The Pro Touring market is growing and showing no signs of going away. But is it for you?
First, a definition. To create a Pro Touring car (they can also be known as G Machines or resto-mods in certain circles), take one muscle car from the classic era and replace pretty much all of its suspension, driveline and interior components with new, modern-day pieces, and then add a high-tech paint job.
While somewhat simplified, that is the recipe for making a Pro Touring car. It’s usually done with muscle cars that are not as pedigreed, so as not to eliminate a historically significant vehicle. (After all, not every ‘Cuda came from Detroit with a Hemi!) And unlike some restorations, Pro Touring cars are built to drive, perform and please their owners. That is reinforced by the rising number of autocross-type events frequented by Pro Touring rides.
What’s interesting is the number of shops that specialize in restored muscle cars that are now also building Pro Touring rides. Do they compete against each other? Not really. They are two separate markets, much like restoring a ’32 Ford or making a hot rod out of it.
So, is Pro Touring something to include in your shop’s resume? We talked to a number of industry experts to get some up-to-date info on this genre and how it’s doing going into the new year.
The Best Parts
So, what types of parts are our experts selling these days to shops that offer Pro Touring services?
Bryan Wilson of Centerforce Clutches responds, “Our Dual Friction Systems for vehicles with torque levels up to approximately 600 foot-pounds to the flywheel work great, and over that range would be our new DYAD DS Multi-Disc System. The NEW DYAD system is capable of up to 1,300 foot-pounds at the flywheel.”
After mating that new technology in a classic ride, it’s time to feed it.
“We offer a whole slew of products for this market, as it really isn’t anything different than other street and performance segments,” notes Jesse Powell of Aeromotive Inc. “Obviously, this is one area of the market that embraces EFI, late-model engine swaps and almost any late-model performance technology. We find that any of our EFI fuel systems is ideally suited for Pro Touring and autocross-style vehicles. One of the most popular is our in-tank Stealth Fuel System.
“Many popular fuel tank companies, like Rock Valley and Rick’s Hot Rod Shop, use our built-in fuel pumps in their custom fuel tanks,” he adds. “Designed to fit in the factory locations, these tanks are made from stainless steel or aluminum and perform flawlessly in extreme driving conditions. It’s a no-brainer if you’re building a street machine to compete like these guys.”
Brian Shephard of Currie Enterprises lists, “Heavy-duty rear ends that can handle the abuse of this application. Most all of the factory rear ends in enthusiast vehicles that will be used for this application will not handle the rigors of this type of use. We specialize in building complete, heavy-duty, custom-built bolt-in rear ends for these abusive applications.”
Todd Ryden of MSD says, “Tough question, as MSD pretty much has the market covered with ignition systems. For traditional distributor-fired ignitions, the 6ALN is a great choice, since it was designed for NASCAR racing and has sealed, locking connectors on it. With the popularity of the GM LS engine, the most popular product would be our 6LS Controller. This unit allows for the use of a carburetor on the LS engines and provides the opportunity to program the ignition timing and rev limits through a PC. MSD also offers multiple spark coil packs for the LS engines as well as a gear reduction starter.”
And Luis Sanchez of Center Line Wheel Corp. adds, “Center Line has a number of two-piece billet wheels in numerous styles, sizes and offset. These wheels fit most all vehicles in the popular Pro Touring market. We are currently releasing our Classic Rodder, which has a nostalgic muscle car look.”
Finding its Place
But, before shops go all-in on this exciting market, is it likely Pro Touring has staying power?
“Pro Touring was once thought of as a fad, sort of like Pro Street was several years ago,” says Powell. “It’s hung around for a while though. It’s not just a trend anymore. Building custom and classic cars to perform as well as they look shouldn’t be trendy. Why wouldn’t you? With access to so much technology and so many aftermarket manufacturers bringing serious performance to the restoration market, it seems foolish to build a car that can’t handle itself.
“Obviously, there is still a restoration marketplace that focuses on truly maintaining the integrity of the original car, but if that is compromised or something you don’t care about, then build the best car you can,” he adds.
And they are great cars, believes Sanchez.
“This market is important due to the types of vehicles associated with it,” he explains. “Many of these vehicles have historic and sentimental value to most car enthusiasts or collectors.”
For many drivers, Pro Touring can be a step between low-budget street machines and high-priced restorations.
“I think that this market is critical for development and innovation,” Powell continues. “Not everyone can build some of these serious street machines or afford to, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to. You have to have the extremes of everything, no matter what end of the spectrum you’re talking about. It gives regular guys with a ’70 Chevelle or similar car something to aspire to; something to work towards.”
And really drive.
“It’s hot!” Shephard says of the Pro Touring market. “We’ve seen that the days of people building a $250,000 car just to have it sit in their garage and get dusty, or take it to a show with their matching shirts and matching chairs and sit behind it looking at it all day-those days are over! Anyone in our current economy who has the money to still build one of these cars now wants to use it and have fun with it.
