IF YOU doubt the intentions of generation whatever-we’re-up-to-now, then don’t judge this fastidiously clean, factory-esque XY ute by the birth date on its owner’s licence. There’s a young bloke up in Queensland who knows that ‘doin’ the hard yards’ doesn’t mean mowing the lawn up a really steep block. It’s about getting of out of something what you put into it.
This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Street Machine
In the case of this pristine 1971 XY Falcon ute owned (and largely built) by Tyler Davey, that’s four years of painstaking labour at nights and weekends trying to achieve a look faithful to what Ford Australia might have done in ’71 had there been a market for tough utes back then. And making sure the oily bits are man enough to match the faux GTHO cover art. Working on the tools at John White Race Engines in Narangba (north of Brisbane) pretty much guaranteed that, and Tyler’s bored and stroked 414ci Windsor is proof – the first engine he’s built from scratch, powering his first-ever project.
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From shell with bits to seamlessly detailed beast, Tyler’s Falcon 500 utility is his first project car (with his first engine built from scratch), now reborn as an XY GT-style trayback with a shedload of shove
The initial plan was a Ford with four doors and a bangin’ donk, though nothing too extreme. When Tyler’s dreams of a left-hook ’62 Fairlane Sports Coupe or ’64 Falcon Sprint, or even an Aussie XM/XP hardtop, became as likely as full-strength cans at the cricket, his old man came to the rescue with a ute. A suburb away sat an XY Falcon 500, already sandblasted and primed, albeit 20 years ago, and completely dismantled – making Tyler’s comment, “I thought it would be a great challenge”, sound like the nicest thing ever said by a then 18-year-old.
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Being neither a panel beater nor a painter, Tyler entrusted the XY’s body and paint (factory Electric Blue – the ute’s original colour – in PPG Deltron clear-over-base, flow-coated) to Wes Charles himself at Wes Charles Smash Repairs & Muscle Car Mania in Gatton, then tackled the task of sourcing as much factory stuff for the XY as possible. “I know you can buy a whole lot of reproduction stuff, but it’s more challenging to restore the parts and reuse them,” Tyler says, having spent 12 months searching for an original fuel-tank access panel for the tray, then discovering they’d started doing them repro.
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While the ute was already naked and essentially prepped, the sandblasting and priming had to be done again. Some previous repairs were top stuff (such as the new outer sills) and the tailgate was uncharacteristically rust-free, but the transmission tunnel had to be modified to fit the Tremec TK600 that Tyler wanted, and the XY was missing its B-pillar moulds and gutter moulds, among other bits. Once sourced, Tyler had the shiny stuff straightened and rechromed, and the factory stainless trim repaired, then set about hand-restoring the original gauges, rim-blow steering wheel, tail-lights and front blinkers himself – “something to learn”, as he cleverly puts it.
Born into a drag-racing family, and with his boss in his ear, it’s no surprise Tyler’s initial plans for a stock 302 with a Top Loader soon became a 351 Windsor, and then a stroker. He bought all the engine parts – AFR Renegade alloy heads, a Scat steel crank with a four-inch stroke, Scat H-beam rods, Milodon sump, Howards solid-roller cam and Scorpion roller rockers – from a customer they’d recently built an engine for, but who wanted to up his horsepower game further. And then Tyler built it himself, with his boss keeping a watchful eye to make sure everything was done right.
The sparkling clean, stock-looking engine bay requires close inspection to spot the dummy Autolite battery cover (it’s now an engine breather tank). But the 414 cubes grunting away under the true-blue rocker covers are even more deceptive
While the engine is a magnificent beast – now measuring 414 cubes, fed by a Holley 750 double-pumper mounted on a port-matched Edelbrock manifold and stuffed with RaceTec custom pistons – it’s the exquisite attention to detail that stands out. Everything has been done to appear as factory as possible, but it’s the fake Autolite battery cover – now the breather box for the engine – that underlines Tyler’s pursuit of perfection with this XY (the battery is now under the tray next to the fuel tank).
