Word of the Day: Pro Street

Photography Courtesy Matt and Debbie Hay

So what if we lived under a 55 mph national speed limit, pro street was big in the ’80s–well, at least that’s what the hot rod magazines constantly told us. 

The basic formula: apply extreme drag cues to a street machine, meaning the standard equipment included part of the engine poking through the hood, giant meats out back and skinnies up front. The hardcores ran a chute. Bonus points for neon colors, unusual body styles and that pulse thing running down the side of the body. 

Matt and Debbie Hay were legends in the scene. Their 1984 Cutlass Ciera, winner of the 1986 Street Machine Nationals, ticked all the boxes.

Unorthodox bodystyle? Yup.

Bigs ’n littles? Yup.

Bug catcher poking through the hood and wheelies bars out back? Totally. 

It even had that pulse thing down the side.

Then, in 1988, they slammed it out of the park with a 1988 supercharged, day-glo pink Thunderbird. Induction was via not one but two front-mounted superchargers. Like any cool car of the day, it ran SuperTrapp mufflers. 

Their Thunderbird won nearly all the awards, grabbed so much magazine ink, and was immortalized by Revell. Then they sold the car. 

In 2014, they set out to find their old T-Bird. “After a nationwide search, the Hays found what remained of their once-show-stopping Ford in an obscure corner of Western Pennsylvania,” reports the awesomely titled Tubbed Magazine. “The car had been on display for a number of years in–of all places–a guy’s living room. Parts and pieces had been randomly pilfered over time and the once-award winning retina-searing pink paint was a distant memory covering sheet metal in various stages of disrepair.”

Matt and Debbie totally rebuilt the car before returning to the 2014 Street Machine Nationals in DuQuoin, Illinois. “The time required was extensive and the cost astronomical,” continues Tubbed Magazine. “Just one of the car’s twin aluminum radiators cost over $1,000. Matt is certain that the restoration of the car cost far more than the initial price to construct it. Such is the price of Pro Street glory.”

 

 

 

 

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Comments
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NickD
NickD PowerDork
1/21/20 10:18 a.m.

I still love a good Pro Street car. Not the pastel paint colors with heartbeat stripes. But the 15x15 rear wheels, low AF stance, and an 8-71 blower with an Enderle Big N Ugly on it,  or a tunnel ram with twin Dominators, that's a look I never get tired of. 

slowbird
slowbird Dork
1/21/20 10:59 a.m.

I have that kit, still need to build it. Might've lost some pieces.

They re-released the kit a few years ago, so shouldn't be hard to find for anyone who wants one.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/21/20 11:05 a.m.

Anyone else catch the fly-by laps of the Indy car through their neighborhood? 

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
1/21/20 11:52 a.m.

I have always been a fan of the rear wings on some ProStreet cars. Extending the body lines out flat does it for me.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/21/20 12:24 p.m.

As I've posted several times over the years, this was local to me:

 

Notice anything... suspicious here?

 

YUP - stock, FWD, automatic transmission... dragging that whole abomination around via the pizza cutters.

 

STM317
STM317 UltraDork
1/21/20 12:35 p.m.

The TBird was the primary vehicle used in a Super Bowl commercial last year:

 

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
1/21/20 12:36 p.m.

ekg Signal

EKG signal in green. Pulse ( blood pressure) in red

 

Will collect pedant of the day prize on the way out the door...

 

 

 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
1/21/20 12:43 p.m.

I would 100% rock a Pro Street something in full late-80's form, complete with retina searing teal with hot pink side graphics and a gray tweed interior. There was nothing cooler back then.

glueguy
glueguy Dork
1/21/20 12:51 p.m.
NOHOME said:

 

 

 

 

Always fascinated by "old but not historic" photos of car events like this.  I wonder where they all are today......

 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
1/21/20 12:58 p.m.

Rick Dobbertin was a big player in the Pro Street movement as well.  Look up pictures of the Pontiac J2000 he built, although his early Nova was a more realistic street car.  These days he's working on a setup for narrowing late model Corvette suspensions for use in ProTouring cars.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
1/21/20 1:17 p.m.

