WHEN Rod Hadfield told us last year that his ’34 Ford tourer was to be his last build, we sat up and took notice. No more imaginative creations from this Australian hot rodding and salt racing luminary, who has set the bar, raised it, then smashed that bar through the ceiling. Surely, this cannot be?
This article on Rod Hadfield's '34 Ford Tourer was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod #19 magazine, 2018
Now aged 72, Rod has been there and done that, and usually before anyone else had even thought to try something so outrageous. His final creation may well be his most sedate, with Rod aiming for a high-class career crescendo with the sleek ’34 soft-top.
Ironically, this final project was one of his earliest purchases.
As Ford spare wheel covers aren't available, Rod got a 4WD item then had the logo painted onto it
“I bought the car 40 years ago,” explains Rod. “All of the tourers were being sent overseas and were getting to be really scarce, even at that time. According to the 1934 register, there’s now only around 40 in Australia, and as I didn’t have a tourer, I figured it’d be nice to own one. Bill Mussett, one of my employees, had a ’36 Ford tourer and I used to enjoy going around in that.”
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“We put a set of ‘Haddie Brands’ on the tourer,” Rod says of the 15-inch rolling stock. “We produced the Halibrand knock-offs at Castlemaine Rod Shop and then cast up the imitation knock-off spinners. Only eight sets were made, so they’re pretty rare”
While parking a car for 40 years isn’t unheard of, I’m surprised that Rod had the restraint: “It just sat there all of that time, and it didn’t de-value, that’s for sure!”
Rod added items such as the bumper over-riders and nerf bar to set the tourer apart and make it “less hot rod”
And, as a self-proclaimed ‘mad scientist’ with a reputation for outlandish ingenuity, Rod has thrown us all a curveball with this sleeper-spec tourer. “It was too complete to do it any other way,” he says. “If I only had the body, I’d have done it differently, but I had the whole car, and the ’34 Ford was one of the most gorgeous cars ever produced. Plus, I’d never built a four-door, not once. So, I figured the tourer would be good to take the kids and grandkids in.”
Watch next: Rod's wild V12 1948 Fiat Topolino
Starting from the foundation, Rod has retained the original ’34 frame and members. Graham Robinson then used his ’34-spec chassis jig to check for squareness before boxing the chassis forward of the centre member.
The ’34 Ford greyhound on the bonnet is no longer in production, so Rod spent two years searching the internet and making calls to America to find one. “We even tried to cast one, but it didn’t look right,” he says. “I’d given up and was all set to run the original cap, when bugger-me-dead, I found one in my own town, at this year’s Castlemaine Lions Club Swap Meet. I couldn’t believe it!”
Next, Graham installed the front and rear four-bar brackets. Once the frame was back at Rod’s, modifications ensued. A four-inch dropped Super Bell axle was added with a custom reversed-eye transverse spring and Leyland P76 disc brakes. Under the rear, Rod built custom mounts to move the ’34 spring inside of the chassis, providing clearance for the eight-inch deep ‘Haddie Brand’ rims. A nine-inch diff housing sporting Lincoln finned drums then took up third-member residence.
In order to accommodate the 350-cube Chev adorned with Corvette rocker covers, Rod set back the firewall while keeping the factory swages
Power comes courtesy of a trusty 350ci Chev crate long motor with custom 15/8-inch extractors going through to a two-inch exhaust system and stainless mufflers. It’s backed by a Saginaw four-speed cogbox.
The 1934 headlights are perched 1.5in lower than standard. Tom Peach repaired the grille before it was copper-plated six times, polished, then chromed
And on top of it all sits a neat, original ’34 Ford tub. I’m talking Henry Ford steel – no chops, no channels, just factory goodness. Sure, a few minor tweaks had to be done to suit the powertrain, but Rod has executed them tastefully.
The car is a driver, but the undercarriage is still super-tidy, featuring a bucketload of powdercoated suspension parts, finished with a stainless exhaust
“The original wood frame remains throughout the car, and we also recessed the firewall while retaining factory swages,” he says. “We kept the wooden floor, raising the centre by cutting through the timber and adding a two-inch steel tunnel for the drivetrain while also allowing for the diff clearance. But if you didn’t know, you’d say that it was factory.”
Sticking with the era-specific theme, the 1937 Ford Dalmatian Green paint selection is subtle and refined, finished off with a pinstripe with a twist. “Ryan Ford has added three stripes along the body moulding; it really adds to the flavour of the car,” says Rod.
