Ap­pren­tice of the Year

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

John’s pi­lot fa­ther died with he was only four and his up­bring­ing was very un­set­tled, which per­haps helps ex­plain his later con­stantly chang­ing adult ca­reer.

He left school at 15 to help his wid­owed mum, de­spite be­ing dux and be­ing of­fered a two-year schol­ar­ship, and be­came a me­chanic, win­ning the 1952 Bea­z­ley Award for out­stand­ing nal-year ap­pren­tice.

“Even when I was quite young I used to pull things to bits, play with them and put them back to­gether again,” he re­calls. “I guess I was just me­chan­i­cally minded.”

He was ex­posed to mo­tor rac­ing when he joined Stan Jones Mo­tors, but didn’t get to work on race­cars un­til he joined Peter Man­ton’s Monaro Mo­tors in South Mel­bourne in 1957. Man­ton raced Minis and he let Shep­pard race one in re­turn for work­ing on it at home – but was less keen af­ter John beat his best time at Rob Roy Hill­climb! Sheppo had lit­tle in­ter­est in driv­ing, but per­haps this ex­pe­ri­ence coloured his re­la­tion­ship with driv­ers in fu­ture years.

Shep­pard also pre­pared cars for the wealthy Youl fam­ily from Tas­ma­nia, in­clud­ing son Gavin’s Brab­ham. They went to the in­au­gu­ral Aus­tralian For­mula Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship at Ka­toomba in 1962 and nished a sur­prise sec­ond, be­tween lo­cal he­roes Frank Matich and Leo Geoghe­gan.

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