As of late, there is a movement in Pro Touring that has more to do with form than critical function. It is a surgical transformation that involves flaring the wheel openings; a physical change that is alternately referred to as stretched, widened, or fat, where the metal around the opening is pie-cut, expanded, and refinished to resemble the original form. Ultimately, it is icing on the cake. It doesn’t necessarily yield more space for the wheel and tire, but it certainly makes the lines of the body flow fantastic, connecting the front of the car with the rear via subtle arches that tacitly mimic the original form but absolutely delineate the stance. Old hands know that such a modification is nothing new and that it was often performed to encapsulate wide wheels and tires in the several decades prior to when narrowed axlehousings and wicked wheeltubs became the acme.
Blu Balz belongs to Karl Dunn, a Tennessean who has experienced a plethora of cars and activities, the most salient being a yen for autocrossing. But that was then. So years fly by and our protagonist realizes that the bug has not left him (will never leave him) and once again demonstrates interest—this time in the Pro Touring regimen. It’s got all the facets of the original concept but includes street rubber that is better than the race tires of the period and in diameters ranging from 18 to 20 inches instead of 15-inch standard of old.
Karl had been reading about events like the Motorstate Challenge and the Run To events on pro-touring.com and lateral-g.net. To him, the competition sounded like a great way to run his cars without risking jail. In 2010, he did his first event, the Midwest Muscle Car Challenge, in an ’07 Mustang. That was all it took to sink the hook. Last year he did RTMC, Motorstate 3, Heidts, MMCC2, Peachstate, and RTTH 7. He hadn’t had so much fun since the old MX days.
The cars that influenced him the most were our own Steve Rupp’s Bad Penny and Mark Stielow’s Camaro X. He likes Bad Penny because Steve is continually pushing the envelope on what you can do to a Camaro, and because Penny looks so badass. Accordingly, Camaro X demonstrated simplicity and integration of components, like the DSE suspension, the LS7 engine, and simply because Mark’s cars appear to have been built in a factory.
When Karl saw pictures of Cris Gonzalez’s, owner of JCG Restoration & Customs, own fat-bottom ’69 he immediately tumbled for it, his proclivity for fat fenders producing copious drool and profound longing. He told Cris he wanted a piece that was capable of running with the cars that were dominant, specifically the Camaros of Kyle Tucker, Brian Finch, and Steven Rupp. He knew he didn’t have their driving skills, but he wanted a car that was competitive with theirs. His plan with the widening was to emulate Bad Penny, but have a more expansive track and be able to run fatter tires. And when he devoured Ben Hermance’s rendering, he knew he was on the right track.
Aside from the elegant, understated construction and the one-off billet pieces from JCG, there are other key players here. Ken Whitney from Wire One did all the electrical work; Eric Thorsen at Eric Thorsen Custom Interiors sussed out the closet space; and the mighty Pozzi duo, Dave and Mary, for their considerable insight and hands-on suspension/chassis remediation.