The Geoghe­gan years

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

Pre­par­ing the car that beat Leo in the lat­est Lo­tus must have im­pressed old Tom Geoghe­gan be­cause Shep­pard was lured to Sydney to look af­ter one of the big­gest mo­tor­sport equipes in the coun­try. It was a bap­tism of re. Ar­riv­ing at the race shop in Liver­pool in 1963 must have been a bit of a shock, though, be­cause it was lit­tle more than a tin shed with barely enough room for the cars. “It was an old dump, a real hill­billy joint,” Shep­pard re­calls.

Shep­pard pre­pared as many as four cars at a time, work­ing ev­ery night un­til 10 and week­ends, and even drove the truck ini­tially. But the rst na­tional ti­tles came quickly, with Pete win­ning the Aus­tralian Tourist Tro­phy, the na­tion’s pre­mier sports car race, in June 1963 driv­ing the team’s Lo­tus 23, and Leo tak­ing out the sec­ond FJ ti­tle at War­wick Farm. Two cham­pi­onships in three months – Leo’s sec­ond and Pete’s rst.

Leo raced the same Lo­tus 22 as the pre­vi­ous year, with the en­gine re­built by

Shep­pard. It was not the lat­est unit from the UK as many thought. Like Pete, Leo was im­pressed with their new me­chanic. “The week be­fore War­wick Farm all I worked on was the 22. I was chucked in at the deep end. Leo went out in prac­tice and drove in, and as I walked over he had his hand out and shook my hand and said, ‘That’s the rst time I’ve ever driven a race­car that did every­thing it’s sup­posed to do.’ It was quicker than the car had ever been be­fore, so Leo was happy, and that was as good a com­pli­ment as I’d ever had.” In 1964 Shep­pard built a Lo­tus-Cortina GT – the rst time he’d built a race­car from a road car – and Pete beat Beechey’s Holden S4 and Jane’s Jaguar to win the Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship at Lake­side. Pete also won the 1965 Aus­tralian TT in the Lo­tus 23 be­fore tak­ing two more ATCC ti­tles, in 1966-67, in Shep­pard-built Mus­tangs. “The rst Mus­tang was all Shelby bits and pieces you bought off the shelf and made into a race­car, and the sec­ond car we got was a lit­tle more so­phis­ti­cated, we thought. We were lucky to win the cham­pi­onship in 1967, be­cause next time out it blew up at War­wick Farm.”

Shep­pard left for the chal­lenge of run­ning Johnny Ste­wart’s Coven­try Cli­max-pow­ered speedway midget for Sydney dealer Ron Hodg­son (above in­set and right), but he didn’t en­joy the speedway scene. “They were just gravel grubs,” Shep­pard re­calls. “There are lots of low-life rough­house peo­ple in the world and a lot of them seemed to con­gre­gate around the speedway.”

Top left: John stands with the 4.4-litre Repco en­gine he’s build­ing to go into his replica of the Jane To­rana. Above: Pete Geoghe­gan goes back-to-back in the ‘67 ATCC in his John Shep­pard-built Mus­tang. Shep­pard also built the ‘64 ATCC-win­ning Geoghe­gan Cortina.

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