Not Dead Yet: Ken Lingenfelter keeps Pontiac legacy alive
by Rory McGuire //
The Pontiac Motor Division may be dead, but the new pages of the Pontiac performance story are still being written, thanks to Ken Lingenfelter and his Gen5 Camaro-based Lingenfelter TAs.
“We’ve been tuning Corvettes and Firebirds and Camaros forever with Lingenfelter Performance Engineering,” said Ken Lingenfelter, who bought the company several years after the tragic death of founder John Lingenfelter in 2003 following a drag racing accident in Pomona, Calif.
Ken Lingenfelter, a distant cousin of John, ran a very successful real estate title business in suburban Detroit and has a sizeable car collection, dominated by Corvettes, exotics and muscle cars. Now he’s carrying on the Lingenfelter performance legacy.
“When Pontiac went away, that was going to be one less car to deal with; we were pretty frustrated by it,” Lingenfelter said. “But the Camaro platform was there, so we got a bunch of guys together and just built a TA of our own.
“Regarding the design, we’re all racers, drag racers, enthusiasts. So we asked ourselves what was the best-looking Firebird,” adds Lingenfelter. “We liked that Super Duty style. But we wanted a car that looked like an OEM car, not some showcar.”
With the Lingenfelter TA series, he has essentially created a fifth-generation Firebird and the TransAm that look and feel very much like what Pontiac would have produced had they not disappeared from the automotive universe in 2009.
But there are details that go right back to the glory days of Woodward Avenue — things like the honeycomb wheels, loop carpeting and blue vinyl seats. Lingenfelter even found the original Pontiac supplier for the seats and carpeting and bought up the remaining stocks.
Given his penchant for detail, he applied the same discrimination to the exhaust note of the car, which sounds like a classic Ram Air IV in a 1970s Firebird.
The cars first debuted at the 2009 SEMA show and Lingenfelter has very slowly and deliberately developed seven prototypes before he begins to fulfill customer orders. The TA series will be available in several levels. Customers can bring in a 2010 or later Camaro and have Lingenfelter perform body modifications and a mild engine treatment. A base Formula version is also available, which is cosmetic only. Or customers can opt for a full-blown, fully massaged version with special paint and all the Lingenfelter goodies under the skin.
The latter includes a custom Racing Head Service (RHS) aluminum engine block with a 455-cubic-inch displacement. It features 4.155-inch-bore Diamond 11.5:1 compression ratio pistons and a 4.200-inch-stroke Lunati forged crankshaft. Finishing touches include a Lingenfelter Performance Engineering-brand CNC, ported and polished LS7 heads and an LSX FAST 102 intake. Output is 655 hp and 610 ft-lb of torque, which would easily trump any other Pontiac ever built.
To assist the LTA in handling that monster power, the TA also features a Lingenfelter 6-bolt LS9 twin-disk flywheel and clutch assembly and heavy-duty Driveshaft Shop halfshafts.
Available body enhancements include a dramatic new hood with a shaker scoop and blue-keyed stripe. A new split front fascia incorporates custom headlamps, grille and turn signals for authentic detailing. The car’s fender has a functional side extractor scoop and the rear quarter has a leading-edge wheel flare.
Wheels are custom-designed 20-inch honeycombs with bright-brushed aluminum details and are shorn with Nitto Tires in size 275/40ZR20 fronts and 315/35ZR20 rears.
An available custom-designed CORSA Performance stainless steel exhaust provides even more torque for the engine.
Lingenfelter says there’s more in the works, including a Smoky and the Bandit edition with black and gold treatments, including a screaming chicken hood emblem.
Lingenfelter says he has a long list of customers, including a number of NFL players, so expect to see some Lingenfelter TAs revving up some discriminating car circles very soon.