If a little is good, then a lot must be better, right? Or so went the thinking behind the Pro Street movement that aimed to put the fattest rear tires under everything this side of the Atlantic. And while the cars that resulted have been scarce for a generation, one collector is offering no less than 10 of them at auction this spring.
While the Pro Street trend is most closely associated with the Eighties, it actually got its start a decade earlier, after the National Hot Rod Association created the Pro Stock class in 1970 – allowing more extreme modifications than the earlier Super Stock class – and particularly after Grumpy Jenkins debuted his then-revolutionary tube-frame Vegas in 1972.
The Street Freaks of the mid-Seventies made an early stab at fitting huge tires under muscle cars and keeping them roadworthy, but it took a number of late-Seventies hot rod builds incorporating tubbed wheelwells, relocated rear suspensions, and narrowed axles to mainstream the Pro Stock look among hot rods and give rise to the Pro Street moniker.
Over the next decade and a half, Pro Street almost became a formula to follow. In addition to the massive rear tires and the skinny fronts, a Pro Street car needed enough toppers for the engine – either in the form of high-rise intakes or blowers – to poke through the hood and sufficiently obscure the driver’s vision. Underhood it needed more polished chrome than a robot orgy. Aesthetically, if it couldn’t be done in tweed, monochrome paint schemes, or pastel graphics, it wasn’t worth applying to the car.
Early in the movement, Pro Streeters tended to stick with the known quantities: muscle cars, pony cars, and other veterans of the Street Freak years. As the movement continued into the late Eighties and early Nineties, however, builders branched out to compacts, pickups, street rods, full-size land barges, and eventually to front-wheel-drive econoboxes fitted with full tube chassis underneath.
And then, almost overnight, the Pro Touring movement replaced it as hot rodders demanded more handling ability and better street manners from their cars. What Pro Street cars didn’t get converted to Pro Touring or get restored back to stock seemed to fade away.
Except for the ones in Rick Smith’s collection. Mostly built from pony cars and tri-five Chevrolets, the collection includes a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, a 1956 Chevrolet 210, a 1957 Chevrolet 150, a pair of 1967 Chevrolet Camaros, a 1967 and a 1969 Ford Mustang, a 1983 Camaro, and a couple of street rods, all but one of them fitted with a supercharger.
Other vehicles in Smith’s collection scheduled to cross the block as part of Mecum’s Houston auction include several Boss Hoss motorcycles and trikes, several Ford pickups, and a variety of restored muscle and pony cars.
The Mecum Houston auction will take place April 5 to 7 at the NRG Center. For more information, visit Mecum.com.