Like father, like son," the old maxim goes. The statement undoubtedly contains a large grain of truth, but it also excludes over half the world's population. For isn't it equally true that a daughter can turn out much like her father? Case in point--Tara Para, a hard-core race driver who, if not born to the trade, definitely learned it firsthand from her father.

It would be an understatement to say that Tara has been into cars for a long time. Her father, Tom Beattie, started off drag racing in the '60s, and has kept his interest in track-ready hardware to this day. In junior high, while most young girls were mooning over fashion and boy bands, Tara talked to the guys about what she'd just read in Autoweek. She was also following Tom to the track, and before long Tara was right in the thick of things, wrenching on cars alongside dad. A key moment in Tara's development as a race driver came in 1991, when Tom bought a '65 Corvette convertible that had seen race duty since the day it rolled out of the showroom more than 25 years ago. Tom raced the '65 for a couple of years, but when he bought a Weaver-chassised Trans-Am Camaro, and with a daughter rarin' to hit the track, the '65 was passed on to Tara.

To prepare for action, Tara went through the Jim Russell Driving School. "It didn't take much to like going fast on a track," she says. Tara has taken other driving classes since, but has also been an instructor for the Russell school. She's has also raced in the Skip Barber Series, where she had "some success," and mentions that she was also hired by CART as one of a group of all-female pace car drivers. Unfortunately, the group disbanded before Tara got to actually pace a race. But in five years of racing, Tara says, "Typically I win--if I don't have brain fade or if nothing goes wrong with the car. I'm usually up there and do pretty good." As for racing highlights, Tara mentions her Second place finish in the 1997 LA Street Race, and takes pride in the fact that she's the only woman to have won a United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) event, a feat she accomplished at Pomona, California, also in 1997.

About her favorite racing weapon of choice, Tara says, "It's fast. It's a great car, now that we've worked all the bugs out." The '65 convertible has been a race car since new--in fact, it's never been registered for street use. The only piece of history they've been able to track down is that the Vette was from the Midwest. The car was raced in the GT1 class at the 1970 SCCA Runoffs by Tom Rizzo; the only known photo of the car from its early racing days is of Rizzo coming back on course after an off-track excursion. The photo can be found in Corvette racing history books such as A Piece of the Action, by Bill Mitchell and Alan Girdler.

The car was a well-worn racer when Tom bought it, meaning that there weren't very many original parts left, thanks to wear and tear. Tara figures that every suspension piece and the motor have been replaced--multiple times, as part of that "working the bugs out" process. The body and frame are the only original parts left. Today the mid-year is in "as raced in the '60s" condition, as per vintage racing rules. The chassis and running gear, however, are surprisingly stock. Nineteen-sixty-five was the first year that Corvette came with four-wheel disc brakes, and this one, believe it or not, runs stock Corvette binders at all four corners. In a nod to the safety provided by more modern components, a Tilton proportioning valve and braided stainless steel brake lines provide extra power and adjustability. Vintage racing rules allow shock absorbers to be changed, as long as the new units are non-adjustable, so Bilstein units her been fitted.. When it comes to rolling stock, vintage racing rules are unyielding, and competitors must wear tires and wheels that are period appropriate. True to its calling, this drop-top-turned racer wears 15x7-inch Torq-Thrust wheels clad in 6x15-inch Goodyear race rubber.

The motorvation in this Vette are also true to its past, though certainly of more recent construction. The father and daughter team worked with Van Dyke Engineering of Huntington Beach, California, to come up with a balanced and blueprinted 337ci small-block filled with a Kryptonite crankshaft, Oliver rods, J&E pistons, and a flat-tappet Isky cam. Vintage Chevy "fuelie" heads sport Isky valvesprings and stainless steel valves sit atop the short-block, creating an extra-stout 12.9:1 compression ratio. An Edelbrock manifold and a Holley 600-cfm carb feed the cylinders, while an MSD ignition system and distributor light the fires. Spent gases exit through Hooker headers and side pipes. To help the powerplant endure high-stress conditions, a Drake aluminum water pump and a Setrap oil cooler keep the vital fluids at a reasonable temperature. The formula certainly works. The combination pounds out 490 crankshaft horsepower at 6,500 rpm--which means this racer Vette puts approximately 416 ponies to the pavement. All that power is fed through a single-plate Tilton clutch to the M22 rock crusher four-speed and back to a 4.11:1-geared rearend.

The body is also as-raced in the '60s, right down to the blue and white paint scheme. In another concession to the safety provided by modern technology, a 21-gallon Fuel Safe cell keeps the high-test race juice safe. As befits a race car, the interior has been almost completely stripped of its stock accruements. Autometer gauges give Tara the info she needs when racing, while the full rollcage, five-point racing harness, and custom-fitted fiberglass racing seats are all de rigeur for race duty. Not that Tara will be fitting into that race seat anytime soon (VETTE photo shoots excluded). As we photographed and wrote this feature, Tara was seven months pregnant with her first child, meaning Tara's racing career is on hold--for the moment. Of course, racing even had something to do with that...

Tom Beattie met his future son-in-law at--where else--the engine builders. Tara figures that her father secretly hatched a plan to bring the two together. Secret or not, it worked, and the two have been married for about 2 years. In what we'd guess is one of Tara's highest compliments, she comments that Kevin was "the first guy that I seriously dated who knew more about cars than I did." Kevin has been in the race game for a longer time than Tara, most recently campaigning a NASCAR Southwest Tour car. The couple also wasted no time in expanding their Corvette family, buying a '99 convertible that is now fitted with a K&N Fuel Injection Performance Kit, a Bassani exhaust, a Kirban shifter, beefy Brembo brakes, and Fikse wheels.

Of course, the most important addition to the family will have just arrived as you're reading this. And when asked if she'll take to the track again once her daughter is born, Tara positively replied, "Oh yeah--we'll be a family of racers." In addition to again racing her Vette, Tara is also planning to try her luck in the NASCAR Southwest Tour. As she begins racing again, we suspect that a pattern will also be repeated, and that we may have to revisit the Para family in a few years. How does that maxim go again? Like mother, like daughter, we think.