This story was originally published in the August 2011 issue of Street Machine magazine
FOR the first decade of Street Machine’s life, Queenslander Rob Beauchamp was busy building a trio of Holdens, each better than the last. He started with a sweet HG Monaro (Aug/Sept ’82), before debuting his LX Torana (June ’86). Built in the US Pro Street style, the LX swept all before it, but his next car — a tube-chassis VL — was even more impressive and won the Top Street Machine Overall at the first two Summernats.
The legendary Calais is still racing, but with turbo 414ci power in the hands of Kit Hunter
It’s been a long time since we saw a new Beauchamp creation but this fusion of Chevy Nova looks with CV8 Monaro running gear marks the return of a legend after a sabbatical raising children and doing other grown-up stuff. “I spent every weekend for the past seven or eight years with my son and his motocross, and because I do a fair bit of restoration and mechanical work on these kinds of cars anyway I didn’t feel the urge for a new build,” Rob says.
Rob's latest creation blends a '67 Nova body with Monaro CV8 running gear
But when his son hung up his boots a few years ago, Rob had time on his hands again and at wife Jan’s insistence he started to look for a blank canvas to work his magic on. “Cars are his passion, and I know in the past how well he’s done, so I said: ‘Why don’t you find another car to do?’” she says.
The mods look relatively subtle but only the roof and tops of the rear quarter panels are original Nova
While the idea of marrying old and new isn’t unique, few builds make it past the honeymoon stage of settling on a blend of parts that underline the classic aesthetics and modern technology. Rob’s Nova is drastically different from his Pro Street VL but shares the unmistakable ‘engineering perfection’ gene that marks all Beauchamp builds.
The motor is a bone-stock LS1 but dressed up with a cool Eedelbrock intake and coil covers
“Like everyone, I wanted a 21st century car that could handle 40-degree heat with the air con on and not have the radiator pop. It’s got all the safety features like ABS and traction control, everything in it works like a brand new car, and for all intents and purposes it’s as easy to work on as a late-model Commodore, which was the idea of it.
A lot of the interior is VZ Monaro, though the dash is VX. Steering wheel buttons and everything works as it should
Many who saw Rob’s Nova at the Gold Coast Hot Rod Show last year gave it the once-over — “Nova with VZ Monaro interior, cool” — before moving on, not fully comprehending the work that’d gone into it. Ironically, the subtlety that marks the Nova out means not everyone notices it. “Eight out of 10 people can’t pick it’s been modified,” Rob says. “Blokes who appreciate engineering will see where it’s different, like the rear arches and spoiler, but to most people it’s just a pretty 60s car.” The deeper you look, the more it becomes clear that this is no resto and the transformation wasn’t without difficulties.
The Nova uses a VY Commodore floor pan and a narrowed VZ rear cradle
“I got the car from the guys at Classic Ridz in Caloundra, who brought it in from the States, and sent it to the sandblaster. Its first trip probably should have been to the tip but all you need is enough metal to mount the ID tags,” Rob jokes. Only the roof and tops of the rear quarters are original Nova metal; the rest is a mix of NOS or used panels from the States on the outside, V-series Commodore underneath and fabricated solutions where needed. So with the classic half of the build sourced, all Rob needed was the Monaro donor car.
“Before I started the build, I spent probably six weeks of my life at Aussie Auto Recyclers with a tape measure and a digital camera taking measurements and planning. They thought I was on the payroll by the end of it.” A VY floorpan and firewall with other V-series bits stitched in made the cut for the undercarriage, while at the back a VZ cradle with VQ arms (toe adjustment replaced by eccentric bushes) was narrowed and mated to custom driveshafts to make the rear track as per factory specs.
The rear features a subtle boot spoiler that looks almost stock
Residing in the widened and lengthened wheel arches are specially made Bonspeeds that Brad Fanshaw in the US customised with structural changes and a unique offset to Rob’s specs, making them impossible to fit on another car. RRS Suspension down in Sydney also came to the party with some specialised components just for the Nova. “Matthew from RRS went out of his way and virtually hand-made a set of struts — and kept the whole thing hush-hush,” Rob says. “I’d give him some ideas and he’d send up some amazingly engineered prototypes. The suspension is unique, the guy did a fabulous job.”
On the inside, things didn’t go to plan with the first trimmer delivering results that weren’t up to scratch with the rest of the build. Fortunately for Rob, Shane Webb from Imagetrim stepped up to the challenge and delivered an interior that met the standard of the rest of the car and exceeded Rob’s expectations — and he couldn’t consider the Nova finished until he was 100 per cent happy with every square inch of the car.
“Sometimes he’d come to bed after he’d been working on the car for hours and say: ‘I’m not happy with that, I’ll do it again’ talking about a small bracket,” Jan says. “Most of the things I’ve done no-one will ever see but at least I know it’s been done to my standard. If you closed your eyes, you’d think you were driving a VZ Monaro,” Rob says.
Look at the ‘thanks’ list and you’ll find a lot of the guys who helped make the VL a triple-champion were also in on the Nova build. “I’m still a Pro Street fan — I love what goes on in the scene and would do it again in a moment — but realistically that ship has sailed a bit because what you can get away with legally now has changed.”
He’s a hard man to please but he’s happy with the Nova and intends to enjoy it with Jan as much as possible, with some shows in Australia and maybe a trip to the US to show the Yanks a thing or two about retro-styled moderns. “The VL was built for a purpose and spent 90 per cent of its time at a racetrack. We can jump in this and go anywhere, and probably appreciate it more as a true driver,” Rob says.