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This May Just be the Baddest Third-Gen Camaro Ever Built

Detroit Speed’s DSE-Z 2.0

Ro McGonegal Nov 28, 2018
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Editor Nick said to me straight out … “Kyle Tucker’s 1987 Camaro. This thing is the baddest Third-gen I’ve seen. The Third-gen Mafia used to come after me when I was on Camaro Performers magazine because I didn’t feature enough of them. Well, finally someone did one right, so those mullet-wearing ex-jocks from the ’80s now have a template to go by.” And then: “Wow … I sound a little bitter for a Wednesday.”

I remember the sentiment. From a metro area close to Manhattan and the millions of voices surrounding it, the Third-gen, and especially the tony IROC variant were mostly manned by a dude in a uniform: a wife-beater tee, gold chains settling in a nest of chest hair (if he was lucky), and maybe a “Mom” tat on his bicep. Where I was from, the mullet wasn’t common.

005 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 2/65

This is what Detroit Speed’s (DSE) president Kyle Tucker said about this car. “To be truthful, we built it to replace the first 1987 Camaro we built. It was crashed early on in our product development program for the Third-gen.”

Kyle didn’t put this one together by his lonesome; he’s got a company to run. Staff members clamored; Ryan Mathews, Matt Butts, and Andy Stapp did most of the build in the DSE race shop. Turns out Butts is a Third-gen die-hard and that he built a few of these along the way. Michael Neighbors and Austin Moore handled the body and paintwork inside and out and underneath. Though the metal might look untouched—it has a slew of subtle modifications—you’d need to compare it with a completely original car next to it to get the full effect. Stuff doesn’t shout; it whispers in your ears … and then tears them off your head.

007 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 3/65

Tucker got indoctrinated early, his father was a real car guy back in the day, and still is. He remembers being hunkered in the seat of the old man’s ’40 Ford coupe feeling him bang on a Muncie four-speed. “He took me to the dirt track Saturday nights. I loved the smell of alcohol, the hot brakes, tires, and gear oil. I was hooked somewhere between hot rods and racing for life at that point.”

He found the car locally. It was ugly, clapped out. It was red and it was cranking a V-6. The important things: the hardtop shell was intact and there wasn’t any rust worth mentioning on it. He gave $500, but recouped $600 on the parts he couldn’t use. The guys we mentioned blasted the shell, began installing the DSE product line, and building a rollcage. As per usual, all project car parts were mocked up and installed (less wiring) before moving the lump over to the body shop.

013 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 4/65

“During assembly,” said Kyle, “we wanted to have as many stock features as possible, so we found the original Camaro step and repeat fabric for the seats. Robert McCarter stitched it to the rear seats as well as the Cobra seats.” The lightweight Cobras are for track work. DSE quick-change seat tracks make it a snap to switch over to the street chairs.

To add to the IROC heritage, DSE’s social media and marketing team member Alex Stivaletti designed the DSE-Z font to replace the IROC-Z label at the bottom of the doors. He also did a Detroit Speed Equipped bubble decal to replace the IROC bubble decal on the rockers. “Customers who buy the speed kit get the decals, too,” said Kyle. “Pretty cool to a Third-gen dude, I think. We also have a T-shirt of the car. Very cool and a must-have for any mullet-minded owner worth their salt.”

014 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 5/65

Though the Camaro is a study in suspension and an education in power, the beauty of this conversion is that the extensive modifications maintain the original form. The hood is the only piece that doesn’t look normal. The factory bonnet hosts Trackspec louvers and a custom louver tray. It means hot air out, cool refreshing air in. The visual impact of that black on blue speaks sharply. Although the front bumper looks like nothing, it’s a heavily modified Ecklers fiberglass (buttressed with a crash bar structure), extended to fit flush with a custom laminated carbon splitter. Third-gen maven Matt Butts did all the custom fiberglass work, including the mildly flared fenders that abide 11-inch rims and 315/30 rollers without interference.

