You can design every facet of a car with computer modeling, every bit of it, but you can’t experience one bit of the car’s dynamics or idiosyncrasies while sitting behind a keyboard any more than you can drive a dynamometer. You must leave the matrix and sail into the vagaries of the raw world. Detroit Speed’s proponents Kyle and Stacy Tucker are mechanical engineers. They came to fruition in a regimented factory discipline, so no one is more aware of this dichotomy than these two.
Thus far, DSE has made examples of the A-body, the early X-body, and the first-gen F-body. For the past year or so, they’ve been hard at iterations of the second-generation Camaro. Certainly, these cars are “beaters” when Kyle finds them, usually structurally solid but sorely lacking in every mechanical respect. He found this ’701/2 gem on eBay, a 350 two-barrel wheezer with a ’glide and a 10-bolt behind it. He drove it for year like that, adding bolt-ons and mentally cataloging changes needed and their effect on the whole. He logged lots of street miles with this in mind.
Kyle says, “It looked good mini-tubbed and with big wheels and tires and drop leaf springs. The following year, we installed our hydro-formed subframe and QUADRA Link rear suspension, updated the driveline, and started going faster. Since then, the car has turned thousands of miles on the street and from events and thousands of laps around autocross and road courses.
“We have always used our test cars to develop and better the DSE product line. Whatever we learn on the weekends becomes available in our product line as running changes. This is my favorite go-fast car.” Indeed, dedicated followers have seen this car in action on pages and the websites of CHP, Camaro Performers, and lateral-g.net. To keep it simple, Kyle used DSE catalog items, not one-offs, to transform the car.
The product of a calculated chain of events has produced very consistent performance in hot dog competition. Since its inception, the Camaro has lots of Goodguys autocross notches on its beltline and has taken overall wins at the Third Annual Run Thru the Hills, the First Run to Music City, and the fastest road course times at Putnam Park and at Road America.
Exposure is paramount. Products on top-finishing cars are likely to be sought after. Both Tuckers do the driving and both always come very close in elapsed times if not recording the lowest elapsed time—a good indication that the product is on point. To the DSE troops, function always takes precedence over form. Their mules are clean and unrumpled, even so they don’t have to be pretty. They have to run hard, be right on the edge, and never shed a part. In essence, they are capable of being driven anywhere and under any circumstance, save for frozen roads.
Their superstructures are at once rigid and supple. Tires must be able to track the surface at all times, not lose contact because the spring rate or roll stiffness is too high. Fluid motion and a complete contact patch are the goals. As much as the DSE equipment enables this to occur, they also allow you and me to fit the largest rubber available under the sheetmetal. With its fatso 295-series front rubber, Kyle’s second-gen looks like this year’s winner.
As of late, Mast Motorsports seems to have become the pre-eminent LS engine master, supplying a slew of fantastic hard parts, the systems, and the complicated electronic whizbangs required to run them. On the main, DSE prefers normally aspirated powerplants and the one in this engine bay does not deviate. The Mast turnkey engine is founded on an LS7 4.125-inch bore block. Displacement is unchanged. Mast balanced the rotating assembly, which is composed of a Callies 4340 crankshaf and 6.125-inch connecting rods, and Mahle (forged) pistons, yielding an 11.1:1 compression ratio. They inserted a proprietary-spec camshaft along with Mast 7,500-rpm hydraulic lifters. They sealed the bottom end with a Mast cast-aluminum oil sump. Mast Black Label cylinder heads (all-new, improved castings, 0.750-inch deck, and more) flow a whopping 400 cfm on the intake side. Think that’s big-block territory? The combustion chambers are fitted with 2.20/1.65 Ferrea valves. Ancillaries include dual nitride beehive springs, titanium retainers, machined locks, and Mast pushrods. The heads are capped with Mast rocker covers and ignition coils. The M90 engine controller is also a Mast item. Induction solutions are easy for this engine, either the OE-type fuel injection or a carbureted intake manifold. Mast chose a FAST LSxR composite manifold fitted with a 90mm throttle body. DSE stainless steel headers maintain 17/8-inch diameter primaries and a 3-inch collector. Even on a bad day, the engine dyno posts 689 hp at very civilized 6,100 rpm and 590 lb-ft of torque. This much cayenne jolts a Centerforce DYAD pressure plate assembly—dual 10.5-inch discs, a floater plate and special flywheel—that offers light pedal action but tremendous clamping power. Behind it, a Bowler-modified TKO-600 five-speed and a 3-inch-diameter DOM (drawn over mandrel) steel driveshaft from Dynotech Engineering in Troy, Michigan. To keep the heat at bay, Kyle included a Setrab transmission fluid cooler that is equipped with a dedicate fan. Ham-fist twist is absorbed by a DSE 9-inch sporting a 3.89:1 ring-and-pinion, Detroit Truetrac differential, and meaty axleshafts.
Though a show car exterior isn’t necessary for a test mule, all DSE’s projects turn out crisp and clean regardless. These cars are drivers so there’s no time to worry about a stone chip here or a little cone rash there. The hands at DSE rubbed on the totally stock sheetmetal and then coated it with PPG Mulsanne Blue (a stock ’701/2 color, Code 26). The gang did make one concession to aerodynamics: There’s no passenger-side mirror.
Kyle went right for the jugular. Mondo Baer 6S brake sets are posted at every corner, flashing 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers. These beauties are showcased by the Fikse Profil 5S modular wheels. The combo rests with 18x10.5 front hoops and BFGoodrich KDW 295/35 rubber and 18x12 versions aft plastered with 335/30 KDWs.
Underneath, this Camaro was treated to a DSE hydro-formed front subframe carrying DSE-modified C6 spindles, tubular control arms, double-adjustable coilover dampers with remote canisters and 450 lb/in springs, power steering rack, and a splined antisway bar. DSE lashed the ends of the second-gen together with subframe connectors and on the receiving end, they installed a four-bar QUADRA Link suspension, monotube coilovers (250 lb-in), and remote canisters. To install the 9-inch for the monster tires and mini-tubs, the housing was narrowed 31/2 inches and put to rest. These bones are right, tight, and ready to rip road.
The interior reflects DSE’s standards and its philosophy: all controls readily at hand and maximum driver comfort, a form that can be driven hundreds of miles to the track, and the driver is still fresh after that trip and ready to roll all hell out on the track a few minutes later. To Kyle that means a climate-controlled environment (Vintage Air Sure-Fit), specific tactile qualities, the sublime comfort and utility of the ultimate Recaro seats, and instant information feedback. Chuck Hannah in Mooresville, North Carolina, applied his mastery of surface preparation (in this case it is vinyl) on the seats and the remainder of the interior. Kyle (or Stacy) hawks the Race-Pak digital instrument cluster and DSE analog instrument cluster, lightly grips the Budnik GTO steering wheel, and confidently cuts the Hurst shifter through its range. To crisp up the interior vision, DSE modified the upperdash panel so that it would tuck the front edge of the dashpad into the steel dashboard. The tracks for the seats were also set into lower-than-normal location. There is no audio as such, save for the powerful lungs of the storm trooper 427.