Common wisdom says that our most significant breakthroughs in science and mathematics come from special individuals with extraordinary vision and more than a bit of luck. Darwin discovered evolution. Priestley discovered oxygen. Joule discovered the law of the conservation of energy. Fulton invented the steam boat. Or did they? History also records that Alfred Russell Wallace discovered evolution the same time as Darwin; Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered oxygen a year earlier than Priestley; Thomson, Colding, and Helmholtz figured out the conservation of energy the same year as Joule; and Jouffroy, Rumsey, Stevens, and Symmington announced their creation of the steamboat at almost the same time as Fulton.
It turns out, history is chock full of simultaneous and near-simultaneous inventions. Everything from television and telescopes, to typewriters and thermometers were conceived with synchronicity. The idea that "where it all begins" can, or should, occur in just one place is kind of, well, pathetic. Good ideas aren't exclusive to one mind-environmental and social conditions are usually causative, creating a fertile breeding ground for a ripe concept.
So it should come as no surprise that the Pro Touring "movement" was not a spark from one man's mind. Sure, there are famous early examples of the breed that frequently get tagged with the title of first Pro Touring car. We're even guilty of such labeling. But the truth is that Pro Touring came into being in the late '80s and early '90s because of two prevailing conditions: Classic muscle cars still looked better than anything that had been styled to date, and modern cars had the performance, efficiency, and convenience people craved-just not the looks. As a hard-core car guy in 1991, you'd kind of have to be stupid not to come up with Pro Touring.
The current paint on Chris Bethel's '66 Mustang fastback is Deep Forest Green Metallic fro
Chris Bethel of Hilliard, Ohio, was a rising college student in 1991 when he pulled the trigger on the purchase of a '66 Mustang fastback. That $4,000 check got him a car that actually ran, but just barely. "It was in one piece but it had a bunch of stuff that didn't work-A/C, power steering, radio. I couldn't even tune into AM talk radio," Chris says. The jones for classic muscle was inherited from his father, Dale, who was big into Ford street rods. That's key, because the street rod guys figured out long ago that having an old car with big power and modern conveniences was a lot more fun.
For a while, Chris was content to slap on a set of goofy aftermarket wheels, and go cruising with his buddies. He tried to get some Ford religion by reading a steady diet of classic Ford magazines. Chris says, "They would talk about wax crayon marks on the differential and all these old, original stickers. That might be neat I guess, but it was kind of boring." As he began college and transformed from boy to man, Chris' tastes in cars matured. The lesson of his father's '37 Ford Cabriolet with modern creature comforts was also a glaring reminder of what he was missing. "There wasn't really a Pro Touring movement back then, at least they didn't call it that," Chris says. "It was more like I missed a lot of the modern amenities like power door locks, power steering, air conditioning, and better handling suspension. I really liked all that, so I wanted all that stuff thrown in too."
Necessity is the mother of invention, and like many rodders before and since Chris, he came to the same Pro Touring conclusion completely on his own. The "aha" moment came while the fastback experienced a protracted two-year stint in the paint shop. It was being transformed from its original Emberglow color, to a new-for-'94 Mustang hue-Deep Forest Green Metallic. Working on his own, and with help from his stalwart friend, Jamy Cyrus, he began the slow reassembly of the Mustang once the shell came back from the body shop. The quality of the bodywork left something to be desired, but Chris and Cyrus made the best of it, and used the opportunity to sort the car mechanically.