Pete Colman was a leading speedway racer, a tuner and builder of AMA National winning motorcycles, a motorcycle dealer, a racing director in the United States for motorcycle manufacturers such as Triumph, BSA, Norton, Husqvarna and Sachs, and served in a leadership role with both the AMA and the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). He directed Triumph’s and BSA’s highly successful racing program during the early-1970s during the time when Gene Romero and Dick Mann won AMA Grand National Championships aboard the British bikes. Colman had a life-long love of speedway racing and worked tirelessly to promote the sport during the latter years of his life.
Eugene W. "Pete" Colman was born on October 14, 1916 in Pasadena, California. He came to motorcycling early, learning to ride when he was 11. By the early 1930s, Colman began racing on short tracks (now known as speedway racing) across California. This was a golden era for speedway racing in the United States and abroad. Colman won numerous regional speedway titles and was contemporaries with the famed speedway riders such as Milne brothers (Cordy and Jack) and Miny Waln.
As a result of his racing success in America, Colman was asked to race in Europe, Australia and New Zealand as part of Putt Mossman's traveling motorcycle troupe. Colman was a member of the U.S. Speedway squad that raced in England in 1937. Colman continued speedway racing until the start of World War II, during which he served in the Air force. After the war, he briefly raced in AMA Class C competition and retired from the sport in 1948.
From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Colman built and tuned Triumph racing engines for many of the top AMA national competitors such as Joe Leonard, Bill Tuman, Johnny Gibson, Dick Dorresteyn, Bud Ekins and many others. He also helped prepare land-speed-record Triumphs that set many speed marks with various riders.
Colman opened a motorcycle dealership after World War II before Johnson Motors (West Coast distributors for Triumph) asked Colman to join them. He quickly worked his way through management with Johnson Motors to eventually become vice president of the company in 1966. In 1969, Triumph and BSA merged U.S. operations and Colman became Vice President and Director of Racing. Under Colman’s leadership, both Triumph and BSA enjoyed great racing success, culminating in AMA national titles for Gene Romero and Dick Mann.
In 1970, Colman was elected chairman and president of the Motorcycle Industry Council. He served two terms as MIC president and established MIC offices in Washington, D.C. Always looking for ways to help make the sport safer, Colman was a founding director of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. He also served the AMA on the Competition and Executive Committees. He was instrumental in the formation of the AMA Congress.
Colman also helped put into place industry-wide standards for appraising used motorcycles by founding the N.A.D.A. Motorcycle Appraisal Guide for the National Automobile Dealers Association.
After taking early retirement from Triumph in the mid 1970s, Colman went on to work as general manager for Western Husqvarna and later became president of Sachs Motors Corporation USA. He continued working as a consultant in the industry through the mid 1990s and promoted his beloved speedway racing throughout the rest of his life.
Colman died on November 28, 2001 at the age of 85. He will be remembered not only for his successes in racing, but also for his life-long dedication and numerous and notable contributions to all of motorcycling.