1979 Ford XD Falcon pro drift car

Danny Probert turned an XD Falcon paddock-basher into a tyre-shredding pro drift car

Ford Falcon XD

DRIFTING? Isn’t that the favoured pastime of youths who own smashed Silvias with mismatched wheels and anime stickers covering the windows? Well, the world has changed since Initial D, and drifting is now a major sport that attracts big crowds around the world. Sometimes, you’ll even find the odd Aussie rig in a sea of late-model Japanese cars and Mustangs. However, precious few western drift cars have as much history and are as well engineered as Danny Probert’s 1979 XD Falcon, XDrift.

First published in the March 2021 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Ben Hosking & Thomas Pappin Photography

The XD weighs in at a portly (for its class) 1400kg and is 2005mm wide at the front tyres, making it a behemoth compared to some of its competitors. “Usually in a race you can’t really see the chaser behind the leader, but when I’m chasing a Silvia you see the XD everywhere!” says Danny. The Greens’ Tuf-style fibreglass bodykit is from Spoilertek, and in the quest for more weight loss, the heavy bonnet was attacked with a holesaw. Although the class regs allow a lot of freedom when it comes to modifying bodywork, the firewall must remain untouched to pass tech. Yoshi King was responsible for painting the entire car for the first build, but Matthew Craig and the crew at Vango Rapid Repairs tidied up and repainted the exterior for the new version

Back in 2004, Danny spotted a small article in the NT News about a local drift have-a-go day. “I come from a speedway background, so the idea of sliding on bitumen sounded pretty intense to me!” he says. “I researched drifting as much as I could, and nobody said you couldn’t drift a Falcon.”

Danny wasn’t a fan of the TKO gearbox behind the old Clevo, so with the switch to the Barra and a bunch more power, he also changed to the four-speed G-Force GSR dogbox, a dedicated race transmission. The shifter still travels in an H pattern, but Danny doesn’t need to change gears often. “The Barra makes so much torque that once the turbo’s spooled you can let the revs come down and control the wheel speed quite well,” he says. A Mantic twin-plate clutch is contained within the all-steel, SFI-rated Quick Time bellhousing, which had to be custom-ordered to suit the GSR’s Muncie bolt pattern

Danny had just finished rebuilding the 351 Clevo in his single rail-equipped XD, so he entered the event and promptly punted the Falcon into the Armco. Many would have given drifting the one-finger salute at that point, but Danny had been bitten by the bug. “I think what kept me going was the crowd reaction when I got it back on the track; everyone was yelling and screaming,” he says. “I thought: ‘I kinda like this; it’s probably as entertaining for everyone watching as it is for me driving’.”

This is version 2.0 of the IRS built by the XDrift team, with geometry very similar to that of an AU but with added dynamic toe control for more ‘float’ during a drift. Amazingly, the AU cradle bolted into the front spring hangers with very little work and even provided the same axle centreline. Though the current set-up is much lighter than an AU’s, it uses AU knuckles with BF spindles and CV shafts driven by a spooled BA M86 diff, which hangs from an Independent Motorsports twin-bush hat

Fast-forward many years and Danny is still entertaining spectators by chucking an XD sideways, although this is a different car to the one he started with. This is his second XD, which in a previous life was likely a police chaser. “In hindsight, I’ve probably destroyed a pretty rare Falcon, but when I bought it, it was a paddock-basher,” he says.

The XD’s boot is home to not only the Aftermarket Industries 50L fuel cell, but also the Peterson dry sump tank and breather. With a four-stage Peterson pump evacuating the Atomic dry sump, the Barra is supplied with cool high-pressure oil no matter how hard Danny throws it into a reverse-entry drift

Long gone are the lowering blocks under the bum and the front springs adjusted by Makita; the XD got a total makeover in the name of going sideways while going fast. A 410ci Cleveland was initially put to use, but it wasn’t exactly ideal and it did Danny a favour when it died. “When we got this XD running in 2009 it had a Clevo, TKO600 and nine-inch,” he says. “The Clevo made all the right noises, but it was extremely heavy and had some bad manners. We won a couple of rounds with it and placed a few times, but then it dropped a valve.” Enter the Barra.

There are a surprising amount of factory parts in the Barra: the block, head, crank, rods and pistons are all ridgey-didge FG F6. To help it stay together, the engine copped Atomic head studs, main studs, main girdle, heavy-duty timing chain and guides. At the top of the untouched cylinder head, Atomic Stage 4 bumpsticks control Ford valves wrapped in Crow race springs. The manifold was fabricated by Helps Metalworks and runs a split-pulse T4 flange to suit the GTW3884R. A 4in dump pipe leads to the side-exit exhaust and a screamer guides gases out of the Turbosmart ProGate. “We didn’t feel we needed 1000hp,” says Danny. “The idea was to make 600rwhp as reliably as possible, so we focused on a free-flowing exhaust and intercooler and getting the cooling system right”

The broken Clevo was replaced with a fresh FG F6 long motor straight from Ford. The engine copped a few choice upgrades, like an Atomic stud girdle and heavy-duty timing chain and guides, but the spinning bits are dead stock. A Garrett GTW3884R snail is fed exhaust gases by a fabricated manifold, and a 60mm Turbosmart ProGate controls the flow. The intake manifold is bog-stock FG turbo, though a cable-actuated 75mm Wilson throttlebody controls the airflow. Jungle juice is sprayed into the engine by 2200cc Bosch injectors, zaps are provided by LQ9 coils, and the lot is controlled by a Haltech Elite 2500.

