Rob Beauchamp’s ground-breaking pro street LX Torana

The Street Machine Nationals judges wanted the best piece of iron in Oz. Rob Beauchamp’s Torana got their nod!

Photographers: Peter Bateman

It’s official! This 1976 Torana four-door is the best damned street machine in Australia. It’s just collared the plum prize at the Nats … Top Street Machine Overall.

First published in Street Machine, June 1986

“Getting the trophy made it all worthwhile,” said a rapt Rob and his wife Jan. He couldn’t believe his good fortune when his name and number were announced: “The standard was so high, I didn’t dare hope to win overall. I’d gone down south because I figured I might have a chance to take out Top Street Comp. But when Wayne Pagel won that, I kinda ran out of optimism.” The irony is that Pagel’s black Monaro Pro-Streeter once belonged to the Beauchamps.

Mr and Mrs Beauchamp are a great double act. Motor mechanic Rob does all the heavy-duty stuff. Housewife Jan is more than just a token partner though. An absolute gem, she’s always there lending her time and support. When there’s a few bucks to be spent, she never says no. Girls who never say no are hard to find … it goes without saying the Beauchamp Torana is something special. In concept and execution, it shaded every other car at the Nats.

Actually, all of us at Street Machine are chuffed this majestic creation got the big trophy. See, we’re an odd bunch here. We reckon street machines should actually be driven and not just polished and slobbered over. Rob drives this Torana to work each day, wheelie bars and all. Initially, he built the super-smooth, super-quick Torana purely for speed. It’s just that Rob is so particular about his cars. He likes ’em to look a couple of steps better than perfect. The attention to detail and workmanship in this lightning flash defies criticism. Make no mistake, it’ll crack 10sec quarter miles every day.

It’s been a four-year labour of love. After the Beauchamps sold their black Monaro to Wayne Pagel, the idea was to start work on a lightweight racecar. Rob picked up an LX Sunbird with some damage to the left front. The crappy original Opel engine had blown up, so it was smartly dispatched to make room for a real fire-breathing mill. Jeff Holland and Ken Austin spent lotsa time getting the panels dead straight.

Externally, the body looks stock. In the interests of convenience and keeping the kilos down they made a fibreglass bonnet for competition activity. Rob thought long and hard about replacing it with a proper steel one for the judges’ eyes at the Nats. But after a close inspection he decided the glass bonnet moulding was so good he’d stick with it.

It’s a ripper paint job using a deep maroon base colour and five coats of a special tint. It’s pretty close to Venetian Red, but a couple of shades darker. Finally, half a dozen layers of clear gave the Torana a spectacular glossy finish.

Wheel arches have been opened up and steel tubs beautifully crafted to accommodate the nine-inch Ford rear end and 15-inch Center Lines. There’s no loss of rigidity ’cause Rob refused to use aluminium, and in any case, chassis braces have been fabricated to bolster modded areas.

And because Rob wanted a car suited for street as well as strip, he avoided the discarded rear seat routine many Pro-Stockers go for.

This rocket ship carries five adults with haste and comfort. Well, as comfortable as an interior can be with a six-point roll cage and harness (with Simpson arm restraints) intruding on passenger space.

Because the tubs cut into the space usually occupied by the bench, the rear seat had to be custom-built to fit. Front buckets are Recaros, trimmed in maroon velvet and black vinyl.

The interior has been retrimmed throughout – right down to matching maroon velvet headlining. It might sound like overkill doing such a complete job on a comp car, but Rob’s a perfectionist. Steering wheel is a MOMO and the gauges are VDO, with the exception of a Smith’s tacho.

The 350 Chev is a 40-thou over-bored no-shit muscle job. This bloke isn’t into tunnel rams or superchargers. “I can get a single carby to run as hard as a rammed engine, and I’m not into blowers. You’ve got to run 6:1 pistons if you’re fair dinkum. And then you’re up for a bunch of new components if you want to go back to carburettors or injection.

“Plenty of blokes brag about their supercharged cars, but not many are goers. Victor Bray’s tough Chev is about the only blown car around that goes real hard.”

Rob likes his rides a few steps beyond perfection

Initially, Rob ran a carburettor set-up that saw 11.4 ETs. Later, he switched to Enderle injection and methanol and sliced another half-second off his times. Robust engine innards, like shot-peened Chev rods and Jahns pistons (12.5:1s) have warded off unwelcome explosions. But Rob gets by with a standard cast crank, Engle cam, valve springs and lifters, Crane rocker arms and longer pushrods.

Twin thermo fans are on hand to keep the Chevy running cool. Interestingly, there’s no room for belts to drive a regular water pump, so a Moroso electric set-up does the job. A clever engineering touch is a header tank to allow self-priming of the injectors for easy starting.

Peeking under the bonnet is a pure visual knockout, with lashings of gleaming metal in the right places contrasting with the spotless maroon engine bay. Very tasteful. The injectors and stacks, injection pump, bracketing, rack and pinion and Weiand rockers covers are all polished alloy. Aluminium is used for the radiator support panel and in the strips along the guards. The brake power booster and master cylinder have been to the chrome platers.

Stainless Earl’s braided lines tone in nicely with the shiny bits, and the red and blue end fittings add contrast without confusing the overall scene. The wiring’s been renewed and concealed. Again, you marvel at the fine touches, like the chromed radiator cap with fine colour-coded maroon flashes. And the lower radiator tank has an airbrushed mural. The transmission is a TH350 with a 5000rpm converter hooked up to a B&M Starshifter and tied to a custom-made gearbox crossmember. Rob is using a low-geared 4.5 diff ratio best suited to slingshot getaways. Axles cop plenty; they’re 33-spline Giess varieties. And there’s a tranny cooler too.

The fuel tank is an 8.5-gallon stainless job, built by Col Chapman. Stainless steel was necessary because methanol reacts badly with aluminium.

A Holley electric fuel pump with aviation filler gets the juice flowing.

Shaving fractions from your ET is all about extracting the best from your machine, and that includes getting the suspension to work. Rob’s slipped in Spax coil-overs, firm neoprene bushes to eliminate sloppiness and a handbuilt rear bar suited to the narrow rear end. Front discs are ex-HQ; drum rears are from an XY Falcon.

The last link between the machine and asphalt are fat Posi-Tractions on the driving wheels and, for street use anyway, narrow Michelin radials on five-inch front Center Lines. Those Center Lines, incidentally, are polished to a mirror finish inside and out. The diff backing plates, big B&M auto pan, front and rear tailshaft lips and lower control arms have copped the chrome treatment, while the rest of the underside is spick and span.

In fact, it’s spotless throughout. But Rob says an occasional stone chip is inevitable, being a competition car.

Rob and Jan Beauchamp’s big trophy win in Canberra showed what perseverance is worth. Two years back, at the 6th Street Machine Nationals (pictured below), this same car didn’t win a prize.

Owner:Rob Beauchamp
Model:1976 LX Torana sedan
Featured:Street Machine, June 1986
Cool info:At the 7th Street Machine Magazine Nationals (forerunner to today’s Summernats) in 1986, Rob scored Top Street Machine Overall. Rob went on to build a sensational Calais retaining the Torana’s distinctive colour
Paint:Custom burgundy based on Venetian Red
Engine:Chev 350 with Enderle mechanical injection
Gearbox:GM TH350 three-speed auto, modified
Diff:Ford 9-inch
Wheels:Center Lines
Interior:Recaro seats, MOMO wheel