Posts Tagged ‘Bob Shepherd’

Miller 122

My first exposure to Bob Shepherd’s artistry was in the first issue of the late Barry Lake’s marvellous and way too short-lived Cars and Drivers magazine published in early 1977.

John Medley chose a Shepherd drawing of a Miller 122 to support an article he wrote about the ex-Zborowski machine which raced in New Zealand, and briefly in Australia pre-war, after the untimely death of the wealthy Briton at the wheel of a Mercedes during the 1924 Italian GP.

I’ve always been blown away by Shepherd’s work when I have tripped over it. Discussions with Bob King about the Miller led us to his copy of Graham Howard’s book (Racing Cars Through The Years) of Shepherd’s drawings published in 1993. Diana Davison/Gaze made available the Davison Family Collection of Shepherd images to Howard to allow the book to be published.

So little is known about Bob Shepherd we figured it was time to put something on the record more widely available than those lucky enough to have a copy of that marvellous book.

I asked Bob to do a bio, but after re-reading Graeme’s Introduction in the book, he said “How can I top that!”

So, here it is, Howard’s words shortened only a smidge, and a small selection of drawings which I think demonstrate Bob’s mastery of his art. The descriptions of each car are exactly as they appear in the book.

MG R-type Midget, 1935. Zoller blown at 24-28lbs, MG’s tiny single-cam four (57mm x 73mm, 746cc) delivered 120bhp – more than the Q-type’s leaf-spring chassis could handle. Hence the all independent 750cc R-type, MG’s first ever pure-racing car, with far-sighted backbone chassis and torsion bar parallelogram wishbone suspension. Drawing appeared in the March 1958 AMS.
Bob Shepherd in 1960

“To countless Australians Bob Shepherd the artist was also Bob Shepherd the historian, primarily because of the series of articles he wrote and illustrated for the magazine Australian Motor Sports, starting in August 1946 and continuing for than 15 years.

With a distinctive combination of knowledge, passion and flair, he carried his audience into the magic world of the racing and high performance cars of Europe and (to a lesser degree) America, broadly from the time of the French Grands Prix through to the end of the 1930s. Month by month, car by car, Shepherd spread before his readers the treasures of the Vintage era and the legendary cars of the 1930s which laid the foundations for post-WW2 motor racing. Over the years he gave AMS readers an education in motoring history unrivalled anywhere in the world.

Not that he confined his energies to Australia. He sent drawings overseas to MotorSport and to the Bugatti Owners Club journal Bugantics and was singled out by British engineer-historian Laurence Pomeroy, in the second edition of his milestone book The Grand Prix Car, for having been particularly helpful in suggesting improvements and corrections to the original work. The significance of this acknowledgement needs to be emphasised – that, while far removed from the Northern hemisphere’s factories, archives and authors, Shepherd was nonetheless the master of details which had eluded even the most eminent of British motoring historians.

Even more remarkable was that Shepherd had no formal training, either as an engineer or as an historian, or for that matter as an artist. The writing and illustrating of his monthly AMS pieces, and the maintenance of his correspondence with enthusiasts around the world, was done from the lounge room of his house in the time he had spare from family life and his job as a stores clerk.

Itala 12-cylinder fwd, 1926. Tested but never raced, these innovative cars would have competed against such classics as the 1.5-litre Delages. They were true single-seaters with fully independent suspension; the supercharged V12 engines were built in 1500cc and 1100cc form, the single central camshaft flanked by its two rows of horizontal valves. Drawing appeared in the August 1952 AMS.

He was born in 1914 in the Sydney suburb of Pagewood, where his father was a hairdresser. He was the oldest of three children; he and his brother Sydney were each dux of Daceyville Primary School in their respective years, and Bob was later also dux of Cleveland Street High School, but university was out of the question. Cars and drawing were his great interest, but work in the motor trade was impossible to find: eventually a family friend heard of a job at Davis Gelatine, and he worked there until his retirement in 1979, holding a staff position from 1964. He married Joan Manhood in 1940, they had three children.