When you’re building a racing car at the top of Straya, you need a well-sorted cooling system. To that end, the XD runs a massive aluminium radiator with thermo fans pinched from an EL, along with an oil cooler, four-core intercooler and power steering cooler, all from PWR. Factory-style power steering in a competition car? “Without power steering, the wheel would be super-heavy due to the short steering arm,” says Danny. “And we’ve never had any trouble with the Ford power steering pumps”

Backing up the 680rwhp Barra is a bloody tough driveline, starting with a Mantic dual-plate clutch contained in a steel Quick Time bellhousing. Danny swaps cogs with a G-Force GSR four-speed dogbox, and a Driveshaft Shop 3.5-inch carbonfibre tailshaft twists an M86 diff from a BA. Oh yeah, the leaf springs and lowering blocks have been replaced with independent rear suspension that Danny and his XDrift team fabricated based on an AU set-up. “The AU IRS has really good geometry, but it weighs about 380kg,” he says.

There’s not one bit of 80s Falcon left under the top of the shock towers. The chassis rails were cut out and new ones made from box section were fitted 60mm further inboard. The rest of the subframe is all tube bent to recreate S14 Silvia geometry. Everything outside of the subframe is Wisefab equipment also designed for an S14, and an S14 power rack takes care of directional duties. Four-piston Brembo calipers and 365mm two-piece rotors wash off speed in a hurry

A similar fate befell the original front suspension, as everything below the top arms got chopped out and replaced with tube and box section. This time though, the guys added a bunch of gear designed for a Nissan Silvia from European racing suspension boffins Wisefab. “The problem with X-series Falcon front suspension is that the steering gear is way behind the axle centreline, but to achieve the big lock required for drifting you need it to be very close to the centreline,” explains Danny. Even with a big dose of Silvia DNA injected into it, the XD’s a lot larger and heavier than most of the competition on track, and hurling it sideways between concrete barriers is still an intimidating prospect.

The extensive rollcage is tied in to the front and rear suspension as well as the dash, adding rigidity without the need for more bracing underneath. In front of Danny is nothing but a Racepak IQ3 dash, SAAS tiller and Wilwood pedal box, but in front of the passenger is the XD’s brains. Along with the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU, the XD runs a WB1 CAN-based wideband controller, HP Electronik HP8841 body control module, AiM SmartyCam and AiM ECU Bridge datalogger

Danny competes in the pro category of Hi-Tec Drift All-Stars, where the XD stands out like dog’s bollocks. He loves travelling around Australia, with the Barra on the limiter and a blaze of tyre smoke. “It’s an epic thing to do,” he says. “It’s so important to share the adventure with other people. That’s why we take such a big team with us to events.”

The shiny chunk of aluminium bolted to the XD’s Wilwood hydraulic handbrake holds a special significance for Danny. “Years ago I got given a club number of 81, so I slapped that on my North Australian Motorsports Club membership and it became my race number. When I took my first round win, ‘#81 Winning’ became my phrase. We go through life with so many restrictions on ourselves and sometimes you need to unshackle; that’s what ‘#81 Winning’ means to me”


Paint: Protec MY45 Blue

Block: Ford Barra inline six
Capacity: 4.0L
Intake: Stock FG manifold, Wilson 75mm throttlebody
Head: Stock FG
Camshafts: Atomic Stage 4
Valve springs: Crow
Pistons: Stock FG
Conrods: Stock FG
Crank: Stock FG
Sump: Atomic dry sump, Peterson pump
Exhaust: Helps Metalworks manifold, Turbosmart 60mm ProGate, 4in exhaust
Turbo: Garrett GTW3884
Fuel system: Two Walbro 460 in-tank pumps, Bosch 2200cc injectors, E85
Ignition: LQ9 coils
Cooling: eBay radiator, EL thermo fans, PWR intercooler, PWR oil cooler, PWR power steering cooler

Gearbox: G-Force GSR dogbox
Bellhousing: Quick Time RM5000 custom
Clutch: Mantic 9000 dual-plate, Tilton concentric slave
Tailshaft: Driveshaft Shop 3.5in 1350-series carbonfibre
Diff: M86, Independent Motorsports diff hat, 3.75:1 gears, full spool

Front: Wisefab S14 arms and knuckles, S14 rack, MCA coil-overs, MCA Red Series shocks
Rear: MCA coil-overs, MCA Red Series shocks, XDrift Industries custom IRS
Brakes: Brembo 365mm discs with four-piston calipers (f), AU T3 330mm discs with VTTR six-piston calipers (r)

Rims: Rota P45R 18x10 ET12 (f & r)
Rubber: Valino Pergea 265/35R18 semi-slick (f & r)

My family Larissa Jones, Terry Probert, Ashton Probert, Crystal Probert and Annie Pitcher; our amazing team Joshua Bone, Kaya Rubin, Leo Jian, Ryan Hoare, William Chin, Zenek Randomski, Matthew Cavanagh, Brad Stott, Sam McGrade, Allan Barlee, Bevan Pierce and Andrew Pearce; our sponsors: Andrew Pearce at Australia Container Unloading Group, Tim Hayward at Tim’s Surf & Turf, Michael & Malcolm at Valino Tyres Australia, Ian Anderson at Valino Tyres International, Malcolm Holmes at Ryco Filters, Shane Parker at Fuchs Lubricants Australasia, Matty Cav at McMedia, Zenek Radomski at iSpark Electrical & Fire, Brent at Luxe Performance and Benny Maxwell at Axesent Creations; our technical partners: Glen Kelly at Extreme Street Performance, Ian Porter at Porter Performance & Steering, Scotty at XDFWreck, Pete at Spoilertek, Leon at 247 Hose & Fittings and Mick Anthony at Forced Ford Forums; special shout-out to the Cavanagh family – Matty, Jaqueline, Lizzy and Heydog – for looking after our crazy rocket ship for the past two years


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