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.
Within this definition, many Pro Touring cars are built strictly to create the image with 16- to 18-inch tires and wheels and massive brakes on all four corners. Combined with a lowered stance, that generally is enough to qualify for Pro Touring status.
Beyond the strictly bolt-on effort however, is a whole segment of Pro Touring cars whose owners are not afraid to run them-hard! You see them at track days at major road courses like Road Atlanta, Road America in Wisconsin, Willow Springs near Rosamond, California, and Thunder Hill in Northern California. While most of these events are merely opportunities to run your car hard on a road course, it points out that a healthy portion of Pro Touring machines has more than highway cruising as their target goal.
There are actually many similarities between Pro Street and Pro Touring in that the line between street car and race car is constantly blurred. The move toward faster road course cars calls for less weight, softer compound tires, and more durable drivetrains-all of which are similar to what the ultimate Pro Streeter would want for an 8-second dragstrip pass.
Manual transmissions are also virtually a necessity for the ultimate Pro Touring car. Tremec has just released a new, stronger version of the TKO five-speed that can handle up to 600 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough to make a serious statement on the highway. While you certainly can use an automatic overdrive in a Pro Touring car, maximizing the fun factor and lap times on a road course will require a durable manual transmission. The Tremec T-56 and the Richmond six-speeds are both excellent transmissions that offer overdrive ratios to make highway cruising more pleasant.
Suspensions are the buzz right now in Pro Touring with front and rear coilover shocks and independent rear suspension conversions the latest rage. Companies like Paul Newman Chassis Creations have been building C4 Corvette IRS chassis conversions for several years for the '55-'57 Chevys and early solid rear axle Corvettes, but you can expect to see these ideas appear for first-generation Camaros. In fact, Wayne Due's Chassis Shop, which also does tubular front clips for early Camaros and Firebirds, is working on just such an IRS effort for these cars. For front suspensions, Campbell Auto Restoration in Campbell, California builds an amazing front clip for these early F-cars. There are also several companies like Global West Suspension building conversion kits for early Mustangs and many other popular cars.
ConclusionIf we were backed into a corner and forced to choose one car, the logical choice would have to be the car that performs at a greater level in more areas-which is the Pro Touring car. But as in Roger Conley's case, you can have it both ways. The beauty of car crafting is that there are no rules.
Pro Street Camaro
Car: '68 Pro Street Camaro
Owner: Roger Conley
Engine: 540ci big-block Chevy, Bow Tie block, steel crank
Heads: Brodix -2 heads
Induction: Gregg Davis sheetmetal intake, 160-lb/hr Bosch injectors, Big Stuff 3 engine management system
Transmission: Jeffco four-speed planetary trans, L&T twin 10-inch clutch, Inland Empire driveshaft,
Rearend: Extreme Engineering and Fabrication 9-inch, Lenco 35-spline Detroit Locker, 4.10 gears
Front suspension: Full round tubing chromoly chassis by Nates Race Cars, Sunthuff front strut suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, Wilwood front discs
Rear suspension: Four-link rear suspension with track bar, Sunthuff rear coilovers, Wilwood rear disc brakes
Wheels & tires: 26x7.50x15-inch M/T on spindle-mount Weld Magnum wheels front; 34.5x17x16-inch M/T ET Street tires mounted on 16x16-inch bead lock Weld Magnum wheels, rear
Power-adder: Two large 74mm Precision Turbo hairdryers with Tial wastegates and a Griffin air-to-air intercooler
Interior: Sheetmetal work by Victory Race Cars, powdercoating by Concept Powder Coating, RacePak Pro digital dash
Crew: Thanks to Mom and Dad Conley, wife Andrea, Mike Moran, George Cesa, Tim Sieger of Ultimate Design, RacePak Data Systems, Moroso's Bruce Blair, and John Meaney of Big Stuff 3
The 3-G Machine
The definition of Pro Touring encompasses a car that can perform well on multiple levels. We thought it would be cool to actually define what could be considered a high-end Pro Touring car-one that could really perform on a world class level.
Lateral g's are usually measured on a flat, 200-foot skidpad, and the numbers reflect the lap time converted into lateral acceleration. It's rare to see a production car generate much more than 1 lateral g, but it is possible. With high-quality road tires like the BFGoodrich g-Force KD tire or the Yokohama AVS Sport, it is possible to generate a 1g average number.
Another excellent test of a car's handling is the 600-foot slalom test. Seven cones are set up exactly 100 feet apart, and the better the car handles, the quicker its average speed through the course. Our pals at Motor Trend have tested several C5 Corvettes including the ZO6, and they all seem to run through this course at just a tick over 70 mph. That's fast. We heard that the new Lotus Elise can smoke through at over 73 mph while a Ferrari Challenge Stradale does it just slightly slower-as long as you've got $200,000 in your pocket.