As a schoolboy Shepherd had started writing to overseas car manufacturers for catalogues; these catalogues, his voluminous international correspondence, and dissected copies of The Motor, The Autocar and MotorSport formed the basis of his archives, kept in rows of manila folders in large glass-fronted cupboards.

His drawings were made using the simplest of methods and materials. A pencilled grid, or a pair of dividers, would be used to transfer dimensions and proportions from the chosen source photograph onto a sheet of his favourite cartridge paper, and the drawing would start in HB pencil, which would be rubbed out after the final version had been inked-in using mapping pens. All his work was freehand – there were no rulers or artificial aids like French curves. He did most of his drawings on Sundays after church, working for four to five hours, resting his paper on a wooden board and taking advantage of natural light. It would usually need two Sundays to produce a drawing; those for AMS were sent to Melbourne (always by registered mail) in cardboard cylinders accompanied by the text for his article which – like his letters – would be written in copperplate script, blue ink on unlined paper.

He was not comfortable drawing vehicles in action, or drawing people, and he showed no interest in drawing aircraft or motorcycles. Almost all his work was black and white: AMS itself was not printed in colour. In some drawings he used a wash, rather than hatching, to provide shading: when he did use colour, for example for private commissions, it was with complete success. His black box of watercolour pigments, bought when he was 12, is still in use by one of his grandchildren.

Bob Shepherd’s colour drawing of a 1922 Bugatti Type 30 (B King Collection)

Delage 2-litre V12, 1923-1925. After two relatively unsuccessful years as unsupercharged cars, the V12s were supercharged for the 1925 season (as illustrated) and finished 1-2 in the French Grand Prix. The four-camshaft engines (51.3mm x 80mm, 1984cc), unusual in having the exhausts in the centre of the Vee, gave about 190bhp in supercharged form. This drawing appeared in the June 1954 AMS.

As well as his work for AMS, he provided illustrations for many club magazines and illustrated ‘Vintage Types’ for the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia, he was one of its founding members. His first published drawings may have been the series ‘Australia’s Best Known Speed Cars’ in Motor in Australia and Flying in 1939. He was sometimes asked to suggest shapes for rebuilds or of new racing cars. As a boy he had watched racing on the banked concrete saucer at Maroubra but went to few race meetings in later years. More surprisingly, he never owned a car (although he had part shares in several), seldom drove, and did not hold a licence, he never travelled outside New South Wales.

Yet he was in no way reclusive or narrow in his interests. While a reluctant partygoer, he was a most entertaining teller of stories, had an astonishingly broad general knowledge, was a keen reader, loved opera (he did his drawings with ABC radio playing) and was well enough known as a fisherman for there to be an unofficial ‘Shepherd’s Rock’ at nearby Kurnell.

There was little to single out the family house in Maroubra Bay Road. Shepherd took his research seriously – he shared in some ferocious debates in his correspondence columns – but there was absolutely no pretence; there was nothing in his manner to hint that here was one of the foremost authorities on motoring history. Joan and Bob Shepherd made everyone most welcome, whether they were famous names or awed tram-travelling young admirers (for which all those young admirers remain very grateful).

Voisin Grand Prix, 1923. Gabriel Voisin was a pioneer French aviator and aircraft manufacturer, as well as an innovative car maker. His cars for the 1923 French GP had only around 75hp from their 2-litre six-cylinder Knight double-sleeve-valve engines, but had aerodynamic body work and disc covered wire wheels and a true monocoque chassis of plywood and sheet metal. The drawing appeared in the September 1956 AMS.
This is a spread from Bob Shepherd’s Maserati scrap-book, a simple but effective way of archiving material, I guess we all have one, or many! (D Zeunert Collection)

Like many remarkable people, Bob Shepherd was a paradox. He almost never drove a Vintage car, seldom went to the Vintage club meetings, yet was – without realising it – the Australian Vintage movement’s finest publicist. He never travelled outside Australia, never saw any of his beloved cars in their heyday, yet he knew them in minute detail and could picture them with elegant clarity. He had rare gifts yet remained a modest and gentle man. With this book we remember that man.”

