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Form or function? Style or substance? Show or go? For as long as art and science have existed, the debate has raged. What is more importantaesthetics or ability?
The automotive world has been a high-profile arena for this battle since day one, and even now, more than 100 years into it, there is no clear answer. Instead, designers and engineers have sought to combine the twowith mixed results. Mixed because, fundamentally, time favors technology, and vehicles (like every other machine) have become more capable as materials and techniques evolved. But style is a balance of seemingly contrary elements of originality and tradition. Innovate too little, and a design comes off as imitation; too much, and the people no longer identify with it. Solution? Preserve the familiar style of machines from yesteryear and blend into it the benefits of modern technology. Such is the mission of the Pro Touring movement, and few trends in automotive history have been as enthusiastically embraced.
Pro Tourings roots trace back more than 15 years. It started as a mission of a few dedicated builders in the late 80s to create muscle-car street machines with handling and braking performance to match the established hot-rodding traditions of improved horsepower and style. One of the first was the infamous Big Red, a big-block-powered 69 Chevy Camaro that shocked the world and annihilated megabuck supercar competition with a 220mph run in the Silver State Challenge open road race. Auto enthusiast publications took note as classic-body cars, sporting trick lowered suspensions, wide low-profile rubber and big brakes to match their already big-horsepower numbers, started to pop up and kick butt all over. Soon the movement had a namePro Touring. All classic muscle cars were fair game, but since day one, first-generation Camaros have been very popular thanks to an inherently capable (and easy-to-modify) chassis, an abundance of parts and some of the meanest-looking body lines ever.
|The Street Fighter 68 … perfectly symbolizes Pro Touring and reminds all who see it why this is the most enduring and respected modern trend in customizing.
GMP WEIGHS IN
During the last year, several die cast companies have introduced models inspired by the Pro Touring movement, and weve been enthusiastic about them all. Some generated all-new tooling for the purpose, while others adapted castings from straight scale models and embellished them with Pro Touring touches. The common thread until now, though, has been price; most were entry-level models with comparable levels of detail. With the 1968 Camaro you see here, GMP extends the Pro Touring genre to include premium models. The projectthe first in the Street Fighter Seriesis based on GMPs exquisite 1968 Camaro Trans Am (T/A) racer (check out the full review in Die Cast X Spring 2005 issue). The series is the brainchild of GMP designer John McBride; see the sidebar for Johns thoughts on the project.
|Inside, a six-point rollcage and the Rebel Half-Wrap steering wheel from Billet Specialties dominate the view.
|Giving the Street Fighter its punch is a 383ci smallblock stroker with a custom EFI intake manifold imagineered by designer John McBride.
The Street Fighter 68 shares much with its Trans Am forebear, but like any true Pro Tourer, it has been thoroughly reengineered with modern parts from under the hood to the rolling stock to the interior. To give the Camaro added scale appeal and legitimate street cred, GMP enlisted custom wheel manufacturer Billet Specialties to help render stunning 1:18 versions of its SLC77 Soft Lip Rebel wheels and Rebel Half-Wrap steering wheel. The result is a car that perfectly symbolizes Pro Touring and reminds all who see it why this is the most enduring and respected modern trend in customizing.
Exterior. The body casting for this preproduction model (and all the production pieces to follow) is straight from the T/A Camaro, but the presentation is so different that you really have to compare the two side by side to see that they are the same. They have the same subtle fender flaresjust enough to look tough without being tacky. The only panel that differs is the hood: GMP uses a cowl induction hood from its 69 Camaro for the Street Fighter. The power bulge fits perfectly with the cars bad-boy image, but the casting leaves a little too much of a gap at the rear edge. That could be due to prepro teething problems, or perhaps theres just a hairs breadth difference in the length of the hood castings between model years. The bumper-delete front and rear valences are clean, and the light bezels and grille work are admirably delicate. The chin spoilers carbon-fiber pattern adds high-tech flair, while the ducktail rear spoiler is vintage Trans Am.
The paint is a very interesting metallic-orange hue. In shadow it seems dark, almost red. Hit it with some light, and fine metallic particles in the paint ignite. The paints numerous layers give it a deep luster but also open the door to some pooling, especially around the lip of the hood. There are one or two bubbles as wellnothing major but enough to notice when the light is right. I like its subtlety, though; so many street machines flaunt spot-me-from-orbit bright paint that its nice to see this classier approach.