HAVING a car stolen is gut-wrenching. More so than other possessions. TVs, DVDs and game consoles are dime-a-dozen items but people spend so much time with their cars that they become more personal. Glenn Robertson’s father, Kev, knows all about losing a car to bastard thieves.
This article on Glenn's XT Falcon ute was first published in the October 2007 issue of Street Machine
“One morning he woke up to find that someone else wanted it more than he did. He felt like someone had stolen his soul,” Glenn says.
The car in question was an early 1969 XT Falcon ute that Kev had picked up in the early 80s. Over the years he’d painted it and swapped in a V8 donk and it was fair to say that he loved that old ute. For most of us, once a car’s gone, that’s it; we never see it again. If the police don’t find your car dumped in the first day or two then the chances are it’s gone for good.
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Amazingly, this ute was spotted for sale in South Australia three years later by Glenn’s older brother, Ken, in Unique Cars. It took more than 16 months to get it back — naturally the police needed to do a bit of investigating and took some convincing that this XT was the same one stolen in NSW three years previously.
However, because Kev had tinkered with the ute he knew all her ins and outs — like the fact that the previous owner had used self-tappers to secure a handle to the glovebox lid. Kev didn’t like the look of that handle so he’d filled in the holes with putty, sanded it back and painted it over. When the police scraped the paint off the glovebox lid, sure enough, there were the holes.
So the ute came home again and served as Kev’s toy once more. Eventually, however, he found he didn’t need a ute any more, which was when Glenn confessed his desire for the old girl.
“My father said: ‘Take it,’ but I gave him $4500 for it,” recalls Glenn. “He’s tickled pink with the final result. He just said: ‘Whatever you do, don’t cut a hole in the bonnet.’”
At first Glenn wasn’t planning on building the ute up; he just wanted to slot a 351 into it. The rest was good to go.
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“The old man had rebuilt the ute a fair few times but never gave much attention to the engine bay,” he says.
This is where James Grima comes into the picture. James had the healthy 351 from his Summernats Top 60 XB, which was sitting around doing nothing. But before slotting the engine in, Glenn decided that the engine bay could do with a fresh lick of paint. And so the snowball began rolling until it became a full-on rebuild.
Glenn has a concreting business but one of his workers used to be a panel beater, so once the XT was stripped back, Craig Hays stuck his hand up to do the tin. After sandblasting the shell, Craig spent six months full-time turning a bloody good shell into a perfect one. Sure, it had a little rust here and there but the tray was immaculate and the body hadn’t been beaten around.
“Craig said: ‘Don’t pester me; just let me do my own thing,’” Glenn recalls. So he kept his mouth shut and let Craig do his thing.
A lot of people reckon that black is the worst colour you can paint a car but many experts would contend that dark green is just as bad for showing up faults. Keep that in mind when you check out the pictures and you’ll appreciate the work that went into the long quarters to get them straight.
“In all honesty, the ute wouldn’t have turned out the way it did without Craig,” Glenn says.
When the decision was made to change the colour to Zircon Green, Glenn thought about turning the XT into a GT clone but thankfully that never came to pass. As he now says: “It would have cheapened the whole ute.”
Once Big Tez from Grand Prix Repairs had finished laying down the green stuff, the ute was shipped back to James Grima who had the job of bolting it back together and finishing it off.
The driveline was easy: just a stout 415hp Clevo, a kitted C4 and the obligatory nine-inch diff. But any car builder will tell you that a righteous street machine is more than the sum of its parts. All the magic is in the fit and finish, and that’s where this car really shines. Almost every piece of bright-work has been chromed and polished, while the stuff that isn’t chrome has been gold plated. Those tailgate check straps and locking plates, even the carb linkages, were treated to the Midas touch.
Then there are the billet pieces like the suspension tower caps, grille emblem, fuel cap and dash fascia.
Yep, that whole dash fascia has been created out of aluminium and from conception to finished article it took around nine months. Time well spent. And you’ve no doubt noticed the billet steering column and steering wheel too.
Continuing with the interior, a pair of XY buckets covered in chamois leather is divided by a B&M shifter and controls for the airbag suspension.
Airbag suspension? You never saw that coming, did you? Airbags have been slowly but surely making their way into the street machine scene.
“I was a bit dubious about the airbag suspension at first but it’s absolutely terrific,” Glenn says.
The Air Ride set-up came about while James was over in the US to check out the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show. The PRI show is similar to SEMA but just for the hardcore stuff. James saw the airbag gear, made the call to Glenn and brought the stuff back with him.
Airbags are pretty common in the mini-truck scene, where they all have huge air tanks sitting in their trays. But take a look at Glenn’s ute; the tank is mounted up under the tray in the spare wheel well. In front of that, the battery and the fuel system sit next to the fuel tank.
Glenn’s ute made a big impact at Summernats 20, scoring a place in the Top 60 hall and just missing out on a spot in the Top 20 — it also lifted the Encouragement award.
Not bad for a car that was still being finished as they left for Canberra and was never envisaged as a show pony. In fact the paint hadn’t even been buffed.
As Glenn says: “We were just after a bit of a sleeper originally but like most projects it kind of blew out.”
The show quality of the build hasn’t stopped Glenn from enjoying it either; he’s already used it for his son’s formal.
“The hard part about that was there are only two seats so he couldn’t take his mates,” says Glenn. Given the lack of seating he thinks a sedan might be the next project;
“Probably something like an XY GS.”
If it’s built with the same attention to detail as this ute then that’ll be something to look out for.
GLENN & MICHELE ROBERTSON
1969 XT FALCON UTE
Colour: Zircon Green
Engine: Cleveland 351
Carb: BG 750
Manifold: Weiand single plane
Heads: 2V ported and polished
Rods: Standard, ARP bolts
Cam: Crow hydraulic
Exhaust: Four-into-one headers, Flowmaster X-pipe, Flowmaster mufflers, 2.5in system
Transmission: C4, shift kit
Converter: Dominator 2700rpm
Diff: Nine-inch, 31-spline billet axles, 3.55 gears
Brakes: XF slotted (f&r)
Springs: Air Ride airbags (f), single leaf and Cal Tracs (r)
Shocks: Air Ride airbags (f&r)
Rims: Budnik Famosa, 17x7 (f), 17x9.5 (r)
Rubber: Sumitomo, 215/45 (f), 275/40 (r)
Wheel: Budnik billet
Seats: XY buckets, chamois leather trim
Gauges: Stewart Warner, billet fascia
Stereo: Kenwood CD and 6in speakers
Shifter: B&M Megashifter
James Grima; Big Tez, Grand Prix Repairs (02 9623 7877); Craig Hayes; Jason Grima, West Side Auto (02 9623 0956); Kevin Robertson; John Muscat and Troy (Snakes)