Graham Howard, Sydney, 1993.

Talbot-Darracq 1.5-litre, 1926 (above). Continuing Darracq’s pre-1914 racing tradition, the company’s cars for the 1926 1.5-litre formula were 140bhp supercharged twin-cam straight-eights (56mm x 75.5mm, 1488cc). Engine and gearbox were slightly offset to the drivers left. A much modified version of one of these cars (still in 2021) survives in Australia, imported after WW2. The drawing appeared in the October 1951 AMS.

Oops, nearly forgot the Miller 122 at this pieces outset. Miller, 1923. Influenced by Fiat, Harry Miller used two valves per cylinder in hemispherical chambers when he scaled down his 183-cubic inch straight-eight for the 122-inch (2-litre) limit applying from 1923, obtaining an unrivalled 120bhp. Supercharged from 1924, and reduced to 91c.i. from 1926, these engines won Indianapolis in 1923, 1926, 1928 and 1929. That drawing appeared in the April 1957 AMS.


‘Racing Cars Through The Years’ Bob Shepherd and Graeme Howard, Bob King Collection, David Zenuert Collection



First and final issues, February 1946 and April 1971, with 298 issues between (S Dalton Collection, as are all of the following images)

Recording history, as it happens was a very different process before internet based websites and twitispheres made for real-time instantaneous news access across the globe. February 2021 heralds 75 years since a doyen of Australian motoring journals began its journey. Let’s reflect…

World conflict had not long ceased when those with a motor sporting interest began thinking of ways of getting a little bit of their sport happening again – War related fuel rationing or not. The 500cc movement (and its Iota magazine) in the UK saw young John Cooper and a whole host of hopefuls garnering a passionate interest. The colonials had an interest too, and despite the same sort of restrictive measures in those early post war years, also made things happen.

The monthly, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ began its days from the Melbourne-based home of its founding editor/ publisher, Arthur Wylie, under the auspices of Wylie Publishing Co. He had pre-war Motor Racing/Speedway competition driving already on his resume and shared an engineering talent with his brother, Ken where they built their own racing cars and speedway midgets. But nothing relating to putting a magazine into production. In for a penny, in for a pound after his wartime Royal Australian Air Force service. Leading to setting up a small network of often well connected early correspondents, such as John Barraclough and Bob Pritchett to help fill the pages (and get the gossip) to cover all facets of ‘the sport’ – motorcycles, speedway and cars (and occasionally even boats). The ‘car folk’ very much like the UK relied on Hillclimbs as the main means of getting a fix early post conflict with road racing venues difficult to access. This is where the motorcycling clubs tended to lead the way sourcing new venues that the car folk would later often access and benefit.

Bruce Polain and Arthur Wylie aboard his Wylie Javelin at Amaroo Park in 1976 (B Polain)


Ken and Arthur Wylie at Western Springs Speedway, Auckland, NZ 1938. These cars are 2 of 4 kits imported from the US by George Beavis, make folks? (Just Midgets)


A small selection of 1947 and 1948 issues

The first AMS issue dated February 1946 started the Wylie Publishing formula complete with enough advertising and sold copy to help lead to a second issue…and a third… Usually dated to the 15th of the month in the first few years, with the distinctive blue toned cover to brighten things up in an era of basic printing means. That first issue even ran a very brief piece on the “…overseas magazines have been suggesting 500cc Car Racing, using motor cycle engines…” With, like the movement itself, things expanding over future issues and Cooper getting a run in the May ’47 issue (although in reality basically a re-use of UK’s The Autocar story). It would be 1950 before any Coopers arrived Down Under in the metal and Arthur Wylie was in the right place when that happened.

Talented artists tended to be well used as part of magazine publications everywhere during the times when the ‘dark art’ of photo reproduction was an expensive exercise. AMS was no exception, utilising the talents of Sydney-based artist/ enthusiast, Bob Shepherd. With a steady hand bringing forth his gifted ability to create illustrated columns such as ‘Vintage Competition Cars of Australia’ that began in the August 1946 issue and ‘Interesting Power Units’ beginning 12 months later.