Looks like the average attendee is about 60 lbs lighter in the old photos.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Reader
1/21/20 1:25 p.m.
Duke said:

As I've posted several times over the years, this was local to me:

Notice anything... suspicious here?

 

 

I can see the rear spring through the I.D. of the muffler!

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/21/20 2:12 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Yep!  That's awesomesauce.  But I really like the solid pipe rear axle with no pumpkin.

Before he switched to the bolt-on "cowl induction" bump, there was a giant chrome bugcatcher that opened with the hood.

 

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
1/21/20 2:24 p.m.

I miss pro-street. Granted, it was honestly just as much poser as the modern pro-touring stuff is.

But then hot rod did the drag racing stuff for them like optima did for pro-touring. And guys got serious and they became race cars with plates. 

Eh

Still love the things! Maybe I'll actually build one.....

Jumper K Balls (Trent)
Jumper K Balls (Trent) PowerDork
1/21/20 2:51 p.m.

I have no idea why, but I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever seen in 1988 or whenever. I believe I had a model kit of a similar Pro Street Tempo.

 

Looking back, I still think the amorphous blob Tempo styling works for this look

NickD
NickD PowerDork
1/21/20 2:53 p.m.
Duke said:

As I've posted several times over the years, this was local to me:

 

Notice anything... suspicious here?

 

YUP - stock, FWD, automatic transmission... dragging that whole abomination around via the pizza cutters.

 

The term for that is Pro Fairground. Because all that car was built for is idling around Fairgrounds at a shoe. Kinda like how a musclecar with 18" wheels but stock drum brakes and suspension is called Faux Touring.

Suprf1y
Suprf1y UltimaDork
1/21/20 2:55 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Excellent catch.

Was never a fan pf pro street, but I can't stand pro touring

NickD
NickD PowerDork
1/21/20 3:00 p.m.

I always liked Scott Sullivan's Cheez Whix '55 Chevy. And he drove the E36 M3 out of that thing, cross country and everything. It had a pretty healthy big block Chevy built by John Lingenfelter.

Honestly, swap the wheels, and you couldn't tell that car was built in the '80s

He didn't believe in chroming entire engine bays either. He said you need different colors and finishes and textures, because when you chrome everything, you lose all the details in the reflections. So in the Cheez Whiz, the engine bay was orange, the block and heads and intake and valve covers were tan, he had stainless hard lines, the valve covers had black accents, the air cleaner was billet.

He recently did a Kaiser Henry J that looks awesome too.

 

NickD
NickD PowerDork
1/21/20 3:12 p.m.

A few years back, a shop built a new GT500 as a Pro Street car. Still had the 5.4L 4V, but with an 8-71 with a fancy nitrous setup and an Enderle injector hat (used as a throttle body, because it had port injection) with 20x15" rear wheels. I thought it was awesome. Hot Rod did gripe that it was a little too tame to satisfy their Pro Street dreams, no shrieking 4" Flowmaster bullets or insane blower surge or other holdover antics from the '80s.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/21/20 3:15 p.m.
NickD said:
Duke said:

As I've posted several times over the years, this was local to me:

YUP - stock, FWD, automatic transmission... dragging that whole abomination around via the pizza cutters.

The term for that is Pro Fairground. Because all that car was built for is idling around Fairgrounds at a shoe. Kinda like how a musclecar with 18" wheels but stock drum brakes and suspension is called Faux Touring.

I used to see it driving around the street on many weekends.  I'll give him credit for that.

 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/21/20 3:18 p.m.
NickD said:

He recently did a Kaiser Henry J that looks awesome too.

I'm not gonna lie, I love Kaisers / Henry Js, and I would rock that thing.  All I would change is the wheels - not a fan of chrome wheels in general, and those in particular.

 

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Reader
1/21/20 3:56 p.m.
Duke said:

In reply to GCrites80s :

Yep!  That's awesomesauce.  But I really like the solid pipe rear axle with no pumpkin.

Before he switched to the bolt-on "cowl induction" bump, there was a giant chrome bugcatcher that opened with the hood.

