Detroit Speed and Engineering (DSE)
Though they're mostly known...
Though they're mostly known for creating well-engineered suspension parts, DSE also turns out a handful of cars per year as well. Notice the Novas? Those are the latest DSE suspension design mules.
While some of the cars that roll out of Detroit Speed and Engineering's shop are exceptionally detailed high-end show cars like Dale Jr's gorgeous '72 Camaro, it's no secret that their main focus is on serious performance and building cars intended to be driven hard and enjoyed without fear. "I want our customers to be able to do the same things with their cars as we do with ours," Kyle says. What he means more specifically is that he wants DSE customers to be able to run their cars as hard as he and his wife, Stacy, run their '69 and '70 test cars. The Camaros spend most of the year on the road attending shows, autocrosses, and track events racking up an amazing amount of seat time. The '69, for example, on one particularly aggressive outing racked up 320 miles on Carolina Motorsports Park's 2.2-mile course, and was driven back to the shop afterward.
To that point, Kyle has noticed a shift in where the money is being spent on cars in his shop-particularly in the area of paint. Whereas impeccable show finishes were always on a customer's list of must-haves, lately customers have been opting to divert their money into performance parts and stick with less pricey paint. Is it a sign of the weak economy? Kyle doesn't think so; he thinks many of his customers are tired of worrying excessively over every rock chip and scratch, and skipping driving events. In fact, a customer recently brought in a Camaro project to build a clone of DSE's '70 test car, with one exception: "Don't touch the paint."
Kyle and Stacy Tucker are...
Kyle and Stacy Tucker are happy to build showstoppers with flawless paint, like this blown '69 Camaro with polished HRE wheels, but they're just as enthusiastic over creating track rats with budget spray jobs.
The recent rise in autocross events like Goodguys and open-track days are, of course, a driving force, and Kyle thinks that it's caused a permanent shift in the hobby as a whole-even in the type of tech articles appearing in magazines like PHR. "It used to be that everything revolved around engine builds and tech. Now there are suspension tech articles popping up regularly. Ten years ago you never saw that. People's interests are changing."
Along with a refocus of where the money is spent, Kyle says there is likely going to be a change in the cars out on those courses. Later model, more affordable muscle cars are generating a lot of calls at DSE because, as Kyle put it: "You can take a $4,000 or $5,000 car, sink another four or five grand into the chassis, and go have as much fun as the guys in $100,000 Camaros." So what's next on DSE's radar for suspension packages? Right about the time you read this, DSE should be releasing their new lines of Chevy II and G-body kits, and late-'70s GM X-body packages are in the pipeline. Not only do those cars cost less, but thanks to better factory suspension geometry they could be hanging with the fully equipped earlier cars for less investment. Looking a little further down the line, Kyle has plans to cross over party lines and engineer packages for classic Mustangs, and if there's enough interest, third-gen Camaro and Fox-body Mustang kits could arrive as well.
Kyle says the most common...
Kyle says the most common inquiry he has is duplicating one of their DSE test cars; both have their as-bought paint with lots of well-earned rock chips and road rash. It's all track car character.
When they're not on the road...
When they're not on the road meeting customers and driving their own cars, Kyle and Stacy are hands on in the shop and looking for ways to implement possible improvements they learn through track testing.