week’s worth of work rumble itself to life.

While the Sun shone its brilliant colors low in the sky, we were the last people left in the building. We all stood around eagerly waiting for the final hose clamps to be tightened, fluids to be checked, and wiring to be sorted. As those finishing pieces came together, we all held our collective breath waiting for Adam to give the go-ahead for Noah to turn the key for the first time. In that brief moment of anticipation, everything stood still. We were silent, the possibility of failure and success both equally present. Before the key was turned, the car represented that quantum state made famous by a certain cat in a box: it was both alive and dead at the same time… until the key turned.

In that instant, our hearts sank. The weakened starter did its best to try turning over the engine, but it just wouldn’t cough to life. We charged the battery again, gave it some throttle, and tried once more. Nothing. The Passat choked and spat and made some promising noises, but ultimately, it refused the breath of life, dying before launch. With that, we all looked at each other, sheepishly grinning and shrugging. A collective, “it was a brilliant if unsuccessful, effort” could be seen in the eyes of everyone in the room. Despite this, the attitude never fell into depression. A switch flipped and we all began thinking about dinner. No one had remembered when we last ate. As the Sun set outside the garage doors against the Northern Ohio fields, we all walked out of the shop, defeated but proud. 

After working so tirelessly through setback after setback to ultimately a less than spectacular result, the team still held high spirits. We enjoyed dinner together, relishing in the memories we made that week. Friendships were strengthened and new ones formed as a result of this ambitious project. For that reason, with the definition of success changed, it still felt like a victory. Relationships between BFI and ECS formed that would have otherwise been intangible and coldly all-business. We had so much to take with us from that week that could never be replaced. No one felt the exercise was anything but meaningful, regardless of all the adversity and the ultimate outcome.

With that evening finished, everyone went their separate ways. The BFI team crashed with one of our engineers, Will, who kindly put them up in his house for the additional evening. The next morning would mean a quiet ride back to Raleigh for the team, but one that was not void of closure. The rushed build may not have completely worked, but all the pieces are there. With no cage placed around the team in the form of a tight deadline, the BFI Passat Syncro will live. That is a fact. As we speak, Adam and his friends are already turning wrenches, determined to make the crazy little contraption something special. Something that can be a driving representation of hardships overcome, challenges bested, and friendships forged through the ups and downs of an ambitious goal… 

See you next time, Passat cowboys.

All photos provided by Michael Palcowski