Every automotive marque with a celebrated motorsport history has that one hero model — the one piece of motoring history that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Down Under, it was the roaring ’70s that defined hero models for Aussie manufacturers. Holden came up with Torana LJ XU-1 and Chrysler produced the Valiant Charger E49, both of which were powered by highly-strung, heavily-worked, straight-six engines pumping out far more power than any six-cylinder engine of the era had a right to.
Over in the Ford camp, the mentality was a touch more nonchalant — chuck a fire-breathing V8 in a production car, beef up the suspension and driveline, and go racing. Of the Ford cars to receive this treatment — and there were a fair few — the Falcon XY of the early 1970s is, without a doubt, the Australian muscle car icon. What it lacked in precision and finesse on the racetrack — in comparison with the lither Holden Torana — it more than made up for in sheer brute firepower. Who could argue with 351 cubes of screaming V8, banged through an agricultural four-speed Toploader?
The lack of pretension in the XY-series’ simple, slab-sided shape helped make it a favourite, and, while it may not be the prettiest car to come out of Australia, it’s definitely one of the toughest looking. This tough shape is what has made it so endearing to car nuts throughout Australasia, including one particular bloke in the deeply Australasian region of South Auckland.
Rewinding the calendar a number of years — nearly 15, in fact — this bloke bought himself the Ford Falcon XY he’d always wanted. When he brought it home, his wife, Anita, remarked how much she loved those cars. “Why don’t you get one? Then we can both have one,” he suggested — so that’s what happened, and Anita ended up in possession of a Fairmont XY of her own.
As time went on, the original XY was worked on every now and then, as time permitted, but Anita’s Fairmont sat there untouched … and then it sat there some more. The clock’s hands kept spinning, the pages on the calendar kept turning, and the original XY was eventually sold unfinished, but the couple hung onto Anita’s Fairmont. Now, whenever work was put in on the XY, it was on Anita’s, but only if and when the time could be found. Put simply, the scale of the car’s build then was such that it should, theoretically, never have reached the level it’s at now.
Then, around five years ago, the couple realized that a lot of time and effort were being spent on a medium-level build — “We decided to get into it and do it properly,” Anita says. “At one stage, we had the car completely on its side so the underneath could be sandblasted and detailed.”
Once the hard work on the car began, it didn’t stop.Thanks to a dedicated team, the build came together in record time. Carl Johnson was enlisted to smooth out the Fairmont’s panels, and provide an arrow-straight surface on which flawless coats of PPG Gunmetal Grey could be layered. As Anita recalls, choosing the paint colour was the hardest decision in the entire build. “I wanted a maroon-like colour, and the other half was dead set against it. Needless to say, he won, and I’m really glad that he did, because I quite like it now — I don’t think maroon centres on the Simmons would have done it.”
The panel and paint is only one piece of the giant jigsaw puzzle that is automotive restoration, though, and with Anita’s only requirements for the build being a car that looked tough and cruised well, the XY’s remaining ingredients could be cooked up. Karl Foster, of K-Spec Fabrication, worked all of his metalworking magic on the car to achieve this end goal — details like the roll cage are the result of his years of experience fabricating such components. K-Spec would go on to undertake the majority of the build, fabricating and piecing the XY together, with only the wiring and panel and paint work being outsourced.
Since the aesthetic side of things had been expertly handled, attention to the cruising side of the equation could begin. Just as a 351ci Cleveland V8 was the firepower of choice for the Falcon XY GTs back in the day, so, too, would it be a Clevo under the bonnet of this XY. Of course, when you want your car to scream ‘tough’, you can’t do much better than a mountain of polished, whining supercharger planted atop the motor — cue a bottom end overhaul by Murray Gray from Muzzas Motors, to help the Cleveland better handle the stresses of forced induction.
Here, the addition of Scat H-beam rods, JE forged low-compression pistons, and an ARP stud kit has more than paid for itself by keeping everything down there bulletproof. Further north, a Comp Cams camshaft and Ford 4V heads take the role of the engine’s lungs and, for a car built to cruise, do a pretty admirable job of it.
