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Viking Performance Built One Kick-Ass 1969 Camaro

Going Berserk: Viking Performance’s Camaro can transform from cushy cruiser to track beast in milliseconds

Stephen Kim Jun 27, 2016
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Yeah, it’s purple. Get over it. Even if it isn’t the manliest of colors for a machine that packs 659 horsepower, there’s a method behind the madness. What bystanders see as a unique paint scheme actually represents the journey that’s taken Chris King from just another car crazy kid from the Midwest to co-founder of one of the most innovative suspension manufacturers in the industry. That journey is far from over, and the high-tech suspension hardware cinching the Camaro down to the pavement is about to leave challengers behind in a purple and white haze.

Blessed with older brothers who knew the importance of showing their younger sibling the ropes, Chris started buying and selling project cars before he could even drive. “We didn’t have video games to entertain us, so we always had four or five muscle cars sitting in the driveway. It drove our mom and our neighbors crazy,” Chris chuckles. “Back then, you could buy a decent car for $100, and a mint car for $700. We were always swapping out carburetors, camshafts, or entire motors. We mowed lawns in order to save up money to buy parts. At 14, I bought my first car, which was a 1967 Chevelle.”

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2 1969 Pro Touring Camaro Front Side 3/57

As the glory days of youth transitioned into the early years of adulthood, Chris did the responsible thing by getting a real job. “I went to school, became a CPA, and got a job as an accountant. I did that dirty stuff for several years,” he jokes. “It is funny how things work out, as I ended up meeting my future wife, Christina, who just happened to work at an aftermarket shock manufacturer. While I never thought I would be crazy enough to work with my wife, I was eager to leave the monotony of corporate America behind and get back into the industry that I loved. It definitely rekindled my passion for the hobby.”

With a combined 40 years of shock manufacturing experience under their belts, the husband and wife duo decided to venture out on their own and founded Viking Performance in 2011. They needed to build a brand from scratch, and the purple-and-white Viking theme fit their vision for their company perfectly. “We couldn’t call ourselves ‘King Shocks’ because that name was already taken. As newcomers in an established industry we had to be careful not to use anyone else’s colors,” Chris recalls. “The color purple kind of stuck because we’re from Minnesota and we’re Vikings fans. We couldn’t make our logo look too similar to the football team’s, but the purple Viking theme really stands out.”

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6 1969 Pro Touring Camaro Engine 5/57

Part of that theme is the giant Berserker logo emblazoned on the Camaro’s hood. Just like berserker Vikings represented the pinnacle of Norse warriors, Viking’s Berserker Active Shock Management system represents the pinnacle of suspension damping technology. The groundbreaking system monitors wheel position, shock piston speed, chassis acceleration, and steering position to automatically adjust shock valving up to 1,000 times per second. In addition, Viking just released a “Tuning Tool” for the Berserker, which allows the user to change various parameters, such as the overall stiffness and sensitivity, anti-roll, pitch control, end stop, etc. The user can customize and save an infinite number of different tunes that can be easily loaded when desired. “When we introduced the Berserker system, we decided that we better build a test car to showcase it on. Since we already had a 1969 Camaro, it made sense to tear it down and transform it from a street cruiser into a more serious performance car that could run competitively with the best cars out there on the autocross and road course,” Chris recounts.

Back in the early 2000s, Chris scored a deal on the ’69 Camaro that would eventually become the Viking shop car. “It was a true SS350 car that I bought from a friend of a friend of a friend. I’ve taken some heat for modifying a real SS car, but it had a tired 350 out of an ’80’s pickup in it already so it wasn’t exactly original,” says Chris. “I drove it around for a bit, realized it didn’t have enough power, so I put a 385hp crate motor in it. I drove it around some more, realized it still didn’t have enough power, so I ported the heads and put a bigger cam in it. The car was a lot of fun, but we needed to up our game to test and showcase the Viking shock line, and to be competitive at events like Optima and the Motor State Challenge.”

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To fill the horsepower gap, Chris called up TPiS and ordered a 408ci LS small-block. The combo is based on a factory iron block that has been bored 0.030-over and fitted with a forged Compstar rotating assembly. RHS LS7 cylinder heads and a TPiS sheetmetal intake manifold provide the air supply, while a custom TPiS 252/254-at-0.050 hydraulic roller cam actuates the valves. The result is a stout output of 659 hp, which gets channeled through a TREMEC T-56 Magnum manual trans.

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13 1969 Pro Touring Camaro Interior 8/57
41 1969 Pro Touring Camaro Gauge Cluster 9/57

Putting all that power down requires a great chassis, so Chris hooked up with Speedtech Performance to complement the Berserker ASM shocks with equally capable suspension hardware. As such, the Camaro has been fitted with a Speedtech front subframe assembly that includes a beefed up sway bar and control arms. Out back is a Speedtech three-link system that utilizes tubular lower control arms, a torque arm, and a Panhard bar.

Plans to unveil the car at the 2014 SEMA Show required squeezing the entire build into a very tight 10-month deadline. After displaying the car at the SEMA and PRI shows and waiting out a typical brutal Minnesota winter, it was evident that there was still quite a bit of work to be done in order to have the car race ready for 2015, so Chris turned to Brandon Clemens at Dick’s Hot Rod Shop for additional modifications and final setup/tuning. Since then, the Camaro has more than held its own competing in select autocross events, while providing valuable R&D data for Viking to further enhance its product line. That’s what the purple and white haze is all about.

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Tech Check
Owner: Chris King, Lakeville, Minnesota
Vehicle: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Engine
Type: LS small-block
Displacement: 408 ci
Compression Ratio: 11.0.1
Bore: 4.030 inches
Stroke: 4.000 inches
Cylinder Heads: RHS LS7 aluminum castings
Rotating Assembly: Callies/Compstar forged crank and steel rods; Mahle pistons
Valvetrain: Comp Cams lifters, valvesprings, and rockers
Camshaft: TPiS hydraulic roller 252/254-deg. duration at 0.050; 0.680/0.680-inch lift; 112-degree LSA
Induction: TPiS custom sheetmetal intake manifold and throttle body
Ignition: MSD coil packs and plug wires
Exhaust: Stainless Works 1 3/4-inch headers, dual 3-inch MagnaFlow mufflers
Output: 659 hp, 544 lb-ft
Drivetrain
Transmission: TREMEC T-56 Magnum six-speed manual, McLeod clutch
Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.70:1 gears, limited-slip differential
Chassis
Front Suspension: Speedtech subframe assembly, control arms, and sway bar; Viking Berserker ASM coilovers
Rear Suspension: Speedtech control arms and torque arm, Viking Berserker ASM coilovers
Steering: Speedtech rack
Brakes: Baer 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front and rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline GZ3 18x9.5 front, 18x11.5 rear
Tires: Falken 275/35 front, 315/30 rear
Interior
Seats: TMI buckets
Upholstery: TMI leather
Gauges: Auto Meter
Steering Wheel: Flaming River
Carpet: GM Black
Shifter: Hurst
Exterior
Paint: Axalta
Hood: Stock
Grille: Stock

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