Remembering pro street pioneer Rob Beauchamp

We pay tribute to a true pioneer of Aussie street machining

Photographers: Peter Bateman, Nathan Duff, SM Archives

The Street Machine team and wider modified car community were shocked and saddened to learn that one of the legends of our sport, pro street pioneer Rob Beauchamp, passed away last Wednesday following a two-year battle with cancer.

After building a tough HK Holden wagon that he raced at Surfers, Rob broke through nationally when we featured his tough HG Monaro in the Aug/Sept 1982 issue of SM. It was a standout car of the 5th Street Machine Nationals, nabbed a stack of tinware and ran into the 12s, before being sold to Wayne Pagel, who took it to even greater fame as GAS 69.

The tagline ‘The Best’ on the cover of our June 1986 issue appropriately introduced many to Rob’s LX Torana sedan, after he had scooped the pool at the 7th ASMF Street Machine Nationals. Rob had already made waves with a carbied version of the car two years earlier, but the rebuild for ’86 mixed his obsessive attention to detail with raw toughness to create an instant legend. Combining sharp paint and panel combined with a trimmed full interior, polished aluminium, wheelie bars and Enderle injection, Rob’s LX blurred the lines between street and strip.

The car was sold as a roller shortly after its 1986 Street Machine feature to fund Rob’s next project – his equally legendary VL Calais (SM, Apr-May ’88). Rob wanted to build a late-model pro streeter and was drawn to looks of the then-current Calais, believing it would make the perfect basis for his concept.

He started collecting panels and parts before teaming up with Bill Jones from Weldwell Engineering, who underpinned the Calais’ shell with a full tubular chassis and Funny Car-style rollcage, which was painted red to contrast with the eventual metallic grey exterior hue.

An Enderle-injected 302 Chev was detailed to the nth degree before being nestled in its new digs, and the build was rounded out with polished Center Line Auto Drags.

Rob later treated the VL to a makeover in grape purple with graphics and Weld Pro Star wheels, and its career trophy haul including the coveted Top Street Machine Overall title (AKA Grand Champion) at the first three Summernats. He raced the VL for a number of years before selling it in the early 2000s.

Eventually, he grew restless and keen to test his skills by tackling a new project, a Sting Red 1967 Chevrolet Nova (SM, Aug ’11). The Nova marked a departure from his previous pro street-styled projects; it was a more street-focused build that incorporated all of the then-modern comforts of a CV8 Monaro and V-series Commodore. Rob grafted the underpinnings of these later Holdens within the confines of the Nova’s compact shell, including the LS1/4L65E powertrain and IRS, along with power steering, air conditioning, ABS and traction control, and even a full VZ Monaro interior.

Rob gave the Grand Champion chase a real shake at Street Machine Summernats 29, giving winner John Saad and his Mazda a real run for their money. Rob drove the Nova live a demon, putting in an especially fast motorkhana run on the Saturday night and absolutely nailing the go-to-whoa.

The Nova was sold in 2017 before being replaced with one of Rob’s last toys, a second-gen Camaro.

Rob’s enormous contribution to the street machine scene is marked by game-changing innovation across a string of iconic builds. However, he will be remembered as a quietly spoken, loving family man with a quick wit and a humble demeanour that belied the huge influence he had on two generations of street machiners.