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."
Over the years, Mark's built everything from all-wheel-drive street rods to twin-turbo 1,000hp Malibus, in addition to his rèsumè of 10 Pro Touring Camaros. Obviously, he's a man who enjoys the process of building cars as much as he does driving them. While he runs the risk of becoming jaded by continually surrounding himself in a sea of wicked g-Machines, Mark found inspiration for his next project in an LS9-powered '69 Camaro he built for his friend Charlie Lillard. "I'm not exactly getting rich from my day job, so every time I finish a car, I'm so heavily in debt that I have to sell it. Hopefully I'll have some money leftover, which I use to start a new project," Mark says. "After doing this enough times, I slowly built up enough equity to where I owned a car free and clear. At the time I built the LS9 Camaro for Charlie, I was between money so to speak. Instead of me building a car on my own and selling it, he offered to hire me to build a car for him. I was already in the process of building my next Camaro and decided to put an LS7 in it, but after driving Charlie's car I had to have more power."
Mark Stielow learned from building his first LS9-powered first-gen Camaro that keeping the
Mark found the foundation for Camaro number 11 on eBay. The quintessential California car, the body had virtually no rust at all. As is often the case, Mark's simple plans for the project changed quickly. "The Red Devil was supposed to be my economical build that I did after I had to sell Camaro X. The idea was to build your basic Pro Touring '69 Camaro with a Detroit Speed and Engineering chassis and an LS7 engine," Mark says. "I was able to piece most of it together at a reasonable cost, but after I drove Charlie Lillard's Camaro at the 2009 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational last year and saw how people reacted to it, I knew I had to get more extreme." After pulling the 307 small-block and TH350 trans, he sent Red Devil off to VanNus Paint and Body (Kalamazoo, MI) for a fresh coat of VW Salsa Red paint. In the meantime, Mark and his engine builder Brian Thompson got busy scheming up a big-inch blower combo.
The motor setup is essentially a 427ci LS7 short-block-fortified with a Callies forged crank, Oliver steel rods, and Diamond 9.0:1 pistons-topped with an LS9 supercharger and cylinder heads. At just 10 psi of boost, the motor produces 760 hp and 810 lb-ft of torque. As if that weren't impressive enough, the huffed 427 lays down 725 lb-ft at just 3,000 rpm. The potent mill is backed by a Tremec T56 six-speed trans, and a Currie 9-inch rearend. "When I roll up to cruise night, people don't give the car much attention because it idles at 600 rpm and sounds like a stock LS7. Then I open the hood, and people freak out," Mark says. "Even though this motor runs at the same boost level as a stock LS9, it's moving way more air since the short-block is so much bigger. There's definitely more left in this engine combo, but we didn't turn it all the way up because it's a road-race engine. I've beaten the crap out of it on the road course and the dragstrip, and it just takes the abuse."
To put all that power to use, Red Devil relies on a complete DSE suspension system. Up front is a DSE subframe assembly, tubular control arms, coilovers, and sway bar. In the rear, the stock leaf springs got the dump in favor of a DSE four-link setup. Stick comes courtesy of 275/35R18 front and 325/30R19 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, and massive Brembo brakes bring the Camaro down to a halt. Pushing the boundaries of Pro Touring evolution yet again, it wasn't enough to merely have six-piston calipers squeezing 14-inch rotors. Determined to figure out how to put all that braking force to use more efficiently, Mark adapted the antilock braking system off of a '06 Corvette Z06 onto his Camaro. "You have to trick the ABS system into thinking that it's still in a Corvette," Mark says. "That required plumbing in the ABS module into the brake lines, integrating wheel speed sensors on all four corners of the car, and building a custom wiring harness. The ABS works extremely well, especially on the autocross."
As impressive as the Camaro may be, you don't just earn Godfather status by simply bolting together a bunch of parts and finishing everything off with shiny paint. What has always set Mark's creations apart from the pack is how well they work on the street and at the track. "Red Devil isn't the most trendsetting car for sure, but it's by far the best car I've ever built. It has the best engine, brakes, suspension, interior, and paint of any of my prior builds," he says. "Everything just works so well together as a package in this car. It runs 10.90s at 130 mph at the dragstrip on street tires, idles at 600 rpm, does 0-87-0 in 8 seconds flat, and rides very smoothly. I haven't had a chance to practice yet, but I'm sure the car will do 0-100-0 in 10 seconds. I've finally built the car I've always dreamed of having in high school."
