The Godfather can't stop, and no one's man enough to stop the Godfather. It doesn't matter how much money or ego would-be challengers bring to the table, because if you go toe-to-toe with Mark Stielow, he's going to take you out. It's a truth as universal as General Relativity and the irrefutable awesomeness of the McRib sandwich. Not only is Stielow one of the most prolific and influential car builders the Pro Touring world has ever seen, he practically invented the trend. His latest creation has all the right stuff: an 877hp LS9, a six-speed stick, dry-sump lubrication, tubular suspension bits, ABS-equipped Brembos, and 325mm rear shoes to hook it all up. Crowning it the baddest Pro Touring machine on the planet would usually be an exercise in subjectivity and futility, but the absolute greatness of Stielow's '67 Camaro transforms that otherwise tenuous declaration into a paradigm of objectivity and certainty.
You don't become the Godfather of Pro Touring by accident, and Stielow's been working hard at his craft for the better part of two decades. It all started back in the early '90s when he built a '69 Camaro to compete in the One Lap of America competition. As one of the first muscle cars to showcase the performance potential of modern suspension and braking technology in classic Detroit iron, the car was a huge hit at the track and in the press. The Pro Touring movement quickly caught steam afterwards, and over the years Stielow has built 12 first-gen Camaros, setting the gold standard of Pro Touring performance. Although he made a habit out of buying, building, and selling killer first-gen Camaros, everyone thought he'd hang on to Camaro number 11, a '69 model named Red Devil. After smoking a brand-new ZL1 fifth-gen by 2.5 seconds around Gingerman Raceway, Red Devil became an instant Internet legend. If in doubt, you can see the proof on YouTube, just like the 600,000 skeptics before you. While Internet vids are fine and dandy, the car's ultimate validation was winning the 2010 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, an event that pits the nicest Pro Touring rides and late-model exotics against each other in road course, autocross, and braking competition.
Unfortunately, circumstances forced Stielow to unload the infamous red Camaro. "I didn't want to sell Red Devil, but I didn't like owing money on it, either. I loved that car, but there's a lot of capital invested when you build a car to that level, and selling it was the adult thing to do," he laments. As painful as the experience may have been, he was already scheming up ways to build an even better successor immediately after the transaction. Considering that Red Devil was the best car he had ever conceived, he knew that topping it would be a major undertaking. To soften the financial hit, he teamed up with his friend Charley Lillard to put together a new thoroughbred. "I wanted to change things up a bit, and build a car that's similar but with more power and less weight. The '67 Camaros are lighter from the factory, so that seemed like a good starting point. I found a solid car in California, then had it delivered to Sled Alley to have them start on the sheetmetal repair."
To carry out his devious plan, Stielow incorporated the proven elements that made Red Devil such a beast of an F-body into his new '67 Camaro project. As such, the Detroit Speed Inc. front clip and rear four-link suspension, D&D Performance Tremec TR6060 trans, six-piston Brembo clamps, and factory Corvette Z06 ABS system were replicated in the new ride. The '67 got a new and improved version of Red Devil's 427ci Gen IV small-block as well. As a GM engineer, Stielow's day job involves perfecting the driving dynamics of the General's most wicked performance machines, so it's only natural that he spec'd out an engine combo that mixes up the best factory components in the LS parts bin. It's based on an LS7 block fitted with a forged rotating assembly that relies on an LS9 supercharger, intake manifold, intercooler, and cylinder heads for its air supply. At just 10 psi of boost on pump gas, the huffed 427 kicks out a staggering 877 hp. "Compared to the motor that was in Red Devil, we CNC-ported the heads, modified the blower inlet, and changed the cam timing," Stielow explains. "These changes added 117 horsepower. Thomson Automotive did a great job designing and building the motor. My buddy Dave Mikels nailed the engine calibration and cam specs, and Ryan Kuhlenbeck wired everything up."
Although blistering track performance is always the top priority for Stielow, he doesn't dig the gutted race car vibe. Consequently, he took a methodical yet tasteful approach to weight reduction. "The car has a full interior, Vintage Air A/C, and a stereo, but it's still 150 pounds lighter than my last Camaro. A bunch of little things-like a custom carbon-fiber hood, rear seat delete, roll-up windows, and minimal sound dampening material-all account for the weight loss," he explains. With the major mechanical work complete, Stielow had Paul and Joe VanNus from Dutchboys apply the silver and orange paint scheme whipped up by designer Murray Pfaff. Finishing up the build required a true team effort. "I couldn't have built this car without the help of Sled Alley. The project took 22 months, and I was at their shop most nights working on the car to get it done in time for the Optima event."
Despite the frantic rush, Stielow had a couple of opportunities to track test the Camaro before loading it up for the 2012 OUSCI. When the competition began, the car only had 300 miles on it and was not fully dialed in yet. When the smoke cleared, however, Stielow's battle sled emerged victorious once again. "I figure this new car is a solid three seconds per lap faster around a road course than Red Devil," he reasons. "If you overlay the braking and cornering speeds on a graph with a VBOX, the '67 Camaro is significantly faster overall. Compared to my last Camaro, this new one just feels much more athletic, like a high-strung race horse."
Just when you think Stielow's reached the pinnacle of Pro Touring performance, his creations keep getting faster and faster. It's a glorious cycle that's been going on for over two decades-and surprise, surprise-he's got another '69 Camaro in the queue. Stielow can't stop trying to one-up himself, and he's mum on how he plans to up the ante the next time around. Nevertheless, based on his track record, there's a good chance that if you mess with the Godfather, he's going to take you out.
"Anyone can go out and buy a new Corvette or Viper. It takes much more effort and skill to build a fast muscle car."
Owner: Mark Stielow - Beverly Hills, MI
Vehicle: 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
Type: GM Gen IV small-block
Displacement: 427 ci
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Bore: 4.125 Inches
Stroke: 4.000 Inches
Cylinder Heads: CNC-ported GM LS9 aluminum castings
Rotating Assembly: Callies 4.000-inch forged steel crank, Callies rods, Diamond 9.0:1 pistons
Valvetrain: Stock LS9 lifters, pushrods, rocker arms, and valvesprings
Camshaft: Thomson Automotive custom hydraulic roller (specs classified)
Induction: Stock LS9 intake manifold, intercooler, and supercharger assembly boosted to 10 psi; factory LS7 throttle-body
Fuel System: Rick's Dual Camaro ZL1 in-tank pumps, controlled by a Vapor Worx Controller, modified LS9 62-lb/hr injectors
Ignition: Stock GM coil packs, plug wires, and spark plugs
Exhaust: Detroit Speed 1.875-inch long-tube headers, custom 3-inch X-pipe, dual Borla mufflers
Output: 877 hp at 6,800 rpm
Transmission: Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual, factory LS9 clutch with Lingenfelter adaptor flywheel
Rear Axle: Currie 9-inch rearend with 3.25:1 gears and Detroit Truetrac limited-slip differential
Steering: Detroit Speed Inc. rack-and-pinion
Front Suspension: DSE subframe assembly, control arms, spindles, coilovers, and sway bar
Rear Suspension: DSE four-link, coilovers, and sway bar
Brakes: Brembo 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; Brembo GTR 13.6-inch rotors and four-piston calipers, rear; GM 2006 Corvette Z06 ABS system
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Formula 43 Rad S6 18x10, front, and 19x12, rear
Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 275/35R18, front; 325/30R19, rear
Carpet: Black OE replacement
Shifter: Tremec TR6069
Paint: BASF Glasurit Silver by Dutchboys (Kalamazoo, MI)
Hood: Custom Stielow design