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Richard Parks

Gone Racin’

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Story By Richard Parks and Pictures By Roger Rohrdanz

Gone Racin’…to see the ’55 Final Objective

Roger Rohrdanz needed all of his cameras to capture the art, strength and beauty of Rod and Carol Hadfield’s ’55 Chevy hot rod with the intriguing name of the ’55 Final Objective. This street rod is an extension of the mind and ideas of this Australian custom designer, builder and pioneer, and cannot be quite understood without knowing more about the man himself. Rod Hadfield began building customized cars out of his garage as a young man, and in 1976 opened Castlemaine Rod Shop, in the town of Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia, and sold the business this year. Carol Hadfield was the office manager and Rod was in charge of the shop and 18 employees. They did any type of automotive customizing that was requested, Carol said, as the population of Australia is much smaller than in the United States. Rod’s desire was to create customized cars of extraordinary power and design, and to bring them to the larger American market to display. It hasn’t been easy for the Hadfield’s, as they must return to Australia to renew their visas every three months. Operating out of a shop in Orange, California, they have swept up trophies right and left at many of the prestigious mainland car shows. Their goal, even in retirement, is to find buyers for their cars, and then experience the hot rodding scene across America. Carol said that Rod will never give up building cars and she expects her husband to start working on several new projects. Rod “will always build cars, that’s his life,” she says.

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A great job creating this cockpit.

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Rod Hadfield’s desire to build custom machines began when his grandfather handcrafted a model of a ’30’s open wheel sprint car and gave it to him as a child. Rod inherited his grandfather’s eye for proportion and design and has built cars all of his life. He drove cars at the local dragstrips; Calder Park near Melbourne, Heathcote Park in rural Victoria and Adelaide International Raceway in South Australia. While Americans may grumble about a two-hour drive to Fontana, Rialto, Pomona, Irwindale or Palmdale, Aussies will make the 8-hour drive to their favorite tracks with gusto. The Hadfield’s have evolved toward Nostalgia dragracing and go landspeed racing at Lake Gairdner. Salt flat racing in Australia is a rather new sport for them. Rod Hadfield is founding member #3 in the DLRA, or Dry Lakes Racing Association, of Australia, and its longtime secretary and treasurer, although Carol admitted that she is the one who does the paperwork. The Hadfield’s are a team, and where Rod goes, Carol goes also, finding time to raise two children, run a business and take care of their extended family. The first DLRA meet was held in 1990, and Rod is the only member to have never missed their March meet. In 1995 they invited an American Team to “invade” Australia in the Thunder Down Under, with Al Teague, Ken Walkey, Chuck Salmen and other record setting USA cars. As for any invasion, it should be mentioned that it is the Aussies of Australia and the Kiwis of New Zealand who make the long trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. They do so often in August, without complaint, to race on the fabled salt beds made famous by Campbell, Cobb, Arfons, Breedlove and Noble.

Hadfield was the first man in Australia to go 200mph on the salt flats of Lake Gairdner. He has raced a lakester, ’29 roadster, ’53 Studebaker, GM Commodore Sedan, and a GM Holden panel van on Gairdner’s massive salt surface. It is a trip of 16 hours across southern Australia, with the last 100 miles through the bush. Rod Hadfield is a pioneer of Australian racing and custom car building. The ’55 Final Objective is a monster of a car in a petite ’55 Chevy body. Rod purchased a Rolls/Royce Merlin engine from the Bernie Little Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane team and set about restoring this 1650 cubic inch engine. The interior of the ’55 is more of a cockpit in a P-51 Mustang than a car. Rod goes through a pilot’s check-off list before starting the engine and its 3000hp. The car has three gas tanks built into the rear trunk that contains 60 gallons of regular gasoline. The oil tank takes 20 gallons of oil flowing through massive oil lines. Built to rigid specifications to make it street legal, this car can be driven anywhere. Special roll cages and safety harnesses make the car race ready. The paint job is perfection. Rod estimates that he has invested nearly three quarters of a million dollars into making this “the Guinness Book of Records” custom car. Painted to resemble a P-51 Mustang in a “55 Chevy body, with side mounted cannons, and painted bullet holes from combat, it looks like it just returned from a World War II mission. The Hadfield’s have a display that goes with the car that adds to the ambience of this WWII theme. He dons a faded brown leather fighter pilot’s jacket with appropriate cloth badges and one cannot help but be transported back to the 1940’s.

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The fans cooling the hydraulic reservoirs

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This is where the fuel goes

The Hadfield’s also brought to this country two other cars, a black 1919 Ford Model T Coupe powered by a twin blown Ford 429 cubic inch motor that looks like a smaller version of the Munster’s TV series Hearse car. The third car is their driver, which has the name Rat Rod on the license plate and is truly a dingy looking but very comfortable car. Except the master of Australian customizers has a few tricks up his sleeve. This ’28 Ford Model T pick-up truck with the ’46 Lincoln engine is no rat rod, but pristinely reconstructed down to its last detail and then painted to look like an average rusted rat rod. This thematic rat rod in fact took 9 months to build and the paint job and detailing took by far the most time. Rod got the idea for this car from the old Charley Ryan ballad. He is planning to build two more cars. One is a ’34 Ford Touring car, one of only 5 known to exist in Australia. The other is a replica of the toy car that his grandfather made for him when he was a boy. Using a ’31 Packard chassis, Hadfield will build a twin seat ‘20-‘30’s style sprint/champ car which will bring this creative man full circle in his life. Before we left, Hadfield gave us a copy of Cruzin, issue 27 (undated), with 26 pages of delicious details on the ’55 Final Objective. The Hadfield’s will take offers for both the ’19 Ford Model T Coupe, and the Chevy ’55 Final Objective. For those with a lust for power, unique design and craftsmanship, look for the cars and the Hadfield’s at car shows and events around the country.

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The Engine Room

Gone Racin’ is at www.oilstick.com

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The paint, the graphics, the whole package is just awesome

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