Taking a look back about 20 years or so, I kinda blame Mark Stielow as the one who sent us down a Pro Touring road that was once pretty easy to navigate. Now, however, it’s taken some weird turns that’s catapulted cars away from being just good handlers that could hold their own on the twisties, stop the mail easy-peasy, had decent performance, and were fun to drive pretty much anywhere. What’s it like now, you ask? While we still see “the originals,” we’ve jumped that shark and now have cars that are purpose-built and yes, I gotta admit I’m guilty of this, too. And what is driving this, you ask? Read on.
Our definition of Pro Touring is vague and varied, and if you ask 10 aftermarket suspension and brake companies for their definition, you’ll probably get 10 different responses, and they’d all be spot on. Pro Touring is actually difficult to define, but like porn, you know it when you see it.
And as for the competition, it’s not the stuff of tracks, times, and bench racing but also from the availability of specialty parts and suspensions, bigger brakes in size than the wheels I used to run on my 240Z, tires that say they’re 200 UTQG rated but sure feel like a Hoosier in drag, lightweight body panels that weigh less than air, and engines turning out high three figures in horsepower. Bigger and badder must be better, right? The answer’s “yes” if you want to be serious about launching something serious for OUSCI or the like but it’s a definite “no” for those that just want a nice street car that handles well, stops well, motors down the road well, and looks good doing all of these. My first dance with my Camaro involved tubular arms, lowering springs, stiffer bars, better brakes, wider wheels and tires, which is weird because I look at a 275/18 tire now as being teensy-tiny, and a teensy-tiny ZZ383 crate engine, and it did well. Two dance marathons later and the car’s evolved into LS7 power, Morrison goodness underneath with IRS, BFG Rival 315/335s on Forgeline 11s and 12s, Baer 14-inch brakes, and tons of Anvil carbon-fiber … and the orange pig still weighs close to two tons with me in it. In deference, the Camaro does get driven on the street and I love every minute spent behind the wheel.
And don’t get me started on “what’s best” as there is no “best.” The aftermarket suspension and brake industry has never been better and there are parts for almost every car and price point. The selection process should revolve around customer support and product availability, cars built that have their product, and if you can even get a ride in one of those cars, so much the better. Look at your wallet and then go shopping!
And don’t get me started on the Corvettes. Everyone and their mother seems to be buying a C5 or C6, modding the hell out of it, and then driving the hell out of it. I can see why, as those of us that still believe in the Pro Touring regimen are trying like hell to build something that kinda resembles what a C5 or C6 is capable of anyway, so why reinvent the wheel? Just go buy one. I did! Of the Camaros that really wanna be a Corvette, I salute Texan Mike DuSold, as he took his street-driven Godzilla dinky twin-turbo’d engine that made serious ponies first-gen Camaro and created a tube-framed, transaxle-powered, featherweight monster. If anyone can kick the Corvette juggernaut to the curb, it’ll be him. He’s also really creative with a paintbrush and allowed me use of the artwork you see on the previous page. I can’t speak for his bowling abilities, but if they’re anything like his driving and fabwork, he probably scores 300.
Anyway, back to the Markster. Take a close look at his builds over the past 20 years or so and you’ll see improvements for each as the quality of parts got better while the foundation hasn’t changed much. Every car he creates gets driven ... hard … and is still a turn-the-key, go-to-the-grocery-store car. Many of the cars that have received his special touches easily finish Power Tours, see track miles, and usually end up in the Optima booth at SEMA before competing in The Big Show: The Invitational. I look at Stielow with tons of admiration, as he wants to win and win bad. But his cars still can be driven most anywhere and anytime, unlike some of those purpose-built, somewhat fragile puffs that only see a few minutes or an hour of driving time in a month. He hasn’t lost his roots.
So this begs the question? What do you think? How far is too far? To me, Pro Touring has several levels of car builds, from the basic, simple bolt-on handling bits with small tires to those that are highly modded and fabbed, grabbing and then spitting out asphalt by the acre. It’s also important to never forget that the perfect car has yet to be built and creating what you like takes time and most important, must meet your needs. It’s up to you striving to attain your own automotive perfection to look for the right parts so form will make function just that much easier. This shouldn’t be rocket science, folks, so build. Then go learn to drive it proper.
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