[caption id="attachment_2550" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Bill Howell and the GTO that made him famous. Image: Popular Hot Rodding"]
Bill Howell is the unofficial Godfather of the Pro-Touring movement. He came on the scene in 2005 after being dissatifified that he really couldn't drive his nut-and-bolt restored '69 Camaro. A friend recommended that he check out Pro-Touring.com to get an idea of what people that like to drive
muscle cars do, and it was all over from there. He jumped in head first building a full out '65 GTO convertible, and the car gained him notoriety almost instantly on Pro-Touring.com as well as in several popular magazines. At the time no one had really ever put a supercharged LS powerplant under the hood of an old car, and it may have set the trend for the now common all-out Pro-Touring cars that we see at events all across the country. Bill now races a '72 Charger SE because, well, Bill likes being the oddball and he takes nothing but pure joy in watching the confused look on others faces as he wheels around a huge and heavy Charger that can keep up with little nimble sports cars.
Not content with merely participating in events with a cool car, Bill began organizing events all across the country to help grow the hobby where fanatics could autocross, cruise, road race, and the like. As participation grew, so did the number of events, and now it's almost an informal race series all on it's own! The events occur all across the country throughout the year, and while some are sponsored by Bill and his close friends, others are put together by FM3 Marketing including the year-end culmination event, the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational.
Better yet, a strong team of sponsors now pays prize money out to competitors that race with their products throughout the year, and prizes are kept track of and tallied up at the end. Each sponsor only pays out to people that race - and place - using their products, so while you are competing with all other cars to win the event, you're only competing against people using the same products as you have for the prize money. Last year over $22,000 was awarded by sponsors that included BF Goodrich
, Detroit Speed and Engineering
, Baer Brakes
, Ride Tech
, and Vintage Air
. For 2011 Wilwood Brakes
and Schwartz Performance
have joined as well! That's right, you can get paid
to race. Who ever said you can't make money as a race car driver? Take a peek through the events and choose one (or two) near you to check out. To get practiced up, hit a Good Guys
show anywhere throughout the country and spend a few days at the Ride Tech autocross!
Thanks for the interview, Bill. It's guys like you that help a hobby become a sport. I've been to a few events this year, and the people that participate are all nearly best friends and bend over backwards to help each other. It's nice to know that you really can be a race car driver, even if it is only on the weekends.
Bill's List of 2011 Pro Touring Events:
A full listing of ALL of the 2011 Pro-Touring events is available directly at Pro-Touring.com
to download the podcast show in iTunes!
Robert Kibbe | TheMuscleCarPlace.com