turned up late in an old greasy shirt. Rod Troon, Shell’s advertising manager, who had so much style, said ‘Get someone else.’”
Norm got Jim McKeown. That year, 1964, Norm finished second to Pete Geoghegan in the ATCC by just 1.2 seconds.
The Geoghegan-Beechey rivalry was every bit as intense as Brock-Moffat, and better in his mind than the challenge he got from either Jane or Moffat. “Both desperate and dangerous. You look in your rearview mirror and steady yourself for the impact.”
“Geoghegan was fast and safe… the best,” Beechey said with obvious respect. “On debut at Bathurst in 1966 I came over the second hump on Conrod and got air under the Chevy Nova at 167mph and it lifted off the deck. Pete just looked across and went, ‘Whoa.’”
Much later at Calder, Beechey held the Monaro in third and beat Pete in a drag to the flag. The tacho tell-tale in a picture he hands me shows 9200rpm. In another picture Pete’s hands are off the wheel in the air. ‘What do I have to do to beat you’ he seems to be saying.
In 1964 Norm sold a Hillman Imp to the woman who worked for drag racing legend Larry ‘The Big O’ Ormsby, who owned the brake business next door. Her stunning 18-year-old daughter picked it up and Norm and Margaret have now been together for more than half a century.
“Norm was 32; there was a big age gap,” Margaret laughs. “The standing joke was: Are you going to marry her or adopt her?”
Margaret became arguably Australian motorsport’s first high-profile partner, although you’d question whether the accolade should go to Diana Davison. Half a decade before Pauline Moffat assumed the role, Marg was the one in the glamour gear – the miniskirts and the Carnaby Street leather. And she always wore a hat – a different one at each race meeting.
“Allan Horsley (promoter at Hume Weir and then Oran Park) used to burn them,” she said. “It was a tradition. At the end of each race meeting at the after party he’d seize my hat, douse it in petrol and set fire to it.”
Contacts count – as does luck. Norm won the ’65 Touring Car title in the newly-released Ford Mustang. It was the car he knew he needed for the job. But how to get one? “On Saturday nights, after a big day’s trading on the lot, we’d go to an upmarket restaurant in Toorak run by an American. He was very good to us.” Norm said. “We were talking about the Mustang and he said ‘Do you want to meet someone from Ford?’ He walked me to a table and introduced me to Bill Bourke, head of Ford Australia and later to be one of the top guns in Dearborn. Bourke wrote me a letter of introduction to the States and it was only that letter that let me jump the queue to get a race car for ’65.”
To this day Beechey is the only driver to have driven for the big three brands in Australia – Ford, Holden and Chrysler – while they were still in business and he was still a dealer, all simultaneously.
His deals were exceptional and he was always working: $10,000 to do appearance work for BF Goodrich even though they didn’t have a race tyre and he didn’t drive on them, not a cent to drive a Hillman Imp in hillclimbs to promote the slow selling model. But he was a dealer, after all.
“One of the guys from Rootes (Chrysler) asked me to ease off on the long expensive lunches I was racking up with their PR guy in Melbourne, Peter Janson. That surprised me. We’d never been to lunch.”
His Holden Monaro years – which followed spending 1966 through ’68 in a Chev Nova then a Camaro SS – were the swansong. “When you drive a Holden you have the fans in the palm of your hand,” he says.
In 1969, with a car he designed and built with the brilliant Lou Mallia, he was pivotal in Pete Geoghegan winning the Championship. In an ailing HK Monaro he held out Alan Hamilton (Porsche 911) to win the last and deciding race, giving Pete the title victory by one point. If Hamilton had gotten by he would have won. “I didn’t know,” Norm says. “But it wouldn’t have mattered. You race for yourself not for the others. Maybe if they’d offered me fifteen grand... Do you believe that?” he challenges.
In 1970 he won the title with the legendary HT GTS 350.
“That year we put the business on hold and concentrated on racing, but it was barely enough. You’d get to a circuit on Thursday to practice and find Moffat had been there since Monday. There was a new professionalism coming. I was approaching 40 and I had to concentrate on business. Continuing motor racing was never even in my mind.”
You want to know where Norm’s head was at?
Above: Beechey tends to be perceived as a Holden star but he also enjoyed success in Fords, Chevs and Chryslers. He was a Pacer and Charger competitor during the early 1970s Series Production era. Right: Norm and Margaret Beechey with the restored...