Advancing the sport of motorcycling

Rod Coleman

Born: 1926 -

Inducted into MNZ Hall of Fame: 2004

Rod Coleman was born in to the world of motorcycle racing. Rod's father was Percy “Cannonball” Coleman, who was ten times New Zealand Champion in the 1920s.

Riding various machines, Rod would have success all over New Zealand such as the Patea road race in South Taranaki where in 1950 he won both the Junior (350cc) and Senior (500cc) feature races. The same year he was third in the New Zealand Junior TT at Waiheke Island.  In 1951 and 1952 Patea was becoming Coleman's play ground with victories in both those years. The successes continued, in 1953 Rod won the Hamilton 100 road race, took a double victory in the New Zealand TT by winning the Senior and Junior titles then repeating the feat in 1954, along with the New Zealand Airfeild championship and Halswell 100 victory.

Along with his successes in New Zealand Road Racing he also had a successful International career in Europe. In 1951 he secured a works contract with British AMC factory who produced AJS and Matchless machines. He rode to eighth in the Junior TT that year and finished 12th in the World 350cc Championship. The following year saw him place fourth in the Senior (500cc) TT and third in the Junior, and finished fourth in the World 500cc standings. In 1953 he took fourth in the Senior TT and was leading the Junior TT until a broken chain forced him out. Rod went on to finish tenth in the 500cc and sixth in the 350cc world championships.

However it was 1954 saw Rod become the first New Zealand rider to win an Isle of Man TT. Winning the Junior (350cc) race, the race he was leading until the broken chain forced him out twelve months before. He failed to finish the Senior TT that year but would go on to take third in the 350cc World Championship standings. This was also the year his employer (AMC) stopped racing. Of his 26 international starts he took one win  and eleven podiums. His last International race was the 1956 Ulster 250cc Grand Prix.

Rod returned to New Zealand continuing to compete winning the New Zealand 500cc road race championship in 1955.

After retiring from racing, Rod along with his brother Bob continued in the family motorcycle business in Wanganui which included being the New Zealand Suzuki Importer until the Suzuki Japan bought the company in the 1980s. The Colemans where major sponsors on many of New Zealand's top rider riders of the 1960s, 70s and early 1980s in both off road and road racing.

Prepared for the MNZ Hall of Fame by Ian Dawson / Fast Kiwi Media