Inside the luxurious ’34 are a raft of original parts as well as the customised tuck ’n’ roll leather benches, an understated Grant tiller, and a few useful extras like a hidey-hole behind the forward-folding rear seat and a lift-out parcel shelf
Moving inside, the cabin complements the outside, offering an elegant yet family-friendly ride. “I altered the ’34 bench seat to suit the floor-mounted Vega shifter, which I’d set in a comfortable position,” Rod says. “I didn’t want bucket seats in it; I’d prefer to keep it looking original.”
Gavin Hill crafted the roof and side curtains with Mercedes convertible cloth, using the original item as a template
Gavin Hill at Bendigo Trim swathed the pews in green leather before replacing the rubber flooring with carpet. The sweeping ’34 dash is coated in the outer hue and houses the factory speedo accompanied by Smiths gauges and the required switches for the chosen necessities.
“I built it as a driver,” Rod says. “I only put it in shows because it’s a new car; not to win anything.”
Yet, on the tourer’s first outing to Lake Mulwala Rod Run, it took out a Top 10 placing, later backed up with the Top Tourer award at the 2018 Victorian Hot Rod Show. “Everyone loves it,” says Rod. “It’s the green colour that takes their fancy. We tried to make it look classy; less hot rod and more like a very exquisite, chauffeur-driven car.”
So, is this definitely Rod’s last build?
On top of the Vega stick sits a funky TCR shift knob. “It looks like a nostalgia race helmet, goggles and breathing apparatus, which looks cool; not something you see every day,” Rod says
“At this stage, that’s the plan,” he chuckles. “I’m 72, so I’d like to take it a bit easier. I currently own 20 cars, having built 32 projects over the years. It’s all very well to build ’em, but then it’s like a baby – you gotta look after it!”
FUN NEVER ENDS
Rod recently bought a T-model speedster that was built by a well-liked Castlemaine mechanic who passed away in 2000. “I knew his family had the car and they eventually sold it to me,” reveals Rod. “It has the original T-model Ford engine that’s been modified a bit. It’s an early-model hot rod, really, built by a man in his garage without a lot of money. I’m just tidying it up; I might just run it at the next Rattletrap.”
Released in early July, The Mad Scientist of Australian Hot Rodding is a must-suss book written by Rod’s daughter, Allison Hadfield, detailing his life and his cars and his life with cars.
“You don’t realise what influence you’ve had on people,” Rod says. “Only last week a guy came up to me and said: ‘If it wasn’t for you building the Anglia, I wouldn’t be into hot rodding today’. I never knew at the time that I was having an effect that would change his whole life. And that’s happened quite a few times.
“It was hard work, trying to get to car shows and earn a living along with everything else. And all the time I was actually having a huge impression on people. It makes me humble.”
Street Machine Hot Rod readers that want to get their hands on a copy of the book should contact Allison via email: email@example.com.
ROD & CAROL HADFIELD
1934 FORD STANDARD TOURER
Paint: PPG 1937 Dalmatian Green
Donk: 350ci Chev
Induction: 600 Holley DP
Cooling: Reconditioned factory radiator by Aussie Desert Cooler, 16in thermo
Exhaust: 15/8in custom extractors, 2in exhaust, SS mufflers by Rod
’Box: Saginaw four-speed
Clutch: 10.5in Chev hydraulic
Bellhousing: Chev to HK/T/G
Diff: 9in, LSD, 28-spline axles, 3.25s
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Custom reversed-eye spring, So-Cal shocks, 4in drop Super Bell axle, four-bar
Rear: Custom spring, 60/40 shocks, four-bar
Steering: XY-XW Ford steering box, Camaro column
Brakes: P76 Leyland discs (f), Lincoln drums (r)
Master cylinder: Ford with Holden Gemini booster
Seats: 1934 benches in green leather
Roof: Mercedes convertible cloth
Steering wheel: Grant
Gauges: Smiths, 1934 speedo
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Haddie Brand; 15x5 (f), 15x8 (r)
Rubber: Michelin 175R15 (f), GT Champiro 235/75R15 (r)
The late Bill Mussett and his brother-in-law Graham Robinson for the chassis work; Inmotion for chrome work and wheel polish; Tom Peach for the grille and guard repairs; Jet-Hot Coatings for pipes and powdercoating; TCR Carponents for finishing of so many items; rewiring by Darren Milburn; Steve Hughes of Hughes Paint & Panel in Castlemaine; Norm Hardinge at Aussie Desert Cooler