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Author Topic: New Zealand/Australian Camaros And Firebirds  (Read 28899 times)
OCTARD
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« Reply #60 on: April 25, 2012, 01:14:11 PM »

Folks interested in this subject and forum may appreciate a thread that Bruce Thompson (BRUCE302), has been updating recently on The Roaring Season.  This car has some of the coolest one-off parts for early F-bodies. 

The thread can be seen here.




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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #61 on: April 25, 2012, 07:08:55 PM »

Thanks Jon, very much appreciated. Further to my post above on terry Allans Camaro, when looking back on Australian touring car racing during the 1960s, and from when the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) first began in 1960, through to the end of the decade, there is a quite clear historical line that shows Australia was enjoying something of a horsepower race. The ATCC from 1960 - 1968 was held as a single race event, then became a multi-race series from 1969 onwards.

The 1960 - 1963 ATCC was dominated by MkI and MkII Jaguars, and Bob Jane was comfortably leading the 1964 ATCC when his Jaguar was struck by clutch problems. By 1964, the engine in Janes Jag was stretched out to 4.1 litres. Then, in 1965, Norm Beechey showed up with the first Mustang to race in Australasia, but as Australia was a country largely dominated by British cars, as its own local manufacturing began to gain momentum, many cars that competed in Touring car racing at the time were British, bar the local six-cylinder Holdens, but these were no match for the Jaguars.

When Beechey imported his Mustang, there was plenty of interest in the car, but also plenty of sceptics, because, in this part of the world, this was something of an unknown, and there were very few people who specialised in American V8s. But Beechey quickly began winning races, and both Bob Jane and Pete Geoghegan soon imported Mustangs of their own. Beechey won the 1965 ATCC, and from that point American V8s became the weapon of choice.

Geoghegans Mustang became the dominant touring car in Australia throughout the latter part of 1965, and into 1966, so Beechey decided to go bigger, and imported a 327ci Chevy Nova (Chevy II). Geoghegans Mustang was thought to have 360hp at the time, whereas the Nova was said to have 450. With this, he built a big lead in the 1966 ATCC at Bathurst, until his 4-wheel drum brakes slowed him towards the end, and Geoghegan moved ahead to win. But the Nova had proven how effective big cubes were.

In early 1967, when Terry Allan ordered his Camaro, the Camaro as a road race car was still a relative unknown. It took Mark Donohue until August 1967 to win his first Trans-Am race with the Camaro, and as Australia was heading fast-forward into a horsepower war, Terry Allan possibly thought he could get the jump on other competitors, by going straight to a big block. Teams in Aus were still learning how to make an American car handle well, the small capacity Mini Coopers and Lotus Cortinas could still beat them on somel race tracks, but big power could be had relatively easy by going for big cubes.

Australia at the time had a touring car maximum engine capacity of 7,000cc. Quite why Allan didn't fit his car with a 427, I'm not sure. Its possible the Confederation for Australian Motor Sports (CAMS) made the decision for him, as they accepted or rejected what cars could actually compete in touring car racing, eg, fastback Mustangs were not allowed, until 1969, Porsche 911 racer Jim McKeown wanted to race an AMC Javelin in 1972, but CAMS stopped him. Their decisions were likely based either on what had been sold in Australia at the time, or international build numbers.

I guess with the benefit of hindsight, a Bill Thomas 327 punched out to 377ci would have been a batter option. Thomas was apparently getting 520hp from his 377 motors when building and selling his Cheetahs in 1963/64, and Allan was only getting this much power by 1969 in his 396. But the big block probably appeared the best horsepower option at the time he ordered his car. But what I don't understand is why he stayed with the big block throughout the next four years when this option gave him so much trouble.
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #62 on: April 25, 2012, 07:11:56 PM »

Here is a recently unearthed photo of Terry Allan battling Rod Coppins at Bay Park, New Zealand, in 1970.

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #63 on: April 25, 2012, 07:19:35 PM »

I thought you guys might enjoy this. One of our members on The Roaring Season posted this old advertisement by Bob Jane in early 1973. The Camaro in the first ad is Bobs ZL1 which won the 1971 and 1972 Australian Touring Car Championships. Although it doesn't say as much, it would have been sold with a 350ci small block, not the alloy big block, as a 6,000cc max capacity was introduced at the beginning of 1972.

