Like an Olympic torch passed from runner to runner, on its way to the games, so, too, is the automotive hobby passed from father to son. This year, at the 2017 Classic Industries Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge presented by Falken Tires, the fastest times weren’t clocked by a purpose-built race car or some professional hot-shoe driver, but instead by 24-year-old Jake Rozelle in his dad’s 1969 Camaro.
“It’s a genuine street car,” says Jake Rozelle about the 1969 Camaro RS his dad, Roy, brought home 14 years ago. My dad bought the car for his 40th birthday, as something we could build into a great-handling, fun street car we could take to the track.
The duo already had a Camaro in the stable, but it wasn’t fit for the kind of drive-the-wheels-off-it action the Rozelles desired. “We had a ’68 Z/28,” said Rozelle. “It was great, but the car was perfectly original, and we didn’t want to change it. We wanted a car that was fast and handled well that we could take to Pro Touring-style events.”
So, originality was left untouched and work started on the ’69. The Rozelles made minor improvements over the next couple of years, including bolt-on suspension components, a more powerful engine, and a 12-bolt axle.
The boys started taking the car out to local, Pro Touring–style events and the wins began stacking up. When the Ultimate Street Car Association (USCA) came into being, the car became a regular at competition.
“When the USCA stuff started we began to take the car to events,” said Rozelle. “I was a little bit quicker than my dad so I started driving and he started coming to the events as my support crew. We were winning local stuff pretty consistently, but every time we would go up against stiffer competition at bigger events, we’d get our butts kicked.”
The car was fun and competitive for the most part, but if they were going to compete on a national level, some major hardware upgrades were necessary. “My dad came to me and said, ‘Hey, we do all this work on the car and you’re a pretty good driver … what if we gave this thing a real shot?’ That was when we took the car to JCG Restorations in Camarillo, California.”
JCG installed the full complement of Detroit Speed, Inc., (DSE) suspension and a DSE mini-tub on the rear of the Camaro, as well as a full rollcage. The car received a Speedway Engineering 9-inch–style rear axle with 3.73 gears and a full floating axle, as well as JRi double-adjustable shocks, custom valved by Ultimate Performance.
In addition to the host of handling upgrades, the car also received an LS7 engine from Lingenfelter Performance––a far cry from the aging, outgoing small-block. With Jake at the wheel and 685 newfound horsepower on tap, the Camaro was a force to be reckoned with.
“The first USCA event we attended [after the upgrades] I drove the car halfway to Laguna Seca to get my first impressions of the all new DSE front and rear suspension and break in the new diff and LS7,” said Jake. “To take Third at that event behind Danny Popp and Mike Maier with a car so unsorted was incredible and was something I will always remember as a great weekend with my dad.”
The Rozelles went for broke with the car, charging hard into the USCA series with the Camaro and it didn’t go unnoticed. They caught the attention of Falken Tire who helped ship the car around the country to races. They pushed hard, continued to develop and improve the car, and in 2016, all of the hard work paid off in the form of a 2016 USCA Championship.
“It was one of the most stressful and rewarding experiences of my life,” he said. “It was a great experience with my dad. At that point, I didn’t live with my parents anymore and I was on the phone with my dad every day talking about the car and sponsors, and the next event. It was a really cool way to stay close to my dad after I moved out.”
The team accepted their trophy at the 2016 SEMA Show, took a deep breath, and pondered the future of the car and their father-son racing enterprises. “My dad and I kind of looked at each other and said, we won, do we want to keep doing this? We decided to retire the car in 2016. The car found refuge in the corner of the shop until a call from Super Chevy magazine gave cause to dust it off. We got the call to compete [at the Muscle Car Challenge] and pulled the car back out of the garage.
“The car was pretty tired after the last race season, so we went through the whole thing to get it ready for the challenge,” said Rozelle. “It had done around 20 events before we parked it, so it was definitely hammered. We refreshed it with new fluids and added a new Wilwood clutch master cylinder. If it wasn’t for the challenge it would still be in the corner.”
At the Muscle Car Challenge, the Camaro hauled the mail, setting blistering times in every event. But what makes it so good? The suspension? The driver? Rozelle has a theory.
“The reason that car is so good is the seat time,” he says. “We have developed it so much and just have so much time behind the wheel tuning the suspension, engine, and chassis to my liking. In my opinion, our Camaro is the ultimate street car.”
|What Makes It Handle|
|Type: Aluminum, Chevrolet LS7 built by Lingenfelter Performance|
|Components: GM block, Lingenfelter ported LS7 heads, 11.5:1 JE pistons, MSD Atomic intake|
|Power (at the wheels): 685 hp and 593 lb-ft of torque|
|Transmission: TREMEC T-56 Magnum, ACT twin-disc clutch|
|Rearend: Speedway Engineering 9-inch with 3.73 gears built by Tri-County Gear|
|Chassis: Factory unibody with welded subframe connectors|
|Front Suspension: Detroit Speed (DSE) full Hydroformed front subframe system|
|Shocks: JRi double-adjustable shocks|
|Sway Bar: DSE|
|Brakes: Wilwood 14-inch rotors with Aero6 calipers|
|Rear Suspension: Detroit Speed QUADRALink system|
|Shocks: JRi double-adjustable shocks with Eibach springs|
|Sway Bar: DSE|
|Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch rotors with Superlite 4R calipers|
|Wheels and Tires|
|Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K 295/40ZR18 front, 315/30ZR18 rear|
|Cost of Chassis/Suspension: $12,350|
|Total Without Driver: 3,325 pounds|
|LF: 877 RF: 901 LR: 774 RR: 773|
|F: 53% R: 47%|
|LF: 902 RF: 966|
|LR: 794 RR: 747|
|F: 54.8% R: 45.2%|
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Speed 420-ft||100-Yard Dash||Road Course Lap Time|
|Detroit Speed, Inc. (DSE) 1969 Camaro||48.1 mph||5.19 seconds||01:13.2|
|2017 Camaro SS||46.6 mph||5.41 seconds||01:22.2|
|Simply put, the Detroit Speed Inc., Camaro was a rocket and stomped our baseline Camaro in all three of our tests. It clocked the fastest time of the pack on the road course and was in the top 3 in all of the other segments. It was a tight race between a heard of highly competitive cars but with the most competition points, a clear winner emerged. The combination of a well-sorted car and a top-notch driver that knew the car led to a good day for the ’69 Camaro.|