Integrated Engineering(IE) is one of those shops that has us reminiscing about being a little moto enthusiast, dreaming of the perfect garage. It isn’t one single thing that makes IE a dream, but a slew of different aspects that make it stand out. But by far the coolest aspect of IE is that it originated with two brothers and a passion for tuning Volkswagens.
Dave and Peter Blais are brothers that grew up locally in Utah, both enjoying the passion for motorsports the entire way. Pete grew up Kart racing and both him and Dave would go on to compete in Spec Miata’s before getting into the tuning game. Their father was an avid motorsports enthusiast that got both of them started very young, because all great fathers do. With the motorsports bug firmly planted in both the Blais boys, it was their first cars that set them on the path to German perfection.
Dave’s first car is arguably what started it all. Well, his second first car. Dave drove a MK4 12V VR6 until the fabulous MK4 GTI 337 was released. Upgrading to the 337 was the spark that would inevitably result in IE’s inception. Dave’s 337, with its 1.8-liter turbo, would go on to push upwards of 450hp while eventually being used as the shop car. Now Pete’s first car wasn’t nearly as luxurious. What he truly wanted was his Dad’s MK3 12v GTI. Unfortunately, it was deemed too quick and he was given the exceptionally uninspiring Audi 100. Sorry Pete, but that car is the epitome of boring. But it’s okay, because when Pete finally got his own GTI it came in the form of a 92 MK2 GTI with the 16-valve 2-liter engine. A fabulous car even in stock trim, yet Pete being the person that he is wanted muc, much more, eventually ending up at roughly 800hp. I really like Pete’s style. My favorite part of visiting IE was the fact that both these cars are still in their possession, just waiting to be restored to their former glory.
The 337 is the star of the story though, because if it weren’t for that engine they might not be in business. The 1.8 Turbo that came in those MK4 GTI’s is a great engine, with an apparent weak spot in the in the form of the connecting rods. So while in college a friend of theirs decided he wanted to start some type of car related business, but couldn’t decide what. Pete convinced him to build connection rods for the 1.8T since people he knew kept blowing them up. His friend did it, getting a shipment of rods made, and then never followed through with any type of business plan. With that Pete and Dave decided to buy out their friend’s stock and started selling the rods themselves. They started slow, even saying that they were ‘two kids that didn’t know what they were doing.’ But obviously, they did, because it started to catch on. First, they expanded their selection of rods, covering an assortment of different engines. Pete then bought their first CNC machine, turning his own home garage into a manufacturing site. They started small, making ‘block off’ plates and small accessories for that same 1.8T that started it all. Pete tells us about using his wife’s pots and pans to distribute packing peanuts in his kitchen, chuckling as he recalls the memories. A year later IE was officially incorporated and ready to grow.
Retail space was the next obstacle to tackle. First, they started at a local Volkswagen shop, renting a small 500sq-ft corner. This worked for the time being, until some conflicts came to a head, prompting them to look elsewhere. Luckily for Dave and Pete, their father had some commercial space he was willing to rent to them. Utilizing the same patterns that had gotten them this far, they started slowly. They rented out two offices that took up a little less than a quarter of their Dads building where he used to build cabinets. As IE grew, so did their workspace, finally taking over the entire building that they are still in today. They even got too big for that building, resulting in them having to rent the next adjacent unit. This gave them a new store front with offices for Dave and his sales and marketing crew. Pete and the other engineer on board, Chase, now work out of the original offices. It has also transformed to where the original building is a full machine shop. Some seriously impressive stuff.
Now IE is proudly producing over 350 unique products for Volkswagen and Audi cars alike. They cover everything from internal engine parts to air intakes, valvetrain and even camber plates for suspension applications. IE’s commitment to its R&D process is what really sets them apart. Each and every part starts life with a blueprint. The way it works at IE is they buy their own cars, like an MK7 GTI for example, and then they use that car to build and modify until the parts are exactly how they would want them to perform. Chase did a fantastic job of showing us the process of how they design their parts, and for this example he showed us an air intake they had built. To start the process they use a 3D scanner that maps out the entire engine bay, calculating measurements in real time. This is then rendered in a design program where either Chase or Pete can go in and modify each part to their liking. The level of knowledge Chase showed with his software in the time we were there was jaw dropping. I can’t even get Google to work that fast.
So the part is scanned and mocked up on the computer, next step is to build it right? Well… yes and no. See IE leads the pack in so many ways that what they do before they send off for a prototype, or start machining anything in-house, they have each and every part they build constructed in a 3D printer. Yup, one of those things that makes miniature structures out of plastic. The 3D printer sits in Chase’s office and runs up to 24/7, mocking up each and every piece. For pieces that are too big they build multiple sections and use a special application that mimics glue to bond the pieces together. It’s a tedious task that gives the team an idea of how well a unit will fit or perform before they send out to have parts manufactured. And this ‘plastic’ is no ordinary stuff, they even run these pieces on the cars under extreme temperatures without failure. They won’t get you home, but a couple pulls on the dyno is all they need.
