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In the world of Hot Rodding and Pro Touring, Mark Stielow is a man that needs no introduction. At the track he’s generally the guy in the wickedly fast ’69 Camaro that no one can seem to catch. Mark has built over 10 world-caliber ’69 Camaro’s to date, and by looking at his resume you’d assume that he owns a professional hot rodding shop somewhere cranking out innovative parts to sell to the masses. You’d be wrong. Mark Stielow has no interest in that sort of thing, as hot rodding is really just something that he does on the side. His real passion is automotive innovation and he fulfills that as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for GM. He is also a “Certified GM” driving instructor doing the tough tasks of wringing out new GM cars on famous racetracks all over the world including Nurburgring in Germany! Mark started his career with GM early on, but left to do some stints at Summit Racing and Gale Banks Engineering. He then returned to GM in 1999 and has been there ever since.
When it comes to building world class handling cars, Mark uses his expertise as a GM engineer and his utter curiosity to make things work better. Each Camaro he’s built is an improvement ont he last and the ’69 Camaro “Red Devil” that he won the 2010 Optima Invitational with is no exception. It’s an LS9 powered car with full Detroit Speed suspension and was given then name “Red Devil” after the famous “Blue Devil” Corvette ZR1 that introduced the LS9 engine. I learned that Mark’s connection to Detroit Speed is far deeper than that of a simple customer; he served as the Kyle Tucker’s best man at his wedding!
I asked Mark what the best investment might be for someone starting to build a car for handling, autocrossing, and road racing, and he really suggested to start with the basics. He stressed to leave the “big motor” far down on the list of importance and to first concentrate on making the car turn and stop better. He suggested to spend your money on wheels, tires, suspension, and brakes first, and then get good at driving the car. As an example, as a GM instructor he often starts his students out in a little Pontiac Solstice to help them learn the basics of performance. Only when they master that do they get to move up the ladder, eventually to Corvette’s.
I hope that you enjoy the interview! Mark is a legendary figure that I’ve always wanted to touch base with and I found his just as approachable as could be. For those of you that are fans of the video game Gran Turismo 5, look for Mark’s Red Devil Camaro to be featured in the game later this year! He also has a great book out called “Building the Mule,” a book that walks through the process beginning to end of how he builds a high end car.
One last thing to note. Mark once built a ’64 Chevelle called “Maltitude,” and though the Camaro lovers may cringe, as a ’64 Chevelle owner myself I can’t help but share a picture of it. Thanks for the interview, Mark!