Rod Hadfield's Studebaker
The guys at Cruzin must have liked my story on Speedweek 2006 (issue 68 June 2006) - they have asked me to write updates through the year, leading up to Speedweek 2007, to keep everyone informed. I'm also going to include a few driver profiles and cover some salt car build ups.
Next Dry Lakes Racers of Australia (DLRA) meeting 9th July at Aussie Desert Cooler, 350 Murray Rd., Preston, 3072. 11am sharp. Any newcomers are welcome - please ring (03) 9 470 4449 to let us know your coming.
One of Australia's best known Rodders, Rod Hadfield, is also one of the founding fathers of DLRA. Rod smiles anytime Salt Lake Racing is mentioned. Every year, Rod and his wife Carol, dedicate enormous amounts of time and effort to Speedweek, both as participants and organisers.
Rod is the only member of the DLRA to have raced at every DLRA meeting and the first DLRA racer to become a member of the 200 mph club.
In 2000, he was a member of the Aussie Assalt team. With John Lynch and Leigh Fielder, Rod raced at the 50th Anniversary of Bonneville USA.
On Rods first trip to Lake Gairdner, Australia (1990), he took his flamed 28A Roadster. "The Castlemaine Kid" was originally built for the drag strip but achieved 147.7 mph on it maiden salt voyage. The Castlemaine Kid can still be seen racing with Rod at the wheel at Cruizin's Nostalgia drag meets.
Not content with one car, he raced two cars at the salt the following year! The flamed roadster raced again with a 168.07mph pass. The other car was the "The Salt Shaker" - a Lakester that had been converted from a rear engine rail. The Lakester's top speed in 1991 was 172.89 mph. At the same meet, during a high speed pass, the front axle broke causing the Lakester to roll repeatedly. The wreck looked look an aircraft crash site. Amazingly Rod survived - he had smashed both wrists and a few ribs. But nothing stops Rod!
1992 saw the lake under water and the event cancelled, but in 1993, Rod was back!
In 1993, Rod raced the roadster, and in 1994 he again raced the Lakester (rebuilt). The 1995 version of the Lakester included a 488ci CRS Rodent Engine - his own engine designed and built by Castlemaine Rod Shop. This combination saw Rod become Australia's first 200 mph club member.
When the Lakester was retired, it proudly hung from the roof of Rod and Carol's museum in Castlemaine for many years. Rod is currently building a massive new museum and all of his car collection, including his Salt Racers, will soon be on display again.
On to the next project - Rod purchased a Bonneville 53 Studebaker coupe from the States. After a heap of modifications, it was on its way to the Salt. The best the Studebaker ran was 212.244 mph. I remember this car wildly fish tailing at high speed with the chute out - spectacular! It was the Studebaker that Rod took to the 50th anniversary of Bonneville in the States. Rod sold the Studebaker to John and Debbie Dawson to make way for the "Bronze Aussie".
Rod had wanted an all Aussie car running a world record. Holden liked the idea and donated a Commodore body. Murray Anderson built the chassis. Rod and the guys at Castlemaine Rod Shop assembled the purpose built Salt car. Christened the "Bronzed Aussie" it became the unofficial DLRA flagship. This car would have to be one of the most sophisticated and best engineered cars in Australia. The Bronze Aussie has had two pilots, Rod Hadfield and Rod's good mate Lionel West. Lionel West works for Castlemaine Rod Shop and has been heavily involved with all of Rod's racing projects. With a 540ci Donovan powerplant and a motec system monitoring every move, Rod attained a record of 259.067 mph.
Unfortunately this year the Bronze Aussie had an oil fire that exploded a nitros bottle, and destroyed the front of the car. The damage bill is about $150,000. The fact that Rod survived is a testament to the quality of the engineering that went into the Bronze Aussie.
If Rod's next Salt Lake Racer is not ready for Speedweek 2007, the guys of Big Knob Racing have invited Rod to take the controls of the Big Knob's 34 Roadster for his annual high speed cruise across the lake.
See you at the lake,