Every few weeks, we take more of an in-depth look at a car we’ve found — be it at an event, at the racetrack, or on the side of a road — in a feature we call the ‘Weekly Motor Fix’. This week, given the CRC Speedshow that ran over July 18–19, we couldn’t go past ‘The Hulk’ — the incredible Falcon XW ute that the team at Matamata Panelworks have just completed and officially unveiled.
Matamata Panelworks are no strangers to our pages, having had two of their extraordinary Mustang builds featured on NZV8 covers in the past year. Don’t worry, though, we’ll be giving this beauty a full magazine feature as well, once the Matamata team are 100-per-cent happy with it.
The Hulk is based off a Falcon XW, and it’s interesting to note that the owner has opted for a ute to be the subject of this level of build, rather than the sedans we’re far more accustomed to seeing. Not that this is a bad thing, as it’s so rare to see show-quality utes built in New Zealand. The Hulk is all the more special for it.
To live up to its name, power would have to be provided by nothing less than a Hulk-like motor. This has been achieved thanks to a 460ci big block, putting out a power figure somewhere north of 700hp. The monstrous bit of kit between the strut towers lives beneath a bonnet that shows off something that Matamata have become renowned for — world-class metal crafting. The hood scoop looks just like it’s meant to be there, but has actually been handcrafted and grafted into place as an aftermarket version of the ‘shaker’ hood scoops made famous down under by the Falcon XY GT.
These custom touches extend throughout the vehicle, but for the sake of not giving too much away — yes, you’ll have to wait for the full feature — we’ll move onto the interior. Even here, the metalwork is obvious, though it may not be blatant. The entire dashboard panel has been handmade from sheet steel in a similar style to the factory XW dash, so it doesn’t look too out of place. Of course, with the owner’s requirements for it to be a usable cruiser, a lot of time has been spent where it matters. Sure, there are beautifully upholstered late-model bucket seats and a cranking sound system controlled by the owner’s phone, but it’s the things that you don’t see that really show the depth of the build.
Matamata Panelworks proprietor Malcolm Sankey points out various features that have been subtly incorporated into the build, simply for the sake of making such a vehicle practical. You see, with everyone concerned about power figures nowadays, most people simply forget that 400hp is enough to get you into a lot of trouble, let alone nearly double that with 700hp. Couple the 700hp big block with the lack of weight in the back — even with the fuel tank positioned behind the trick nine-inch rear axle — and there was a real risk that the power could bite the owner in the arse.
So, the Matamata team worked on innovative ways to make this power more usable. For example, the steering column is from a late-model Honda, because the self-cancelling indicators will make navigating turns on the road just that little bit easier. In addition, the Chuck Mann–built auto transmission has been programmed only to kick down when the lever is manually shifted, saving the risk of an unintentional downshift turning into something further out of control.
It’s the things like these that elevate a build above and beyond most other high-end builds. At this level, there’s no real point in banging on about how seamless the bodywork is, or how perfect the paint has turned out — of course it is, it’s a Matamata build. We’re looking forward to being able to give The Hulk a full photoshoot and feature in an upcoming issue, so watch this space. Thanks to the vision of Malcolm [left] and the incredible skills of his craftsmen [right] for allowing vehicles like this to come into creation.