Hear the powerful rumble of an LS1 stroker engine, churning at highway rpm in sixth gear, as the road ahead winds about in the central Texas hill country. The T-tops removed, wind blowing in your hair. Tunes cranked up on the radio, but not so loud that the radar detector is inaudible. The smell of hot asphalt mixes with the occasional whiff of exhaust fumes. Sunglasses pulled down to better enhance your clarity at higher-than-posted speeds. Quick downshifts and bursts of wide-open throttle to get around the slower people in their daily commuting appliances. Knowing the gas station clerks on a first name basis, yet hopefully not meeting the local officers along your route. Chomping down on fast food and chugging energy drinks. Dodging roadkill. These are some of the best times of our gearhead lives, spent driving our hot rods. Some guys build cars to polish and buff them, but Michael Dietze built his 2001 Camaro SS to blaze the highways.
Michael's story starts out just like many of ours do. He was in high school and daydreamed about someday owning a V-8 Camaro. About a year after he graduated, he bought this Camaro SS brand-new in Austin, Texas. At the time, it only had 12 miles on it. It was originally black, and the only SLP options were chrome SS wheels, floor mats, and the infamous Y2Y "dual-dual" catback. The Camaro ran a 13.2 e.t. at the local dragstrip while it was showroom stock. Later on, with the addition of an off-road Y-pipe and some drag radials, it broke into the high 12s. This was also the point where Michael's addiction to modifying cars really took off.
Since then, the car has had a multitude of components, ranging from various brands of cylinder heads, short-blocks, and a few toasted clutches. Each time the car was modified or repaired, Michael was the one turning the wrenches on it.
A lot of lessons were learned the hard way, which typically involves breaking things. Several lessons and build assistance came from his dad, also a gearhead. Many late nights were spent on this car together, priceless time for a father and son. The two welded up the rollbar and did the vehicle assembly together. They also did all of the paintwork, using PPG Radiance Silver flames laid over PPG two-stage Pearl-and-Black. The flamed, retro-theme paint and classic-style wheels were chosen because it's a look that appeals to both new and old hot rodders. Everywhere they cruise, people of all ages give them the thumbs up. All of the wrenching and racing led Michael to recently start up his own shop, which he calls Sunshine Performance.
Take a look at the odometer in this Camaro, and you may be shocked to see six-figure digits proudly displayed. Most of those miles were racked up during Michael's courting years to his then-girlfriend Janelle, who is now his wife. Michael would work all week, wrench on the car on weeknights, then take the weekend 400-mile round-trip between his hometown of Killeen, Texas, to Janelle's hometown, Houston. She was obviously worth the trip, as she is also into cars and enjoys when the Camaro humiliates any would-be contenders they come across. He even got car parts for wedding gifts. Congrats on the good catch Michael, I'll bet several fellow readers are envious after reading that. The car-crazy couple has also taken a few long-distance road trips in the car, a testament of both their trust and the reliability of the car.
Over the years, the Camaro has been continuously modified. It currently sports a 402ci stroker that utilizes an LQ9 truck-based LS engine block. This potent combo puts down a brutal 550 rwhp on the Dynojet. This full-weight street cruiser gets it done at the track as well, with a current best e.t. of 10.70 at 131 mph.
Michael's ultimate goal is to make the car a 9-second street car. He has recently installed a 250hp wet nitrous system, bringing the total horses up to 700. No track times on that combo yet, but that's more than enough power to get into single-digit territory. After that goal is achieved, a new project car will be built with his dad. They have a 1969 Camaro parked next to this one, just waiting for its turn under the wrenches and paint guns.
So there you have it, the classic story of boy wants hot rod, boy gets hot rod, boy meets girl, boy chases and catches girl, and keeps the hot rod, too. The happy couple is expecting a baby boy soon-who will no doubt be the next little grease monkey in this family. I'm betting junior's first ride home from the hospital is in the flamed Camaro. May his first word be "Vroom!"