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Inside Lingenfelter Performance Engineering: We Tour The Hallowed Horsepower Haven In Indiana


Inside Lingenfelter Performance Engineering: We Tour The Hallowed Horsepower Haven In Indiana

(Photos by Dave Nutting and Craig Fitzgerald) – When I initially reached out to Mike Copeland at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering about making a banzai trip out to see the Decatur, Indiana headquarters of the famed company, he was all in. Mike then added some stops to our trip like the company’s newly acquired and spruced up facility in Wixom, Michigan, and Ken Lingenfelter’s incredible car collection in Brighton, Michigan. That’s when I called in the reinforcements in the form of Dave Nutting and Craig Fitzgerald. Armed with their camera gear, we headed out to knock off a gearhead trifecta of awesome the likes of which none of us had ever completed. We stuck to the initial plan and began our weekend of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering excitement where it all began, the company headquarters and nerve center in Decatur, Indiana. We spent the next couple of days with Ken Lingenfelter himself and we have to thank him for giving us so much of his time, his willingness to throw the doors open to his collection to us, and for his hard work in shepherding one of the great names in American performance through some its darkest times when company founder John Lingenfelter passed away in the hospital due to complications following a horrible crash in Pomona, California during the 2003 racing season. Ken was a fairly distant cousin of John’s and it was John’s brother and other family members that urged Ken to become involved in the business. As a lifelong car guy and hardcore enthusiast, Ken took the plunge and the company has been on the right track ever since.

lingenfelter performance engineering014One of the things that we absolutely loved about the Decatur, Indiana facility is that it is a working shop. It isn’t something akin to a NASCAR facility with cavernous spaces and luxury appointments at ever turn. This is a building that has been expanded in every possible direction over the years and it is buzzing with activity. Whether it is the gaggle of technicians working on the floor upgrading Cadillacs, Camaros, and Corvettes, the engine builder finishing up the latest bullet for a customer, the guys operating the two engine dynos, the pair of chassis dynos that are always working, the fellows in the machining area, engine tear down area, shipping department, etc, it is a tightly knit, efficiently packed hive of activity that still exudes the spirit and enthusiasm that John Lingenfelter embodied during this life as a hot rodder, racer, and businessman.

 

Over the course of our two days hanging out with Ken, we learned a lot about where the world of late model performance is going and how Lingenfelter plans to stay at the forefront of that scene. While at the facility we watched the guys in the engine dyno facility make test pulls with a new LT1 engine on the stand and the power gains were impressive. Lingenfelter has really dedicated serious time and effort into this new engine program to find out what these mills are capable of in stock form and what they can take while being modified. We’re going to talk more about that tomorrow when we show you the Wixom facility, but for now, let’s just say that LPE has as much or more dyno time developing their LT1 products and pieces than anyone else on Earth outside of General Motors themselves.

Let’s take a photo tour of the Lingenfelter Performance Engineering facility in Decatur, Indiana. Read the captions for the rest of the story!

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Because Lingenfelter Performance Engineering has been on the vanguard of GM performance for so long, you see some really neat stuff at the shop. How about these LT5 intake manifolds? Nutting almost had a heart attack just touching one. He may have cried a little.

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Here’s one of the machining areas at LPE. Along with this area, the company has a multi-axis CNC mill that works nearly non-stop on cylinder heads. LPE offers a bunch of power packages so the porting jobs range from quick cleanups to aggressive work that matches the company’s range of camshafts.

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If you are an LS fan, make sure you have a drool towel handy for these photos. To say that this is LS heaven would be selling it short.

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This is a full kill race LS motor that LPE has done for a customer. The Hogan’s intake on this bad boy was something to see. We fondled it.

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It isn’t all LS, though! Check out this 1990s era LT1 engine that has been touched by the hand of horsepower at LPE. We’re not sure what this engine is heading into but it’ll be lots faster, we do know that.

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This is but a peek at the parts department. With the amount of work that the guys in the shop turn out, there needs to be an ample supply of parts and pieces and there sure is.

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Try as we might, we couldn’t subtly slide one of these cranks out of the rack and make a clean break with it.

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Our first indication of just how busy the shop was came when we turned the corner and saw this. Check out the big Impala. The owner is having that car completely revamped and it’ll stay with LT power as opposed to going with an LS. We love us some B-Bodies!

