Things go better with Coke
We mentioned the revival of Rowley Park speedway’s unique style of production sedan racing last issue, which inspired an upcoming reunion, on September 21, at the Canine Association headquarters in Kilburn, South Australia.
Perhaps the best known of all Rowley Park production sedans were the cars of John Garland, who ran with full sponsorship from the local Coca-Cola bottlers.
Garland was the company’s special services manager so he had an advantage in this area. He recalls that he received a few thousand dollars a year from his employers, plus travel expenses and use of a tow car when he competed interstate. This would have been one of the most lucrative sponsorship deals in Adelaide motorsport.
John Garland’s Torana XU-1 appeared in the 1972/73 season replacing his previous machine, a very successful Valiant Hemi Pacer.
These photos show the Coke Torana as it looked at its first test session on the Rowley Park track. These photos were given to others building a car as a guide to how they should look.
Another well-backed local driver was Ian Jones, whose lime green XU-1 was sponsored by GM-H dealership Smith’s of Port Adelaide.
One of the Falcon stars was Tony Smith, running with sponsorship from the Bowden Ford dealership. The majority of competitors were on much more limited budgets.
Steve Stewart, the organiser of the reunion with his wife Wendy, recalls that he bought his first Torana XU-1 for $1200 ready to run, then built his second one up from a shell for a lot less. According to the expenses list he still has, he picked up a body shell for $10 from a wrecker’s yard and had the complete package on the track for a grand total of $319.
This explains why there were usually over 50 sedans in the pits at the peak of their popularity.
The media were also involved. SAS Channel 10 personality Noel O’Connor was a fan and often had speedway sedans and drivers in the studio for International Racers, his Saturday morning motorsports show.
The top speedway racers were as well known in Adelaide as their road-racing equivalents like John Walker, Malcolm Ramsay and Clem Smith. A bonus was that speedway sedans were usually prepared at service stations so they were more visible than they are today. And all were transported on open trailers.