Not so mild Monaro

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

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.”

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