[Cue upbeat Latin guitar chorus and baritone voice-over.]
Oil leaks out of the pan just to grovel at his feet. Turbos don’t lag until he tells them to. Tires ask him how much pressure they should run. Mike DuSold doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis. Part fabricator, part artist, part comedian, and 100 percent mad scientist, Mike could just be the most interesting car guy in the world.
Instead of describing his twin-turbo 1967 Camaro with the seriousness that a 1,100hp, independently suspended, aviation-inspired road race machine deserves, he’s too busy cracking jokes at the list of generic questions on our tech sheet. Total miles driven? “Depends how long the road course is,” he laughs. Carburetor manufacturer? “LOL,” he snickers. Mike’s just getting warmed up.
“Roll the windows down, wimp!”
Rear axle brake flanges?
“Not a stupid stick-axle car!”
“I got into a trance-like state and painted what I saw.”
Cylinder head airflow?
EFI chip manufacturer?
OK, you get the idea. Mike might be a funny guy, but don’t let his humor downplay how seriously he takes building cars. Typically, artistic ability and technical acumen are mutually exclusive qualities that live in opposite hemispheres of the brain, but for Mike there’s always been a clear path of communication between both hemispheres. “I have always been a mix of mechanical and art. My mom tells this story of how when she put me in a crib, she came back to see that there were screws everywhere because I had taken the crib apart,” Mike recounts. “My dad had a body shop in Chicago, so I started working on cars at a very young age. I remember him giving me a bucket of tools and an engine, and then letting me take it apart. I rebuilt my first dirt bike motor when I was 9 years old.”
Unlike most artsy-fartsy types that draw, sculpt, or paint simply for the sake of drawing, sculpting or painting, Mike enjoys expressing his creativity through more productive means. “I have always liked art, drawing, and the entire creative process, but art by itself gets boring because it’s strictly a visual medium. Art can convey beauty and motion, but it doesn’t always possess functionality,” Mike opines. “Cars, motorcycles, and planes are a fun mix of art and engineering. They let you take something that’s beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, but also add more depth to them by making them functional. That’s what drew me to the Optima USCA events. The cars in that series are rolling art projects that are also functional, and that’s what sparked the idea of building a car of my own to compete in those events.”
Never a follower, Mike didn’t want to take the easy way out by jumping on the Corvette bandwagon. “I got tired of seeing people bail on Pro Touring cars and switching to C5 and C6 Corvettes,” says Mike. “My goal is to turn a first-gen Camaro into a Corvette killer. I thought it would be really cool if I could keep the basic shape and soul of a muscle car but still be able to defeat Corvettes and exotics. It’s a tall order, but it’s a fun challenge and I’ve made some awesome friends along the way.”
The good news was that Mike already had a Pro Touring ’67 Camaro that saw autocross action from time to time. The bad news was that Mike knew it packed too much weight and not enough horsepower to compete with the USCA big boys. Instead of improving the package in baby steps, Mike went full-on beast mode. “The big problem with first-gen Camaros is they have terrible weight distribution. I wanted to go from having 53-54 percent front weight bias to 53-54 percent rear weight bias,” Mike recounts. “The logical step was fitting a Corvette transaxle along with converting the car to an independent rear suspension. Lots of people think that an IRS is heavier than a stick axle, but it’s actually lighter. I also wanted to reduce the scrub radius of the front tires, and improve the suspension’s motion ratio. The best way to do all this was by building a brand-new chassis from scratch.”
Built entirely in-house at Mike’s shop, DuSold Designs, the resulting frame is a mix of square and rectangular steel tubing with an integrated rollcage that weighs a measly 364 pounds. “We designed a custom twin A-arm suspension that’s loosely designed off the C6 Corvette suspension geometry, but we put a lot of effort into improving camber gain and Ackermann as well as reducing the scrub radius to half an inch. With big front tires, the scrub radius on lots of Pro Touring cars is nearly 3 inches,” Mike explains.
Just as important as the flexibility in suspension design that fabricating a custom chassis allowed, it paid huge dividends in packaging as well. “Most people don’t pay much attention to a car’s polar moment of inertia and its center of gravity, but getting those two things right are very important for optimizing handling, steering, and balance,” Mike elaborates. “In a stock Camaro, the Number 1 spark plug is at the front wheel centerline. On this car, the crank pulley is 1.5 inches behind the centerline. This was accomplished by cutting the C6 torque tube 5.5 inches, then setting the engine back significantly. The goal was to mount everything as close to the center of the car and as low to the ground as possible. The turbos sit as low as the torque tube and the intercooler is mounted in the passenger footwell. All the major hardware components are mounted in-between the four wheels so nothing hangs over them.”