Those with a penchant to capture an moving vehicle at close quarters were also welcome submissions in AMS with George Thomas and Ed Steet and many others from across Australia making contributions. With Ed even having time to put the camera down and compete on occasion.

There was another popular column that began in the August 1946 issue, ‘Australian Specials’ heralding what modern day historians can be forever grateful for in these concoctions being recorded in period. There was a fairly broad scope in what determined an Australian Special, some baring quite exotic basis, other less so. Budget dependent often and the builder’s talent also at play. That August ’46 issue sets things going with ‘The Day Special.’ The underpinnings of Jack Day’s special being Bugatti with a Ford V8 crammed in where Ettore’s straight-8 had once resided.

August 1946 issue and the debut of Bob Shepherd’s Vintage Competition Cars of Australia series, The Day Special


Beginnings of the ‘digest-sized’ era from June to December 1951 issues


February 1950 and Cooper gets featured on Australian soil. Phil Irving is shown on the right, Keith Martin (Cooper importer) on left

Arthur was also able to bring UK ‘Motor Sport’ editor, Bill Boddy onboard with his ‘English Newsletter’ column to keep the colonials familiar with what was happening in that part of the world. And on occasion things were reciprocated, with AMS stuff going into Motor Sport. Of course Bill was probably only trying to supplement the miserly pay handed out by Wesley J Tee, publisher of MS.

As mentioned earlier, Arthur Wylie was in the right position as both publisher and competitor to be the one who debuted Cooper into Australian motor sport at the 29-30 January 1950 Fisherman’s Bend race meeting. By engaging Arthur as driver, the original Australian Cooper importer, Keith Martin – under the guise of ‘Cooper Racing Car Distributors’ was hoping to showcase Cooper JAP exploits and get some publicity in AMS as a means to move the four cars he had just landed on Aussie soil four days earlier. Two were complete, the other two were imported minus body. Resulting in the February 1950 issue having the race report where things didn’t go as well as hoped with not enough preparation time between boat and racing. There was also the separate Cooper 1000 feature.

Then Arthur was back in the same Cooper’s seat for the 13 March 1950 Rob Roy Hillclimb meeting where he not only took Fastest time, but broke the course record with his 26.55 sec time. Although it didn’t turn into a rush of quick sales or fresh orders that Keith Martin had probably hoped. They did eventually sell, one of the bodiless cars as a rolling chassis to Ken Wylie, who completed the car and popped in a 500cc JAP. Keith Martin however was never responsible for importing another Cooper to these shores. But he did visit the UK and compete at the likes of 5 July 1952 Rest-and-be-Thankful Hillclimb in Scotland. Where, like many others before and after, he had a moment at the venue damaging the Cooper he was using.

From those humble beginnings, Cooper certainly played a major part in both Aussie motor sporting activities with AMS recording their many exploits over the next 15 odd years. Not that that was the exclusive domain of Cooper. Because AMS helped promote and record the growth of the sport as many ‘new’ racing cars, either arrived ex UK / Europe or was homegrown built in the Australian Special tradition. It was of course the period whereby the old nails from the UK and Europe motor racing could be cast off to the colonials as their hunger for fresh mounts gained momentum. Be they, even then, rare MG, Bugatti or Maserati and the like having reached their sell by date for those chasing victories with no further requirement for last year’s racing car in the northern hemisphere.

May 1947 issue ran this Cooper 500 feature


Lex Davison ready to clear his Ferrari 500/625 from his Lilydale property

The names of Davison, Jones,  Patterson, Mildren, Stillwell, Whiteford and a whole host of others can be tracked through the pages of AMS with their more obscure mounts of the 1940s taking them on their racing journey’s into the ’50s when they boldly stepped into the likes of Ferrari, Lago-Talbot, Maserati, D Type Jaguar and Cooper as their careers grew and more spending power became available to try to outgun each other on the circuits. Then into the ’60s as the Brabham/Tauranac inspired Cooper’s and Repco-Brabham’s became the preferred (or more the point, necessary) means to continue their competitive on track combats of 15 or more years that had begun somewhat more humbly with steads such as HRG, MG or Riley and Ford specials that were fairly easy to access, tweak or build in a back shed or servo with a few skills and basic tools.

