I'm a son of New Jersey, born and bred in the northern province of Bergen County. It's a place where I drag raced in the '60s and knew a lot of people who were into that life -racers and the guys who helped them see the light. By the mid '70s (we called it the Disco Biscuit Era) I was in a basement room at Great Adventure II, a party house on rural route 537 filled with dragons and imps whose names you wouldn't know, except for maybe Danny Jesel.
Now here was a farsighted, levelheaded individual, one who'd smile wide and wag his head at our antics. He'd either be commanding his Competition Machine Service in Freehold (not far from Englishtown) or drinking brown water late at night in the Wild Turkey Room and venting on my Pinto wagon until its poor head gasket collapsed. But Danny was special. Unlike the rest of us wastrels, he had a plan. He'd seen the Moser four-cam, small-block Chevy conversion on a cover of Hot Rod and wanted to do something as prominent and be in history for his contribution to the race.
One warm day, on the way to the track with his brother Wayne, we rode past a beautifully sculpted property bordered by white slat fences that seemed to wind and stretch endlessly into the sun. Behind the slat fences were sleek, fluid thoroughbreds. Wayne told us the Stavola brothers, Bill and Mickey, owned the place. If you were born prior to 1990 you might remember them as the Grand National racing crew that hosted, among other notables, Bobby Allison and his win at the 1988 Daytona 500. This activity had yet to grasp the younger Stavolas: Jason and Chris.
Certainly the elders had a race shop in North Carolina. In the late '90s many of the Cup vendors relocated there to ride the hub of its commerce. One such was Detroit Speed and Engineering, having cleared out of that part of Michigan to be just as close to the action in Mooresville. DSE runs like a war machine steadily producing high-end, low-volume, handily crafted early Camaros imbued with stock, elemental sheetmetal but with the equivalent of an armed cavalry division thundering underneath.
Grown out of Pro Touring, now the DSE vision is to build street-able autocross and road course tools, and Kyle Tucker and his fantastic crew has been doing them the same way since the company was formed. He and wife, Stacy, began as chassis/suspension engineers at GM, a path they have since perfected along with an appearance that is signature.
What would be the impetus for collaboration between DSE and the Stavolas? That caveman hangover that none of us can quit-sibling rivalry. Says Tucker: "We'd built a '68 convertible for Jason's brother Chris. Jason wanted his brother to have the second-coolest Camaro in New Jersey. This car belonged to one of the Stavola crew chiefs, and he sold it to a young Jason many moons back. Both of these guys worked on their junk and learned together before bringing it to DSE."
Beginning at ground level, DSE applied its subframe assembly and Quadra-Link in the rear, subframe connectors, half-height solid body mounts, and its eight-point rollcage. The only things left from the original form are the spindles, which accept tubular upper and lower control arms surrounding in-house twin-tube shock absorbers inside specific-rate coil springs. Aft, the four-link rear assembly wraps around a 9-inch axle and is tended by a similar coilover treatment. This hefty combination reduced ride height in front by 3 inches and by 3 inches in rear.
Big brakes and gargantuan rubber always attend such DSE conversions, putting in a concerted effort with 14-inch Baer rotors and 6S six-caliper assemblies posted at each corner of the Camaro. For this build the rollers are comprised of 18-inch Schott G5 wheels, 10 and 12 inches wide, respectively, wound with BFG KDW 275/35 and 335/30 pavement stranglers.