The 1970s was a golden era for Australian sports sedan racing and one of the best remembered cars of that period was the big 350cid V8 Monaro driven by multiple Australian Touring Car Champion Pete Geoghegan.
Backed by tobacco giant WD & HO Wills through its Craven Mild cigarette brand, this tyre-melting muscle monster soon became known simply as the ‘Craven Mild Monaro’ thanks largely to the strong visual imprint created by its classy metallic gold war paint.
The car was owned by wealthy industrialist Laurie O’Neil, who gave renowned race mechanic and car constructor John Sheppard a simple task: to build him the best sport sedan in Australia.
O’Neil wanted his good mate Pete Geoghegan to drive it in 1974, with a view to claiming the rich bounties on offer from cashed-up track promoters keen to capitalise on the magnetic crowd-pulling power of these highly modified cars.
The end result of Sheppard’s masterful interpretation of O’Neil’s request was arguably what should have become the blueprint for future sports sedan design, as it was reminiscent of its immortal Improved Production predecessors like Beechey’s Monaro, Moffat’s Mustang, Jane’s Camaro and Pete’s Super Falcon.
The Craven Mild Monaro embodied the best of both worlds; a traditional front-engined V8 muscle car that preserved the integrity of its production bodyshell, mixed with the right amount of exotic competition hardware to produce shattering performance.