Mark Stielow has been at the leading edge of the Pro Touring genre since it began. Quite likely, it was one of Mark's cars that tipped the whole thing over. Anyone who's followed the 45-year-old's progress knows that Mark is smitten by the 1969 Chevy Camaro, so it has become the car to build for road race, slalom, 0-100-0 rips, and burning up the quarter-mile. Though his cars can be driven daily, they aren't-but that has always been Stielow's mindset when planning and building. It's the whole enchilada in one trick bag, or it's nothing.
Stielow: "The Red Devil was supposed to be my economical build after I had to sell Camaro X. I had a plan and was working to it: a basic Pro Touring '69 with DSE chassis and an LS7 engine. I was able to piece most of it together at a reasonable cost. I almost had all the pieces together and then went to SEMA last year. After I drove [Charlie Lillard's] Jackass at the Optima Street Car Challenge and saw the reaction of people to that car, I knew I needed more power than an LS7. I called my engine builder Brian Thomson and asked him about an LS9. He said that he'd done a 427 LS9 for a customer and asked me if I wanted to drive it. Well, like the [street] dealers say in Detroit, the first one is free ... I was hooked. I needed a 427 LS9. I told Brian to build me one."
Mark found the car he wanted in Sacramento, California. He's the third owner. He was able to retain every bit of the stock sheetmetal but lightened the front end a bit with an aluminum cowl hood and aluminum front bumper. Reiter Metal Craft in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, did the initial metal repair, DSE mini-tubs, subframe connectors, and QUADRALink install. Joe Borschke at Stenod Performance in Troy installed the roll cage and exhaust cutouts in the floorpan. Mark couldn't have done this in the prescribed time frame without some help. He credits Ryan Kuhlenbeck for wiring the engine, chassis, and the antilock braking system. Dave Mikels tuned the package and, with Kyle Tucker's (DSE) pointers, Kevin Zelenka tuned the chassis.
Thomson Automotive is in Redford, Michigan. Thomson Automotive makes serious power with LS engines (their dual-turbo 454 LSX makes a minimum of 2,000 hp). Proprietor Brian Thomson built the Devil's whiz-bang based on the LS7 cylinder block, which is 51 ci larger than the LS9. His plan included a Callies crankshaft, Oliver aluminum connecting rods, and Diamond 9.0:1 forgings. Do you need premium parts for a mere 10 psi of positive manifold pressure from the LS9 supercharger? Certainly not, but if you turn up the wick somewhere down the road, it's always better to be laughing than crying when the smoke clears.
Thomson readied the block with ARP studs instead of torque-to-yield bolts. He installed one of his blower cams (specs proprietary) with the LS9 rollers, pushrods, and every other bit of the LS9 valvetrain. The LS9 cylinder heads carry 2.160 titanium intake and 1.590-inch sodium-filled exhaust valves. Combustion chamber volume is an as-cast 68cc. For reasons of durability, reliability, and ground clearance, Thomson retained the LS7's 8-quart dry sump oiling and consummated the deal with a Peterson Fluid Systems tank (Henderson, Colorado). The top of the engine is piled with a 1.9-liter Eaton supercharger that cranks out 10 psi maximum with a 3:1 drive ratio.
The petrol supply trail begins at the Rick's stainless fuel cell that was modified to accept a Cadillac CTS-V fuel-sending module. A GMPP crate engine controller is teamed with Kinsler high-capacity fuel injectors, and monitored by a Kinsler FMU. Cooling is a very big deal for a car that does some very big things. A Griffin custom two-row radiator core is plied with fast-moving air via an electrically driven GM fan. The transmission and differential fluid temps rise exponentially on the road course and the 0-100-0 rips, so stop trouble before it starts, Stielow went with immaculate Weldon pumps for both issues.
Though the stock LS9 ignition provides more than enough zap, the product of combustion is drawn to the outside by Kook's headers featuring 1 7/8-inch primary pipes. It flows through an X-pipe, Borla mufflers, and 3-inch stainless steel system. The dyno sheet that accompanied Mark's notes indicates 760 hp at 6,600 rpm and 810 lb-ft of animal torque at 3,900 rpm. At 2,500 rpm engine speed, torque is more than 600 lb-ft. One thousand rpm later, and you're now shoeing 800. How's that for flexibility and instant reflex?
