When building an American muscle car, there are a number of routes one might choose to go. Whether you prefer your car in factory spec or ready to take on the drag strip, we can all agree that pro-touring builds have become far and away the most popular over the last few decades. This 1969 Chevrolet Camaro known as “Tri Tip” is responsible for launching the pro-touring movement in car culture, and now it is heading to auction.
Mark Stielow, a General Motors vehicle dynamics engineer hot-shoe and the man who invented the term “pro-touring”, built this white Camaro to compete in One Lap of America back in the early 1990’s. The event had been a playground for modern sports cars, but Stielow aimed to show the world what could be done with a modified hunk of American steel from the original muscle car era. Setting the tone for the pro-touring movement, Stielow fitted the car with an updated powertrain, chassis bracing, a modified suspension set-up with custom geometries, and a comfortable yet sporting interior.
A tragic fuel-pump failure led to a massive fire during Stielow’s first attempt at One Lap, a mishap that nearly destroyed the car. Despite this unfortunate accident, “Tri Tip” returned to One Lap the following year, going on to win the Vintage America class, as well as securing Stielow a fourth place overall finish.
The modified 1969 Chevrolet Camaro garnered a lot of attention from the automotive media and hot rod fans alike, though Stielow eventually decided to move on from the car. It has changed hands a few times since then, though the same engine installed in the mid-1990s remains under the hood today.
Back when “Tri Tip” first hit the streets, it packed a 520 hp Lingenfelter-built V8 engine mated to a ZF six-speed transmission for ease of use. Today that same naturally aspirated Lingenfelter 405 ci small-block makes 622 hp and 534 lb-ft of torque on 91-octane pump gas. The ZF unit has also been swapped for a T56 six-speed manual transmission out of the Dodge Viper.
Mark Stielow showed the world that not only could you make a muscle car fast, but you could it make it handle curves all while being a livable car. Even if pro-touring builds aren’t your favorite, it’s hard not to admire this 1969 Chevrolet Camaro as the trendsetter that it is.