Of course, the crowning jewel in the engine package is the lump of metal pointed sky-high through the bonnet — a big, shiny middle finger to other road users, their eardrums, and their share of premium unleaded. The supercharger in question is a BDS 6–71 unit with a Quick Fuel 850cfm carburettor bolted on top. It does a fantastic job of adding another dimension to the Falcon’s already awesome soundtrack — with a twin three-inch Flowmaster–equipped exhaust system dumping at the diff, the supercharger’s tenor scream is the perfect undertone to the sheer brute power that’s pumped through the baritone pipes.
Taking the torque levels that far beyond factory specifications — plus the requirements for the car to be a cruiser — meant that a tough driveline would also be required to back the blown Clevo. A Hughes-built Ford C4 gearbox definitely fits the bill, and, with a manual valve body and 2500rpm high stall converter thrown in, the mix makes for a ton of fun on the road.
Rounding off the whole package is — of course — a Ford nine-inch diff, beefed up with 31-spline axles. As you may have noticed if you were at the Powercruise event at Hampton Downs earlier this year, it sure hooks up all right, and the benefits of the low-profile rear rubber become apparent when the loud pedal hits the firewall.
That low-profile rubber is a set of seriously grippy Falken tyres, wrapped around a set of huge Simmons FR-series rims. Measuring a huge 19x8.5 and 19x11 inches, the Simmons modernize the look of the car without looking out of place. An added bonus of their girth is the enormous, polished dish on the rears — a fitting companion to the enormous, polished blower hanging out of the bonnet.
The size of the rolling stock also helps when it comes time for Anita to boot the Fairmont around the countryside on the weekends — for a big car, the XY handles remarkably well, thanks to a well-sorted wheel and tyre combo and a brake and suspension package that has been done just right.
So, what does ‘just right’ entail? It’s hard to miss the Wilwoods peeping out from behind the big Simmons, and they stop just as well as they look. On the suspension side of things, King Springs up front and reset leaves at the rear get everything sitting at a tidy height, while adjustable Bilstein shocks, Whiteline sway bars, and Nolathane bushes firm everything up beyond the standard boat-spec package. It’s a simple and effective combo that proves you don’t have to spend megabucks to improve your car’s ride and handling.
‘Just right’ can also be applied to the Fairmont’s interior, which is comfortable and sufficient for the nature of the car — everything is there for a reason, and there is no tacky, unnecessary rubbish in sight. A Falcon GT dash was imported from Australia — note the factory tacho — and looks pure ’70s tough apart from the Falcon GT steering wheel and reupholstered factory bucket seats. In fact, the only real concessions to the car’s reined-in street fighter nature are a half-concealed B&M Pro Ratchet shifter — manual valve-bodied transmission, remember? — and the beautiful roll cage whipped up by Karl at K-Spec.
That reined-in nature of the Fairmont is one of its most endearing features, thanks to Anita knowing exactly what she wanted — a car that simply looked the business and cruised well; nothing more, nothing less. The total irrelevance of a four-digit power figure, a single-digit quarter-mile pass, a show-quality finish, and any of the usual bragging-right elements has seen the Fairmont transformed into an extremely cohesive package combining a bruiser with a cruiser; a sweet weekend drive that comfortably fits friends and family, with the power and sound of a blown V8 on tap — it doesn’t get much better than that!
- Vehicle: 1971 Ford Fairmont XY
- Engine: 351ci Ford Cleveland, Scat H-beam rods, JE pistons, ARP stud kit, Ford 4V heads, Comp Cams camshaft, BDS 6–71 supercharger, 850cfm Quick Fuel carburettor, electric fuel pump, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD distributor, MSD leads, three-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers, Desert Cooler radiator, twin thermo fans
- Driveline: Hughes C4, 2500rpm high stall converter, shift-kit, manual valve body, Ford nine-inch diff, 31-spline axles, custom driveshaft
- Suspension: King Springs coil springs, reset leaves, Bilstein shocks, Whiteline sway bars, Nolathane bushes
- Brakes: Wilwood calipers, Wilwood rotors
- Wheels/Tyres: Simmons FR-series, 19x8.5-inch and 19x11-inch, Falken 245/35R19 and 275/30R19 tyres
- Exterior: PPG Gunmetal Grey, smoothed engine bay
- Interior: Falcon GT dashboard, factory GT steering wheel, factory gauges, B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, retrimmed seats, custom K-Spec roll cage, JVC head unit, 6x9-inch speakers
This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. 135. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: