Virtually every performance car has a performance engineer, a company who modifies and enhances a car to make it prettier, more desirable, and most importantly, faster.
Slews of performance engineers have come and gone throughout the history of the automobile. But few performance engineers are as reputable and established as Lingenfelter.
Earlier this month at Regal Chevrolet in Lakeland, Florida, the local Corvette Club hosted a meet and greet with the owner of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, Ken Lingenfelter, and I had a very special opportunity to attend this meet and greet and get some one-on-one time with Ken himself.
“Lingenfelter Performance is going to be 44 years old this year,” he said, addressing the members of the club. “Things have changed over time; we’re mostly drag racers, but we do some road racing these days, as well as autocross. But we’ve been building performance cars for that whole time.”
Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, often abbreviated as LPE, specializes in Corvette performance. “The Corvette has always been incredible bang for the buck,” he said. But they take on other projects as well. In fact, they’ve already begun working on the new, sixth-generation Camaro. “We had the first supercharged sixth-gen Camaro, which we had at the Chicago Auto Show” he said. “We’re upgrading and tweaking it, but it now makes about 630hp.”
After showing a video of LPE’s past and present projects, and taking questions from the club, I sat down with Mr. Lingenfelter for a few minutes to ask him some more in-depth questions.
Boosted News: Do you have any memories of interactions with John Lingenfelter?
Ken Lingenfelter: There’s no such thing as a racing gene, but it’s amazing how many members of our family are racers. I’ve been drag racing all my life, and John’s brother Charlie is a very good, very focused drag racer. But John was a little larger-than-life. John and I were probably more friends than relatives; we’re distant cousins. But I was just in awe of John. He had 13 NHRA Grand National titles. Amazing guy, amazing engineer. He left this world with a very strong brand, and after John passed, Charlie really pushed me to step in and buy the assets of the business and take it forward.
Boosted News: You’ve done conversions where you made the fifth-gen Camaro into the Pontiac Firebird. Do you have any plans to do that with the new car?
Ken Lingenfelter: I was initially a little frustrated with General Motors when they stopped making Pontiacs, and when GM decided to close down Pontiac, I think that project was kind of my rant. So I told our guys ‘let’s take a Camaro and turn it into a Firebird.’ We had so much fun with that project. The chrome wheels, the shaker hood, the screaming chicken… we did all the stuff we thought GM would have done if they had built the car. It was never intended to be a public car, but we took it to SEMA and it just went through the roof. We had so many requests we had to do some production of them. That said, we did have a lot of fun with that project, but it wasn’t a big moneymaker for us, so we probably won’t do it with the new car.
BN: The sixth-gen Camaro also now has the new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Do you think there’s any performance potential there worth exploring?
KL: I don’t think so. We do have some things going with the V6 cars. In fact, we’re working on a package for the Cadillac ATS-V. To be honest with you, John had a 1400hp 4cyl motor when he was racing, so we know they can make a lot of power. But we’ve got our hands full already taking care of our customers with what we currently do.
At this point, I couldn’t help but start asking Mr. Lingenfelter about the astounding Lingenfelter Collection. Consisting of over 150 cars ranging from brash muscle cars to Italian thoroughbreds, LPE has amassed one of the most diverse collections of exotic and collectible cars in the world.
BN: Tell me about the Ferrari 288 GTO.
KL: That car is just perfect. I bought it for around $300,000 and it only has 4,000 miles on it. I used to drive it to shows. I mean, I just had it out there. But then the value started climbing, and the last offer I had was $3.5 million, so it doesn’t get driven much anymore. It’s just too risky. But it gets a lot of attention. They’re just amazing looking cars.
BN: You have a Vector M12, which is from the Megatech era, when Jerry Wiegert wasn’t entirely in control of its development.
KL: Yeah, it has a Lamborghini motor. That’s a pretty wild car. I’m going to drive it again pretty soon. It’s been invited to the Concourse in July, so we’ll be displaying it up there. We had it out to tunr it and drive it to make sure things are okay since it doesn’t run very often. I bought that car at the end of a Barrett-Jackson auction, on one of those late Saturday and Sunday bargain days. It crossed the block at $80,000, I saw it and I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it was very rare, and before I knew it, I owned it. It’s always gotten a ton of attention and poeople are always asking me about it, since there are so few of them around.
BN: Now I have to ask, what’s the story behind the Pontiac GTO wagon?
KL: I’m totally a wagon guy. I have the Vista Cruiser wagon, I have a Impala SS wagon custom-made out of a Caprice, and I have a `64 Chevy Nova 400 wagon. This GTO wagon has been with a couple of collectors. It is a Judge, and what I’m told, I have some paperwork on it that says it was built by two GM engineers who thought it would be a really good idea to have a Judge wagon. I bought it on Bring A Trailer. I look at it every day, and I went to a cars and coffee on a Saturday morning and someone asked me ‘Did you see what’s on Bring a Trailer?’
It seems to be pretty clear, then, that Lingenfelter Performance Engineering’s primary motive is speed. But the Lingenfelter Collection was founded with more altruistic motives in mind. “The mission for the collection, right from the get-go, has been the charity work we do,” Mr. Lingenfelter said. He acknowledges the Ronald McDonald house as one of the primary recipients of the Lingenfelter Foundation’s charitable contributions. However, the Lingenfelter Collection, which is located in Brighton, Michigan, just hosted an open house this past Saturday the 23rd. The total amount of donations is still being tabulated, but with over 4,000 people in attendance, the Lingenfelter Foundation expects to make a record contribution to the American Cancer Society.
Thanks for reading Boosted News… keep your brakes cool and your passion hot!