© Courtesy of National Parts Depot001-herb-adams-chevarra
When people think of Pro Touring, an image of a car built for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge likely pops into mind-big wheels, big brakes, wide tires, LS engine, and big bucks. That's just tracing the arc of the movement, though. The phrase first entered the automotive enthusiast's lexicon after a brainstorming session between former HRM editor Jeff Smith and GM engineer Mark Stielow. Looking for a term to summarize the notion of a domestic muscle car built to perform on a racetrack, Mark and Jeff coined the phrase. Pro Touring is a play off the Pro Street movement of the '80s. The cars represented a swing of the pendulum away from the Pro Street look. No doubt inspired by the Trans Am race cars of the late '60s and very early '70s, Pro Touring cars are American muscle cars and pony cars built with an emphasis on improved braking and handling. They are street cars that perform well in autocross events or on a road course.
One step in the evolution from 1970 Trans Am race car to today's current crop of Optima USCC cars that doesn't quite get the recognition it deserves is the Chevarra, a second-generation Camaro built by suspension guru Herb Adam, and its corporate counterpart, the Pontiac Fire Am.
Herb Adams recalls how the Fire Am came to be. After he retired from Pontiac in 1977, the company asked if he could build eight cars to compete in a proposed celebrity racing series. That series never came to fruition, and Herb was left with a group of parts that significantly improved the braking and handling characteristics of the second-generation F-cars. He asked for and was given permission to sell the parts through his company, Very Special Equipment (VSE), and the Pontiac Fire Am was born. Customers could transform a Firebird or Trans Am into a handling machine with VSE's components, and to prove their effectiveness, Herb drove a Fire Am from California to Daytona Beach, Florida, and entered it in an endurance race. Running on Goodyear Wingfoot street tires, it caught the attention of representatives from Goodyear, who hired Herb to build a Camaro to do the same the following year. That Camaro is known as the Chevarra. © Courtesy of National Parts Depot
Herb graced the Camaro with that moniker as a jab at Porsche. "We were racing against their  Carreras at the time. We called our car the Chevarra," he says with an obviously rich sense of humor.
The big-block-powered Chevarra made it to Daytona the following year, replete with an aero front end and whale-tail spoiler. A tire blowout in qualifying put them in the wall, though, and they were unable to race. After the event, Herb says they brought the car back to California, repaired the damage, then sold it.
The Chevarra turned up years later. Herb's son, Matt, spotted it online for sale in Atlanta. "It was in very rough shape, and it took a complete rebuild to get it back to its original race condition," Herb says. They did return it to race spec, however, and Matt drove the car is a few amateur events in 2013.
The Chevarra now resides in Florida as part of National Parts Depot's Dream Car museum. Though VSE as a company doesn't exist anymore, National Parts Depot recognized the importance of what Herb developed and sells all of his parts through a licensing arrangement with him. Customers with a second-generation Firebird or Camaro can build their own version of the Fire Am and Chevarra by shopping online at npdlink.com.
Source:National Parts Depot; 800.874.7595; npdlink.com