George-Shepheard’s two decades of Australian rallying experience helped him plot victory. George’s father Reg came to Australia with his family from the UK in 1949 as a Redex company executive, sponsoring the first great Round Australia Trials that became known as the Redex Trials in 1953, ’54 and ’55.
George made his name navigating in rallies, partnering his mate Colin Bond along with Andy Frankel in the 1964 Ampol Round Australia where they won the under-25 prize in a secondhand VW 1200 Beetle. He went on to partner Gelignite Jack Murray and Evan Green in the 1968 London-to-Sydney, almost winning before an axle broke on the works Austin.
Then he and Colin Bond teamed up through the 1970s to become a formidable team in the Australian Rally Championship, winning three national titles in 1971, ’72 and ’74 in Torana XU-1s.
George learned a lot from Harry Firth, his HDT boss in the early 1970s. When Holden was looking to tackle the 1979 Repco they turned to George to mastermind the project.
The ‘Tangle Toothed Tactician’ as one rally wag dubbed him admits the choice of V8 panel vans as service vehicles was actually more good fortune than planning.
“That was what Holden had so that was what we had to use,” said George. “They were fast and could carry a reasonable load so we were pretty fortunate to have them, compared with what some of the other teams chose or had to use, they could cover territory pretty quickly and were bullet proof,” says George.
When Holden committed to the project in late 1978 he went to work using the Holden dealer network around the country and in the most remote areas in the country.
“I contacted every Holden dealer in the bush and asked them if anyone had seen any Repco survey cars going through town and to let me know if they saw any cars. So pretty quickly I had a fair idea where the rally was going which helped us plan our logistics and that helped immensely,” George told us.
George reckons it was a team effort, every team member played their part and really the panel vans played their part as well, ensuring they could keep up with the rally, believing that a lot of people underestimated the pace and nature of the Repco.