“The added aspect of autocross to a lot of the big shows now, from our point of view, seems to have breathed some new life into some of these events,” he adds. “It gives a guy a reason to go and something to do while at the events, instead of just sitting there. So we are seeing this market as important because it’s giving guys a reason to buy parts and build a car because he can actually do something with it.”
So, if you feel like there are Pro Touring customers out there you can serve, go get ’em.
“These days, what market isn’t important?” asks Ryden. “What’s great about these cars is that they’re made to be driven and run hard. And that is exactly what MSD plans for our components. These cars combine late-model technology with classic muscle cars. They cover the aftermarket offerings from fuel systems to instrumentation, suspension, brakes, performance and even AC and comfort. Every company in our industry is covered.”
And it’s keeping some great cars on the road as well.
“This market is important to keep the American muscle car market going strong,” Wilson says. “Also, (it’s) showing how capable today’s aftermarket performance parts are. People can have power, performance and a great daily driver.”
Take the Tour
So, how can shops get involved in building Pro Touring rides?
Shephard of Currie says success comes from following the basics.
“Building cars and participating with the customers (is the key),” he says. “It’s good PR/customer relations and it gets your product out there in front of the public.”
Aeromotive’s Powell agrees.
“Build a car,” he says. “Build something to compete. You understand it when you do it. If you want more business, be a part of the business. The best part about competition is that it gives you a chance to prove yourself. If you can prove that you know what you are doing, then people start to listen. They want to learn from you what you have already learned.
“If you look at some of the more successful or recognizable shops around, they all have their niche-striving to be ‘the guy’ in a certain segment of market. They have found either what they are good at or what they are passionate about and chose to focus their efforts there. And it’s paid off. If Pro Touring is your thing, go after it. There is so much opportunity for exposure now in this market with every car show under the sun offering some sort of competition. Just look at Goodguys events. Is there one that doesn’t have an autocross? Notice that they feature the winners every time as well.”
Ryden of MSD also suggests immersing your business in the market.
“Getting involved is exactly what shops need to do,” he says. “Host a track day or a parking lot track setup. If there are events in the area, get out there and let them know that your shop is involved and that you have the parts they’re looking for in stock and on the shelf.”
Finally, Centerforce’s Wilson notes that when it comes to Pro Touring, it’s good for shops to get to know their customers and their suppliers.
“Work with the manufacturers to show what you can produce,” he says. “This allows manufacturers to point potential customers in your direction-”building both brands and creating some really cool cars.”
“Shops can get involved in this market quickly and without a large monetary commitment. I often receive calls from shops asking where to buy our product, or who their dealer is. We’re always prepared to help our dealers get involved.”
Here to Stay?
Any sort of commitment to this market would naturally bring up the question of what is Pro Touring’s long-term outlook.
“The cars continue to grow in performance as well as in cost,” Ryden explains. “However, you don’t have to have an over-the-top car to have fun with it. Hopefully, other hobbyists will see that they can install parts that will make their car drive better, handle better and be more fun to drive in general, and adapt the concepts or ideas that some of the high-level cars are trying.”
Wilson sees plenty of opportunities to come.
“The outlook, in my opinion, is great. The explosion of engine and performance options keeps getting better. There is always a challenge to make a better Pro Touring ride.”
“It’s not going away,” Powell adds. “It will evolve, no doubt, but building cars that perform as well as they look is not a fad.”
Shephard notes that the market certainly appears to have momentum.
“It seems that old companies are finding new life and popularity by introducing products for this market, as well as a lot of new companies coming onto the scene with product. Again, I think there is a good future in it based on the ‘give the guy something to do with his $200,000 car besides look at it’ standpoint.”
And much of the support is based on emotion, notes Sanchez.
“There will always be a great interest in this market due to the connection between a car and the car enthusiast-his passion for the American automobile. Reconditioning a vehicle is like resurrecting a memory of long ago, and the personal satisfaction well exceeds any cash value.”
For proof of Pro Touring’s staying power, one needs to look no farther than the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
“I saw a very strong domestic vehicle showing (at the show). That falls right in with the Pro Touring group of cars,” says Wilson.
Powell reports he saw “some awesome stuff.”
And Ryden adds, “SEMA had a lot of LS parts to say the least! This includes LS engine parts and the products needed to put (them) in traditional muscle cars. There were also a lot of handling and suspension components being offered as well as the engines.”
And don’t forget the wheels.
“I saw bigger-size 17-, 18- and 20-inch wheels-complicated styles, yet the designs were stylish and in great taste,” Sanchez notes. “This is why we offer such a vast range of styles and sizes for this market.”
Engines, suspension, wheels and handling parts? Sounds like the recipe for Pro Touring is one to get behind for 2012 and beyond.