Serving as a worthy encasement for the radical chassis and powertrain is a custom carbon-fiber and steel skin. The carbon trunklid and doors weigh next to nothing, and the carbon hood boasts functional extractors that suck massive quantities of thermal energy out of the radiator. The only sheetmetal pieces that remain are the roof, doorjambs, and bulging quarter-panels. For easy serviceability, removing the entire front clip is as easy as rotating six Dzus fasteners a quarter-turn. Remove six more bolts and the rest of the body lifts off.
The payoff for such a comprehensive weight savings program is a car that checks in at just 2,880 pounds, roughly the same as a Honda Civic. While a somewhat modest engine combo would be more than enough in a car this light, the mad scientist in Mike wouldn’t allow it. Based on an ERL Superdeck LS7 short-block, the forged 427 calls upon a pair of Precision 56mm turbos to send pressurized air molecules through a stock LS3 intake manifold and LS9 cylinder heads. Even with the boost turned way down, the combo lays down 1,100 rear-wheel hp through a TREMEC T-56 transaxle. The stiff road race suspension limits 60-foot times to a mediocre 1.7 seconds, but the Camaro’s blazing 149 mph quarter-mile trap speed still enables impressive 10.32-second e.t.’s.
Tapping into his extensive experience racing and tuning motorcycles, Mike was crowned the 2016 Holley LS Fest Grand Champion. He has also won several USCA GTL class events, as well as several victories in the Goodguys Pro Class autocross. And he’s not done yet. “The car is competitive now, but it’s only reached 80-85 percent of its potential,” Mike reasons. “Guys like Danny Popp have Corvettes running at 98 percent. If I can get my car to 95 percent of its potential, then I think I’ll be able to beat those Corvettes.”
Obviously, Mike is a man of many talents, arguably the most interesting car guy in the world, but what’s his secret? “I don’t have an idle mind much. Someone else is always going to have something that’s bigger, better, or faster so I’m always coming up with new ideas to improve,” says Mike. “As a car builder, driver, and tuner I’m never where I want to be. You can’t be limited by anything other than what you think is cool.”
After a long day of shooting, as the evening winds down in a dimly lit cantina, the bench racing turns into a philosophical discussion. With two stunningly gorgeous women by his side, Mike raises a green bottle of “XX” and tells car guys of the world “stay thirsty my friends.”
|Owner:||Mike DuSold, Dallas, TX|
|Type:||ERL Superdeck LS7-based small-block|
|Cylinder Heads:||Stock GM LS9 aluminum castings|
|Rotating Assembly:||Callies/Compstar forged crank and steel rods, Wiseco pistons|
|Induction:||Twin 56mm Precision turbochargers, custom air-to-water intercoolers, GM LS3 intake manifold, Nick Williams billet 90mm throttle body, TiAL wastegates and blow-off valve|
|Ignition:||Stock coil packs, MSD plug wires|
|Exhaust:||Custom DuSold Designs turbo headers, dual 3-inch collectors and downpipes|
|Output:||1,100 rwhp at 6,800 rpm|
|Transmission:||TREMEC T-56 six-speed manual transaxle, Quarter Master clutch|
|Rear Axle:||Stock Corvette Z06 transaxle, 3.42:1 gears, limited-slip differential; Driveshaft Shop halfshafts|
|Front Suspension:||Custom DuSold Designs chassis and twin A-arms; Speedway Engineering sway bar, JRi coilovers, Coleman Racing spindles|
|Rear Suspension:||Custom DuSold Designs IRS with twin A-arms; Speedway Engineering sway bar, JRi coilovers, Coleman Racing spindles|
|Brakes:||Wilwood 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers front; Wilwood 13-inch rotors, six-piston calipers rear|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Forgestar C5 18x12, front and rear|
|Tires:||BFGoodrich g-Force Rival 335/30, front and rear|
|Steering:||Joes Racing Products wheel|
|Instrumentation:||P-51 Mustang with Auto Meter internals|
|Paint:||Custom DuSold Designs|
|Hood:||Custom DuSold Designs|