Detroit Speed didn’t invent Pro Touring, but its handlers certainly forced its evolution. As formally trained engineers with career OEM-level design experience, Kyle and Stacy Tucker brought to bear a level of quality on the industry.
But that’s only part of what makes DSE exceptional. Rather than ask us to take their word for it, the Tuckers prove the merit of their parts by building cars around them. And rather than crow about their performance, they let their lap times do it for them as they did most recently by sweeping the three top places at Goodguys’ Indy autocross. And DSE doesn’t just build for its own purposes, either; unlike most top-shelf parts manufacturers we know, they will build a car for anybody. Paul Alderman has two, the lucky dog.
It’s sort of in Paul’s nature to have more than one of anything: He’s a retired dealer—a Chevrolet dealer at that. But there’s an almost logical reason Paul has two seemingly identical cars: They’re not as identical as you’d think.
“I once owned a ’69 Z/28 Camaro that I had much fun driving,” Paul begins. “When I sold my Chevrolet dealership I decided to build an updated version of that Camaro.” The three-owner car he found turned out to be far more local than he ever imagined; it originally belonged to a dealer in nearby Wenatchee (Washington). “It was originally (his) wife’s demo,” he says, smirking at the odds of it all.
Naturally Paul had high goals for the car’s transformation in DSE’s hands, but they did something unexpected. It turned out too nice. “I could hardly bring myself to drive it,” he says, duly noting the cruel irony. So he did the next logical thing one can do. He built another.
That one bears the mark of Paul’s newfound experience, his honesty to himself. “I built this car to drive on the street, the autocross, and the road course,” he explains. “Because after building the red ’69 and not being able to force myself to drive it, I decided I must build one for competition and hard driving.”
The differences run far deeper than the shinier bits on the ’69 and the bedliner undercoating on the ’70. One has leaf springs but the other a four-link. And in lieu of tubular components hung on a factory subframe the other car has a subframe and suspension entirely of DSE’s own design. And true to his word, Paul puts the car to the test, like he did at the 2010 Optima Battery Street Car Invitational, the autocross event in Pahrump, Nevada, that coincides with the SEMA show in nearby Las Vegas.
And to substantiate our earlier claim, both cars are about as different as they can be. They’re fast by the iron fist metaphor, only one dispenses with the velvet glove formality. Both are engineered to win, albeit one more by show car standards and the other autocross. Still, there’s one way they’re exactly alike: They both tickle the hell out of Paul Alderman.
A career Chevrolet dealer, Paul got the inside track on a very special engine: one of the aluminum ZL1s reissued by Chevrolet. Paul’s is number 35 of the 200 Ram Jets. Knowing the engine would have to fill big shoes GM stroked the crank to 4 inches to achieve 454 cubes. It swings a set of forged 4.25-inch pistons by way of shot-peened I-beam connecting rods. The displacement, when combined with the 110cc chambers in the oval-port heads, yields a 10.2:1 compression ratio. That’s two points less than the original ZL1 figure, but when combined with a mechanical-roller-tappet camshaft that pops valves open 0.640 and 0.598 inch and keeps ’em there for 236 and 232 degrees (at 0.050 inch) it’s worth 493 lb-ft torque at 4,250 rpm and 510 hp at 5,750—on today’s pump gasoline no less. Call that impossible with the original. Another piece to the pump-gas puzzle is the Ram Jet injection system that administers just the right amount of cool, atomized fuel just when each cylinder needs it. To maintain the engine’s cool, DSE recruited a pair of 11-inch SPAL electric fans on a Be Cool alloy radiator. Driving it is the 140-amp alternator on the Vintage Air front runner accessory drive system. DSE fabricated the housing for the K&N filter element. It also made the 2-inch primary headers. Those feed 3-inch diameter stainless pipes configured with an X and damped with a pair of Borla XR1 mufflers. Between those pipes is a Tremec T56 six-speed transmission with special overdrive ratios. It couples to the engine via a Centerforce clutch.
The ’69 Paul found led a relatively pampered life, including a few years as a dealer’s wife’s car. He removed the few unnecessary articles before shipping it to Detroit Speed. With painstaking attention to preserve the body’s integrity, DSE widened the rear wheeltubs to fit the wider rear hides. It also flattened the firewall for a cleaner appearance and fabricated numerous engine compartment elements, like the flared-hole radiator support and air filter housing. The tall intake manifold required a cowl-induction hood that DSE artfully modified by filling the inner structure with flat sheet and opening it to match the plenum’s shape. A set of billet DSE hinges replaces the stamped-steel ones, and braided lines routed over the passenger fenderwell transfer coolant and refrigerant to the Vintage Air climate-control system. Even the car’s underside received the same level of detail. For example, DSE rerouted the parking brake cables above the floor and filleted the tubing where it passed through the metal. Externally the car remains faithful to the original; the only differences being High Intensity Discharge headlights, show car panel fit and finish, and DuPont Hot Hues–blended red urethane paint.
The Budnik Famosa wheels Paul called on somewhat reflect traditional five-spoke designs, albeit in billet form. The front wheels measure 17x8, and due to their 4.875-inch backspace, the Michelin Pilot Sport 245/40YR17s tuck magically. The rear wheels measure 17x12 with a 5.5-inch backspace and wear 335/35YR17s. Those wheels sandwich a set of Baer Track 4 series 13-inch cross-drilled and slotted rotors. A 9-inch booster behind a Raybestos dual-circuit master cylinder puts the pressure on four-piston Baer calipers.
Just because Detroit Speed retained the stock front crossmember doesn’t mean it didn’t modify the suspension. It updated the front with its tubular control arms, spindles, antiroll bar, and prepped Koni aluminum-bodied coilover dampers. A modified Saginaw 600-series fast-ratio steering box replaced the original. Detroit Speed retained the rear leaf springs, albeit with flatter plates for a lower stance and DSE-prepped Koni dampers. Bolted to those springs is a 9-inch Ford housing with a 3.77:1 gear bolted to an Eaton Truetrac limited-slip carrier. It spins 31-spline axles.
For the most part the cockpit in Paul’s Camaro resembles a stock one, the most obvious deviation being the seats. They’re Recaro Specialist S seats in black leather but with restoration-grade houndstooth inserts and without headrests. The rear seat was reshaped to accommodate the wider wheeltubs and match the front seats. A DSE insert with a broader range of Auto Meter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite gauges replaces the somewhat limited factory instruments. Paul sees them through the spokes of a 14-inch Grant rosewood steering wheel perched atop a GM-style ididit tilt column. Though smaller, the Vintage Air climate-control system is more efficient than the factory system in part since it’s not exposed to the engine compartment, a feature exploited by the flattened firewall. Occupants have the benefit of digital audio thanks to a Pioneer DEHP580MP head unit and Kenwood KFCX690 6x9 speakers in the package tray. An American Autowire harness ties together the electrical components.