Keeping the stock XY bench seat – retrimmed in original ‘basket-weave’ vinyl with period Ford belts and buckles – not only keeps the look of Tyler’s XY ‘GT’ ute kinda authentic, it means she’s still a proper three-berth cruiser
The interior treads the same path, beautifully trimmed by Tyler’s good mate Nik (an experienced motor trimmer) in the XY GT’s factory ‘basket-weave’ saddle-brown vinyl, made by Reid at Muscle Car Interiors to suit the ute’s three-seater bench. It’s a masterful look that perfectly suits the ‘stock-but-not’ ethos driving the project. And it fits neatly around the Tremec’s Hurst shifter with Ultimate Street short-shift mechanism too.
Aside from a column-mounted Auto Meter tach and a hardy Hurst shifter (hiding a Tremec five-speed) sprouting proudly from the trans tunnel, this XY ute remains factory-correct in every detail, as if Ford at Broadmeadows completed the fit-out itself
Armed with only two jack stands, no hoist and no tools, Tyler tackled the final assembly himself, bringing his toolbox home from work every night and on weekends while he essentially rebuilt the XY in three-hour stints on his parents’ back patio. The neighbours must’ve been partial to a ballsy V8 too, as they were very understanding when Tyler started it up at 7pm with no exhaust system on it. Four years later, he now has this exquisitely finished XY ‘GT’ ute as a fitting tribute to his time, effort and taste.
Even the plates are spot-on – WAS250 – and so is the way it drives, according to Tyler: “In third gear, roll it on and it’ll spin up, but if you’re gentle enough it hooks up really well.” And that’s with 452rwhp being fed to period-looking Cooper Cobra Radial GT 225/70R14 rear boots.
More horsepower than grip, just like anything decent from the past. Good way to learn that you get out of something what you put into it.
BREAK IN TRANSMISSION
SQUEEZING the Tremec TK600 into the XY’s existing transmission tunnel required more than just lube and deep breathing. With the tunnel size increased, when Tyler tried to mate the engine with the gearbox, the clutch bearing clearance and bellhousing wouldn’t go over the standard-size flywheel.
The solution was a small-diameter Ace flywheel to accept the standard-size clutch. But then the pedal had no feel. “It felt terrible,” says Tyler, even though it worked properly.
So Tyler bored out the master cylinder for a heavier pedal, which then displaced more fluid so the bearing over-travelled, the hydraulic bearing popped off the housing and the gearbox had to come back out to sort it. Still, if that’s the only major build issue, happy days!
1971 FORD XY FALCON 500 UTE
Paint: Ford Electric Blue
Brand: 414ci Windsor V8
Induction: Holley 750 street HP double-pumper
Inlet manifold: Edelbrock RPM Air Gap
Heads: AFR Renegade, alloy
Camshaft: Howards solid-roller, 0.625in lift
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Crank: Scat steel, internally balanced
Oil pump: Melling high-volume, adjustable
Fuel system: Carter 140gph mechanical fuel pump
Cooling: Proflow alloy radiator with plastic flex-fan
Exhaust: Hurricane extractors, custom 3in system
Ignition: MSD Pro-Billet distributor; MSD Blaster 3 coil; Eagle leads
Gearbox: Tremec TK600 five-speed manual
Clutch: Direct Clutch Services single-plate
Diff: Ford 9in, Strange Iron centre with micro-polished gears, Detroit locker, 3.80:1 ratio
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: King coil springs with Koni adjustable shocks, Mackay rubber bushes, lowered 2in
Rear: Reset rear leaf springs, Koni adjustable shocks, Mackay rubber bushes
Brakes: Factory XY discs with Girlock XF alloy calipers (f); rebuilt factory drums (r)
Master cylinder: Factory
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Reproduction five-slots 14x7 (f & r)
Rubber: Cooper Cobra Radial GT 225/70R14 (f & r)
Reid McInnes, Wes Charles and my mate Nik for all their work on the panel, paint and trim; all my mates who helped along the way; my partner Sarah for putting up with the build for the past four years; my parents for allowing it to happen on their back patio! Without them I could never have done this and I owe them a great deal