Kyle and Stacy Tucker began their careers as suspension engineers at GM, playing their roles with equal measures of competence, enthusiasm and forethought. They were into it, no doubt, one of those deals where they couldn’t wait to get to work each morning. They have brains that never shut down, minds that never stop inventing and re-inventing. Eventually, though, the routine became just that. Corporate structure is too often rigid and confining—hot rodders usually are not. The two were tantalized by much bigger things on the distant horizon and knew then it was time to begin reaching for them.
So the Tuckers went on a gentle rampage, creating Detroit Speed & Engineering in Brighton, Michigan, to nurture the infant Pro Touring segment; a class of cars where all systems are stacked according to power output, braking force, and all-out handling that would create a track monster that could be driven comfortably on public roads.
Detroit is extremely fertile ground for growing technology but can become depressing during the cold season when the sun forgets to emerge from November through March, only to appear infrequently as a taunting, hazy disc in the colorless winter sky. Everyone knows that’s why Florida was invented. It has also become apparent that most innovation stems from the NASCAR folk. About ten years ago, northern speed parts makers began moving south, to North Carolina, which is still the heart of NASCAR country as far as we know.
We picked up on the Tuckers in the October 2000 issue of HOT ROD magazine. They called their ’69 Camaro test mule Twister. Later on, it was hoisted as the “winner” of the annual Top 10. Compared to their current DSE output, Twister was mild but proved some very important things via CAD/CAM help. Kyle gave it tubular upper control arms and knuckles to match and tweaked the sub-frame attachment points. As a result, roll center, caster/camber and toe curves and anti-dive geometry were all optimized for Twister’s lowered ride height (2/4) and bump steer became a non-issue.
Nearly ten years later, the Tuckers had picked everything up and skated to Mooresville, North Carolina. Detroit’s loss was ol’ Dixie’s gain. You know the rest of the story. This ’70 second-gen, recognized as a better handling car in stock form than the previous issue, is now the hard-driving mule, the showcase for all DSE’s second-gen F-body components in one bag. We love the plan. Cool and intricate inside and underneath, but a “10-foot car” on the outside. Except for those fat baloneys and mighty modular hoops, it looks like it might have escaped from a long-gone episode of “CHiPS.”
Kyle imparts, “Its most unique feature is probably the fact that this car is completely new and fresh everywhere but the crappy paint job. Everywhere it goes body shop owners drop business cards on the seats. I guess they think we should paint the car. We could, but I don’t want to,” he quipped. The Camaro is now in its second iteration.
“The first year  we used the car to install our bolt-on front suspension parts like upper and lower tubular control arms, anti-sway bar, and front springs. We videotaped the installation of the sub-frame connectors and the mini-tubs for our installation tips section on the website. First, we installed our leaf-spring mini-tub kit and ran it for about a year and half. In January of 2008, it was time for round two.
We completely disassembled it and installed everything DSE made for it, hydro-formed sub-frame, Quadra-Link, sub-frame connectors/body mounts, eight-point roll cage, and Selecta-Speed wipers. We finished it up with Fikse wheels, BFG tires, an American Autowire harness and connectors, and all new plumbing.”
From that humble 2-barrel 350 a/c flopper rolls the reconstituted Camaro, a hard-point road eater, part punisher, part sleeper. Imagine how much the Tuckers saved by not bothering with any cosmetic reconstruction at all, money that they (or you) could heap on the primary issues of maximizing engine, handling, and braking power. From the very beginning, hot rods were about getting off the mark before and staying ahead of the chump in the other lane. Looking good had little if anything to do with long-range plans. The Camaro is a road car and an on-track demonstrator, not some shrinking lounge lizard, so a $15,000 paint job or worry about crinkling freshly-pressed sheetmetal did not apply.