Mast Motorsports shakes up west Texas. They began with a 427 crate but had Callies build a crankshaft with a 3.625 stroke (stock is 4.00) to create a 388-inch displacement and a stinging 12:1 compression ratio. The Hooker BlackHeart extractors were built specifically to accommodate the DSE Third-gen LS engine swap and have since been mass-marketed. Kyle says the car sounds amazing and the destroked 427 has an 8,500-rpm shift point … and it’s hot rod loud!

006 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 6/65

“I think the best weekend with it was the Motor State Challenge in Michigan,” Kyle mused. “You run the Gingerman road course one day and then go to Tire Rack [in Indiana] and run at its test track set up for autocross. Stielow and I chased each other all day testing each other’s courage and best stunts we could think of while pushing the cars to the limit. The DSE-Z backed it up on the autocross the next day, running it up into the top of the field with the fast C5/C6 guys.”

Maybe some guys will look hard at this car, think they just got kicked in the head. CHP

020 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 7/65

Tech Check
Owner: Kyle Tucker, Mooresville, North Carolina
Vehicle: 1987 Camaro

Engine
Type: LS7
Displacement: 388 ci
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Bore: 4.125 inches
Stroke: 3.625 inches
Cylinder Heads: Mast Motorsports (Nacogdoches, TX), CNC-ported, titanium intake valves, Inconel exhaust valves
Rotating Assembly: Callies Magnum de-stroked crankshaft and Ultra I-beam rods, Diamond pistons
Valvetrain: T&D shaft-mount 1.8:1 rockers
Camshaft: Cam Motion custom hydraulic (0.776/0.756-inch lift; duration proprietary), Mast rocker covers
Induction: MSD Atomic AirForce intake manifold, 103mm throttle body, Holley Dominator EFI, Detroit Speed 14-gallon fuel cell
Ignition: Holley Dominator
Exhaust: Hooker BlackHeart LS swap headers, 1 3/4-inch primaries, custom X-pipe, 3-inch system, Stainless Works resonators
Ancillaries: SPAL single fan, C&R Racing aluminum core, Holley accessory drive, Earl’s Ultra-Pro chassis plumbing, six-point Detroit Speed rollbar
Machine Work: Mast Motorsports
Builder: Mast Motorsports
Output: 705 hp

Drivetrain
Transmission: TREMEC T-56 Magnum assembled by Bowler Performance Transmissions, Centerforce steel flywheel, DYAD pressure plate, twin 8 3/4-inch discs
Rear Axle: GearFX Ford-type 9-inch, Eaton Truetrac differential, 4.11 gears, 31-spline Moser axleshafts

Chassis
Front Suspension: Factory spindles, Detroit Speed (DSE) Weight-Jacking kit, JRi double-adjustable struts, DSE Wonderbar antisway bar, DSE caster/camber plates and three-point strut tower braces
Rear Suspension: DSE QUADRALink, antiroll bar, Panhard rod, DSE/JRi shocks and coilover springs
Brakes: Baer 14-inch rotors, 6R six-piston calipers, front and rear; Tilton master cylinder

003 1987 DSE IROC Z Camaro 8/65

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline FF3C Concave, 18x11 front and rear
Tires: BFG Rival, 315/30 front and rear

Interior
Upholstery: Robert McCarter
Material: Mesh, cloth, and leather
Seats: Cobra, Schroth five-point harnesses
Steering: Woodward column, MPI wheel, Turn-One box 10:1 ratio
Shifter: Bowler Performance
Dash: Stock w/ custom insert
Instrumentation: AutoMeter
Audio: Kicker Bluetooth head unit, Kicker speakers
HVAC: Vintage Air defrost unit, no A/C

Exterior
Bodywork: Custom front bumper/crash bar structure and fiberglass work by Matt Butts
Paint By: Austin Moore and Michael Neighbors
Paint: PPG Refinish GM Bright Blue Metallic
Hood: Factory w/ Trackspec louvers and custom louver rain tray
Grille: Stock
Bumpers: Ecklers fiberglass w/ custom laminated carbon splitter, front; stock, rear

Photos by Robert McGaffin

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