To the handful of CP readers who enter and compete in Pro Touring events (Goodguys autocrosses and local stuff included), how many of you think you're going to podium in a top three spot? Top 10? A backmarker, perhaps? Show up for the beer and don't care if it's Schlitz? If it's the former, you'd better bring a big-caliber bullet to this gunfight as what was good stuff for yesteryear won't get it done today. True dat, and I know firsthand.
Those yesteryear cars, you ask? Those were easy-peasy cars to build compared to what "super secret" stuff is being produced in black-op garages today. It was simple back then-take a pre-'81 Camaro, yank out the tired SBC and grin like a Cheshire cat when the carbed ZZ383 got plopped in, a five-speed gets swapped for the 350 auto, lowering springs front and rear, bigger wheels and tires, add big brakes, dust it off, put a pretty paintjob on it, and you had yourself a certified, "magazine quality," Pro Touring ride that when properly driven could run with the big boys. I know this 'cause I did it.
In the past five years all has changed ... a lot! There are more manufacturers of subframes and tubular arms (some good, some not so good) out there than ever before. The advent of the LS engine has taken that ZZ iron block/aluminum-head engine and rendered it obsolete. Those 17s that graced each corner? Old school, my reader friends, as it's 18s or larger to get all that power hooked up and moving forward. As for the whoa part, 14-inch rotors and six-pot calipers can't be beat. And if you've got the bucks, ceramic is for brakes as plastics was to The Graduate. And waiting patiently knowing it will come are tires that are super-sticky and tackified to the max but still stamped that requisite 200 treadwear rating. Yes, folks, tire competition is almost as fierce as what we see on the tracks today. Just hope mere mortals like ourselves can get our hands on 'em.
But wait ... there's more! Cars that were the "It" car five years ago are just passe today. Take a look at the build threads on your favorite forum and you'll see what I'm talkin' about as more than a few of these creations resemble purpose-built "silhouette body" winged-wonder race cars (and yes, they do peg the "cool meter"). Those aftermarket subframes and tubular arms allow more camber and caster than GM ever envisioned on any F-body, multi-adjustable shocks that you'd need a Ph.D. in engineering fluid dynamics to understand much less adjust, weight distribution in the working "office" (that rectangular area inside the four wheels) where everything that can be moved is strapped down tightly on the right side and as low as possible, seats are swapped and/or removed, full rollcages replace that standard four-post hoop, and the requisite fire extinguisher gets paired with a full on-board fire suppression system, and guess what? They usually live up to every dollar spent in their name. Wanna win? Duh, stupid question. Break out that secret stash of cash your spouse doesn't know about and get it spent.
And the drivetrains have changed as well. Engine builders have seen to that and gotta say that once you go LS you never go back, as the weight savings alone is a huge advantage. Add a dry sump, more strokes and cubes, fuel injection, and if you dare, a mini-shot of nitrous for race track straightaway added enhancement. Trans builders have also kept up their part and make some really stout stuff. But if you want to sound the part, too, go Jerico or any box with straight-cut gears as that whine and crunch when those gears mesh just can't be beat for the leghumper "You're My Hero" crowd. Keeping everybody happy and all rubber feet blissfully rolling forward cannot be done by anything other than a Ford 9-inch with Tru-Trac, Select-Trac, Gold-Trac, or anything else followed by Trac. I know this 'cause I'm doing it now.
Other changes have been handled by the event organizers themselves and what is glaringly obvious, yet really cool, is the "Speed-Stop" braking part. The concept is simple ... standing start, haul butt in a straight line, stop in a box. Doesn't get much simpler than that but very old school and way boring as he/she with the biggest bullet and biggest, baddest brakes got it done the quickest. Now it's different as the only similarity is the standing start and box at the end. In the middle, there's a turn followed by another turn and then a multi-cone slalom before that dreaded stop box. If you hate autocrossing, consider yourself sunk faster than the Titanic. The spectators and us that can handle a pylon or two love it, however.
Is this fair? Is it right? What about that guy who has a really nice "yesteryear" Pro Touring ride and can he ever get it done competing with those with mega-dollar "race car" builds? And for those that feel "I love to see 'em but don't want to compete against them," is that fair as these mega-builders have spent lots of time and cash getting their rides to performance perfection? The whole new wave of Pro Touring is controversial and up for discussion, so let us know your thoughts via email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). We'll print the most entertaining missives and offer some witty words in reply.