John Lingenfelter was a pioneer with an engineer's eye for meticulous detail and a grassroots engine builder's capacity for innovation. A story in the November '84 issue of Hot Rod exemplified his high-performance duality, as it focused on his recipe for building 510hp street/strip big-block engines that he suggested he could duplicate for anyone for a comparatively low price. Hot Rod called Lingenfelter's groundbreaking, ahead-of-its-time package a "mail order" engine. We call them crate engines today and they're as common as cold-air kits. Back then, you either built an engine yourself or paid a shop to build a custom engine. Lingenfelter's engineering creativity helped him in his other passion: drag racing. He was the scourge of NHRA's Comp Eliminator class in the 1970s and '80s, taking home 13 national event trophies. He was also a founding member of the short-lived Pro Stock Truck class and an early adopter of sport-compact racing, where his Cavalier ran as quick as 6.99. It was during testing with his Cavalier race car in 2002 that he was injured in a crash. He died in 2003 as a result of that accident.
While the world lost one of the best racers and tuners to ever grace a dragstrip, his legacy continued with Lingenfelter Performance Engineering (LPE), the Decatur, Indiana-based performance/tuning shop he founded. After a few years of quiet continuation, there's a renewed spirit of focus there. The catalyst was Ken Lingenfelter, a die-hard performance enthusiast and, coincidently, a distant relative of John, who purchased the company a couple of years ago. His involvement came at the right time, as the Corvette ZR1 and fifth-generation Camaro have amplified the LS-performance world and Lingenfelter wants LPE to be on the leading edge of it. First, LPE pushed Lingenfelter's own ZR1 into the 9s with little more than bolt-ons and tuning, then Ken dropped off a '10 Camaro SS with the direction for more headline-generating e.t.'s. The guys in the shop didn't let the new boss down. Taking a cue from the ZR1's super-quick performance, they stuffed an LPE-modified LS9 under the hood and ran a 10.26 with a set of slicks in otherwise complete streetcar trim. The crew quickly bested that with a shot of nitrous and a few other mods, which had it crack the elusive 10-second barrier running a 9.59 at 152. And eventually two doses of juice were required to yank the chubby Camaro down the track in 8.99 seconds at 159 mph.
As stout as the factory LS9 motor is, LPE wouldn't be running two stages of nitrous without going over the short-block thoroughly. The LPE engine department dismantled the LS9 and rebuilt it with the stock forged crankshaft and rods, but JE forged aluminum pistons. They're dished to lower the compression from the stock 9.1:1 to an 8.5:1 ratio that's friendlier to higher boost levels. A set of Total Seal rings hug the pistons. The other big change found in the block is the camshaft. The original was swapped with Lingenfelter's GT9 part, which is a hydraulic roller designed specifically for supercharged engines. The lift specs are a healthy .629-inch lift on the intake side and .656-inch on the exhaust side, with 215/247-degrees of duration (intake and exhaust, respectively). The lobe separation angle is a wide 121 degrees, which helps ensure strong torque production at higher rpm-a definite need for the heavy Camaro.