Not So Famous: The Original Beechey Holden Monaro
Norm Beechey’s original HK Monaro isn’t nearly as famous as his 1970 title winning car, nor is it a car that could be described as hugely successful, but it is definitely significant in the history of racing Holden’s.
It’s reasonable to argue the lack of race success could be put down to a short gestation and development period, and a sometimes fragile Chevrolet V8 (nudging towards 500bhp) that attempted to transmit power through narrow tyres regulated to fit within stock wheel wells. There was also high quality opposition to contend with, Pete Geoghegan in his finely honed championship winning Mustang, and the cutting edge Trans-Am Fords of Bob Jane and Alan Moffat among them.
Despite the odds, Beechey defeated arch rival Geoghegan at Calder in late 1968, and more significantly won the final two rounds of the 1969 Australian Touring Car Championship. It’s these wins at Surfers Paradise and Symmons Plains that make this car significant, as it made the Monaro the first Holden – ever – to win Australian Touring Car Championship races.
1969 was the only season the car competed consistently at a national level, and its only season racing on the east coast for that matter. At the end of the season Beechey turned his attention to construction of his new car and sold the bright blue coupe to West Australian property developer and racer Peter Briggs. The Monaro reportedly underwent a comprehensive rebuild by mechanic Terry LeMay prior to a March 1970 debut at Wanneroo Park (now Barbagallo Raceway).
“My first taste of pure power was driving my ex Norm Beechey 500bhp Monaro on skinny tyres around the newly constructed Wanneroo Raceway,” said Briggs. This legendary Australian muscle car took Peter to the top of the podium, winning the WA Touring Car Championship in 1971.
Peter raced the car successfully for several years until business and financial difficulties forced him to abandon racing, and hand the car over to mechanic LeMay as payment for his services. This was 1973 and, at the time, the Monaro was just another ageing race car. The high quality performance parts in the car however, were very desirable, and Terry needed to recoup some cash. The HK was dismantled and parts sold, changing hands among various west coast enthusiasts, racers and Hot Rodders.
According to Peter, a farmer, claiming to have the shell of the car, contacted him some twenty years later. “How do you know it’s my car?” asked Briggs. “Because it has your name painted on the side,” answered the farmer. Peter contemplated purchasing the shell, however twenty years languishing in a paddock, and an inflated asking price, didn’t make it viable.
During the ensuring years Peter has amassed a collection of approximately 150 vehicles, most of which are housed at the York Motor Museum east of Perth. Many significant vehicles have been part of the collection (including a Williams FW07, which Alan Jones drove en route to the 1980 Formula One World Championship), but unfortunately the ex Beechey HK Monaro hasn’t been one of them.
Peter has been told, and heard stories, of individuals that know where all the parts are, and plans to rebuild or reconstruct the Monaro. However, acquiring and assembling all the parts, not to mention the enormous cost involved in any restoration, makes this seem extremely unlikely.
It would be fabulous for this car to be graced with some form of Phoenix style resurrection; the more likely scenario is that she is gone forever, resting in muscle car heaven.
By James Meale
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