Down near the southern end of Adelaide’s major north-south arterial highway, the perennially clogged Main South Road, sits a used-car lot that looks a lot like every other used-car lot spotted up and down either side of the busy thoroughfare. As motorists sit and stare ahead, stuck in their daily commute to and from wherever it is they are going, a rare few would realise that one of these car yards carries a name responsible for shaping a significant portion of South Australia’s diverse motorsport heritage.
Clem Smith Motors, in the Adelaide suburb of Edwardstown, may look like every other secondhand caryard but the name behind it is not like any other. With a history stretching more than 60 years at the coalface of motoring and motorsport, Clem Smith’s story should have been told in more detail by now. But this quiet and somewhat reserved man never really felt the need or, more likely, had the time.
“This is all the kind of stuff I probably should put in a book one day,” he tells AMC, when we chat. He’s not wrong.
Now well into his eighties and despite some recent health issues, Clem is still busier than most men 50 years his junior. He continues to sell cars, something he has done for 66 years now, while on weekends you’ll likely find him out at his country escape, otherwise known as Mallala Motorsport Park.
There, at South Australia’s only operational permanent racing circuit, he’ll undoubtedly be working on issues relating to an upcoming event or tinkering with bits and pieces that need fixing or updating. Or he will be simply chatting to any of the various parties who hire out the challenging, technical 2.6km circuit that sits on the northern plains about 60km from Adelaide’s CBD.
It quickly becomes apparent that the story of Clem Smith comes in three rather distinct parts: the car dealer, the racer and the circuit owner. It’s a yarn that provides an insight into the considerable challenges of both racing and selling Chryslers.
Clem is not one for blowing his own trumpet. As such, he’s not one to keep a dossier on his competition achievements, which include a start in an Australian Grand Prix, finishing a Round Australia reliability trial, along with his time as a series production pioneer, Sports Sedan stalwart and speedway stock car sensation.
When AMC suggests to Clem that we ‘start at the beginning’, he breathes and says quietly: “It’s a fairly large story, that...”