The minimal, low-buck approach grew like a vine into the interior as well. Nothing ostentatious here. Pricey Recaro Specialist S buckets fitted with low-back ‘70s–style headrests were sheathed in vinyl. The door and side panels are Year One catalog items. Chuck’s Hot Rod Interiors in Mooresville kicked and fitted the loop carpeting. Like splashes of blood on a white field, there are distinct signs of functionality as well: DSE settled RacePak IQ3 Data Logger instrumentation in a modified upper dashboard panel, the leading edge of which tucks into it. All the gauges are centralized in the DataPak and show digital read-outs. Pilots know exactly where they are on the track and just how quickly they got there.
Motive gear includes an L92 6.2L motor that performs with mostly stock internals as machined, balanced and, built by Wegner Motorsports, known Wisconsin circle track race-engine purveyor. Experience has revealed that the LS-series non-forged bottom ends can absorb tremendous abuse without consequence and its deep-skirt, 6-bolt main-cap cylinder block has a lot to do with that. Kyle was remiss in all the engine specs, but did concede a snappier camshaft (0.589/0.596 vs 0.500/0.500 stock) and we suspect some cylinder head massage as well. Output is estimated at 598hp (an increase of 195hp over stock) at 6,800 rpm and 496 lb-ft (increase of 79 lb-ft) at 5,700 rpm from 376 ci.
Ancillaries include a GMPP intake manifold nestling a Holley 750cfm carburetor fed by an Aeromotive pump. Vital, heat-transferring fluids are processed through a six-quart Champ oil pan and a Stewart water pump in league with a Be Cool aluminum core and thermostatically controlled push fans. An infinitely tunable Pantera (www.panteraefi.com) controller is the brain of the Camaro’s engine. DSE surrounded the L92 with 1 7/8-inch stainless steel primaries that terminate in 3-inch exhaust pipes, thence to an X-pipe and on to shiny Borla XR1 mufflers. These are really stripped down race-muffs, so the exhaust note of the Tucker Camaro is one raspy SOB. Matte finish DSE air cleaner and Katech rocker covers bring a sobering, no-nonsense aura to the whole.
To manage torque, DSE applied an 11-inch Centerforce flywheel and Dual-Friction, hydraulically-enabled clutch assembly and covered it with a McLeod bell housing/scatter shield. The drive train poses a Tremec TKO600 Fifth gear capable of receiving 600 lb-ft of grunt for 24 continuous hours. A custom-built Dynotech Engineering steel driveshaft puts the screws to the 9-inch axle, 3.89:1 gears, and a Truetrac differential.
Why no double-overdrive? The Camaro is formally a track test car, not one girded to gobble large portions of the Interstate highway system in a single leap. Besides, there’s enough torque on tap to pull the car along quite nicely in High gear.
DSE employed their double-adjustable mono-tube shock absorbers that sync with remote fluid canisters at front and rear. Whopper Baer 6S brakes all around are the energy-burners, 14 inches of disc clamped by six pistons to pull the mule down repeatedly without fade. They are large enough to fill all the space inside those Fikse Profil 5S modular wheels, 18x10 and 18x12. With a 6 1/8-inch front backspace and 5 5/8-inch rear, the BFG 275/35 and 335/30 KDW2 are perfectly displayed and give the car more visual teeth than a Tiger shark.
Kyle or Stacy or whoever is lucky enough to wheel this pit bull is ensconced in a DSE6-point roll cage, one hand on the Hurst gear changer, the other (or both) on the Budnik GTO steering wheel. There is no sound system, per se, only an iPod. The Tuckers know the value of artificially-cooled air for the driver’s well-being and concentration, hence a Vintage Air new SureFit Gen IV fly-by-wire HVAC system.
To recap: a subtle integration of steering, suspension, tires, gearing, and engine output are paramount for optimum handling on a measured course. The tires always carry a 300 wear/traction number, not a special, high-grip, low-wear 100. Says pilot Stacy: “Slow into the turn to avoid time-wasting slides, and then get on the throttle and power your way out.” A sensible, solid creed for this kind of driving, as well as for conducting your own life.