Lamar Walden has built a career out of building engines. Lamar Walden Automotive, based in Doraville, GA, has been in business since 1968. Billed as the “Home of the World Fastest 409s,” the seven person operation is a full-service building and tuning shop for high performance Chevrolet engines with all work done in house. And throughout the company’s history, its proprietor has relied on COMP Cams
Walden, a native of the Chattanooga area, attended the GM Institute in Flint, MI, where he received an engineering degree specializing in diesel engines. He then returned to the South where he landed a job with Roadway Express and worked a 7 days on, 7 days off schedule. It was during this time that he began his career in the performance industry. He opened the first Honest Charley pilot store in Marietta, which ultimately became Lamar Walden Automotive. The business has now been operating in the same location for 43 years and specializes in Chevrolet builds. He and his team build LS, Small Block and Big Block engines for 1955 applications and up.
“We’ve built engines for drag cars to marine to mud truck racers,” Walden says. “We do a little bit of everything when it comes to Chevrolet engines.”
Walden, however, has not solely worked under the hood. An incredibly accomplished Pro Stock competitor, he was a Chevrolet-backed racer who received one of the first ’69 ZL1 Camaros to drive in the early years of the NHRA Pro Stock circuit. He also built and drove a Vega for Barry Setzer in the 1970s. In 1976 alone he won 31 Pro Stock races. It was also that year that he became one of the very first COMP Cams customers.
Walden had worked with COMP predecessor Cam Dynamics, and had just received a shipment of all new cams when a group of employees from the newly formed Competition Cams approached him at the Gator Nationals.
“They asked if I wanted to run their cams and I said, ‘Well I thought I was,’” he remembers. “They told me that they had just started a new cam company. I guess my car had the first COMP Cams sticker on it at a national event.”
A longtime fan of the 409, Walden had also campaigned a 409-powered Willys in the early 60s. A great deal of his business today is still devoted to that iconic Chevrolet engine.
“When I retired from Pro Stocks I started fooling with 409s, that was my first love,” he says.
That might be a bit of an understatement, as Walden has built his own billet 409 blocks and the world’s fastest 409 engine, along with his own aluminum ZL1 heads and intake. He also was involved with the R&D work when World Products built its all aluminum 409 block.
Walden’s list of customers reads like a who’s who in the performance industry, having worked with everyone from the legendary Alabama Gang to Baseball Hall of Famer and car enthusiast, Reggie Jackson.
“I’m the only guy in the state of Georgia to get a 2012 COPO Camaro, it’s number 44 so Reggie is all excited about that,” Walden says, a reference to the slugger’s iconic uniform number.
Yet throughout the years and the changes he has witnessed, COMP Cams has been a constant in Walden’s business. In fact, he still works often with Performance Account Manager Gordon Holloway, who was part of the group that approached him all those years ago at the Gator Nationals.
“Gordon has always been like my right arm,” Walden says. “I’m always doing weird stuff, like changing the firing order of the cylinders or working on that aluminum 409. He’s never said, ‘no, we can’t do that.’ I’ve been blessed; it’s an ideal company to work with.”