Mark Stielow isn't a rich, scary Italian. He doesn't even despise the Olive Garden or Domino's Pizza. His non-Italianesque and law-abiding proclivities notwithstanding, Mark is the Godfather-the Godfather of the Pro Touring creed, to be exact. While he didn't single-handedly invent the concept of transforming lumbering muscle cars into corner-clenching machines, Mark's profound influence on the trend transcends that of any other hot rodder before him. He's built 11 first-gen Camaros to date, and each iteration has continually pushed the envelope of innovation, creativity, functionality, and on-track acumen. Mark says his latest creation-a 760-horse, LS9-powered, ABS-equipped '69 Camaro named Red Devil-is his most formidable and capable piece of work to date. While that's a mighty tall order to fill, considering that Red Devil runs 10.90s at the dragstrip, smokes Porsches and Ferraris on the road course, and can pull off the 0-100-0 feat in 10 seconds, Mark has unequivocally upped the Pro Touring ante yet again, and all other challengers are struggling to keep up.
Like most great ideas, Pro Touring was the brainchild of multiple innovative thinkers. Perhaps the first and most legendary documented Pro Touring machine is Big Red, the open road race '69 Camaro built by Dan and R.J. Gottlieb. The year was 1989, when the Gottliebs' 540 big-block-powered beast averaged 197.99 mph over 94 miles of asphalt at the Silver State Classic in Nevada, reaching speeds as high as 222 mph. Needless to say, the Euro exotics stood no chance and the precedent of classic Detroit iron beating up on high-dollar sports cars had been firmly established. Right around the same time, on the other side of the country, Mark was a young up-and-coming GM engineer assigned to support a 24-hour endurance race at Watkins Glen. The weekend he was there just happened to coincide with when the One Lap of America race rolled through the renowned Upstate New York road course. The concept of driving a street car to compete at tracks all over the country struck a chord with Mark, as it required both streetability and genuine track aptitude, and he decided to build a car for the event.
Unlike the other One Lap racers who opted for more practical late-model Corvettes and Porsches as their weapons of choice for slicing apexes, Mark was determined to show the rich guys up in a muscle car. Earlier in the year, Mark picked up a '69 Camaro he found in the local newspaper while working at GM's Desert Proving Ground in Arizona. He had to fix the 427 big-block's valvetrain in the hotel parking lot to get the car up and running, but now that it was back home in Michigan he had the perfect testbed to build the ultimate road race muscle car. "I was only 26 years old at the time, and I had no intention of starting a new trend. As a hot rodder building a car with an arc welder and hacksaw in my garage, I just made improvements to the car that I felt were necessary to run on a road course," he recalls. "The Camaro needed a better suspension and brakes, so I upgraded the suspension and brakes. The car also needed an overdrive trans and EFI for streetability, so I put an overdrive and EFI on it. That's all there was to it, but when I took it out to the One Lap event the next year, people just went crazy over the car, and it got a lot of magazine exposure."