When it comes to custom car creation and engineering for street machines and hot rods, Rod Hadfield and his Castlemaine Rod Shop is one of the best in the business, revered for the quality of workmanship and amazing machinery coming out of the shop. Rod is a true legend in the scene and there is not much he hasn’t seen or done when it comes to car modification, so he sat down with Rare Spares to discuss his love of cars.
Rod’s passion started at a young age.
“As soon as I was old enough to pick up a screw driver or any other tools I was making bits and pieces and if something was broken, I would pull it apart, figure out what makes it work and then fix it. Living in the country on a farm meant you had to learn to rely on yourself to fix things or you would be stuck.”
Hadfield feels that he had opened Pandora’s Box when he learnt to weld.
“Once you can weld and join metals together, that is the secret, you can create nearly anything you can think of.”
Before Hadfield opened the Castlemaine Rod Shop, he had been tinkering with cars for some time and managed a conversion that had not been attempted before.
“I fabricated a Datsun 4 speed gearbox into a Holden ute and nobody had done that type of thing back then.”
The conversion created so much interest that people started asking Rod how they can do the same swap or something similar to their own car, in turn alerting Rob to the fact there could be a market for a business along those lines.
“The Castlemaine Rod Shop started small, but we judged the market and started with fitting and supplying gearboxes and it went from there. Customers also wanted a new clutch to go along with the new gearbox and other related parts and our requests continued to widen.”
From humble beginnings, The Castlemaine Rod Shop now has eighteen full time staff working on a variety of projects at any one time.
With the success of Rod’s shop, he has been fortunate enough to be part of some amazing projects and events. One of the most memorable was the trip to the Bonneville salt flats for the ‘Aussie Invasion’ at the 50th Anniversary of the famous event.
“For years I had been reading about it in the American rod books and the pictures and machinery were just incredible so it became a goal to take one of my own cars over there.
With only a year to prepare, Rod decided to commit to the trip and worked for 12 months on the huge task of getting himself, his car and his team plus two other cars shipped to the U.S safely and all in time for the big event. There were many hurdles with shipping companies, government regulations and quarantine, but finally Rod was standing on the famed Bonneville salt flats he had read about for so many years.
There were three cars that headed to the U.S, with the hope of joining the famed 200mph club. Rod took over a 1953 Studebaker, housing a supercharged 540 ci V8 with an estimated 1300-1400hp “I believe we were the first Aussies to ever go over there. All three of the cars achieved our 200mph goal which was great. We not only represented Australia, but we did the sport proud.”
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was one of the best trips ever” said Hadfield.
Although Rod has been part of dozens of incredible projects, arguably his most famous creation was a car so incredible, it sent waves around the globe.
The car in question is the 1955 Chevrolet powered by nothing less than a Rolls Royce Merlin P51 Mustang, 27 litre Supercharged V12.
It is always interesting to find out how a creation such as this was initially conceived, with Rod explaining how it came together.
“I’m a great reader of history and war and what the P51 achieved was incredible. I was very fond of the incredible Rolls Royce Merlin engines and I had always wanted to purchase one if I ever got the chance.”
When Rod found one available, he snapped it up and with the engine back at the shop, he quickly decided he shouldn’t have it just sitting there as a static display, so naturally, he started thinking if he could fit the engine in a car.
When it came to choosing a car for the job, Rod knew immediately what to choose.
“The 55’ Chev was the perfect car to put the engine in. It is one of the most famous cars of all time so it made sense to install one of the most famous engines of all time.”
The project was named “Final Objective” and incredibly, the build took two fabricators working full time over five years to put together the one off masterpiece of engineering.
The car was such a revelation, that it is now officially has its own Guinness World Record as the “World’s most powerful street registered automobile.”
The hot rod and street machine custom scene has certainly seen a great transformation since Rod first started out in the Industry.
“The biggest difference between then and now is simply the availability of information. When I first started, there was for the most part virtually no information on many vehicles and custom fabrications we were taking on, so it became a serious process to plan and build new parts or think of new processes to make parts or create new solutions.
Another huge difference that makes owning street machines and hot rods easier these days is the availability of parts.
“Back then parts were so hard to get so they had to be custom made and really thought out.”
Never one to shy away from challenging and individual projects, Rod is currently working on what he believes is another world first, which is fitting an American LaFrance V12 to a small and rare Fiat Topolino.
Rod is always happy to provide advice and imparted some knowledge for all the Rare Spares supporters.
“There is two things that really make cars a winner in my view. That is the wheel and tyre combo and the overall stance of the car.
For those building their own project, Rod gave the following pearls of wisdom.
“Pick an idea or theme, get some good advice, and then stick to the plan. If you continue to talk to too many people and continue to ask for advice on directions, you may go in circles and ultimately delay or even never complete the project.”
“Make sure you have the resources to build it. Research and plan for parts you need and if you see a part become available, don’t procrastinate, because your project may go forever if you don’t seize the opportunity on parts when you find them.”
Finally, Rod was deeply honoured to receive a Rare Spares Legend Award. He proudly displays the award in the shop.
“Rare Spares have done a lot for our industry, and being in business myself, I appreciate what they do”.