Throttling this much grunt on macadam is neigh impossible unless the driver is absolutely diligent on launch. Stielow is used to the terror hidden beneath the metal of his of '69 Camaros, so for him it's not much more than buckling up and motoring away. The real test is being able to drive out of turns straight and true with nothing more than haze from the 335s. D&D Performance fixed Mark up with a bullet-proof T56 taking torque from a Lingenfelter billet-steel flywheel and accompanying pressure plate in conjunction with LS9 twin clutch discs. A Dynatech aluminum driveshaft links the six-speed with the Currie 9-inch (TrueTrac helical-gear differential, 3.25:1 ring-and-pinion).
Where do you put a drivetrain as formidable as this? You could reinvent the wheel, or you could go straight to one of the most popular vendors in the Pro Touring realm. DSE sent spindles, upper and lower control arms, rack steering, a 1 1/4-inch bar, and its adjustable coilover shock absorbers at the nose cone. On the smoke-and- ash end, a complete DSE backdrop-QUADRALink 4-bar suspension, coilover adjustables, subframe connectors, and a hollow 1 1/8-inch bar. It's the job of all this stuff to tax hell out of the tires, so you'll need some big ones, pally. In this story, the Red Devil wears lightweight Fikse Profil 5S forgings that are 10 inches at the front and 12.5 inches at the back. Rubber accompanying is Michelin PSII, 275/35 and 335/30, respectively. Alternatively, the Devil sometimes spins Forgeline GA3 wheels shod with BFG KDW tires and dimensions identical to the Fikse/Michelin combination. The killer icing is the ABS system adapted from the LS9 Corvette. To our knowledge, this is first "hot rod" to be blessed with such an endowment. Watch for more of these conversions. They could become the darling of Pro Touring.
Stielow spends his daylight hours as an engineer at GM. His engineer buddy, Ryan Kuhlenbeck, does too. Ryan had been working on the Chevy Volt launch and Stielow had to go to Korea three times last spring. Do these guys sleep? Stielow says, "Needless to say, we were a bit busy. I sent all the body parts to Dutch Boys Hot Rods in Vicksburg, Michigan, manned by father Joe and 19-year-old son Paul VanNus-avid hot rodders, the both of 'em." The VanNus duo massaged the parts carefully, endlessly, and then Joe blew on the Standox VW Salsa Red, stepped back, wiped his brow, and turned out the lights.
The car's man cave is Stielow-esque. It's tuxedo sharp and formally understated; all controls and levers are within arm and peripheral range, and nothing is in there that doesn't need to be. There are creature comforts; Stielow has spent way too much time sweating inside out, hence the Vintage Air HVAC system. Mark also craved audio to the max. He's got an Alpine setup but that's all we know about it. The door panels are GM repro. The steering wheel is a Sparco product. A shifter from a '06 CTS-V pulls the gears. Mark keeps tabs on the mechanicals via a bank of Auto Meter instruments sunk into a DSE dash panel. On the street and track, the ten-point cage and five-point Schroth safety harness plant Mark's gluteus maximus firmly in the high-zoot Recaro suede/leather seats. All the interior work was finished by the crew at All American Upholstery in Romulus, Michigan.
Plan One was to finish the Devil and test it before the May 1 race at Road America, but these street fighters missed the first two events. Plan Two was to get everything hooked up and tied down for the Motor State Challenge, June 19-20, at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. On Thursday the 17th, Stielow pulled the jack stands, put all four tires on the ground, and drove the Devil straight to Belle's Tire for wheel alignment. There was a coolant leak and also a throttle mismatch problem that put the motor in limp-home mode. He made it to Brian's shop where Dave Mikels diagnosed and operated successfully.
The night prior to the race it stormed. The threat of hail scattered the gathering. The Devil found himself chasing Lillard, who was driving through the deluge at 80 in Jack Ass. Mark was tied to Charlie. Much to his chagrin, he discovered that the Devil had no windshield wipers! They got to the hotel, put the cars in their boxes, and went to the bar for a couple of beers. When the storm played out, they hit the freeway to see how the car ran. They had finally amassed the 200 break-in miles for the differential. "We tore up and down the highway a few times and thought it was good. It was better than good." The next morning, Mark qualified number one and won the road course portion of the MS Challenge. "Of all the car stuff I've done in my life, this is one of my best achievements," says Mark. "To take a basically brand-new build to the track and do well without having to do anything more than tighten one bolt made me very happy."
What would Stielow do differently were he to build Red Devil (or most likely his next project) again? His little professor self says, "I would make a few of the parts a little lighter. Like the exhaust, which was built out of stainless steel I had lying around. It's 0.065-wall. I wish I would have purchased the 0.049 wall tubing to save 10 pounds." Yeah, you gotta love this guy.