Everybody wants to be different. As car crafters, the plan to be different always seems to be the same. Not long ago, the musclecar objective was simple and clear-go as quickly as possible in a straight line. Little else was important. Even stopping that hurtling projectile was given little more than passing interest.
Lately, the performance world has become more complex. Today there are alternatives to the straight and narrow crowd. Some openly embrace the idea of aggressively turning corners and pulling g's. They espouse the virtues of a Pro Touring car that can excel in many different performance arenas instead of only going fast in a straight line. Brakes, wheels and tires, springs, shocks, suspension pickup points and sway bars all take on even more critical importance.
Both of these two styles of cars have their ardent supporters and equally enthusiastic (and often caustic) detractors. We considered pitting a Pro Street enthusiast against a Pro Touring convert to create this story, then realized that we could get an interesting perspective from one car crafter who has built and owns both.
Roger Conley is virtually a lifelong member of the serious car guy club. His father, Roger Sr., has attained veteran status with a garage full of drag race and street machines and works for NHRA Funny Car driver/owner John Force. The younger Conley fell right in step with his dad's passion for cars and, once he could afford it, began the first of several upgrades that became his orange '68 Pro Street Camaro.
Roger's Camaro started out, like most Pro Street efforts, as a back-half car. But along the way, the F-car transformed into a full round-tube Nates Race Cars effort with a Jeffco planetary trans and a full-court-press four-link rear and 9-inch. All of this is more than just window dressing, because the engine is a Mike Moran-freshened 540ci Rat that hangs a pair of Precision Turbos that have already made 1,000 hp at 9.6 psi of boost on 91-octane pump gas. You gotta love turbochargers.
Roger's Camaro is a good trend indicator for Pro Street since it is certainly radical, yet still very streetable. Roger's construction plan was not that much different from most all Pro Street efforts-build a radical car that you can still drive on the street. He takes it a step further with the turbos, but with an extremely tame 8.5:1 compression and roller camshaft selection, the engine can happily run on 91-octane all day long.
For most street machines, regardless of the style of car, it's possible to condense these machines down to two basic categories. These cars are either lookers-the posers-or runners that generally are not as pretty. There are exceptions to every rule, and Roger's Pro Street Camaro is a shot at both. The car is certainly visually impressive and it does run. Roger's goal is a car that he could drive 500 miles, run a high 8-second pass, and then drive it home. That's his version of Pro Street and also a lofty goal that can certainly be accomplished. Even a 9-second car that is streetable is impressive. That would be the mark of a successful Pro Street car.
If there is a movement afoot with Pro Street, it would have to be with cars that are still very quick, but that can easily be driven long distances without turning the passengers into a zombied pool of primordial jelly at the end of a two-state trek. More sophisticated chassis designs with adjustable shock valving for better ride quality is an area that would greatly benefit Pro Street cars without sacrificing performance.
The Pro Touring movement has been building for several years now. In fact, these cars have their own Web site at www.pro-touring.com that celebrates the concept. As with Pro Street, there are as many interpretations of the concept as there needle bearings in a Muncie four-speed cluster gear. The basic concept champions a car that can accelerate, brake, turn corners, and complete a cross-country road trip with equal aplomb.