Exotic classics and muscle cars share glamour show

BRIGHTON, Mich. — There’s a mix of horsepower, glamour and creativity in the air of the Lingenfelter exhibit here, where an immaculate building houses many of the 200 vehicles in Ken Lingenfelter’s collection.

Corvettes and exotics share heated space with muscle cars and historic vehicles. Most of them are driven, at least from time to time, and many are for sale.

A few years ago Lingenfelter, who manufactures custom components at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering in Decatur, Ind., joined the experiment of putting old on new. It’s something like everything new is old, again.

The company transformed a 2010 Camaro into the LTA — a Trans Am lookalike. Under ta larger-than-life firebird decal sits a Lingenfelter-enhanced 600-horsepower 455-inch engine with six-speed transmission.

The Brighton collection includes several other 180-degree conversions. There is a champagne-gold early Corvette lookalike built on a fifth generation Corvette by Classic Reflections Coachworks. The Lakewood, Wash. specialists transferred the tight styling of a 1961Corvette to a newer model, copying the styling details and elegant paint job of the progenitor Paint around the wheelwells of the conversion replaces the chromed trim on the original ’61.

Karl Kustom Corvettes out of Ankeny, Iowa, produced three new/old Corvettes in the Lingenfelter collection mimicking the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray with split rear window and 1967 Sting Ray with full rear window. Karl Kustom conversions often include extensive use of Lingenfilter performance parts.

And, says Nathan Sheets, executive manager at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, the newer versions from Karl Kustom, while obviously bulkier than the originals, have the advantage of trunks that hold up to two golf bags.

Unwilling to leave well-enough alone, Lingenfelter takes a car like a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with supercharged V-8 and increases its output. All the exotics and several dragsters in the collection are record-holding speed demons. Some arrived that way; others have the Lingenfelter touch.

“Everything we have come to expect already is in a new or late-model car,” says Sheets, explaining the advantages of the new/old. He notes that as beautiful and remarkable as the older Corvettes are, they had harsh rides and in the case of the 1961, the angle of the steering column and large wheel made it very hard to get in and out of.

“Today we figure the headlights will turn off automatically,” he says, recalling his consternation when an old car sounded a warning when turned off, and for a moment he couldn’t figure out why.

In spite of unique and ultra-powerful cars from Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, Bugatti, Vector, Alfa Romeo and Saleen, the Corvette is said to be Ken Lingenfelter’s favorite. So everyone was relieved when five Corvettes from the collection on loan to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ken. escaped its recent floor collapse. These cars — generations C4, C5 and C6 — just happened to  have been brought back only a week before the February incident that affected eight vehicles.

“Ours had been parked in the dome area where the accident occurred,” Sheets says.

The Brighton collection has occasional public days when hundreds of enthusiasts line up to admire the cars. Its website is a catalog that fills in the details.

In late April, Sheets and staff were busy preparing vehicles and paperwork for the gigantic Mecum spring sale, when the Chicago-area auction house takes over much of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Cars at the sale from Lingenfelter will be raising the average horsepower ratings.