Apprentice of the Year
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.