Words: Peter Hill
When Peter rang Dave McMillan to talk to him about Mark ‘Jandals’ Sheehan – the subject of the next in his series profiling some of New Zealand’s top race mechanics/engineers from the ’60s and ’70s – his first comment was: “I reckon he should be knighted, ‘Sir Jandals.’” Although, as his nickname suggests, if he was offered a knighthood then getting him to dress for the ceremony might prove to be a problem.
Jandals served his apprenticeship at Northern Autos in Auckland, working on Triumphs and Studebakers and “that sort of rubbish”. His first taste of motorsport came through helping Brian Pellow working on the Mini he raced. A single-seater soon followed when the Pellow brothers acquired Tim Bailey’s Brabham BT6, a car powered by a pushrod Fiat engine: “It was the fastest pushrod but no match for the twin-cams.” However, a twin-cam motor came up for sale and Jandals was soon working on it and the Brabham chassis, learning on the job.
On the occasions he’d visited Christchurch, Jandals always thought it would be a good place to live, so he moved there at the end of 1969 when he had completed his apprenticeship. There he worked for Murray Baker running Formula Fords for a few drivers. Murray’s brother, Graham, had been racing a Formula B in North America. When he returned to Christchurch, he purchased a Formula Ford that Jandals would work on.
The early seventies was also the time when big-banger saloons were added to Jandals’ experience, working for Leo Leonard on both the E38 then E49 Charger. Allan Moffat was none too happy when his Falcon GT-HO got blown away at Wigram by the Chargers of Leonard and Rutherford, and Leo still holds Jandals in high regard.
“He was a loyal and dedicated enthusiast. When we were underfunded and trying to race a car, he was the right person to have around – not demanding and a great all-rounder. Just before a race Jandals was always last to leave the grid. He’d be busy spraying Track-Bite in front of the rear tyres. It was one of his initiatives. I don’t know if it did any good, although we did always seem to get away pretty well.”
Jandals also worked on the PDL Mustang for a while and after rebuilding its engine, he was delighted to witness Graham Baker at Baypark winning all three races in the Mustang, beating Moffat.
It was a miracle the Mustang was racing at one meeting; the day before, Jandals had finished rebuilding the engine and had put it in the back of a Vanguard van. On the way to the track the doors of the van flew open and the engine fell out onto the road. Jandals claims that the engine passed them as it rolled along the tarmac, shedding components as it went by. They worked all night to rebuild the engine and managed to have the Mustang racing the next day.
A job offer from Neville Crichton lured Jandals back to Auckland. Crichton believes their association came about through Rod Coppins.
“Mark worked for me on and off on different projects. I think he originally came through Rod Coppins. Rod was racing that E49 Charger. Rod worked for me in those days at Monaco Motors. Rod brought Mark along and we went on from there, and when I started racing the 350 Monaro, Mark worked for me full-time on that project.
“Mark was a very good mechanic, very reliable, a good all-rounder and he had a lot of knowledge. He would work 24 hours a day to get a project finished. You just had to keep an eye on him to make sure everything complied [with the rules]. He did several B&H cars for me for a period as well. The first Wellington street race I did in the BMW, he worked on that. I hired Ray Stone to run the team and Mark worked for him on the BMW. Ray and Mark weren’t a good match. Stone was immaculate and everything was perfect whereas Jandals was more ‘she’ll be right’, but he still got the job done.”
The Crichtons sometimes found Jandals’ dress sense a challenge.
“My wife at that time tried to tidy him up. At one stage we had to go to a function that required a suit. She went out and bought him a suit and he turned up to the function with his suit on – but still wearing his jandals!”
Continue this story in our July-August issue (page 52-56)