Mus­cle Man: John Shep­pard

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

He mas­ter­mind the suc­cess of the Geoghe­gans, of Bob Jane’s team, and Brock’s A9X Bathurst wins.

With an as­ton­ish­ing 13 na­tional cham­pi­onships and two Bathurst 1000 vic­to­ries to his name, John Shep­pard is ar­guably the most suc­cess­ful crew chief in lo­cal rac­ing. Here he re­views his stel­lar ca­reer, and the of­ten stormy re­la­tion­ships with his cham­pi­ons – the Geoghe­gans, Beechey, Jane, Brock and France­vic.

John Shep­pard of­ten says he has “a shock­ing at­ten­tion span”, as a way of ex­plain­ing the con­stant changes dur­ing a ca­reer in which he guided the for­tunes of some of the big­gest names in the sport. While it’s true he moved around a lot, he’s prob­a­bly do­ing him­self a dis­ser­vice.

You don’t win 13 na­tional cham­pi­onships and two Bathurst 1000s as a crew chief un­less you have enor­mous abil­ity and an ap­petite for new chal­lenges. Shep­pard wasn’t one to hang around and re­peat past glo­ries; his was a sharp mind that re­quired new stim­u­la­tion. Com­bined with a no-non­sense and dog­matic – some might say prickly – ap­proach, and you had some­one who wasn’t afraid of walk­ing away from some of the giant tal­ents and egos that made our great sport so fas­ci­nat­ing dur­ing its glory days.

Five years with the Geoghe­gans in Sydney es­tab­lished the young Shep­pard as prob­a­bly the best me­chanic in the sport – he was named ‘Me­chanic of the Year’ in 1966 – with ti­tles in open-wheel­ers, sports cars and tour­ing cars. To fur­ther prove his adapt­abil­ity, he then dab­bled with speedway and won an Aus­tralian Speed­car Cham­pi­onship.

A brief stint with Norm Beechey was fol­lowed by the rst phase in an en­dur­ing love-hate re­la­tion­ship with Bob Jane that net­ted Jane a pair of tour­ing car ti­tles (1971-72) in the Ca­maro and sports car ti­tles for John Har­vey. Sheppo then built the fa­mous To­rana-Repco Sports Sedan.

He also cre­ated Pete Geoghe­gan’s Craven Mild Monaro and fa­mously took over the Marl­boro Holden Dealer Team from Harry Firth. In two mas­sively suc­cess­ful sea­sons, he and Peter Brock cleaned up. He tried to walk away from mo­tor rac­ing but re­turned to the spot­light with Volvo in 1986, win­ning an­other ATCC with Kiwi re­brand Rob­bie France­vic be­fore the team im­ploded.

Shep­pard con­tin­ued work­ing on var­i­ous rac­ing, build­ing and restora­tion projects for an­other two decades, in­clud­ing close in­volve­ment with Bob Jane’s Thun­der­dome and NASCAR rac­ing, be­fore nally re­tir­ing from “gain­ful em­ploy­ment” at the age of 75. He was recog­nised with an Aus­tralian Sports Medal for ser­vices to mo­tor sport. He is now 82, mar­ried to Eileen for 61 years, and has three daugh­ters and 12 grand­chil­dren.

ll a ss a H d vi a D

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.