A Celica like none other...

Over the weekend of 3rd-4th November a large and varied group of oldschool.co.nz club members made a pilgrimage to Hahei, on the idyllic Coromandel Peninsula, for a meet-and-greet with none other than Rod Millen, famous championship winning driver in various motorsport disciplines and proprietor of the Leadfoot Ranch.

Convoy enroute to the Coromandel, via State Highway 2.

Leaving bright and early from the convening point at Bombay just outside of Auckland, roughly 20 cars made their leisurely way to the Coromandel, stopping in the towns of Kopu and Tairua along the way for rest, refreshment, and to meet up with members from other parts of the country – some travelling from as far as Taupo – eventually arriving at Rod Millen’s sprawling ranch just outside of Hahei around 11am.

Assembling at the Ranch.

Our group was immediately shown into the large barn adjacent to the parkup spot to be greeted by Rod and Shelly, who gave a short but detailed and colourful history of the vehicles contained within. Included in the collection were Rod’s meticulously rebuilt RX-3, a pair of mighty Tundra stadium trucks, his 2007 Transsyberia Rally-winning Porsche Cayenne, a couple of quirky prototype vehicles, and of course the famous Pro Rally RX-7 and Pikes Peak Celica… both championship winners over multiple years in the ’80s and ’90s respectively.

The Barn.

After the meet-and-greet we had the opportunity to mill around browsing the collection of vehicles and take photos to our hearts’ content, while Rod chatted with various groups and individuals in turn. It was somewhat humbling to see him taking the time to answer various questions and shoot the breeze with so many of us!

Of particular interest to me was Rod’s SCCA Pro Rally Championship winning Series 3 RX-7, a vehicle which inspired my own love of RX-7s growing up. This particular example runs a fascinatingly unique 4WD drivetrain prepared by Weismann in California for the Pro Rally series in the early 1980s. As Rod put it, “we did it in order to beat Audi’s quattro!”

Pro Rally 4WD RX-7. Click photo for walkaround video!

And of course, parked square in the middle of the barn towards the rear of the room, sat Rod’s “Unlimited” Pikes Peak winning 1000hp Celica in all of its outrageously sculpted aerodynamic glory. Of certain note is the fact that the 10:04 minute start-to-finish record set by this car in 1994 cannot technically be broken!

The day concluded with the rare opportunity for each vehicle from the club to experience the thrill of a section of the Leadfoot Ranch’s famous mile-long driveway, itself a feature in its own right and earning mention from media outlets the world over. Starting from the bottom of the hill by the barn, each car wove its way up a series of switchbacks, then down a short tree-lined section and through an underpass to finish on a small ridge with breathtaking views over the Pacific Ocean.

Special thanks to Karl and Amy from oldschool.co.nz, and of course Rod and Shelly for letting our bunch of rag tag misfits visit the Ranch, view some truly inspiring vehicles, and fang our own cars up the famous driveway – it was an amazing once in a lifetime experience for sure! My only regret (apart from forgetting to bring a catalogue to get autographed!) is that I never got around to asking Rod personally about the 4WD setup in the RX-7 – but perhaps I may get the chance to sometime in the future.

There’s already discussion of entering an oldschool.co.nz club stand at the 2013 Festival, so hopefully this is only just the beginning.

Peeking under the bonnet of the RX-3.

Additional photos courtesy of Automotive Culture – check out their album of shots from the Leadfoot Cruise here. Thanks to Ryan Fels for the driveway video footage!

Details for Leadfoot Festival 2013 can be found here.

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