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Seeing that badge on the fender of a Corvette is a good sign that you shouldn’t even bother.

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Like we said in the introduction, this is not some endless cavern of a shop. The building has been expanded multiple times over the year but you know how it goes. We make more room just so we can fill it up and the customer cars keep coming hot and heavy here at LPE.

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Lots of Lingenfelter cars come straight from the dealerships to the LPE shop and immediately go under the knife. That makes things nicer for the guys spinning the wrenches because pulling apart a factory fresh car sure beats pulling apart one that has been out in the dirt and grim for years!

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We’ll give you two guesses as to what that “mail slot” cut into the front fascia of this Corvette will be providing access for.

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Note that this Corvette already has a roll bar in it. The stepped up engine program will really make that bar a necessity. The variety of Corvette packages that LPE has was evident when were at the shop. One customer and his wife came by to pick up their upgraded car which had been touched up with a cam swap and cylinder head port job. That car is going to make 600hp all day long and roll on down the road like stock until the pedal gets laid down. This car….this is a far more hairy beast.

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Ken told us that he continues to be blown away by the amount of Cadillac business LPE has done and is still doing. CTS-V customers like their horsepower!

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This is a late model LT1 engine that was previously being tested with a blower on it. LPE was among the first to successfully supercharge these engines and maintain factory reliability and drivability.

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A closer look at the huffed LT1.

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Sometimes you literally have to get into your work.

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This is not a snake collection but rather a look at the dozens and dozens of sets of headers and manifolds that the LPE crew has used on the dyno over the years. There’s probably 16 miles of steel tubing here!

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These drag radials have been used and we’re sure they will see duty again now that the winter has broken. Racing is a proud and important part of the Lingenfelter history. You’ll see LPE cars at the drags, on the road course, and at autocrosses on any given weekend. The cars that LPE modifies get used and used hard.

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This is exactly what you want your engine man’s tools to look like on his bench. Ken told us that sometimes the guys sneak into this room and flip a hammer over as a joke and it instantly gets noticed. This is the inner sanctum of the engine building portion of the shop and from this room have emerged some incredible engines over the years like the 1,300hp EcoTec four banger that was in John’s Caviler and hundreds upon hundreds of customer builds.

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Picture perfect.

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The tools of the trade.

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Those cylinder heads are cleaner than the dishes we eat off of at home.

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The newest side wing of the building is the chassis dyno shop which is a modestly sized garage that contains both a Mustang and DynoJet chassis dyno, side by side. The Lingenfelter guys told us that they both have their weak and strong points and they use them as tools in different ways. This ZR1 Corvette ripped off a wailing pull while we were there and when the dual mode exhaust flipped to
“open mode” we were all laughing like maniacs!

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The owner of this car had bought it used and was looking to have it tuned and checked out. As it turns out the engine had been cam swapped, pulley swapped, and tweaked previously. It was making some big suds, like 600 at the tire.

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Once again, organization is a priority. The shop may be busy and tightly packed, but it is organized to a t.

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Off the back of the dyno room is the multi-access machining center and this rack is filled with customer cylinder heads that are getting ready to meet the spinning tools on the CNC machine.

This factory head was getting touched up right before our eyes. One finished, it would be inspected, rebuilt, and put back on the customer’s car.

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Since we were at the LPE shop a couple of weeks ago, we’re guessing all of the cars you see here are back out on the streets, terrorizing the asphalt of their local towns. A fresh crop of recruits fills these spots today.

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A HUGE thanks to Ken Lingenfelter for his time and for taking us on the tour of not only this shop but his collection and the Wixom facility. An exceptionally cool car guy that totally gets it and works every day to uphold the Lingenfelter legacy.

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There is a vast “wall of fame” in the shop honoring John’s legacy and the accomplishments of those hardworking guys in the shop.

One last look out over the working floor before we hit the road to Michigan.

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This is the face of a man who knew he was heading off to see one of the coolest car collections in America. Thursday we’ll be back with incredible photo coverage from Ken’s collection and next week we’re going to show you the company’s Wixom facility. This is just the beginning! We’ll leave you with a bunch of LPE engine builds to hold you for a few days.

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