R OB Herrod would probably bleed blue if you cut him.
This died-in-the-wool Ford bloke founded Herrod Motorsport, which has grown to become Australia’s premier Ford enhancement specialist. It all grew out of his reputation as one of Melbourne’s most original street machiners, building clever custom Falcons that looked like they could have come straight off the production line at Broadmeadows. Now, at Herrod Motorsport’s Thomastown headquarters – not far from Ford Australia’s soon-to-close factory – Rob is offering ballistic, fully compliant supercharged V8 versions of the Blue Oval’s all-new Mustang, soon to be the only remaining Ford muscle car on offer in Australia.
Y Yeah, my dad and aunt had a petrol station on the corner of Bell and Sussex Streets in Coburg [Melbourne], and I pumped petrol from about the age of seven, dressed up in my BP overalls. I worked with Dad every school holidays, filling oil bottles and sweeping the driveway, then I started fixing punctures at about eight; it was all done by hand then. Dad was one of the first to discount petrol and we used to have cars lined up down Bell Street, with tankers arriving as we were selling it. It was also one of the first Bob Jane T-Mart outlets and we were the biggest service station distributor of Bridgestone tyres in Australia in the early 70s.
Nah, I wasn’t interested, didn’t want to be there, I wagged a helluva lot. The old man didn’t think I should go back, so I started working with him as an apprentice while I did my training at Batman Automotive School. I was a fully qualified mechanic by 19.
An HJ Holden with three-on-the-column and a six. I fitted a four-speed all-Aussie ’box, painted it, put US Indy mags on it and lowered it. Then I bought a genuine A9X. It had a tunnel ram through the bonnet and springs off Bathurst race cars. I loved that car, wish I still had it.
Around 1978, old-style petrol stations were being replaced by self-serve outlets, and one day BP knocked on the door and said they were shutting our franchise down. I was in the last year of my apprenticeship, so Dad and I found a little workshop in Sussex Street, put in $1000 each and became partners. I worked on every brand of car that came in, but when a Volvo was brought in with wrecked timing chains and we couldn’t fix it because it needed special tools, we found a Volvo specialist to fix it. My old man said: “Those guys have got the game by the balls; they do one brand of car.” And he was right.
I’d been trying to buy a house but I couldn’t afford it. A mate
suggested I buy damaged cars and fix them up and sell them.
I paid $5000 for an XD Fairmont Ghia at auction, lowered it and put 15-inch Globes and Uniroyal Wildcats on it – that’s what ESP Falcons had – and sold it! Then I turned an XE Falcon ute into a Fairmont Ghia ute, which no one had ever done. It had the first set of eight-inch Bathurst Globes.
Back then you could buy new bodyshells, so I bought an XF Falcon and turned that into a hot rod with Simmons wheels.
Mike Abay, who has been a great mentor, was the Simmons distributor then and I built an XF panel van for him with an injected 5.0-litre and four-speed auto. I was starting to get a name as a Ford specialist, but importantly I was learning how manufacturers put cars together. I could rebuild a BF Falcon from a bare bodyshell overnight, on my own. I have actually done that.
The laws about what you can put on the road, which I saw coming years ago. What I’m proud of is the Mustangs we are building are fully ADR-compliant. They come with a compliance plate and if an owner wants to sell the car in 12 months he can get a roadworthy and it will be fully compliant.
Our Compliance Pack consists of a Ford Performance Parts supercharger, an exhaust system we developed to comply with Australian ADRs, one-inch-lowered springs, bonnet struts and heat shields to protect the auto. Every car is individually badged and has Ford Performance Parts badges on the fenders. Engine calibration is controlled by a Ford Performance ‘flash’ of the original ECU, and Ford rates the engines at 670hp at the flywheel. On our Mainline dyno, we’re seeing over 600hp at the axle in the auto and more in the manual. Most of the cars that come here are brand new, so once they’ve done 5000-10,000km they’ll be making more power. We get cars from as far away as Perth, because our work is completely legal and ADR-compliant, with a Ford erformance warranty backed by Ford USA.
Three people: my dad; [late Ford motorsport legend] Howard Marsden; and Dick Johnson. I’m very into making hot rodded cars look OE, and that’s hard to do because you need the support of manufacturers for production parts. When I started, no one wanted to know me until I met Howard through Tickford’s All-Ford days. Howard opened doors that are still open. When I opened my factory in Thomastown, he asked me to do Ford’s racing work because he had nowhere for a workshop at Ford. Howard introduced me to Dick and we did the DJR 320 road car in 2002, which Wheels rated as one of the best Falcons they’d ever driven at the time.
We sold about 15 and they are now cult cars. Dick’s been a great mate. After I had a breakdown, he rang me every few days for months to make sure I was okay, and I’ll never forget that. I’ve been lucky that these people have had faith in me.
My father always used to say that your name is worth more to you than a dollar. I left school in ’75, so I’ve been doing this for 41 years. You read about people who aren’t highly educated but they have drive, and that’s what I think I’ve got.
Every day I get out of bed and don’t try and be better than anyone else; I just like doing what I do. s