The second ad is Bobs other ZL1 Camaro, his drag car. This car was sold with its alloy big block motor, and amazingly the car had only been raced four times. Bob Jane owned a couple of race tracks, and his main track, Calder Park, had a long front straight which was also used for drag racing. Being the hands-on promoter he was, he had one of the two ZL1 Camaros he imported built up for drag racing. The motor from this car was later used in the restoration of his road race car, the car in the first ad.

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Jon Mello
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« Reply #64 on: April 26, 2012, 07:53:37 AM »

Really great additions to this thread. I thank you for posting those, Steve. Your thoughts on why Terry Allan decided to run the big block are appreciated as well and do seem to have some merit. Why he continued to run it for so long after having so many problems is something I guess we'll never fully understand. The advertisements for Bob Jane's cars are something I hadn't seen before. It's fun to check those out. Prices that were probably steep for the day but anyone would jump at them now. Thanks again.
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Jon Mello
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #65 on: May 01, 2012, 05:49:05 PM »

An interesting photo here just added to The Roaring Season by one of our members. This is at Bay Park, December 1968. This being an anti-clockwise race track, the dark blue '67 Mustang of Red Dawson is on pole. This is one of the 26 road race Mustangs built by Shelby in 1967. In the middle is visiting Australian Norm Beechey in his Chevy Nova, while nearest the camera is Paul Fahey in his Shelby built '66 Mustang. Second row is Spencer Black in his '67 Camaro which is shown elsewhere in this thread, being later owned and raced by Rod Coppins. Nearest camera on the second row is Scott Wiseman in his Jaguar, which had an interesting rear suspension mounted aerofoil which sat way up above the car. Wiseman had recently returned to NZ having crewed on race teams in the UK. Sadly he was confined to a wheelchair in the early 1970s when hit by a drunk driver while out riding his motorbike.

The three cars on the front row were all in the David Bowden collection in Australia up until just a few years ago when they sold the Dawson car back to a New Zealand enthusiast who is currently restoring it back to as its shown here.

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #66 on: May 01, 2012, 05:51:12 PM »

Really great additions to this thread. I thank you for posting those, Steve. Your thoughts on why Terry Allan decided to run the big block are appreciated as well and do seem to have some merit. Why he continued to run it for so long after having so many problems is something I guess we'll never fully understand. The advertisements for Bob Jane's cars are something I hadn't seen before. It's fun to check those out. Prices that were probably steep for the day but anyone would jump at them now. Thanks again.

Thanks Jon. Yes I'd think a modest house could have been purchased for what Jane was asking for either of his Camaros. But both cars found new owners fairly quickly.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #67 on: May 02, 2012, 11:03:57 AM »

Thanks for posting the photo, Steve. To me, it is startling to see a Chevy II on the front row between a couple of Shelby-built Mustang T/A notchbacks and the Camaro couldn't beat it out. I guess that speaks to Norm's capabilities as a driver.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #68 on: May 02, 2012, 04:18:39 PM »

Yes I have to agree Jon, it does seem an unlikely choice for a road race car, and whats more, it raced with 4-wheel drum brakes and in the picture posted above, steel wheels! But Beechey got it to work very well, and it was leading the single race ATCC at Bathurst in 1966 until it ran out of brakes, and was leading the single race ATCC in 1967 at Lakeside until a front tyre blew out.

What I've never understood though, is that Beechey built a '68 Camaro which first appeared in early 1968, and was running well in the '68 ATCC until a mechanical problem stopped him. The Camaro was clearly a better car than the Nova, but he only raced the Camaro on four occasions, as a stop-gap before his Australian Holden HK Monaro was ready for the 1969 season. But rather than take the Camaro to NZ at the end of 1968, he took the Nova.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #69 on: May 02, 2012, 04:54:21 PM »

Something just seems illogical about the whole thing, Steve. Would Norm's Chevy II (Nova) have had some kind of weight break advantage over the other cars?
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #70 on: May 02, 2012, 05:30:54 PM »

Nope, no weight break. Beechey had strong General Motors ties, and other than racing a Mustang in 1965, had mostly stuck with GM products, be they Australian or US. He raced the first Mustang in Australia in 1965, but with Pete Geoghegan and Bob Jane soon joining him with similar cars that were a little more competitive, he switched back to a GM product in 1966, and I think he considered the best option at the time to be the Chevy II.

