Rare Spares Legend – Tony O’Donnell

Tony O’Donnell is a well-respected automotive industry stalwart, serving the interests of the broader automotive community selflessly for over 20 years. Tony sought and succeeded in unifying the car community to bring about change in government regulations surrounding automotive regulations. The flow on effect of his work has been beneficial to enthusiasts across the country.

Tony’s long term contribution was formally recognised at Summernats 29 in front of the Saturday evening crowd, being awarded the coveted Rare Spares Legend Award, receiving the now iconic golden helmet.

The Rare Spars Legend Award has been bestowed only on the most deserving of contributors to the scene and Tony joins the who’s who of street machining in Australia and was very humbled to join this group.

“I was blown away to be honest. When I look at the other guys who have received it, they are the names we have dropped in our conversations on some of the topics we have discussed over the years at club level and with the government. Being included in this company is mind blowing,” said O’Donnell.

“I have to thank the group of people who have been involved in the Australian Confederation of Motor Clubs (ACMC) and for all their huge amounts of work over the years. Alan Hay and Duncan Gay have both been integral to the success we have had as well as many others who have contributed to the changes we have been able to implement. Thanks to Rare Spares and Summernats for the honour,” he added.

The award was presented to Tony by Rare Spares General Manager David Rayner, who was proud to be adding Mr O’Donnell to the Hall of Fame.

“We will be only awarding a total of ten Rare Spares Legends and with eight already chosen, the answer to who would become our ninth quickly became apparent and that was Tony O’Donnell,” said Rayner. 

“Tony has represented the classic, historic and street machine worlds for many years and his work behind the scenes has directly and indirectly touched thousands in our scene. We thought it was fitting that Tony receive some public recognition for his services to the industry over many years. Congratulations from Rare Spares on behalf of the entire community,” he added.

Tony held an interest in cars and motorsport from as far back as he can remember. His father was a panel beater.

“I grew up tinkering with cars with mates until my early twenties and I even still have a collection of various car magazines I was reading back in the 1960’s. I then forayed into racing, competing in Formula Ford, and it was here that I joined my first club to get my licence to compete,” said Tony.

He also started working for Shannons Insurance and over his twenty year career with Shannons, was regularly exposed to the world of automotive clubs and car shows and built up a network of friends and acquaintances across the country.

In Tony’s dealings with the clubs, it became apparent that not only were there challenges around vehicle regulations and existing vehicle ownership, but there seemed to be no unity or discussions amongst clubs to find common solutions.

“Street machines, historic vehicles, 4WDs, motorcycles and hot rods all shared common problems and were affected by government regulations so we had the chance to pool a large number of people and clubs together,” explained Tony.

“It became clear that if these individual clubs and groups could come together and form a larger representative body, the community would have much more clout in drawing the attention of the government. I fortunately had the contacts through my career at Shannons and worked on getting the groups talking to each other,” he added.

The Australian Confederation of Motor Clubs was then formed and with the help of Alan Hay who was able to introduce Tony and the club to various politicians, initial steps were made in representing the concerns of the automotive community at government level.

“More recently, we have been fortunate to have Mr Duncan Gay, the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, that has been another influential figure in moving our interests forward. Progress was not immediate but I am proud of the fact we have been able to setup the Vehicles Standards Working Group that discusses issues around regulations and topics such as exhaust noise, permits and engineering certificates and things of this nature.”

“It was a combination of the ACMC’s work and the Minister that have brought about the working group that is providing a direct line with government. My proudest achievement is that we are not adversarial now with government departments. We have a solid relationship with the politicians and have a permanent place to discuss our interest via the Working Group,” said Tony.

A conditional registration is now on its way for modified cars with more flexible regulations. This will be music to the ears of many in the community and is a perfect example of Tony’s work being realised to the benefit of the entire community.