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Posts filed under ‘Chevrolet’

The Engine Swap Hall of Fame:
Mark Stielow’s ’69 Camaro

September 15, 2011 by Matt

Mark Stielow 1969 Camaro

I love engine swaps. My first major car project was an engine swap between two first-generation RX-7s, and it was great fun, albeit challenging. However, even the trial of simply replacing a car’s existing engine with an identical one served a purpose: It reinforced my admiration for guys who can combine disparate engines and chassis. There aren’t many more ambitious or exiting projects for us shadetree mechanics, and guys who do it right become heroes in their respective niches of the automotive community.

Mark Stielow 1969 Camaro Engine LS7 LS9

One such hero is Mark Stielow, owner/builder of the above ’69 Camaro, as reported in Car and Driver. Beneath the legendary first-generation F-body skin, Stielow has crafted a thoroughly modern car. He has either upgraded or replaced every bit of ’60s engineering, bringing it completely into the modern era—except, of course, for the styling. The spec sheet reads like a car nut’s fantasy: Supercharged combination of LS7 block and LS9 heads, Tremec 6-speed, Truetrac LSD, Brembo rotors and calipers, hydroformed subframe, rack-and-pinion steering, coilovers all around, 756 hp. Yep, 756. The acceleration figures (4.1 seconds 0-60, 11.8 1/4 mile) won’t impress many muscle car buffs who hone their cars solely for performance at the drag strip, but consider that Stielow’s Camaro can hang with the best modern sports cars on the road course as well, and it’s completely civil and tractable around town. The bandwidth here is amazing. As the automotive equivalent of a 60-year-old decathlete, it’s almost without peer.

Mark Stielow 1969 Camaro Dashboard Gauges

Granted, it is a “money no object” kind of endeavor. Stielow obviously had the resources to select the best parts to perform his time-warp makeover on the ’69. But pigeonholing him as some kind of “credit card racer” would be an insult to the attention to detail required by the necessary fabrication, and what’s more, Stielow’s ability to fine-tune the components to work together to extract both the savagery and docility. Make no mistake—it’s one thing to bolt-on all the most expensive geegaws you can find in the catalog; it’s quite another to have the skill to get them to “talk to each other” and make the whole more than the sum of the parts. From the looks of it, Stielow has resoundingly succeeded.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series showcasing awesome engine swaps and builds. Read the other installments here:

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Mark Stielow’s ’69 Camaro

Battery Drain

August 3, 2011 by Matt

2011 Chevy Volt

The latest report in a long string of stumbles out of the starting blocks, Chevy moved exactly 125 of their new Volts last month, far below expectations.

With most technological vanguards, an initially slow rate of adoption is somewhat to be expected, but given that the Volt was barely visible through the cloud of hype surrounding it for the past year and a half, the recent sales figures are stunningly low—if not entirely unsurprising.

Legions of automotive journalists have addressed the myriad of possible angles to the Volt narrative, so I won’t attempt to cover it in any sort of comprehensive sense. That said, I do want to emphasize one aspect of the story in particular: The connection between the overambitious yet half-baked nature of the car’s technology and the subsidies that underpinned its development.

The problem here, as with most government-funded endeavors, is that the absence of “skin in the game” in the form of the company’s own capital means risk assessment and market analysis is much less rigorous than it would be otherwise. When a company isn’t constrained by a sober appraisal of the position of the their product vis-a-vis market demand weighed against the capital they’re investing, they’ll almost always want to push the specifications of their product beyond what the market is prepared to accept. If it’s not your money, why not go nuts and make the most sophisticated car you can? Gotta give the taxpayers their money’s worth, right?

So, in contrast to other companies (Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc) who have been doing their due diligence, easing alternative propulsion technology into the marketplace progressively and deliberately—their own investments at stake—and achieving a fair amount of success (see: Prius, Civic and Escape Hybrids), GM, flush with capital they’re less accountable for, made the financially-dubious attempt with the Volt to pass their rivals in one fell swoop. It’s evident that a more conservative rolling-out of hybrid technology into their model line probably wouldn’t captivate the automotive press, but it might lay a foundation for more long-lasting success.

Government subsidies almost invariably produce solutions miscalibrated to market demands, whether below or above the parameters requested by would-be buyers. The Chevy Volt carries the unfortunate distinction of having its feet in both camps: Too “advanced” compared to other hybrids, which mesh better with existing infrastructure, and less car for the money than most consumers are looking for (seating capacity for only 4, range restrictions, very expensive even with “incentives,” etc). Those obvious reasons for its lack of popularity seem to escape GM, at least publicly, who prefer to harp on about “supply problems” and so forth. I don’t relish the premonition, but as with the EV1, I fully expect the Volt story to end in ignominy.

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