Sometimes when you get an itch, it just has to be scratched. Mike Yale works as the parts and service director for Mercedes-Benz of Houston and sees (and experiences) first-hand a lot of fine-handling European cars. After going to a Goodguys show and watching the autocross competition, Mike got the bug to do some cone dodging. An experienced NASCAR late-model racer, Mike was no stranger to turning the wheel, though his new endeavor would involve more than just turning left. For a car he knew it had to be a Camaro, but he didn't want a first-gen like everyone else. That left the swoopy fastback second-gen as his choice to build a Pro Touring machine.
Mike picked up his '70 in the spring of 2008. At first he thought he was getting a fairly decent starting point to build the car he wanted for autocrossing. After tearing it all apart, the ugly truth became apparent. The only parts of the F-body without rust were the floors, trunk, and doors. Undaunted, he enlisted the help of Mike and Jeff Cassidy for installing all new metal. Once the body was ready, Ron Spencer wheeled it into the paint booth for primer and coating with Mercedes Brilliant Silver with clearcoat.
With the body ready, it was time to pick and install the right suspension. There are a lot of options out there for Camaros of this vintage, but after Mike went for a ride with Kyle Tucker in Detroit Speed's '70, he knew then and there what he wanted to install. For the front, a complete DSE front subframe was installed. The subframe utilizes DSE's own suspension geometry design that improves camber and other aspects over the stock system. The subframe features hydroformed framerails with stamped crossmembers, tubular control arms, rack-and-pinion steering, coilovers with Afco adjustable remote-reservoir shocks, splined sway bar, and C6 Corvette steering knuckles and wheel hubs. The last part means that any C6 brake system will work with the DSE front subframe.
In the rear is DSE's QuadraLink suspension system. This design pitches the Camaro's stock leaf springs in favor of a four-link setup with Panhard bar and coilover shocks. It features adjustable upper and lower control arms for a wide array of suspension tuning options, depending on track conditions and car setup. Just like the front, the shocks for the coilovers are Afco adjustable with remote reservoirs. All of this is located around a 9-inch rear with 3.89 gears and Tru-Trac limited-slip system (assembled by Pyle Brothers Performance Differentials in Baytown, Texas).
To make sure the Camaro doesn't lose it under hard deceleration, the brakes at all four corners are Wilwood, 13-inch rotors all around, with six-piston calipers fore and four-piston calipers aft.
With the rolling chassis complete, the rest of the drivetrain needed to be selected and installed. Mike's first two engines were locally built LS3s that didn't live up to expectations. By expectations we mean actually surviving the abuse of autocrossing. When we first photographed Mike's Camaro, it had ungodly death knock coming from the bottom end. Tired of being hobbled by engine troubles, he went to Mast Motorsports for a 416-inch, LS3-based stroker with Mahle pistons, Callies forged crank, and other heavy-duty goodies. On the dyno the engine made 590 hp at 6,300 rpm. The front accessory drive is a Vintage Air Front Runner system, and keeping Mike cool during his fun is a Vintage Air climate unit. Spent hydrocarbons are expelled through Lemons 1-7/8 headers and custom-fabbed 3-inch stainless steel exhaust with Borla mufflers.
To get the car dialed in and rack up some experience, Mike would hit every open track day he could find within reasonable driving distance of his home. Once everything was set, the Camaro was entered in the Fort Worth Goodguys show and won the autocross event, earning him a spot in the 2009 Optima street car invitational. Even though Mike and his "budget" Camaro were surrounded by high-dollar machines, the '70 acquitted itself well, finishing 14th and making Mike very proud to score that high while running against all the “big dogs” in the competition.
Not one to leave things alone, Mike has continued to improve the Camaro and make it an even better machine. When we photographed the car, it had the pictured set of Rushforth Whiplash wheels installed. Since then, they've been swapped in favor of Rushforth Overkills. For extra safety and strength, a Dooley & Sons custom cage has also been installed. Then two months before the '70 showed up at our 2011 Houston Super Chevy Show, Mike scored a pair of NOS fenders that he had installed and sprayed to match.
This Camaro is a superb piece, built and then driven like it was meant to be. When the results from our 2011 AMSOIL Best of the Best national online competition came in, Mike's car was voted the top entry in our Camaro class.
Good looks combined with real performance always equals winning.