Although the drums halted his charge at Bathurst in 1966, to the best of my knowledge brakes were never an issue with the car. Bathurst has a very long downhill straight with a tight left hand 90 degree bend at the bottom, so brakes are important there, but elsewhere the car was a match for the Mustangs. It had a good deal more power than the Mustangs too, and really, the overall package is a pretty good one, being not a lot different to the Camaro.

Also, its possible he could have been granted permission to fit disc brakes by CAMS at some point too, but I know he had drums all-round in 1966.

I always found the choice of steel wheels to be odd, but he also raced the car regularly with 5-spoke wheels, so its interesting he switched back to the steel wheels for its NZ races. 

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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #71 on: May 02, 2012, 07:46:31 PM »

I had completely forgotten I'd done this oil painting several years ago of the Beechey Chevy II being chased by Pete Geoghegan at the 1967 ATCC at Lakeside. David Bowden owns the Beechey Chevy II now, and also owns the painting.

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Jon Mello
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« Reply #72 on: May 03, 2012, 09:32:22 AM »

Steve, that's a very nice painting. You've obviously got some terrific skills as an artist. The color photo of Norm's car is really nice. It's a very attractive car, in my opinion, with a very tasteful color scheme/livery. I think a Camaro was a better platform to use for roadracing if not on aerodynamics alone, but Norm had some good success with this car and it's pretty neat to see something a little out of the ordinary (yet still GM) mixing it up with the Mustangs and such.
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Jon Mello
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #73 on: May 03, 2012, 05:46:02 PM »

Thnaks Jon, much appreciated. I'd say that perhaps once I might have had a little talent as an artist, but I've not painted anything for several years, other than a couple of rooms in our house, and there certainly wasn't much skill required doing those!

The Beechey Chevy II was indeed a neat car, and one with plenty of character. The above photo is of it in its final (1968) colour scheme. It was a very dark blue with white stripes when it first appeared in 1966, and was then painted black with red and yellow stripes in 1967, which is the colour its been restored to.
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Steve Holmes
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« Reply #74 on: May 03, 2012, 06:14:24 PM »

Here in New Zealand, as with Australia, because of our much smaller population, there weren't anything near the number of big bore sedans built during the late 1960s and early '70s period, and the cars that were racing back then are now cherished pieces, and rarely, if ever, actually raced. So unfortunately it just isn't possible to be able to bring together a field of these historic cars as you guys are able to do there in the US. Therefore, our only option is to create a set of regulations which, as closely as possible, captures the spirit of the cars that created history for us, and allow people to build cars to go historic racing with.

In Australia, the Confederation for Australian Motor Sport has had in place for many years, its Historic Group Na, Nb, and Nc regulations. Na is essentially the internationally recognised FIA Appendix J regulations, while Nb and Nc are Australian creations, that fall somewhere in between the Standard Production and Improved Production rules they used in period.

Here in New Zealand, Dale Mathers, Tony Roberts, and myself have worked about creating a historic racing class using rules created in the early 1980s by Motorsport New Zealand for historic sedan racing, but we've then worked them over to make the cars as similar as possible to what raced here during the late '60s and early '70s. So wheel sizes up to 15" x 10" are allowed, as is mechanical fuel injection or multiple carbs, which were allowed here in period. The class is called Historic Muscle Cars. It really isn't a racing class, as there is no emphasis on winning races, there is no championship, no points etc, its really just been created for enthusiasts who wish to build and enjoy the types of cars that created history here in NZ. Our history is quite a mix, as our big summer events usually saw several international teams and drivers bringing their cars here to race, with sedan teams coming from Australia, the US, and England.

To create that tie between our sedan racing history, and what we're doing with HMC, we've celebrated the drivers and cars of our past. The class officially debuted earlier this year, and we had along as special guests, Jim Richards, Paul Fahey, and Dennis Marwood. We set about creating posters for each to sign and give away to enthusiasts at the event, and this here is that which we created for Dennis Marwood, who raced the '69 Camaro Trans-Am car Joe Chamberlain brought out here in late 1970. This was Joe's first Trans-Am Camaro, his second he also brought with him in late 1972, but then took home with him again, and this is now a well known car within the Historic Trans-Am group.

Ideally we'd love to have enough original cars that we could bring them all together as you're fortunate to be able to do in the US, but for us, this is the next best thing.

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