This time around, performance may prevail after all. Not too long ago, Pro Touring seemed destined to suffer the same inglorious fate as Pro Street. The big 'n' littles craze dates way back to the mid '70s, when Gary Kollofski's '55 Chevy set the benchmark for a future generation of pre-pubescent hot rodders. His infamous Tri-Five Chevy was the real deal, packin' a blown and sprayed big-block, ladder bars, 18-inch meats, and mid 10-second timeslips, all in full street trim. Unfortunately, as Pro Street caught on, the posers soon outnumbered the true players, and the fad fizzled out like last year's American Idol reject. Similarly, undermining the good work of pioneers like Mark Stielow and R.J. Gottlieb, the Pro Touring trend has been largely defined by 99-way adjustable shocks that have never once been adjusted, and $450-a-pop Z-rated tires that get flat-spotted from languishing year-round in climate-controlled garages. Although Pro Street never recovered from its decline, Pro Touring is witnessing a resurgence as of late, as racers are taking back their turf from the wannabes. Credit events like the Midwest Musclecar Challenge-which was held on May 29-30-for advancing the war effort.

While Memorial Day weekend in Indy is typically associated with a past-its-prime open-wheel race that few people still care about, this year the city hosted the inaugural Midwest Musclecar Challenge. The event is open to all '78-and-older domestic vehicles, and as long as you're running DOT-approved street tires, rules governing engine, driveline, and suspension mods are pretty much nonexistent. To put some of the hottest g-Machines in the country to the test, this year's MMC pitted competitors against each other on Putnam Park's 1.87-mile road course, a high-speed autocross, and a grueling brake test. Since the Pro Touring creed calls for cars that do everything well, between the racing action contestants had to complete a 99-mile street cruise from Putman Park in Mt. Meridian, Indiana, to Mid-America Air Center in Lawrenceville, Illinois.

Just like the Optima Ultimate Street Car Faceoff at Road America that we covered in September's issue, the MMC served as one of several qualifier events for Optima's invitational event, which will be held later this year during the SEMA show. The purpose of the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (www.OptimaInvitational.com) is to find the most wicked Pro Touring muscle car in the country, and based on the caliber of Chevelles, Mustangs, Camaros, Novas, and Chargers we saw mixing it up in hard-core competition, it will most certainly live up to that promise. The racers have spoken, and they're intent on rescuing Pro Touring from the clutches of performance dilution. Wannabes beware.