We once saw a post on a message board that asked what was the first true pro-touring car. The responses ranged across the board from relatively recent builds to ones that had been built decades prior, and of course quickly devolved into argument. The problem is the slippery slope of how to define what a pro-touring, g-machine (or whatever you want to call them), car is.
We’ll liken it to that fuzzy distinction that divides hot rods and street rods; it’s damn near impossible to create a requisite modification or parts list, but we know it when we see it. Of course some would say that leaves nearly everything to aesthetics and parts choice, and in part that’s absolutely true since that can divulge a great deal, but it does go a little beyond that. The only way to really nail it down is by intent and use. What we mean is, ‘What does the builder or owner intend to do with the car?’ Perhaps more importantly, ‘What does the builder or owner actually do with the car?
To really qualify as a pro-touring car, the car needs to be driven, and preferably often and hard. Of course that leaves quite a bit to interpretation as cross-country touring, racing, open track, or autocross don’t necessarily appeal to everyone- and of course there’s the old saying, ‘Don’t race it if you can’t afford to replace it.’ So maybe the whole idea needs to be broken down a little further. In general, we actually favor the sub-categories proposed a few years back by Ralph LoGrasso, Administrator over at Pro-Touring.com;
Pro-Touring: A classic or late-model car with upgraded and updated suspension components, brake system, drivetrain, aesthetics, and new car creature comforts built to function as well or better than some of today’s best performance cars. Pro-Touring cars are built to be driven; driven on the street, on the race track, on the drag strip, through cones at an auto-cross, no matter the setting, pro-touring cars are meant to be driven.
g-Machine: A classic muscle car with upgraded and updated suspension, brakes, drive train and aesthetics, generally lacking some of the creature comforts one would find in a pro-touring car, such as cup-holders, leather seats, etc., otherwise identical to a pro-touring car.
Street Fighter: A classic muscle car with heavily modified and upgraded suspension and brake system components, powerful yet functional drivetrain, and little to no creature comforts. Most Street Fighters lack A/C, big billet wheels, chromed-out engine bays, and navigation systems, like might be found in a Pro-Touring car, but often sport forged wheels, a roll cage and fabricated parts. Anything not necessary to make the car accelerate, decelerate, or handle better is stripped from the vehicle. Street Fighters are Pro-Touring counter-culture at its most agressive; drivability is sacrificed for performance and function. In the simplest of fashions, Street Fighters can be equated to street legal race cars.
As for the term ‘Pro-Touring’ itself, we’ll assign credit to Mark Stielow and current Car Craft Tech Editor Jeff Smith who was heading up Chevy High Performance at the time for coining the term to define the emerging genre. Mark can also take credit for helping grow the new concept through his own projects such as the white ’69 Camaro known as Tri-Tip that competed in the ’93 One Lap of America. The Camaro was widely covered and really created a surge in interest, and of course once Jeff put the term in print, it stuck.
As for the earliest cars, a few people point to the relatively recent 200mph capable ‘Big Red’ ’69 Camaro built by Dan and R.J. Gottlieb’s and dubbed the “The Baddest Camaro Ever Built” by Car Craft back in 1988.
Read more here: The Beginning of Pro-Touring? – Web Exclusive
Author: Christopher Campbell