Five Questions with Lingenfelter’s Mike Copeland

In the quest to give you a insider’s view of what is going on behind the doors of the best builders and suppliers I cornered Lingenfelter Performance Engineering’s Mike Copeland to see what’s new and upcoming with LPE.
lpe1Q: Before we get to the all new LT1 and plans for the future of LPE, let’s talk about what your current packages include for the current C6…
lpe4A: “Well, we offer packages for the standard LS3 cars, then of course we offer them for the LS7, and then the LS9. Currently, these start at about 550 horsepower for the LS3.  That is a head and cam swap.  Then we do entry-level supercharged packages that also produce 550HP. We do offer a 600HP-supercharged package, a 650 supercharged package – head and cam with the supercharger. Then you move to the Z06 and we have the 7.0L 630 package. We have a 600HP to 630HP, and a 660HP package.  The main difference between the 630HP and 660HP is the camshaft.  It gets pretty gnarly as it gets 660 without a power adder.  And of course we do supercharged and turbocharged packages for those as well, and as you know the twin turbo cars can get up into the 1,200 horsepower range, but there are not many people that want them!  But, 800 to 1200 and supercharged cars up through 750HP is pretty easy, and then, of course, it is really ‘pick a number.’  Then, when you go to the ZR1, the standard package for that is a 710HP, and then we do a 750HP, and for the record we are working on a 900 and 1000 that will be out very shortly.”
Q: Let me talk to you about crate engines.  One of the things that I read on the website was that the detail that goes into the crate motors, that these are basically motors that you assemble from the LS3.  Talk about the input that you do into building those motors from scratch.   
lpe3A: “Well, every engine in a Lingenfelter build uses only the top manufacturers.  We shortcut nothing.  We use the top suppliers in the industry.  One of the differences that I think a lot of people don’t realize is that even though it is a part that is purchased from a specific manufacturer, whether it be like Callies for a crankshaft, or JE for pistons, all of those parts are custom made to Lingenfelter specifications. So buying a crate engine from Lingenfelter, even if it has the exact same list of manufacturers that somebody else might offer, it doesn’t mean it is the same parts. So, we are really driven and focused on dependable power that lasts. We put warranties on all of our car packages. We put warranties on our engines.  So, if you are going to do that, you had better be pretty confident that what you’re delivering meets the number, which we always try to under-promise and over-deliver, and then that is dependable.  If you use our ZR1 package as an example, we just finished our Corvette and I happened to be there when it was on a dyno. It was our 750HP package but it made 740HP on the tires.  So, we were really able to promise and deliver.”

lpe6Q: Let’s talk about some of these support products that LPE developed whether it is Camaro or Corvette; everything from exhaust, suspension pieces, both drag and road race.  Talk about the importance of developing packages beyond the motors.   

We have already identified 34 specific areas that we are going to target in the new C7, and we have identified the components that we want to do for it.

A: In forty years we have learned a lot, and one of the things that we know is that people who love cars and want to modify their cars will make a modification or a few modifications to the car and then after a little bit of time, the thrill of that kind of wears off.  Or their skill level goes up and they decide, ‘I need more.  I want to do a little more here; I want to do a little more there.’  People want to use their power. In particular today, one of the things we are seeing is that people want to use the cars we build. They want to run track events. They want to drag race, they want to run cross-country on events like Power Tour. They want to get out there and use these things. So, while they may do an engine first off, do a supercharger package or head and cam swap, then they come back and think, ‘Ah, you know, I’d really like to drag race this thing more,’ so that requires some differences in clutches, and differences potentially in driveline components. That leads to, ‘Now I’m going faster, how am I going to stop this thing?’ and that leads to brake systems and how they operate.  Suspension systems – now if they go into a corner and used to go into that corner at 45 miles an hour and now go into that corner at 60 miles an hour, that’s a whole new avenue.  So we design complete systems for cars, and we have customers, quite frankly, that come in and just have the entire car done, and we have others that will come in and they have an engine this year, and next winter when they are getting ready to put the car away, they’re sending it back in to upgrade the brakes and suspension. And then, the appearance you can never discount, because people like to individualize their cars.  They like to put things on them that they know look good and that fit and work, so we offer hoods, we offer body kits, we offer graphics packages.  We have all of those things available, and they are all to give people the opportunity to create a car that does exactly what they want it to do and individualize it to be what they specifically want it to be.”
Q: Let’s talk about the new LT1 and development of new products.  What does Lingenfelter have on tap for the future of performance from your perspective?
A: “You know, without going through all the details, we have already identified 34 specific areas that we are going to target in the new C7, and we have identified the components that we want to do for it.  You’ll see some of those components available virtually the day the car hits the streets, and then there will be more expensive ones. Lingenfelter has been on the forefront of development for aftermarket component parts for GM vehicles for 40 years and we plan to continue that trend. We are focused at the new engine. We want to understand all of the things in the engine and how they work and what they do. We are going to have camshafts available. We will have CNC cylinder heads available.  We’ll have supercharger packages available and we will have exterior appearance packages.  We’ll upgrade brakes.  We’ll do it all.  If you can dream it, we are going to be there to fill that need.”
Q: Lingenfelter Performance Engineering has over 40 combined years of performance experience, and all of the foresight anyone could ever have. What is the picture of performance, for not only LT1 but also the automotive industry as a whole? What do you think the future of performance is going to hold for everyone?
lpe2A: “Well, that’s a really tough thing to define. I mean, technology improves, and with every piece of technology comes the opportunity to take it ever further.  So, you know you are going to see more and more performance per liter. You’ll see more performance in larger engines. I suspect that in the not too distant future, engines will down-size again because the reality of it is, you know, 600 horsepower is a lot on the street.  So, if you can take a Corvette and do that with it and get 25 miles to the gallon and 600 horsepower, as technology improves old things like direct injection come into play.  I believe that we all will be able to improve to the point that you will be able to get 35 miles to the gallon with a 5-liter engine and do that same thing.  So, I think you will see a move in the future towards smaller sized engines. I think you will see more people focus on complete cars. They will expect a lot more than just something that goes like crazy in a straight line, and then you have to slow down to turn. I think you will see that transition.  I see people all the time and still get some, ‘How do I disable those ABS brakes, because I hate those?” I say, ‘Well, let me just give you a test – go out and make a run at those cones down there and slam on the brakes and then come back and we’ll pull the fuse out and we’ll make another run at that. Slam on the brakes and then when you run through them, you’ll understand what ABS does for you.’  The technology will just continue to improve and that’s where we’ll go.  You know, companies like Lingenfelter, I believe there will always be a place for us in the industry. Some of the other companies may struggle a little more that aren’t as able to adapt.  It is going to become a lot more difficult, but we’ll figure it out.”

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Dennis Pittsenbarger

Admitted knucklehead and automobile aficionado to the bone, Dennis shares his car obsessions and current news with a hot-rod-loving audience worldwide.
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