Image: Rod Coleman after winning the Junior at Patea, 1951
Grand Prix motorcycle road racer, b. June 19, 1926
Rod W. Coleman (born June 19, 1926) was a Grand Prix motorcycle road racer from New Zealand who raced for AMC (Associated Motorcycles) riding AJS motorcycles both at the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy), and in the Grand Prix World Championship in Europe, between 1951 and 1956. He was the first official entrant from the New Zealand Auto-Cycle Union in the 1949 Isle of Man TT, but crashed in practice, and in 1954 became the first New Zealander to win a TT.
Rod Coleman is the son of “Cannonball Coleman” also from Whanganui who first raced at the 1930 Isle of Man TT but retired from the 1930 Junior TT and Senior TT Races. The first New Zealand competitor to enter the TT was Alan Woodman who entered the 1910 Isle of Man TT races, but lost a leg in a practice crash. The “TT Special” of 1951 describes Rod Coleman (R W Coleman) as a “motorcycle dealer from Wanganui”, then aged 25 years.
Image: Rod Coleman riding a Manx Norton, 1951
In 1951 Rod Coleman secured a works contract with the British manufacturer, Associated Motorcycles, who produced AJS, Matchless and Norton machines. He rode an AJS to eighth place in the Isle of Man Junior TT, while his Norton failed to finish the Senior TT. In the 1951 Grand Prix season, he finished 12th in the final 350 class standings.
In 1952 he came fourth in the Senior TT, and third in the Junior TT, riding AJS in both events. He was fourth in the 1952 500 class standings. For 1953 there was a fourth in the Senior TT, and while leading the Junior TT, his bike broke down and failed to finish. For the 1953 season, he was tenth in the 500 class, and sixth in the 350 class.
Image: Rod Coleman riding a M.S.S Velocette
In 1954 he won the Junior, the first New Zealander to win a TT. (He failed to finish in the Senior.) In the 1954 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season Rod came twelfth in the 500 class, and third in the 350 class. This was also the year Associated Motorcycles quit racing. Coleman met and married an English woman and they returned to Whanganui where he ran a thriving motorcycle and car business. Rod Coleman was 81 years of age in 2006, and intends to attend the Isle of Man TT Centenary in 2007.
More information about Rod Coleman and the 1950 Patea TT Trophy Road Race is available below in this digital Issuu.com publication.
Information by Bob Pearce; Motorsport: TT champ Coleman still revved up at 81 courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Coleman_(motorcycle_racer) and images from the heritage collections at Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki.