In the May issue of PHR, we showed you how to gain inward wheel clearance for big meats on just about any car by using a custom mini-tub. But what if that’s just not enough for your rolling-stock ambitions? That’s the case we found ourselves in with Max Effort; at ride height we had no room left for wheel travel during suspension compression. Compromising on size wasn’t an option, and lower control arm clearance limited our offset, so that only left one alternative: It was time to create a little more outward clearance with some custom flares.
In spite of its Trans-Am and Grand Am inspired execution beneath the skin, we want to keep Max Effort’s aesthetics simple and true to the Cougar’s distinctive body lines. No trucklike or generic-looking flares would do, and we certainly weren’t about to simply attempt to porta-power the sheetmetal into submission. To do it right, the plan necessitated a from-scratch approach to create an entirely new wheel arch that exactly mimics the Cougar’s flares, just larger.
Max Effort’s lead fabricator Ryan Kertz of Kertz Fabrication is no stranger to crafting custom wheel arches and flares. He immediately recognized the challenge at hand; ’67-68 Cougars have a very complex double reverse body curve that creates the flare. Reproducing it per factory with correct body lines in a timely manner was going to require specialized tools and lots of experience with compound shaping. Unfortunately, Kertz’s schedule was consumed with SCCA racers waiting for his work, but lucky for us he did know just the right old-school metal shaper to call in for assistance: Norm Archer.
Archer has been sculpting sheets of metal into complete panels, and even complete cars, for over 30 years. If you hang around the high-end custom cars at Goodguys shows or the Grand National Roadster Show, or immaculately restored vintage racers at the Monterey Historics, you’ve likely seen his work. Actually, since he relocated his shop to the peace and quiet of Sonoma County Airport, quite a few vintage and antique planes are now sporting his handiwork, too. Luckily, it just so happens that one of Archer’s specialties is creating custom flares. Custom flares can make or break a car, so if you’ve ever pondered crafting some, pay attention as Archer shows the work involved in making others wish they had your wheelwells.