Tony Camilleri’s '68 Ford XR Falcon is proof that sometimes less can be a whole lot more
This article on Tony's XR Falcon 500 was originally published in the September 2013 issue of Street Machine
IT’S not easy getting the perfect posture for your car but Tony Camilleri from Wyndham Vale, Victoria, has achieved it with his awesome XR Ford Falcon 500. “My favourite bit about the car is the stance — the way the car sits. And the wheels,” he says. “I’ve always had that thing about the car being a bit lower at the front; it makes it look angry to me.
“I have a bit of a fetish for Dub City model cars. They’re mainly American cars with big shiny chrome wheels, and I always had a picture in my mind to do something along those lines. That’s why I bought those numberplates.”
What he has achieved is to give this sweet XR a hint of the Dub look, without ruining its natural beauty. In fact, he went to great lengths to maintain that early Ford muscle DNA.
“I kept the original colours on the car — you don’t see many around still with the white roof but I just thought it looked great standard, and there was no point wrecking something that was already good.”
He says his appreciation for cars goes back to his teenage years when he was surrounded by people driving cool muscle cars. His former brother-in-law was amongst them, and when he got tired of this XR, he offered it as a swap for Tony’s XE Fairmont Ghia, which he’d lowered over Ford EL GT wheels.
“He used to drive the XR to work every day,” Tony says. “It was a pretty clean car, with only a little bit of rust like they all have, running whitewalls and standard hubcaps.”
Most of us have racked up some demerit points along the way and Tony’s no different. He lost his licence for a while soon after the swap, which was as good a time as any to give his new ride a proper going-over.
“After a dodgy panelbeater experience, I wanted someone good,” he says, “so Phil at Westside Bodyworks took on the job to make it look spanking again. I’m so glad I decided to keep the original colours — there was talk to change it but I love the old-school look with the white roof.”
However, the wheels were anything but old-school in the car’s first incarnation — a set of 20in 150-spoke items that gave it a lowrider look.
The next challenge was the engine. The XR still had the six-cylinder with three on the tree, which he didn’t mind, except there was a big engine bay that needed to be filled with a V8.
“I found a 302 and C4 on eBay, and it was supposed to have been rebuilt,” he says. “Big mistake — it wasn’t. So my good mate Lee and I rebuilt the motor and fitted it to the car.”
They also fitted a set of Center Lines and shortened the nine-inch diff. And for a good while, that’s how Tony liked it. But then…
“I wanted more power and to change the look of the car. Everywhere I looked, everyone had Center Lines. I wanted to stand out from the crowd and the billet wheels do make that statement.”
They’re Showwheels Intro Rallies. At 19x8 and 20x10 they rake the car into an aggressive stance, and to match that angry look Tony wanted something more in the engine bay. “I was chasing extra horsepower but I wanted to keep it streetable as well,” he says.
To that end, John at Pro Star Motorsport bored and stroked the Windsor out to 347 and combined it with an Edelbrock Victor Jr manifold, DR 850 Barry Grant Demon carb, AFR 210 heads and Scat H-beam conrods attached to a Scat 4340 crank. Behind it, the stage-three C4 was manualised and completely rebuilt, transferring power to the custom one-piece tailshaft via a TCE 4500 torque converter.
“It makes 580hp at the flywheel, so it’s got plenty of power for the street,” Tony says. “I have got plans to race the car and John said it should do low 11s. All I’d do is put the Center Lines back on and raise the back a little to get the slicks underneath.”
He toyed with the idea of airbags — even arguing with himself while we were discussing the car — but the lengths to which he’s gone to maintain the originality tempered those thoughts.
The boot is smoothed off, with standard wheel tubs and treated to a restored XY GT fuel tank
“I wouldn’t mind airbagging it one day but I don’t know if I will. I think I’m just happy with the car as it is — I drive and enjoy it.”
To make the ride a bit more enjoyable, Tony opted for an XB steering box, although fitting it was a far from pleasureable experience.
“I’d just had the pipes HPC treated and I had to cut one to reroute it around the power steering box. Nothing went to plan with that one. I learned the hard way because I didn’t look into it first.”
Interior modifications were kept to a minimum, with the seats simply retrimmed in the original colours, while the dash was altered to accept a handful of extra gauges. “I didn’t go crazy with the sounds,” he says when asked why he went with a plain head unit and 7x10s. “I want to listen to the car more.”
Tony wanted to keep the original look of the car inside, so the gauges in the dash are the only real modification in the refreshed cabin
And why wouldn’t you? Although not everyone in the Camilleri household agrees.
“[My partner] Teaghan isn’t that into cars and she doesn’t like the attention it brings,” Tony says. “Whenever we stop at traffic lights she’s like: ‘Why are all these people looking at us?’ So whenever I say: ‘Come on, we’ll take the XR out,’ she’s like: ‘Do we have to?’ and I say: ‘Yeah, it’s a nice day, we’ve gotta take the car out.’”
Taking the car out also means going to some of the smaller shows — but Tony’s not into the Summernats scene.
“I’ve gone into local shows and plan to go to the All Ford Day but no major shows,” he says. “I’ve got no plans to go for trophies. It’s not a show car or a trailer queen; it’s a street car and I’d rather drive it to car shows. I’ve been talking about going to Summernats but I don’t like having a crowd around the car all the time.”
That might be a bit hard to avoid given the superb result he’s achieved.
“I think I built the car more to enjoy,” he says. “I’ve got it entered in Performance Car Mania in a couple of months — stuff where you can enjoy driving the car around a race track, powerskids, burnouts and that sort of stuff.
“My friends love the car and they always help get it ready for a show, saying helpful things like: ‘You’ve got to clean it more — you can’t take it like this!’ But the reaction from people who see it is fantastic as well, and I always get the thumbs-up from the local police — they’re okay as long as you’re not terrorising the neighbourhood.”
As for the ex-brother-in-law who swapped him the XR, Tony says there’s no chance of swapping back. “I don’t think he’ll be too happy to see it these days, you know what I mean?”
1968 XR FORD FALCON 500
Colour: Glasurit Sage Gold with pearl white roof
Brand: Windsor V8 302ci
Induction: Barry Grant DR 850 Demon
Carbs: Edelbrock Victor Jr
Heads: AFR 210
Camshaft: COMP solid cam
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Pistons: Probe, forged 11.5:1
Crank: Scat 4340
Oil pump: Mellings HV
Sump: ASR high volume
Preferred fuel: Pump 98 octane
Fuel pump: Edelbrock mechanical
Cooling: Full Flight custom radiator, oil catch can and coolant overfill tank
Exhaust: Twin Pacemaker four-into-ones, HPC treated, three-inch system
Ignition: MSD coil, billet distributor and 8.5mm leads
Gearbox: Rebuilt C4 stage-three full manual
Diff: Ford nine-inch, 4.11:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Pedders six-cylinder (f), reset leaves (r)
Shocks: Monroe Gas GT (f), Monroe Gas GT (r)
Brakes: Slotted DBA disc brakes, XT calipers (f), slotted DBA disc brakes, XA calipers (r)
Master cylinder: XC VH40 booster
Steering: Modified Ford XB power steering system
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Showwheels Intro Rally, 19x8 (f), 20x10 (r)
Rubber: Toyo 235/35/19 (f), 275/30/20 (r)