It would be easy to be jealous of Ken Lingenfelter if you didn’t know the back-story. After all, here’s a guy who had the wherewithal to get into collecting about a decade ago and has since built up a stunning selection of more than 150 of the coolest cars in the world. Of course, not satisfied with just collecting them, he also purchased one of the globe’s top tuning operations, itself boasting more than 30 very successful years in the business and a very familiar name—Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, originally founded by Ken’s cousin, the veteran NHRA champion and engineer John Lingenfelter.
But since that “wherewithal” came from Ken’s years building up his own title company and plenty of hard work, and since he also opens up his collection to the public on special occasions, let’s just keep the ol’ green monster in his cage and enjoy, shall we?
(Special thanks go to the Leland Chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians, which, through the offices of Victoria Mobley, was kind enough to let me tag along to see the collection.)
Editor’s note: we heard on Twitter from Lingenfelter Race Girl (@Lingenfelter7) that the Lingenfelter Collection will be open to the public on June 1st, 2012 from 10am to 6pm. Admission is free, but they are accepting donations for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Save the date if you are able to make it!
Bugatti Veyron: Esthetically speaking, I’m not much taken with the Veyron, although it was no doubt a thrill to get to see one up close and personal like this. While the front of the car is quite sharp, it’s very ungainly when viewed from behind and the W16 engine takes things from the sublime to ridiculous. I can’t help but be reminded of those wacky hotrods that actually mount two separate V8 engines for their motivation. Still there’s something to be said for 1,001 hp, 921 lb.-ft. of torque and a top speed of 252 mph.
Lamborghini Reventón: The Reventón is the perfect cure for Ursus-itis, and just may be the most beautiful Lamborghini to ever hit the road. It also debuted as the fastest Lambo ever, with the most powerful engine and the highest price tag. The numbers: 0-60 in 3.3 seconds, a top speed of 211 mph, a 661-horse V12 and an MSRP of $1.5 million. But this is a case where the car is worth every penny, with the proven underpinnings of the Murcielago encased in a freshly designed carbon-fiber body that wouldn’t be out of place in Luke Skywalker’s garage. (That’s a Gallardo Superleggera you see in the back of some of the shots.)
Saleen S7 Twin Turbo: Now that Saleen’s founder, Steve Saleen, has regained control of the company that bears his name, I’m hoping we can look forward to more cars like the S7. The hand-built supercar found plenty of success in its racing trim, with numerous class victories in the top international road-racing series, as well as a podium finish at Le Mans in 2001. Shown here is a 2006 model that relied on a twin-turbo Ford V8—an EcoBoost preview?—to deliver 750 hp, 700 lb.-ft. of torque, a terminal velocity north of 248 mph and a 3.3-second run from 0-60.
Porsche Carrera GT: This is a truly unappreciated gem from Porsche. Yes, it offers typical supercar specs—including a 605-hp V10 and a 205-mph top speed—but what sets it apart from the rest of these rockets is a unique design that gracefully melds the iconic silhouette of the 911 with the flowing lines of a more “traditional” mid-engined exotic. The tight confines of the display area meant I couldn’t get a good pic to show this, but you still get a feel for this in some of the shots.
Shelby Series 1: Unlike most Shelby products, the 1999 Series 1 was a clean-sheet design that didn’t merely represent an upgrade over an existing vehicle. Unfortunately, like plenty of Shelby products, this one was dragged down into the morass of ugly business dealings surrounding Shelby American. Another blast from the past: The Series 1 relied on the same V8 engine used by Oldsmobile in the Aurora.
Ford GT: Although it had its share of growing pains during its short life, the Ford GT remains the only modern-day sports car from the Big Three with the gravitas necessary to be compared with the upper-echelon supercars from Ferrari, et. al. Credit goes to the car’s exterior, which updates the look of the original GT40 with a perfect blend of retro Le Mans style and 21st century aerodynamics.
Ferrari Enzo: Much as was the case with Veyron, the Enzo is an unbelievable engineering achievement that just doesn’t do much for the right side of my brain. Ferrari leveraged all of its significant Formula 1 expertise to develop the car, so it is blisteringly fast, but the same F1 influence leads to a rather ugly front end. The car look too much like what it is: A Formula 1 racer with closed bodywork. Lingenfelter’s Enzo also has a celebrity pedigree, as it was once owned by Ralph Lauren.
Chevrolet Corvettes: The second-generation is sort of the muscle car of the Corvette line, and the Lingenfelter Collection has some nice ones. No split-windows here, but I prefer the full-glass approach anyway; it makes the cars look more upscale and striking. That blue convertible in the middle is No. 1 of 1,409 to be fitted with the L78 big-block V8, with output of 425 hp and 415 lb.-ft. of torque.
Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe: Designers did a fantastic job making a “coupe” out of the Solstice. It’s almost Viper-esque from certain angles, and you’d certainly never guess the convertible came first. However, this model shared both versions’ penchant for problematic tops. The convertible’s was notably hard to deal with and looked terrible when up; on the coupe—which actually has a removable top panel—said panel couldn’t fit anywhere in the car itself.
Oldsmobile Toronado: Lingenfelter’s father worked for GM and was part of the development team on the first-gen Toronado, well-known as the car that brought front-wheel drive back to prominence in the U.S. The baroque styling at the front of the car is amazing, isn’t it? And even weighing about 2½ tons, it could get from a standing start to a mile-a-minute in 7.5 seconds.
DeLorean DMC-12: Between “Back to the Future” and that unfortunate drug-trafficking incident, it can be easy to forget that the car itself is pretty cool, especially that stainless steel body. And don’t forget, Delorean is back in business and will begin selling a DMC-12 EV next year. Seriously.
Lingenfelter 2010 LTA Concept Camaro #2: When the current Camaro came back on line, Lingenfelter Performance crafted an homage to its Pontiac partner in the form of two updated “Firebirds.” Here, one is paired with a 1971 Trans Am—with 455 cubes worth of LS5 V8 and the rare four-speed “Rock Crusher” transmission—as a comparison. (Sorry I cut off that headlight on the ’71!)
Chevy Monte Carlo SS: After Chevrolet suddenly trademarked its “SS” moniker for performance vehicles and OnStar apparently included a model by that name in some promo materials, it seems clear some sort of “Chevy SS” will debut in 2014. It’s a long shot, but perhaps we’ll see the return of something like this?
“Duntov Mule Car”: This is, literally, the first Corvette with a V8 engine. Per my Internet research (which did involve other sites than just Wikipedia!), this was an experimental car that replaced the original “Blue Flame” I6 with a 283-inch V8 and then went to Zora Arkus-Duntov—the “Father of the Corvette”—for ongoing testing.