Along the journey Arthur Wylie was able to take a little inspiration from Cooper, by way of building his own interpretation of a racing car where the driver sat low and forward of the engine. Originally known as the Jowett Javelin special, although more famously known as the Wylie-Javelin. This was Arthur’s way of constructing a car around Jowett’s Bradford-built flat four – livened up by his addition of a supercharger. That in the early ’50s was a fairly typical ‘hot-up’ to many car engines, be they humble to special with an owner ready for their quick HP fix. After Arthur had his fun with the car, it was owned and raced by others who used it as a stepping stone up the open-wheeler ladder. Tasmania’s John Youl being one who would go on and race a couple of Cooper Climaxes.
You can view and read about Wylie-Javelin, right here;

Of course magazine publishing has always had its challenges, AMS was no exception on that front. Juggling the fine line of budget, gathering and/or writing the copy and advertising, printing and paper supplies. Or the complications of distribution across a vast country like Australia. And what I can easily relate to with simply these scribbles, a deadline quickly looms each month (for the Mini Cooper Register). AMS announced in their December 1949 issue they had been sourcing scarce paper supplies from Sweden to get by. But they weren’t happy on the quality stakes. Then by May 1951 it was another scarcity and the rising cost of paper issue announcement. Bringing about the shrunken A5 Digest-sized issues introduced from the June 1951 issue before a return to an A4 type magazine some three years later with the July 1954 issue – that was also the beginning of yellow cover era.

Mid-50s yellow cover era, shows the factory racing cars that were progressively taking over the grids


UK ‘Motor Sport’ editor, Bill Boddy moonlights with his summary of the then ‘just released’ BRM V16 for February 1950 AMS

By 1954 there was several new players in the Australian motoring magazine department, adorning newsagent shelves. Although Motor Manual, Wheels and Modern Motor were more general motoring scene related with a smattering of sport.

By 1957 the Aussie motor sport scene was beginning to flourish, however Arthur had decided enough and edited his last issue with July’s edition that year. He could finally take a proper holiday! Although the whiff of ink never completely stopped as he began a fishing magazine in the 1970s.

The sale began an era under Jim Webb’s ownership and influence and an era whereby proliferation of racing Cooper’s graced covers month on month. Which of course only reflected the number of Surbiton product touring from circuit to circuit across Oz during those late 50s/early 60s times.

That same timeframe saw new writers’ names appearing in AMS with the likes of Tuckey, Howard, Kable and Polain submitting copy during the growth of their motoring scribblers-related careers.

As the Mini era dawned, AMS covered things from even before the 1959 Mini release through to running a test of the Aussie Mk2 Cooper S ‘KMD 400’ press car in the May 1970 issue. UK rally driver, Brian Culcheth used the car during an Australian visit promotion. More broadly AMS covered a whole host of Mini related news, tests and even graced covers on a couple of occasions. And of course race track exploits scattered amongst many race reports.

AMS had some great classified adverts for a whole swag of wonderful machinery. Here Rupert Steele tries to move his ex-Barrett Alfa Monza


Talented artist Bob Shepherd, his work remains highly prized

No doubt as an attempt to broaden readership and sales, the AMS masthead was given a mid-life makeover by the addition of ‘& Automobiles’ to the cover upon publication of the August 1960 issue. By mid-1963 the title became part of Southdown Press, at the time they were a major player in all variety of Australian magazine publications.

I’m more than aware some enthusiasts with a motor sport historian side can be quite dismissive of the 1963/64 onwards era of the magazine. Especially given Racing Car News had popped up in 1961 and was now chasing the original AMS mantra to cover the sporting side of things. But some foolhardy souls prefer more than one source, so persist in having 25 years of hard copy AMS to the very end when things wound up with publication of the April 1971 issue. Representing 300 Individual issues (4 years had 11 issues only –  46, 55, 61 & 69) Winding up with staff such as Peter Robinson, moving towards a longtime stint as Wheels magazine editor. Before he headed for a motoring life and journalism in Europe.

