Stormin’ with Norman
On returning to Melbourne, Sheppard was hired by Norm Beechey, who’d been having a terrible time taming his new Holden Monaro GTS 327. Sheppard xed the car, made it reliable, and Beechey went on an amazing winning streak.
“I just did all the things you do, like moving the engine down and all that sort of stuff, and it wasn’t a bad car in the nish. Norm didn’t really nd it necessary to win because he could make wonderful PR out of coming second, but he actually won 13 races in a row with that car. He even beat Pete at Warwick Farm, which was something.
“But I ran out of enthusiasm for being around Norm anymore, so I just wandered off. He was a strange man, but quite a good driver. He used to say, ‘Sheppo, I don’t worry about lines around corners, I just come up and surround the bend,’ but he was a far better driver than a lot of people gave him credit for.”
As an example of what Beechey was like, Sheppard tells of the lead-up to the 1969 ATCC, which kicked off at Calder. In private practice Norm lapped consistently well under the lap record, but couldn’t leave the car alone and had Sheppard install a camshaft he’d got from the US with the caveat of ‘be careful if you’re going to use it.’ Sure enough, the engine failed in qualifying and Sheppard went home, leaving Beechey and friend Peter Lewis-Williams to x the engine. In the race the engine failed again, because the valves were still hitting the pistons.
“That was his mentality, you know – he just couldn’t be stable enough to sit on his laurels. That just made me think, ‘What’s the point of talking to you’, because we’d just spoiled the perfect opportunity to win a touring car championship.”