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Thread: Pete Geoghegans Craven Mild Monaro

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    Pete Geoghegans Craven Mild Monaro

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    History has produced a number of burley racing cars, just as it has a number of burley racing drivers. But big Aussie Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan, and his booming HJ Monaro sports sedan were an effective, memorable combination, that combined both. For two spectacular seasons, in 1975 and ’76, Geoghegan and his Monaro were a formidable combination and crowd favorite.

    Geoghegan had taken a step back in his motor racing efforts following the conclusion of the 1972 Australian Touring Car Championship. Having won the ATCC five times by that stage, he sold his powerful but often ill-handling XY GT Falcon, the last car he’d contested the old outgoing Improved Production category with, and would spend the rest of an erratic racing career driving other peoples cars.

    With the rapid emergence in Australia of Sports Sedan racing in the early 1970s, and the rich prize purses on offer, teams scrambled to build ever-more radical machinery to take advantage of the relaxed rules, and steal a share of the rewards. Oran Park, near Sydney, was the first race track in Australia to fully embrace the wild Sports Sedan machines, and in 1972 they announced a 5 round series at the track, with menswear brand Toby Lee and the Grace Bros department store chain tipping in A$15,000 prize money. The following year, they doubled their investment to $30,000.

    Geoghegan entered the Toby Lee series in 1973, driving a Porsche 911 owned by wealthy businessman Laurie O’Neil. The sophisticated little Porsche’s were formidable on the challenging Oran Park layout against the V8 competition, and 911 pilot Bill Brown almost won the series. But O’Neil knew he’d have to invest heavily for 1974, to give Geoghegan any chance against opposition that was both more purposeful, and expensive, and set about having John Sheppard build him a new Holden HQ Monaro coupe. Sheppard had already built a number of very successful racing sedans, including Geoghegans ATCC winning (1966, 67, 68, 69) Mustangs, and Bob Janes HQ Monaro and ATCC winning (1971, 72) ZL1 Camaro.

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    Good power to weight ratio was a top priority, and to aid the cause, O’Neil sourced a pair of Hewland LG600 trans-axles, and Ford GT40 wheels and suspension components. Holes were cut throughout the bodyshell to help reduce excess flab, while under the hood sat a 550hp, 350ci small block Chevy, topped with Lucas mechanical fuel injection. Behind the Chevy was fitted a Hewland transaxle casing, through which the drive shaft ran to meet a functioning Helwand LG600 at the rear. The rules required the drivetrain sequence remain as standard, hence the dummy gearbox mounted behind the engine. Rear suspension was all independent, with twin coil-overs per side, GT40 hub carriers, and parallel upper and lower links. The 15” x 10” GT40 wheels were encased in big Bridgestone slicks.

    The goal was to debut the Monaro for the start of the 1974 Toby Lee series, but delays with key components, most notably, the GT40 wheels and suspension parts, stalled its first appearance until the start of 1975. As the build had taken so long, Holden had already released the next model of the Monaro, the HJ series, and so Sheppard replaced all the front sheetmetal to suit. By this stage, Toby Lee had dropped their sponsorship of the series, replaced by Chesterfield and radio 2UE. Meanwhile, Calder Park race track owner Bob Jane had also organized a big dollar Sports Sedan series, with Marlboro cigarettes tipping in A$100,000 at the Melbourne based track.

    Geoghegan and his mighty Monaro were immediate crowd favorites when they appeared for the first time at Calder. The big man wrestled the low-slung, white, gold and black Craven Mild sponsored machine with all the gusto he was renowned for. The Monaro produced a fabulous sound track that combined the thundering open exhaust fuel injected Chevy motor, and the high pitched whining of the Hewland transaxle. Big Pete and the Monaro won on debut, beating off Janes HQ Monaro in an epic battle.

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    After its encouraging debut, the ambitious plans for 1975 didn’t quite pan out. The car was to run the full Oran Park and Calder series’, but appearances and results were spasmodic and the Monaro suffered a spate of mechanical failures. Over the offseason the car was rebuilt, and underwent a radical transformation with the addition of huge box flared guards, and broad full-width rear spoiler, which made the already big car look even larger. Also, the nose of the Monaro was reverted back to earlier HQ guise, as demanded by CAMS, as the HJ model wasn’t available as standard with the 350ci Chevy motor.

