THEY say anyone can restore a rare car, but it takes a real man to cut one up and Perth’s Frank Banken is such a man. The car he chose was Ford Oz’s luxo coupe flash-in-the-pan, the Landau – a great hunk of metal based on the iconic XB coupe of which there are perhaps a couple hundred of the 1385 made left.
This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Street Machine
Frank reckons he’s only seen a handful over his side of the country, but he didn’t hesitate to modify his own example, endowing it with more grunt and smoothing off the body enough to make it look about a thousand times tougher than stock – all without destroying the character that makes the Landau so special.
How special? The Landau is jammed with the LTD’s luxo DNA, including its front and rear body treatment, GT-spec driveline, four-wheel discs and super-plush interior that included aircraft-style levers for the air con and bucket seats all ’round.
“The car was that particular baby-shit Ford brown,” says Frank. “The new two-tone paint is a lot punchier and the stripes along the tops of the doors have that XA/XB GT feel”
Sadly for Ford it didn’t capture much imagination in the marketplace, probably because there weren’t enough rich blokes who wanted the expensive foray into sports luxury, and that’s made them something of a rarity and is what sparked Frank’s interest.
“A mate of mine’s dad had a Landau when I was a kid and it always amazed me,” he said. “I hadn’t seen one in years and the rarity made me seek one out.
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“The car I found had come off a farm. It had some rust, but it was all there and very original with the big hubcaps. It pretty quickly evolved into a full rebuild.
“It became a bit of a runaway train, with little tweaks here and there inspiring more work in other areas. Before I knew it we had the motor out and were stripping the car. It was hard because I loved what we were doing, but I also just wanted to drive it!”
Factory Landau engine bays are pretty busy, with the massive air con compressor mounted up high and vacuum lines running everywhere. Frank tidied his up by replacing the factory pulleys with a March serpentine kit and by ditching the vacuum-operated headlight covers with electric units
When it came to the exterior, Frank – somewhat reluctantly in the beginning – ditched the vinyl roof, as well as the side rub strips, instantly giving the car a much smoother profile.
“I was missing some of the stainless trim that borders the vinyl roof, so we got rid of the whole thing and rather than just bog up the trim holes, my mates Frank and Bundy put in a new panel under the rear window,” he said.
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The other major mod is the all-steel bonnet scoop.
“I didn’t want to put an off-the-shelf shaker or fibreglass scoop on it,” said Frank. “So Bundy sketched up our own scoop and then fabricated it. It has a little bit of a Mad Max inspiration to it and works in with the shape of the bonnet.
“To finish it off, we cut up a Landau grille and used it to build a grille for the scoop, to really give it a factory feel.”
Landaus had one of the coolest 70s interiors, so Frank hasn’t played with it much, just adding an Intro tiller, B&M shifter, tacho and modern audio
Underneath is a tough 351 Clevo, built by Ierace Automotive with forged pistons, a flat tappet cam and CHI 2V heads – enough for a healthy 465hp.
“I love to give it heaps,” says Frank. “I love the sound and the devil horns stick out of the side of my head and I think, ‘Here we go!’
“The car has a 4.11 diff and with the Detroit locker it jumps out of the gate at a million miles an hour. I haven’t dragged the car yet, but I can’t wait.”
The restomod theme continues inside, with a billet tiller, modern stereo, a GT tacho where the clock used to live and B&M shifter the only significant deviations from stock.
“All the electric windows are working, with the original switches,” says Frank. “Anyone familiar with Landaus will know this is a feat. The air con works too. A Landau should be about luxury as well as speed.”
The pop-up headlight covers are also fully functioning, although Frank binned the old vacuum system and now has electric motors to do the job, which are more reliable and free up space under the bonnet.
After fettling it to show standard, Frank debuted the car a last year’s WA Hot Rod Show, 33 years after he was there with his van (see more below).
“We went home with a trophy this time, too, and made the Top 10 at Motorvation 2012 as well,” he said. “I never in my wildest dreams imagined the car would turn out this good, but the main thing for me is the driving.
“People are amazed that we drive the car to and from the shows, but there is no way it is going on a trailer. ”
LONG TIME BETWEEN DRINKS
FRANK Banken is no stranger to the modified car scene although it’s been a while since his first affair with the Blue Oval.
“I have always been a Ford nut,” Frank said. “In my younger days I had an XW panel van. I put a 302 Windsor in it and did all the usual tricks — velvet interior and murals. It was called Dragon’s Dream.
“It ran a 13.05 at the drags and picked up a couple of trophies at the ’78 Hot Rod Show. I loved that car.”
Colour: Sierra Bronze pearl and Desert Sand pearl
Engine: Cleveland 351
Carb: Holley Ultra UP 750
Inlet: TFC high rise, single-plane
Cam: Comp cams, hydraulic, flat tappet
Heads: CHI 2V
Pistons: SRP forged
Exhaust: Pacemaker 4-into-1, 2.5in twin system
Torque converter: 3500
Diff: 9in, 4.11:1
Rims: Center Line
Rubber: 225/60R15 96H (f), 295/50R15 108H (r)
Frank, Tony and Mario from Ierace Automotive, Peter From Welshpool Automatics, Domenic from Prestige Exhausts, Brad from Stunning FX Custom Paint, Wade from Forrestfield Auto Electrics, Tim from Tim’s Trimming, Stan and Rita from All Street Tyres and Wheels, Vinci Chrome, Paul Hitchcock, Paul from Rare Parts, Tony and George from Superoo, Harry Banken and Bundy