ROD Hadfield remembers the precise moment he fell in love with hot rodding as a teenager.
He was having his hair cut in a barber's shop in Echuca, in the state's north, when he happened to flick through a US street rod magazine.
"There was a car in there that had the same front as the old Ford we used to belt around the farm in," the 65-year-old recalls.
"I remember thinking that it would be great to own something like that. Here was this beautiful car, and we were just tearing about in it."
It was a defining moment in Rod's life and one that kicked off his fascination for custom building, and in particular, the creations of Henry Ford.
"I was totally absorbed with everything that Ford did. I thought his cars were beautiful and that they had class," he said.
Rod studied the different models feverishly. By the time he was 18 he had built a street rod. "I thought I was the only person in the world doing this sort of thing," he said.
"I went to all sorts of lengths to learn about the cars. I remember being a teenager and walking across the Echuca-Moama bridge balancing a chassis on my bicycle."
Rod got wind of a team of men building cars in Castlemaine and hitched a ride there.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," he said. "There were these three guys building cars. I thought I had struck paradise."
Inspired by the hot-rod scene and eager to be a part of it, Rod took his car to the Victorian Hot Rods show. Despite being unfinished and missing its upholstery, it won its class.
"I think a lot of the guys were thinking, 'Who does this kid think he is?'," he said. "It was this thing that just came naturally to me."
Despite such a promising start, it was far from an easy transition to the street rodding world Rod now so comfortably inhabits.
He was young and had the responsibility of the family's dairy farm on his shoulders. "I was working on the dairy farm all day and then going without sleep every second night so I could work on cars," he said.
The workload took its toll and Rod developed physical symptoms the doctor could attribute only to anxiety and stress. "I was in my mid-20s by then and I wanted to work on cars, but I was at the farm," he said.
"I was experiencing stomach cramps and in the end I said to my father, 'I have got to get off the farm, we've got to sell it'."
Rod headed to Castlemaine, where he worked as a plumber during the day and in the foundry at night, while scouting around for hot-rodding opportunities. As luck would have it, a hot-rod magazine approached Rod about a ute it wanted built as a project car.
Rod finally struck it lucky: his impressive ute attracted a fan base and pretty soon he was fitting gear boxes for scores of clients.
He got a mortgage on a shed and, in 1975, The Castlemaine Rod Shop was born. He continued to make his own custom cars and built up a reputation among enthusiasts for his good eye and sense of proportion.
He also showed regularly and even dabbled in drag-racing.
"I tried to touch on every aspect of the industry," he said.
"I had a team of 22 talented tradies at one point, and I made sure I had the best machinists, the best welders, the best mechanics and so forth."
Among Rod's great hot-rod projects is a rare 1932 Ford roadster, which any enthusiast would love to get their hands on. "I'm only the second person to own it," he said.
"It was the first year that Ford put a V8 in the car and, as it was during the Depression years, there weren't too many made."
Rod has also built a chopped-top EK 454 panel van, a 1934 Ford coupe, a model Ford pick-up powered by a V12 Lincoln side-valve motor and a V8-powered FJ Holden, among many others.
Rod sold the business eight years ago and now divides his time between working with school students on cars, preserving the history of street rodding and - most characteristically - pursuing his dream of hitting 300mp/h (480km/h) in a four-door rebuilt Commodore.
Rod was the first man in Australia to go 200mp/h (320km/h) on the salt flats of Lake Gairdner, in South Australia, in a vehicle powered by a motor his business built.
He now has the 300mp/h four-door record in his sights, which he hopes to "nudge at" in his VR Commodore Sedan at Lake Gairdner next month.
The last time he tried the engine caught fire at 420km/h, indicating the extreme dangers Rod faces in pushing the car to such speeds.
But such a challenge sits well with Rod, who has never shied away from a difficult project.
"I guess I am a bit of a speed demon," he said.
"I know what it's like to have nothing, so I was always going to push myself and keep going.
"On the farm, if you milked 100 to 200 cows a day it was all the same. But in the business, the harder you pushed yourself, the more you had."