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    For 1976, the Confederation for Australian Motorsport (CAMS) announced Sports Sedans would finally get Australian championship recognition, and a 7 round national championship was conducted. Geoghegan missed round 1, but finished second in round 2 at Sandown, behind Allan Moffats new IMSA DeKon Monza, beating the Monza in the second heat. Mechanical failures at the next two rounds brought no points, while a troubled round 5 at Adelaide netted fifth. And that was the last appearance the car made in the ’76 ASSC. Geoghegan made two appearances in the 1976 Marlboro series at Calder Park, finishing second to Frank Gardners rapid new Chev Corvair in round 3, while not making the finish in the opening round.

    The car was fast, and there was no doubting Geoghegans ability behind the wheel, but the project had been a series of frustrations that fell well short of its potential.

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    At the end of the season, O’Neil put the Monaro on the market, and was purchased by current Australian V8 Supercar team owner Garry Rogers, to replace his rapid Ford Escort. The Monaro was raced throughout the 1970s and into the ‘80s by various owners, before eventually being retired. Amazingly, the car was modified little beyond its 1976 configuration, although mechanical components were replaced at various times.

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    Big Pete Geoghegans wild Monaro is currently undergoing a full restoration, thankfully to its original, and more appealing, 1975 configuration.

    Thanks to Roaring Season members Ellis and Faminz for their contributions to this thread.

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    How is the restoration on Petes Monaro progressing?

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    Any more photo's on this restoration??

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    Yes, I'd like to know that too?

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    Anyone interested in Pete Geoghegan's 'Craven Mild' Monaro may like to check out the Sponsors News Forum and have a look at the new 1:43rd model available from SPR models.

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    Last edited by John B; 03-01-2013 at 10:28 AM.

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    WOW! This is awesome! I think I might have to buy one of these. John, do you know if Bob Janes HQ Monaro will also be produced?

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    Weekend Warrior
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Vintage Craven Mild racing sticker,
    The 1/43 scale model is fantastic, the detail for a models this size is brilliant.
    The same guys also produce a high quality model of the Sidchrome Mustang, and other cool sport sedans.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkQ View Post
    The 1/43 scale model is fantastic, the detail for a models this size is brilliant.
    The same guys also produce a high quality model of the Sidchrome Mustang, and other cool sport sedans.
    Hi MarkQ
    I've just started a new thread about the ARMCO range of 1:43rd models now being available in NZ.
    Check it out here.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by darren View Post
    Any more photo's on this restoration??

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    Wow, Tom, fantastic photos! Thanks for posting them. How recent are these photos?

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    Well I recently purchased from Roaring Season sponsor SPR Model Cars a 1:43 scale model of one of my favourite racing sedans, Pete Geoghegans awesome HJ Monaro Sports Sedan. This little model is amazing, I LOVE it! The detail is just so impressive. It currently sits just in front of my computer monitor, to keep me motivated and working hard, so I can eventually build up and race the growing assemblage of HQ Monaro parts I'm collecting.

    Back to the model. I noticed a round section that was missing on the windscreen banner, on the drivers side. I naturally assumed this had been scratched off accidentally at some point during shipping and handling, so began considering ways to apply a tiny amount of red paint to correct it. Then I noticed this is actually a detail of the model, as based on the real car. Looking at photos of Pete racing the Monaro, the same round hole appears in the windcreen banner in the same spot, and this remained throughout the cars career, as it passed into the hands of Garry Rogers, Phil Lucas, Bob Stevens etc.

    So can anyone tell me what this was for?

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    Semi-Pro Racer
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Marks Point. NSW. Australia
    Maybe ventilation for the driver?


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    Yep that was my initial thought too Dale. I've not been able to find too many photos that show it in detail. But from what I can tell there is a hole there with some sort of tubing running through it, so could well be. Seems a strange place to provide ducting for driver cooling, but that does seem the most likely.

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    Love the look of that Munro in its original HJ guise. One of the best looking Sports Sedans ever built. Can't wait to see it finished.

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    Me too Darren, I didn't much care for the huge flares that were added in 1976. The car must have cost a fortune to build, there were a lot of GT40 parts used on it. Even the seats were GT40.

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