 

See that silver crossmemeber thingy tricked my eye into thinking there was a fake pumpkin too

NickD
NickD PowerDork
1/21/20 4:05 p.m.
Duke said:
NickD said:

He recently did a Kaiser Henry J that looks awesome too.

I'm not gonna lie, I love Kaisers / Henry Js, and I would rock that thing.  All I would change is the wheels - not a fan of chrome wheels in general, and those in particular.

 

It had ultra-wide steelies and white walls on it

From what I've read, he cut and sliced the body up on that pretty good, even changing character lines, but it all looks stock. 

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
1/21/20 4:21 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Bluetooth exhaust.

vwcorvette
vwcorvette UltraDork
1/21/20 7:33 p.m.
stuart in mn said:

Rick Dobbertin was a big player in the Pro Street movement as well.  Look up pictures of the Pontiac J2000 he built, although his early Nova was a more realistic street car.  These days he's working on a setup for narrowing late model Corvette suspensions for use in ProTouring cars.

To me this was the beginning of the end for Pro Street.

Then of course he went and made this:

 

Fun fact. He tested it in the waters of Cazenovia Lake, Cazenovia, NY. Where I went to college.

pimpm3
pimpm3 UltraDork
1/21/20 7:51 p.m.

I remember the write up of that thing in car and driver.  Wasn't he planning to drive it around with world or something?

MrChaos
MrChaos SuperDork
1/21/20 8:31 p.m.

so many short shorts on guys in those classic pics. also trucker hats.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Reader
1/21/20 10:19 p.m.

^Yes, non-ironic trucker hats. Only people in grunge bands did ironic things in the Pro Street days.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
1/22/20 6:12 a.m.
glueguy said:
NOHOME said:

 

 

 

 I wonder where they all are today......

 

They’re under a tarp, next to someone’s beach house in New Jersey. 

Indy-Guy
Indy-Guy PowerDork
1/22/20 7:16 a.m.
NickD said:
........

 

It had ultra-wide steelies and white walls on it

From what I've read, he cut and sliced the body up on that pretty good, even changing character lines, but it all looks stock. 

Drool.

McDesign
McDesign New Reader
1/22/20 11:17 a.m.

My build back in the day - 468 crate BBC from RHS, Turbo 400, and a 12-bolt.

(My wife-to-be in 1986 - we'll hit 32 years in May)

It was more fun than my 2.8L Capri!

Forrest in Atlanta

McDesign
McDesign New Reader
1/22/20 11:19 a.m.

Yes - it was tagged and insured -

Forrest

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair MegaDork
1/22/20 3:34 p.m.

In reply to McDesign :

funny how even within a genre like pro street, you can identify early / mid / late by things like rake.  i'm guessing your car was done a couple years before that 1986 photo?

wheels777
wheels777 SuperDork
1/22/20 6:26 p.m.

I was there 

1SlowVW
1SlowVW Reader
1/22/20 6:58 p.m.

I keep saying the stink bug stance is with the skinnies and fatties is due to come back soon.

I think I've always loved the look because I'm just young enough to have missed its popularity the last time it was cool. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
1/22/20 8:11 p.m.

What arguably may be the first pro street car was the 1955 Chevy built by Gary Kollofski back in 1977.

 

He followed it up with a twin turbo 1936 Willys in 1979.

He got out of hot rodding for a number of years and was into high powered boats.  A few years back he took one of his spare marine engines (a 730 cubic inch Italian BPM V12, good for 620 hp and 713 ft-lb torque) and put it in another 1955 Chevy.

He lives in the Twin Cities; I met him once shortly before he started the build of the V12 car - it was an rust free, straight six w/ three speed, genuine little old lady car.  smiley

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/22/20 8:13 p.m.

Just a personal aside, glad to see all of this chatter on this project. 


Thanks and carry on. smiley

McDesign
McDesign New Reader
1/22/20 8:31 p.m.
AngryCorvair said:

In reply to McDesign :

funny how even within a genre like pro street, you can identify early / mid / late by things like rake.  i'm guessing your car was done a couple years before that 1986 photo?

Yep!

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