“I

Australian Muscle Car - - Modern Muscle -

don’t want to do it. I don’t want the pub­lic­ity. I loathe pub­lic­ity. There’s some­thing in it for you and for the mag­a­zine, but noth­ing for me.”

For 17 min­utes Norm Beechey, twice Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pion, win­ner of 15 state cham­pi­onships, owner and driver of 27 dif­fer­ent race­cars in­clud­ing the ‘PK’ Hold­ens, the first per­son to win a tour­ing car ti­tle in a Holden, the great­est show­man the sport has pro­duced and now noted recluse from mo­tor­sport, par­ried on the tele­phone.

Yet, at race meet­ings Beechey was the most en­gag­ing of driv­ers. He’d sign au­to­graphs un­til the last fan went home. Be­fore it be­came manda­tory (these days af­ter ask­ing per­mis­sion of your race en­gi­neer, of course) he’d smoke the tyres and play to the crowd. He wrote the text book on mo­tor rac­ing pro­mo­tion. But when the car went on the trailer he was… pri­vate.

You can count on one hand the num­ber of in­ter­views Beechey has ever given. In 1970, af­ter his glo­ri­ous ATCC vic­tory in his home grown Holden Monaro, I got him for Sports Car World. The open­ing para­graph de­scribed him as “six feet of smil­ing self pro­mo­tion.” Since then we’ve seen each other spas­mod­i­cally at race cir­cuits. At the Aus­tralian Grand Prix he’s even agreed to a quick on-air chat, but the clas­sic two-ques­tion grab, noth­ing more. I ex­plain to him that AMC wants to hon­our him in their Centurion-edi­tion and that they’ll do so ei­ther through di­rect in­ter­view or by writ­ing it from the files. It’ll hap­pen ei­ther way, but I as­sure him I won’t par­tic­i­pate in the sec­ond op­tion. If he doesn’t want the story writ­ten, I’m not go­ing to do it. I re­spect him too much for that.

Two days later at 8am on Sun­day I get a phone call from an un­listed num­ber. “It’s Nor­man Beechey,” he says. “I’ve spo­ken to my wife and we’ll do the in­ter­view. We’d rather make sure we get the facts straight.”

Norm and Marg Beechey are big on facts. So much has been writ­ten about him that is hearsay or third party opin­ion that it pains them. They are both proud of Norm’s achieve­ments – not ridicu­lously, vain­glo­ri­ously, so, but proud none­the­less.

You can build a strong case to prove that Norm was the fa­ther of V8 tour­ing car rac­ing, or at least that he’d be a prime can­di­date for a pa­ter­nity test. If there’s dis­in­for­ma­tion in the field, in one re­spect they’ve no-one to blame but them­selves. So lit­tle is known about Norm, the man, and Mar­garet – ‘my wife’ as he refers to her even when she’s sit­ting be­side him – that peo­ple make as­sump­tions.

In prepa­ra­tion for our meet­ing, he’s made notes and brought pho­to­graphs and doc­u­ments from his home in Mel­bourne to his sec­ond home, a ma­rina-side unit in Ade­laide’s Glenelg, dec­o­rated not in mo­tor rac­ing mem­o­ra­bilia but in ex­quis­ite me­men­toes of over­seas travel – ta­pes­tries from the south of France, fine glass­ware from the north of Italy. Norm and Marg have driven over in his bril­liant yel­low C7

“I sup­pose you want to know why I stopped. Mof­fat didn’t want me to race, he didn’t want the com­pe­ti­tion.”

Corvette, fit­ted, he wants noted, with the Z51 pack which dry sumps the thump­ing V8, pro­vides big­ger sway bars and brakes and has three-way ad­justable shocks switch­able from the dash. He’s owned a C5 and C6 pre­vi­ously and they cost as much to con­vert to RHD in Mel­bourne as they do to buy in the States. But they’re still a bar­gain.

It’s Beechey as I re­mem­ber him. In 1970 I noted: “big hands with fin­gers you’d never imag­ine to be sen­si­tive reach quickly into brief cases and desk diaries for proof of what he says.” Al­most half a cen­tury on, noth­ing’s changed. “I sup­pose you want to know why I stopped.” It’s less a ques­tion and more of a chal­lenge. I have my the­o­ries, but they’re way off the mark com­pared to the fact that he pro­duces. He presents me with two let­ters from the Ford Mo­tor Com­pany, sit­ting side-by-side in a frame.

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