Not so mild Monaro
After two incredibly successful years with Jane – “The novelty wore off with Bob; we had a blue and I walked out” – Sheppard was again prepared to quit racing, and bosses.
He started his own mechanical workshop, taking over the old Monaro Motors site in Grant Street where he once worked. It was destined for demolition for what is now Citylink, but in the meantime he rented it from Manton, put in a dyno and ‘hung out his shingle’. In return for doing some work on the Camel Rover, Jim Smith, who now owned the Monaro Motors name (nothing to do with the car model), handed it over, so the name, premises and mechanic were reunited!
Being close to GM’s Fishermans Bend plant, Monaro Motors became a drop-off point for “shifty stuff like cylinder heads” that Holden wanted to slip to race teams, like some illicit drug operation. Holden also contracted Monaro Motors to do special jobs such as converting Torana L34 racecars to A9X specification in 1977, which involved modifying the floorpans and creating new suspension pickup points.
But the job Monaro Motors is most famous for, the one that paid off Sheppard’s home mortgage, was the Craven Mild Monaro Sports Sedan designed and built for Laurie O’Neil. Driver Pete Geoghegan recommended his old mechanic for the job.
“Laurie had lots of Ford GT40 bits he wanted to put in. It was a long gestation because Laurie would sort of drip feed all the bits, but it was a good car.”
The Monaro had a GT40 rear end with independent suspension and a Hewland LG600 transaxle. To meet the regs, this meant having a dummy LG600 attached to the engine with “what looked like a gearchange going into it”, like the John McCormack Charger.
Unfortunately, and much to Sheppo’s disgust, CAMS made them replace the original HJ bodywork with HQ panels because the HJ wasn’t built with a 350 V8. “It spoiled what looked like a nice car as an HJ.”
Ironically, Sheppard became the first CAMS chief scrutineer in 1977, but that was not a satisfactory arrangement because he wanted As a Sports Sedan, the Sheppard-built Pete Geoghegan HJ Monaro was a work of art – which was spolied by a CAMS rule change which forced Sheppard to turn it into a HQ model. to ping all the Falcons and Toranas over things like inner guard widths and locked diffs, only for CAMS and the promoters to oppose him! “I was being a pain in the neck. Give me a badge and a gun and I’m gonna go and say, ‘Stick em up!’ CAMS were either incompetent or corrupt, or both.”