Once the parts pass the 3D printed test they get the green light for production. This means either being sent out to be cast, this would be things like intake plenums and exhaust piping, or it means being sent to their in-house machine shop. What started in Pete’s garage is now a massive warehouse full of all sorts of high-tech machines. In the video below you will see the whole process from start to finish from the 3D scanner, the 3D printer, all the way to parts being machined. A very cool look into what goes into each and every IE product.
The dynamic between the two brothers was a joy to be around. Both Dave and Pete were very humble and genuinely fun to work with, all while being more than accommodating the entire time we were drooling in their garage. They each have a distinctive role in IE. Dave handles the business side of things while Pete is the creative force that drives their product. A fitting match that seems to be working exceptionally well. Pete studied engineering in college, and has since combined that with his passion for all things that go fast. This is how he’s able to come up with such amazing products, and by talking to him you can tell he is the type that is rarely satisfied, craving more horsepower from everything, even Dave’s DD Golf R. Now it’s no longer just Dave and Pete working out of his garage though. Through expansion, they have grown to a team of up to 15 people. They had brought in an engineering intern from the University of Utah named Chase to help Pete with designs. Now chase is a seasoned employee, working at IE since his graduation from the U. And Dave now has a slew of folks helping him grow IE’s sales and marketing. While Dave seemed more reserved at first he did warm up rather quick. Once we knew each other a little better Dave transformed, making the interaction even better. The culture at IE was exceptional, with everyone there being genuinely great, you could tell they enjoy working for the Blais brothers ten-fold.
Custom ECU tuning is another thing that sets IE miles ahead of the field. For tuning IE uses an axle-hub dyno which allows them to accurately tune ECU’s for new parts. The other benefit of the Hub dyno is that it can easily be stowed away to save space, a needed feature for the ever expanding IE shop. Because IE doesn’t half-ass anything they do, they also design their own ECU program, employing a full-time software engineer to program the back end. Pete then programs the front end, building each cars tuning map from scratch. Jay, IE’s Director of Marketing, tells us that Pete will spend up to a week inside a car dialing in a new ECU map. After meeting Pete, I 100% believe him. And his product speaks for itself. IE was gracious enough to hand us the keys to Dave’s daily driven Golf R. And it’s no ordinary Golf R to say the least.
Getting the opportunity to drive Dave’s 400-wheel-hp Golf R puts Pete’s tuning talents into sharp perspective. The Golf R is a docile, easily driven 5-door hatch that doesn’t feel much different than a standard R at low speeds. That is until you get on it. When you ask the R for more, boy does it deliver. Stepping on the accelerator the R rewards your eagerness with the glorious fluttering sound of the wastegate as it keeps boost under control. The power curve was astounding, easily allowing you to rapidly gain speed without even thinking of a downshift. And while it was a joy to drive it always felt civilized, not the faintest of hiccups were present. I have driven hopped up GTI’s before, but nothing like this. Dave’s R could very well be one of the best enthusiast cars too date, offering functionality, driveability and most of all tons of fun. Pete says it needs to be louder with more power, and I can see the fun in that. But I’m with Dave on this one, they have that R in perfect form. I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Luckily that wasn’t even the golden pony. IE had a present for us at Moto Networks, a present in the form of a 590-wheel-hp GTI drag car. While we didn’t get the keys this time, we did get a chance to sit(kind of) co-pilot while Pete unleashed his inner maniac in the GTI. If you watch the video below you will see both Brandon and I and our initial reaction to the monstrous little GTI. Spoiler alert, it’s absurdly fast. I’ve had the opportunity to be in some pretty fast cars and by no stretch of the imagination this GTI would keep up with most of them. The car was built for the Autorama show, and is also a full race built drag car. It did have street wheels and tires on it for our visit, but they were a 255 width R compound tire on the drive wheels. And guess what, it still spun them like a top. The power delivery on this build is absolutely brutal, with no noticeable lag. On top of that this particular GTI has the DSG transmission, a dual clutch automated manual, that has been programmed by Pete to work in conjunction with the engine mapping. This means every shift is literally perfect, giving you a nice and crisp ‘FWAP!’ sound as it bolts from one gear to the next. You honestly don’t even feel shifts this fast, you only hear them as you are further thrust into your chair. In our case we didn’t have a chair, instead utilizing the trusty ‘oh sh*t handle’ and the back of Petes Sparco racing chair. It was an exhilarating ride for both Brandon and I as well as an absolute statement of IE’s ability to make go fast parts.
So what’s next for IE? Well, they are still growing and still looking to improve. There was talk about possibly moving because they have almost hit capacity at their current location. Again. But even when they talk about things like moving it’s with a laid back nature that I envy, and most shops should. While I don’t think Pete and Dave are taking what they have for granted, I do think they are fully enjoying the ride. I know we were like kids in our dream garage when we visited IE, and it’s nice to see that same enjoyment from the guys running the show.
Special thanks to David & Peter Blais, Jay Dutton, Chase Hook, and everyone else at IE for helping us put this together.