The other Beechey Monaro

Australian Muscle Car - - Cars That Won Bathurst -

Last edi­tion we show­cased Norm Beechey’s 1970 ATCC-win­ning Monaro GTS 350 as a poster. The stun­ning yel­low beast’s star­ring role in these pages (and in the Bowden’s Own col­lec­tion to­day) prompted us to pon­der what be­came of the car’s pre­de­ces­sor, Norm’s Improved Pro­duc­tion HK GTS 327.

Over­shad­owed by the achieve­ments of its suc­ces­sor, the Beechey HK made its own mark in the his­tory books by be­ing the first Holden – and, in fact, the first Aus­tralian car – to win a race in the ATCC arena.

The five-round 1969 ATCC was to prove both for­tu­itous and frus­trat­ing for Beechey. Sure, the HK was im­me­di­ately com­pet­i­tive, but squar­ing off against the race-bred Trans-Am Mus­tangs was a big ask for the lo­cal con­tender. Be­sides, reign­ing champ Pete Geoghe­gan’s steed was one bat­tle­hard­ened pony car.

Beechey failed to fin­ish round one at Calder, blow­ing an engine while run­ning third. At Mount Panorama at Easter, Beechey smacked the wall at For­rest’s El­bow dur­ing prac­tice; the heavy hit putting him out for the week­end. An­other engine fail­ure dur­ing a pre­lim­i­nary race at Mal­lala meant that Beechey failed to make the grid for round three of the cham­pi­onship later the same day.

The bright-blue Monaro scored its his­toric break­through win at Surfers Par­adise in the penul­ti­mate round; Beechey tak­ing the flag af­ter leader Geoghe­gan suf­fered a punc­ture. On to Sym­mons Plains for the fi­nal round, and Norm nursed an ail­ing gear­box across the line for the Monaro’s sec­ond ATCC win and in turn se­cur­ing third in the ti­tle chase.

With Beechey’s team turn­ing its at­ten­tion to the new GTS 350, the HK was sold off to West Aus­tralian prop­erty de­vel­oper Peter Briggs; and sport­ing a new Shell yel­low colour-scheme, he com­peted with in­creas­ing suc­cess at Wan­neroo through­out 1970.

The big coupe was a rare sight in 1971, and ul­ti­mately a fi­nan­cially stricken Briggs was forced to abandon rac­ing al­to­gether. The car was briefly in the pos­ses­sion of Terry LeMay, an­other lo­cal racer who had been re­spon­si­ble for the car’s prepa­ra­tion. But LeMay never hit the track in the Monaro and soon sold the car to speed­way driver, Leo Gom­mers.

It was Leo’s in­ten­tion to utilise the ex-Beechey car as a ref­er­ence point for his own speed­way Monaro. Af­ter many years lay­ing idle and tak­ing up space, Gom­mers trans­ported the yel­low HK to ru­ral Narem­been – 300km east of Perth – where it was to rest for nearly 20 years on the prop­erty of fel­low speed­way driver, Ian Met­calf.

In 1989 Met­calf was con­tacted by Gary Smith, a friend of WA mo­tor­sport iden­tity Don Be­hets. Gary was keen to take the Monaro on as a restora­tion pro­ject, a deal was done and the car was soon on a trailer to Perth, and sub­se­quently back to Vic­to­ria. Over a 12-year pe­riod Gary slowly breathed life back into the GTS un­til he too sold the car to cur­rent his­toric tour­ing car driver Milton Se­feris. With other projects tak­ing prece­dence over any fur­ther restora­tion of the Beechey Monaro, Se­feris put the car up for sale in 2001. It wasn’t long be­fore a buyer emerged and the Monaro, along with an in­ven­tory of parts, headed for Syd­ney. To AMC’s knowl­edge, Holden’s orig­i­nal V8 ATCC chal­lenger hasn’t been seen in pub­lic since.

The edi­tor re­ceived a phone call last year from a gentle­man who said he owned this very car, but po­litely de­clined to leave his con­tact de­tails. He in­di­cated he would be back in touch in the near fu­ture. We’d love to hear from him again (am­ced­i­to­rial@chevron.com.au) so we can con­firm to read­ers, via some pics of the car to­day and an ex­panded story, that Norm’s first Monaro lives on. Af­ter all, it holds a spe­cial place in Holden’s rac­ing his­tory.

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