Photo Gallery: Trans Aus – Norm Beechey’s Holden Monaro
Norm Beechey had long been a crowd favourite, his flamboyant driving style was addictive. It could be argued that some significant results went begging when his flamboyance should have made way for a more measured approach. But, win or lose, he was adored by his legions of fans.
Since 1965, when Beechey won his first Touring Car Championship, the title winning driver had been aboard a foreign invader in the shape of Ford’s V8 powered Mustang. As if to stir up even more support, Beechey had campaigned an Australian produced Holden Monaro in the 1969 title chase, ultimately finishing third behind Ian Geoghegan’s Mustang and Alan Hamilton’s 911 Porsche.
For the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship there was a slight shift in focus, Norm was still as popular as ever, still spectacular at the wheel, but now there was more restraint, with an eye on the bigger picture – and the bigger prize.
A significant element in the hunt for a second title was the construction of a brand new car – Holden’s recently updated Monaro, with 350 cubic inches of V8 power. There would be increased competition from imported Trans Am Mustangs in 1970, so this new Monaro was no point and shoot racer, it was a carefully designed and crafted chassis, drawing on years of experience and contemporary thinking.
Regulations restricted major components to production based items, however, as a General Motors based product, it was permissible for the Monaro to be equipped with components from the vast GM parts catalogue. Brakes at the rear were Camaro drums, with powerful Corvette four-spot callipers and ventilated discs up front.
The Monaro’s cockpit sported a couple of simple, but innovative, features. Attached to the top of the extended gear lever was a secondary throttle trigger, rather than the traditional heel and toe technique, this allowed the throttle to be blipped on down shifts with Norm’s right foot concentrated on the centre pedal and maximum braking pressure. The duel ignition systems were linked via two fuse holders mounted just ahead of the gear shifter. If one circuit failed the fuse could be quickly transferred to engage the back-up circuit.
Punching out well over 500 horsepower, the 350 V8 was crowned with a quartet of side-draught Weber carburettors fitted on a cross-over manifold. Hand fabricated shields acted to insulate engine heat and guide cooler air from the bonnet scoops directly into the carburettors. The cast-iron block was over-bored as part of the blue-printing process and topped with heavily modified, port-matched cylinder heads and aluminium needle roller rockers.
Essentially developed during the season, the Monaro hit the sweet spot, and was instantly competitive against the mega dollar, factory developed Trans Am Mustangs. In a Championship consisting of seven rounds Beechey and his Monaro went on to win three of them, taking the crown by winning the penultimate round at Lakeside Raceway.
With some shrewd thinking and a winning attitude, Beechey was the new champion, still the darling of the crowd and had transformed the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship into ‘Trans Aus’.
* After extensive restoration, the 1970 Australian Touring Car Championship winning Monaro is part of the Bowden’s Collection and participates in demonstrations on circuits around Australia.
Detail Images: James Meale
Race Images: Autopics.com.au