Vale Clem Smith
a career in motorsport spanning more than 60 years, Clem Smith was a successful South Australian state competitor over many decades. More than that, though, he was the man who almost single-handedly saved the Mallala circuit from extinction.
Clem was initially a speedway driver at the legendary Rowley Park, before switching to road racing in the early 1950s. He contested the 1955 AGP at Port Wakefield in an AustinHealey 100. Later the Chrysler dealer turned to Valiants, and was a leading competitor in early slant-six powered models in the 1960s. He finished third in the single-race Australian Touring Car Championship at Mallala in 1963. Elsewhere Smith won the South Australian Touring Car Championship, after the Allan Moffat and Jim McKeown Lotus Cortinas ahead of him took one another off the circuit.
Later on Smith became involved with and championed Sports Sedans, developing a heavily modified Chrysler Charger. The restored Charger is an iconic machine in Sports Sedan history and in recent years has served as a parade car for the annual Clem Smith Cup Sports Sedan race at Mallala.
But it is Mallala will that be Smith’s lasting legacy. The World War II airfield circuit seemed lost forever after it was closed in the early 1970s, and was only saved by Smith’s courage and tenacity.
After purchasing the dormant venue in the mid-’70s, Smith had to undertake some seven years of legal battles before he could officially open the South Australian track for racing once more. With the effective closure of the Adelaide International Raceway in the late 1980s, Mallala for many years has served as the lifeblood of motorsport in South Australia as the state’s only permanent racing facility.
The South Australian was profiled in detail for AMC #73.
Clem Smith died peacefully in his sleep on February 8, aged 90.