Craven Mild HJ Monaro Sports Sedan up for auction

One of Australia’s most recognised Sports Sedans is heading to auction after a 15 year restoration


One of Australia’s most-iconic Sports Sedans is set to be auctioned after an extensive restoration.

The Craven Mild Monaro was orginally built for owner Laurie O’Neil by John Sheppard, with the aim of being a front-runner in the burgeoning world of Sports Sedans with five-time Australian Touring Car champion Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan behind the wheel.

The category was not only spectacular to watch, but offered teams broad creative freedoms rule-wise – and had rich prize purses on offer.

Consequently, the Craven Mild HJ was loaded with exotic gear. Under the bonnet was a 550hp, 350ci small block topped with Lucas fuel injection, but the real action was undereath.

While Sports Sedan rules stated that the drivetrain sequence should remain as-factory, O’Neil and Sheppard got around this by running a Hewland transaxle casing behind the engine. A driveshalft then ran to a complete Hewland LG600 transaxle at the rear.

The independent rear suspension featured inboard brakes, twin coil-over shocks each side and various Ford GT40 items, along with 15x10in GT40 rims.

Parts delays meant Geoghegan missed the 1974 season, with the car making its racing debut at Calder Park in 1975, immediately enjoying success over Bob Jane’s HQ Monaro.

After such a promising start, Geoghegan and the Monaro suffered a number of setbacks and while the combination was fast, it was unable to fulfil its potential. The team also had to revert the car to HQ guise, to satisfy a CAMS ruling.

O’Neil put the car up for sale at the end of the 1976 season and the car found a new home with current GRM owner Garry Rogers. It then passed through several hands before landing with Kerry Turley in 2006.

Kerry has just finished a mammoth 15 year restoration on the Monaro, returning it to its original HJ Craven Mild specification. Jason Waye and the crew from Muscle Garage and Tuff Mounts were tasked with the painstaking process of putting the Monaro together over the last three years.

“We were given the rolling shell with all the paint work done and a several pallets worth of parts, and basically given the brief of ‘it needs to be right’” said Jason.

Jason knew he and his team were going to have their work cut out for them to assemble such a unique piece of machinery, with every detail needing to absolutely perfect and as accurate as possible to when the car was first built.

“A good example of that is the dashboard,” said Jason. “It took around 1100 compressions in the metal to get that finish, so you have over a days work just in that piece alone.”

Jason’s also no stranger to hand-built cars, but even he was surprised with the level of engineering under the skin of the Monaro. “I was staggered,” he said. “To think they managed the build something like this back then is truly remarkable.”

The Muscle Garage crew relied heavily on archive photos to help them reconstruct the Monaro as accurately as they could, as Jason didn’t want to give the trainspotters any room to pick holes in the restoration. “Even reconstructing the dry sump system in the boot, we spent hours looking at photos and speaking to people to make sure we got it all right,” he said.

Even with several pallet loads of parts, Jason and his men spent hours chasing or making one-off parts to complete the build. “We spoke to people from all over the country and overseas for this project, which is part of the fun of doing a car like this,” he said. “We do it for the love of it, which is why I’m so proud of what we achieved with building a car as complex and unique as this.”

The car was buttoned up late last year, before being loaded up and shipped to Burns & Co auctions in Bayswater, Victoria.

“I’m usually never sad when we sell or say goodbye to car, but once it left I actually found myself missing it!” laughed Jason.

Less than a dozen high end Sports Sedans from this era survive, with some of the most-famous cars lost forever.

“The scene is so strong that exacting replicas of some of those missing cars are now being built at great expense, including the Gardner/Grice Chev Corvair and the BryanThompson fastback VW,” says Jason.

The listing for the Monaro on Burns & Co’s website is live now, with the auction to commence on February 6 from 12pm AEDT.

As for the money it’ll go for, Jason has high hopes for the Craven Mild car. “I want it to go for over $1 million, and I think it will,” he said. “Bob Jane’s HQ sold for over that with the same mob last year, so I don’t see why this shouldn’t go for even more.”