AT the height of his powers, it didn’t take Peter Brock long to get his brain around how to drive an unfamiliar car.
That included one of the fastest cars the King of the Mountain ever campaigned, Bob Jane’s iconic Chevrolet Monza GT car.
Initially built as a Sports Sedan in the late 1970s, the car was radically modified for 1982 to suit freedoms allowed by new ‘GT’ class regulations.
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Jane also stepped out of the driver’s seat, recruiting the then five-time Bathurst winner to drive the rebuilt Monza.
The GT car couldn’t have been more different from his usual Holden Commodore touring car.
The Monza weighed barely over 1000kg, and under its swoopy, downforce-inducing bodywork lay a 350 cubic-inch Chevrolet V8 producing 620 horsepower and 520 ft-lb of torque, packaged in a short 97-inch wheelbase.
Brock’s first drive of the car came at Adelaide International Raceway just ahead of his first scheduled race aboard it.
Apart from a couple of minor adjustments, Jane team chief mechanic Pat Purcell recalls that Brock on the limit straight away.
“I remember him doing a few laps and calling in and saying, ‘it’s very heavy in the steering’ – I’d put anti-Ackerman in because I didn’t want it to be trying to turn itself around by turning-in too good,” Purcell said.
“Just give me half an hour and I’ll change it. I moved the steering rack, and said to just be careful when he went back out, that he might get a bit of wandering under brakes and bump steer.
“He came back in and said the car was wandering everywhere; ‘Give me another half-hour and I’ll get that out.
“He also said, ‘I don’t like the throttle on this car. The first half of the throttle is too slow, the progression.
“’Because I heel and toe I want more instant response. I like to powerslide the car and in that change-down, when I blip (the throttle) I want it to respond quicker so I can change quicker.’”
The result of the minor adjustments was clear on Purcell’s stopwatch.
The category benchmark was Alan Jones, the 1980 Formula 1 World Champion piloting a fire-breathing Porsche 935 Turbo entered by Porsche Cars Australia.
The Monza might have been built on a tenth of the budget of Porsche’s legendary Le Mans 24 Hours-winning weapon, Brock proved it could give the German car a run for its money.
“I think Jones was out there grinding around for three days, and Peter went two seconds under his time,” Purcell recalls.
“He said, ‘the car is just so beautiful’ and predicted he could take another two seconds off the time – we were happy with what he did!
“The next day (in official practice) he went out and did two warm up laps, and on the third lap he was within a tenth of what he said he could do.”
“We were just shattered, you know.”
While the Monza lacked the straight-line punch of the turbocharged Porsche, Brock was able to give Jones a very hard time in a series of thrilling duels throughout the remainder of the 1982 season.
Brock only raced the Monza a handful of times in 1983 – most infamously at the Adelaide GT Championship round where he was involved in a spectacular start-line crash – and had his final race in the car at that year’s Australian Grand Prix meeting at Calder Park.
“(Brock) was very easy to work with,” Purcell said.
“We said ‘we can get more out of the Monza’, and he’d say ‘Pat, we don’t have to. I’ll just drive harder!’”