Is Your Stance In Denial?

To the extent that Popular Hot Rodding is the de facto leader for things Pro Touring, it's inevitable that we gravitate to muscle cars with a certain look. Part of that "look" is an aggressive stance that is fairly universal across many styles of hot rodding, not just Pro Touring. For the moment, let's forget about wheel sizes, and the fact that the Pro Touring movement has polarized hot rodders into small-wheel and large-wheel camps. For the sake of this argument, get amnesia on whether you love or hate large-diameter wheels.

If you cut out a paper silhouette of any classic muscle car, along with two circles for wheels, and ask any sharp 10-year-old boy to pose the wheels in the wheel arches until it looks just right, he will nail the stance. If you make the circles different sizes, he'll even know to put the bigger one in the rear, and he'll give it the right rake too. The problem is, when many of us "grow up" and buy a real muscle car, we ignore or entirely bypass this simple thought experiment, and charge headlong into aesthetic and handling failure.

Over the years, a boy's finely tuned artistic sensibilities erode. Tires start sticking out, rakes take on a "perma-launch" or four-by-four attitude, and to the degree it's even possible, the handling takes a hit backward from stock. But the worst part is that most guys with goofy-looking cars are in complete denial. You have to know a little about car-guy psychology to know why that is, and there are some very good reasons.

The path to a failed stance actually starts with good intentions. Here's how it happens. We want to jazz up the looks and handling of our cars, so we start looking around for rolling stock. Armed with a wad of cash, lots of desire, and almost zero patience (we're guys after all), we attack the nearest swap meet, Craigslist, or the mail-order discount speed shop. Maybe we hit the "wheel & tire" section of our favorite message board for some weak, emoticon-filled advice. With the exception of the most pedestrian of wheel sizes, there's either no real info, or just vague theory. It's the blind leading the blind. Many Interweb guys have already made the same mistake we're about to make, but that's OK because misery loves company.

Once the tires are mounted and the wheels get bolted on, it either looks bitchin, or it doesn't—and when it doesn't look bitchin, the long process of denial begins. As proud guys, we're not going to admit we screwed up, especially to spouses, who didn't want us to waste the money on wheels in the first place. According to the wife, you shouldn't have even bought the car, let alone the wheels, so getting another set is out of the question. And you're absolutely standing your ground to save face with your buddies, so you're stuck with lame-looking wheels and tires. You sigh, and makes the most of it.

The problems escalate from there. The rear tires hit the bodywork, or the fronts rub when it turns. Maybe a set of ground-hugging headers smack the driveway ramp. Whatever the case, it's time to start vandalizing the vehicle with spacers, adapters, axle blocks, tall springs, hack saws, baseball bats, shackle kits, and high-jacker shocks. Gone is that 10-year-old boy with the eager pencil who had the gleam in his eye decades ago.

One of two things happen—one either does all those jackleg hacks to make the car just drivable (there's no hope this disaster is ever going to get raced), or it's time to cut bait. If one gets wise, the wheels and tires end up on Craigslist, at the swap meet, or on the message board—where the cycle starts anew for the next guy with cash burning a hole in his pocket.

It's a shame really. So many great-looking classics are held hostage by bad wheel and tire choices, then aided and abetted by one or more first-degree suspension felonies. There's a beautiful machine in there just waiting to get out—like the drawing you made in the third grade. You might not think so, but the possibilities are closer than you think. It might be a brutally simple street car with 15-inch Torq-Thrusts and a staggered tire package, a Pro Street machine with big-n-littles, a rat rod with perfectly patina'd mags and pie crust slicks, or a pro touring muscle car with 18s and 20s. It could take many forms, but it just looks right as rain the moment you see it.

As gearheads, the right stance is already in our DNA. Unfortunately, we learn over the years to rationalize the stack-up of bad choices, and push away from grace and beauty with lies like "too expensive," "too difficult," and "too impractical." Go ahead, keep telling yourself that. Or you can just read "Get Killer Stance!" and find out what makes a mean street machine look so irresistible. It's not too late to get back in touch with your inner 10-year-old.

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