Arthur Wylie was celebrated by the Aussie Historic movement over the weekend of 11-12 August 1990 with the Historic Amaroo race meeting run in his honour. He passed away on 26 July 1997 – just 4 days shy of his 86th birthday. He would probably be somewhat surprised all these years later enthusiasts are still utilising his journal to solve some obscure moment. Or simply perusing the for sale and classified adverts that showcase cars now worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions in today’s historic terms. But it’s tread easily, that ‘Swedish blond’ paper complained about in-house 70 odd years ago can be on the suntanned and delicate in 2021!

Of course, since AMS & A’s departure from the newsagents shelves, many other brave souls have come (and often gone) trying to establish motoring and motor sporting magazines. The irony there is that as one title ended its print run, Auto Action was beginning its journey. With it now up for celebrating 50 years – 1805 editions through the presses later. With presence on Twitter, Facebook, website or old fashioned hard copy that some of us old dinosaurs prefer. See here;

1967 and 1968 issues with a variety of automotive ‘treasures’ and awkward publicity


The email below was forwarded to Stephen Dalton by Peter Robinson, respected Australian magazine editor/writer in response to Paul Newby’s comments below about the final phases of AMS.

‘Hello Stephen

My thoughts on AMS. It was a long time ago, of course.

In 1966 I was working as a journalist at Keith Winser’s Australian Monthly Motor Manual. While I will always be grateful to Motor Manual for giving me a start (in 1962) in this business, it was a humble publication with no real aspirations for excellence. At the end of 1966 Winser sold to The Age and the small staff moved to the Age building in Collins street, Melbourne.

Shortly thereafter, in early 1967, Pat Hayes, editor of AMS approached me with a job offer and sold me on the idea that Southdown Press, owners of AMS, wanted to take on Wheels and Modern Motor as a more general motoring magazine with a strong motor sport content. Pat required somebody to take responsibility for road testing new models and, not knowing what would happen to Motor Manual (Len Shaw became editor and produced a much improved magazine that eventually became Car Australia).

I jumped at the chance. My first issue I was May, 1967, ironically, given my recent involvement with helping him write a book on his racing career, with Spencer Martin on the cover. My contribution was a story on car insurance. The road tests quickly became an important part of the magazine (we even dyno tested each car), alongside Mike Kable’s excellent motor racing reports and the other regular contributors. Sadly, when compared to Rupert Murdoch’s Southdown Press TV Week and New Idea, AMS remained a minor player in terms of circulation and advertising and was never given the financial support to break out of its newsprint paper quality or with a significant budget increase.

In late 1968, AMS was bundled into News Ltd’s Cumberland Press, based in Parramatta, NSW. The paper quality and reproduction improved, but the ambition to challenge Wheels disappeared. In mid-1969, Pat’s frustration led to his departure to the Age, where he became the newspaper’s letters’ editor. Len Rodney, already editor of Power Boat and Yachting magazine, became editor of AMS and my title changed from Assistant (editor) to Melbourne editor.

In November 1970, on the Austin Tasman/Kimberley launch, I meet Wheels’ new assistant editor Mel Nichols and we struck up a friendship. After Rob Luck resigned as Wheels editor, Mel turned down the job, believing he didn’t have the necessary experience. Mel suggested Murray Publishers approach me for the editor role, a huge step forward. As it turned out, my decision to move was most fortunate. In early March 1971, I moved to Sydney to run Wheels.

My name and byline appear in the March, 1971 AMS. Although I was largely responsible for the editorial and wrote the road tests (and showed up in photographs), my byline does not appear in the April 1971 issue, the last issue of AMS. Len Rodney’s name as editor was also dropped. Shortly after I moved to Wheels, I learned that Cumberland Press had decided to kill off both AMS and the boating magazine.

Hope this provides some worthwhile background.

Peter Robinson’


Stephen Dalton- many thanks for a wonderful article. The images are all from Stephen’s Collection too