When swapping in an LS7 or an LS9, many hot rodders take the easy way out and convert thei
Last June, Mark debuted Red Devil at the Motor State Challenge, where it qualified First and eventually beat all challengers in the road course portion of the event. That's not too shabby at all for a combo that had never been track tested. "Of all the car stuff I've done in my life, this is one of my best achievements. To take a basically brand-new build to the track and do well with nothing more than tightening one bolt made me very happy," he says. As well as the Camaro performed its first time out, the exercise was merely a tune-up for the 2010 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. After driving Lillard's Camaro at the 2009 Optima event, Mark had his eye on winning the event in his own car. By winning the braking and autocross portions of the shootout, and finishing runner-up in the road course challenge, Red Devil was crowned top dog of the 2010 event. "After competing in last year's Optima event in Charlie's car, I knew the competition was going to be tough. My goal since then has been to win it all, and the car did everything I hoped it would do."
As always, when Mark's in-between project car builds, other Pro Touring machines will pop up left and right, trying to one-up the performance benchmarks he's set. Even if they succeed, Mark will inevitably be back to reclaim his turf with the composure and determination of the true Godfather of Pro Touring. For as great as the Red Devil may be, everyone knows that Mark will perpetuate the evolution of Pro Touring by following it up with an even more impressive machine. Until then, his latest concoction will be the gold standard of Pro Touring performance that everyone will try to catch.
Don't Mess With The Best
Some legends can never replicate the feats of greatness that cemented their legendary status in the first place. As his machines have proven time and time again, that certainly doesn't apply to Mark Stielow. While red Pro Touring '69 Camaros with blown LS-series small-blocks are a dime a dozen, none of them perform like Red Devil. That's because not many people have the engineering skills and driving talent necessary to dial in a chassis like Mark. During his day job at GM, Mark serves as the head of the company's High Performance Vehicle Operations. His duties involve working the bugs out of some of the hottest cars the General has ever rolled out, such as the V-Series Cadillacs. He assesses every component in a car, from tuning shock valving, to EFI calibrations, to the brake systems and drivelines, and makes them even better before GM releases the cars to the public. His job has taken him all over the world, and he's logged more than 400 laps on Germany's famed Nürburgring Nordschleife road course.
Considering his background, it makes perfect sense that his own personal project car stomped the competition at the 2010 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. The event pits the nicest Pro Touring machines in the country against each other on the road course, autocross, and in a brake challenge, and at the end of the day Mark's Red Devil was crowned champ. "Based on the caliber of cars that competed last year, I knew I had my work cut out for me," Mark says. "I tested the car on the track all summer long to get the engine tune and chassis setup dialed in, and the hard work paid off. The ABS system faulted out on the road course at the Optima event because it picked up interference, so I had to fix it. Other than that, I didn't have to lay a wrench on it the whole time. It was a lot of fun. I'm going to work on the ABS system some more and add more power for next year's event, and see who shows up." -Stephen Kim
Like all of Mark's past creations, performance defines Red Devil, but it doesn't come at t
Despite the notoriety he's earned over the years, Mark is still just your average hot rodd
Despite his prolific road racing accomplishments, Mark felt the need to brush up on his au
|BY THE NUMBERS
|1969 CHEVY CAMARO
|Mark Stielow, 45 • Beverly Hills, MI
||GM 427ci Gen IV small-block
||production 4.125-inch bore LS7
||stock LS7 dry-sump system with Peterson oil tank and LS9 pan
||Callies 4.000-inch forged crank, Oliver steel rods, Diamond 9.0:1 pistons
||stock LS9 castings
||Thomson Automotive custom hydraulic roller (specs classified)
||stock LS9 lifters, pushrods, rocker arms, and valvesprings
||LS9 intake manifold and supercharger boosted to 10 psi; factory LS7 throttle-body
||Rick's Hot Rod Shop gas tank, GM CTS-V internal fuel pump, Kinsler-modified 62 lb/hr LS9 fuel injectors
||stock GM coil packs, plugs, and wires
||Bosch/GM EFI computer
||Kooks 17/8-inch long-tube headers, custom 3-inch X-pipe, dual Borla mufflers
||Griffin radiator; GM water pump and cooling fan
||760 hp at 6,600 rpm and 810 lb-ft at 3,800 rpm
||Tremec T56 six-speed built by D&D Performance; stock LS9 clutch disc with Lingenfelter pressure plate and flywheel
||Currie 9-inch rearend with 3.25:1 gears, Detroit Truetrac differential
||Detroit Speed and Engineering front subframe assembly, spindles, control arms, coilovers, and sway bar
||Detroit Speed and Engineering four-link, coilovers, and sway bar
||Brembo 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers, front; Brembo 13.6-inch rotors and four-piston calipers, rear; GM '06 Corvette Z06 ABS system
|WHEELS & TIRES
||Forgeline GA3 18x10, front; 19x12, rear
||Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 275/35R18, front; 325/30R19, rear