As for braking performance, virtually all late-model production cars are equipped with ABS, making short stopping distances easier to attain. The standard test is 60 to 0, and the best numbers we found in MT's data bank were 97 feet from a Viper SRT-10 and 95 feet from an '03 Ferrari Enzo, so a braking distance of 100 feet or shorter should be considered hero territory, especially for a non-ABS musclecar.
We really don't need any help when it comes to setting the mark for quarter-mile times, so an e.t. slip that reads 11.0 or quicker is certainly world class. If you think it should be quicker, you'd better be able to back it up.
Given these standards, any resurrected musclecar that could come anywhere near this should be instantly knighted and worshiped for months. Consider then what chassis tuner and suspension guru Dean Dodge calls the 3-G car. This would be a street machine that could pull at least an average of 1g on the skidpad, a peak of at least 1g negative under braking, and also a minimum of a 1g peak on acceleration. Imagine a '69 Camaro, early Mustang, or a 'Cuda/Challenger that could hold its own against some of the best production cars on the road today.
To pull this off, let's stack the musclecar deck and allow the use of DOT-legal gummy dragstrip and road course tires. This makes both the lateral and braking g numbers easier to attain. The dragstrip might pose the biggest challenge since the suspension will be designed for handling, but that's what makes this game so much fun. We'd also test the car on the slalom, shooting for 66 or higher mph average speeds. If you've got a street machine that will pull these kinds of numbers, send us photos and a tech sheet.
Pro Touring Camaro
Car: '67 Pro Touring Camaro
Owner: Roger Conley
Engine: 350ci small-block Chevy, ZZ3 short-block
Heads: Holley aluminum 2.02/1.60-inch valves
Induction: Offenhauser cross-ram intake with twin Holley Pro-Jection throttle injectors, Commander 950 EFI control
Camshaft: Comp Cams 270 Magnum 224/224 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.470-/0.470-inch lift, with 110-degree lobe sep.
Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed, McLeod 10.5-inch clutch, hydraulic release bearing
Rearend: Ford 9-inch housing, 3.55:1 gears, limited slip
Front suspension: Hotchkis front springs and larger sway bar with QA-1 adjustable shocks, Baer 12-inch front discs
Rear suspension: Hotchkis rear leafsprings, QA-1 adjustable shocks, Cal-Tracs bars, Baer rear disc brakes, mini-tubbed rear wheelwells and leafsprings moved inboard
Wheels and tires: 17x9.5-inch American Torq-Thrust II wheels with 274/40ZR17 Michelin XGT tires front; 17x11-inch American Torq-Thrust II wheels with 335/35ZR17-inch Michelin XGT tires, rear
Paint: Roger Conley Sr. performed the bodywork with paint by Maaco
Driving ImpressionsWe didn't actually drive Roger's cars for this story. But I've ridden in both cars and there is a world of difference. The Pro Street car is radical yet streetable. The mild cam and Big Stuff 3 engine management system tame the 1,000hp beast. Yet riders still have to contend with a symphony of sound emanating from the valvetrain and the engine. Then there's the heat that transfers directly through the toe boards because your feet are mere inches from the turbos. Plus there is the constant vibration of the solid-mounted body/chassis/engine combination that never lets you forget that this machine is closer to an IHRA Pro Mod car than it is to your wife's new 300C Chrysler. Roger credits the EFI for why this beast can still knock down 7 mpg in-town mileage. We know some 6.0L Escalades that barely get that!
The Jeffco trans is like a Lenco. The best way to describe it is like a manually shifted automatic where the quicker you move the shift lever, the harder the trans will shift. While Roger is almost constantly moving levers between streetlights, the boulevard psyche factor practically pegs the meter. Cruising around town was fun, but I wouldn't want to drive to Denver in this beast.
Roger emphasizes that the Pro Touring Camaro was always targeted as a daily driver. The key elements that tone this package down and make it streetable are the Tremec T56 six-speed double overdrive manual trans and the Holley Commander 950 EFI system. These two components work together to create a pleasant over-the-road car combined with the Hotchkis/QA-1 ride to present a far more boulevard-friendly machine. When he's cruising down the freeway, the overdrive and EFI will contribute to 15 mpg at the moment, but Roger says he thinks 16 to 17 are achievable with more tuning.
It should come as no shock that the Pro Touring car is better balanced as an overall road car, but when it comes to the pure wow factor, the Pro Street car kills 'em every time.