By the time Lionel West started working for Rod Hadfield as a fabricator at the Castlemaine rod shop back in 1994 he had almost 15 year’s experience racing various speedway classes across Victoria & Australia. Even with that experience behind him Lionel had no idea that the next 20 years he would be involved in breaking land speed records first as fabricator but later on as driver. This year as he straps himself into Bronze Aussie and aims to break the 300mph (482 km/per hr.) we take a look back at his involvement in the amazing work in both building & driving these cars.
Back in April 1994 Lionel West joined the team at the Castlemaine Rod Shop working as a fabricator for Rod Hadfield. Rod had assembled a great team at the rod shop and they had many projects on the go. One of these wasas to put a blown big block V8 engine into a rear engine Rail Drag Car. This car went on to achieve a top speed of 198 mph in 1994. Lionel remembers getting back from Lake Gairdner at “6am unloading the car and then getting back to work as it was so busy in the rod shop"
Previous to Lionel working at the Castlemaine Rod Shop Rod had made a few runs at the DLRA Lake Gairdner speed trials in a 1932 for roadster. He achieved a speed of 147mph. This is a class record that he still holds today.
In 1996 Rod made the decision to switch from the Rail car to a 53 Studebaker. This was a massive project and led to quite an amount of work to make the project happen. Lionel remembers that the car was "immaculate in its presentation". This car went on to achieve a top speed of 212 mph in 1998 and set a new class record. Never one to shy away from a challenge Rod took the Studebaker to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, North America to take on the Americans. Lionel got the call up to crew for the team. It was the first time he had been on a plane.
The next challenge Rod was planning was to build an Aussie car that could break the 300mph barrier. In 2001 Bronze Aussie was completed and made its first successful run at Lake Gairdner. The car took 9 months to build. This was also Lionel’s first drive in Australia & he achieved a speed 151mph.
Lionel & Rod continued to alternate the driving duties in Bronze Aussie each year the speeds increased as the development of the car improved. 2002 saw a speed of 231 mph followed by 250 mph in 2003 & 259 mph in 2003. The speed achieved in 2003 still stands as the current class record. In 2004 & 2005 a broken gearbox & poor track conditions led to no improvement on the 259 mph achieved in 2003.
In 2006 disaster struck on one of the runs. An oil fire that started in the engine caused a significant damage to the car. Rod was driving at the time and the fire crews did an amazing job to get him out of the car safely.
After this incident the car was slowly rebuilt over the next couple of years. Unfo and was completed in time to run at the 2013 trials. The car achieved 250 mph.
In 2014 the track was slightly damp and whilst doing around 230mph the car spun whilst Lionel was driving. Lionel was quoted as saying that spinning a car around at 230mph "is a little different to say the least" The team still managed to achieve a speed of 226mph on another run.
In 2015 Lionel took the car to the massive number of 273mph. Unfortunately a record was not awarded due to a tail wind that had just sprung up before the run. The next run an engine issue caused by the NOS system that was installed damaged the car. After the engine trouble of last year Leo Nankervis (Bronze Aussies Engine builder) has decided to remove the NOS (Nitros Oxide Injection System) and concentrate on lightening & strengthening the internals of the engine. By doing the car should be able to rev harder and thus create more power.
What we need to make the Bronze Aussie story complete is to make that magical 300mph mark and with your support we think we can achieve it.
For more details about the car & the project please contact Rod Hadfield on 0428122206 or via email at email@example.com