Many enthusiasts believe Mark Stielow must be independently wealthy with a big shop and a personal valet who does nothing but write checks for the phalanx of cars that Mark has owned over the last 20 years. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is Mark works out of this three-car garage behind his house in a Detroit suburb. He doesn't really live in his house, he just visits there when it's time to sleep. Every other waking moment not spent at his full-time job as a GM engineer is spent here working on his next new automotive adventure. Yes, almost all of Mark's cars have been Camaros. Get over it. Yes, he's an excellent car builder who does most of the work himself. And no, he's not wealthy. That's why he has been forced to sell each Camaro once it's completed just to pay off the massive credit card bill. So why does he do it? Because he's one of those rare, driven individuals who aren't satisfied with last month's accomplishments. There's always a better idea lurking around in his head, and these thoughts eventually materialize into corner-blitzing, Pro Touring machines. In fact, Mark is the man who coined the term, so he knows a little about these kinds of cars. He revealed a portion of that intensity at the '10 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, where he out-drove the field to win the overall title. Let's take a tour of Mark's humble garage.
A. It's a wise man who invests in quality tools, so it's no surprise that this Snap-on box is full of tools. The green slide-out drawers and grey toolbox hold various unique AN fittings and small pieces. Mark keeps his large assortment of fasteners in the blue cabinet to the left. He has saved all the old bolts from previous projects and has them chemically stripped and plated, so he's always got a new bolt or fastener ready to go.
B. You're looking at a brand-new 6.2L (376ci) production LS9 crate engine (638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque) from GM Performance Parts. Could this engine be waiting to power the next Stielow Camaro? The current Vegas line says don't bet against it.
C. You should know the story of the Red Devil by now ("The Evolutionary Warrior," Feb. '11, pg. 64). This is Mark's latest weapons system, powered by a Thompson Automotive–built 427ci with a top-end LS9 supercharger making a conservative 800 lb-ft and 750 hp. Mark could do an entire book on this car and its evolution. The Camaro is not only ridiculously capable but also a treat to drive on the open road.
D. The Bridgeport is not something you see in everybody's garage. Mark has collected most of the tools and fixtures needed to take full advantage of the machine's capabilities. To its right is a well-used Clausing lathe he uses for bushings and almost anything else that is round. Both machines have been digitally updated to improve accuracy. Mark started out with a small Craftsman bench-top drill press that he nearly wore out from using so much.
E. Mark just finished writing a 210-page, full-color Pro Touring book outlining how he built the silver Mule Camaro several years ago. Virtually every step of the car's construction was documented with hundreds of photographs illustrating his building process. For example, Mark assembles and then pressure-tests every individual AN line before installing it on the car to ensure there will be no leaks. How detailed is the book? There's a page devoted to door-handle-seal tune-up. The book is available exclusively through Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center (SDParts.com).
F. What you can't see upstairs in the heavily reinforced attic is the water heater for the heated floor system Mark had installed when the shop was built, along with a medium-size air compressor and tons of spare parts. Both the ceiling-mounted trouble light and the retractable compressed air line keep the cords off the floor
G. His friends call this the Hero Wall, but if you've been featured in as many magazines as Mark has, why not celebrate the fact?
H. Mark likes to fabricate things, especially suspension components, so for precision work like this, he needs a surface plate. This rascal measures 5 by 10 feet and weighs 1,000 pounds. He bought it at an auction, subsequently sold it, and then missed it so much he bought it back. Sitting on top of the work surface is a complete set of Stop Tech brakes Mark wants to try on the Camaro to improve its road course performance—as if it's not already fast enough!
I. Off to the right in the "dirty" side of the shop is a water-cooled TIG welder, a bandsaw, a grinder, and a buffer. If it looks like Mark spent a week cleaning for the photo, friend Will Handzel assures us that the shop looks like this even in the middle of a thrash.
"He has a shop vac with two motors in it that's strong enough to suck up a small dog!" Co-conspirator Will Handzel on Mark's most often used tool
"If I put wheels under it and push until I see stars, I can move it..." Mark on his 1,000-pound surface plate