We know it’s not painted. We figured it would be a lot more interesting to see the staggering amount of work that has gone into Adam Le Brese’s latest project before it got covered in paint.
This article was first published in the July 2007 issue of Street Machine
The man himself shouldn’t need any introduction but for those of you who came in late, Adam is the guy who built the 2004 SMOTY-winning EH sedan delivery.
Considering that was the first car he’d ever built, it was amazing how great an impact it had on the Aussie street machine scene, and how perfectly it suited tastes all across this wide brown land. In the SMOTY voting it was Adam first, with daylight back to second and third.
This latest project — a ’78 XC GS coupe — started to take shape about halfway through the build of the EH but now, armed with the experience gained from that build, you can bet the Falcon will turn out even better.
The vision that has been in Adam’s head all this time is what the Yanks refer to as Pro Touring. Basically it’s an old car — preferably a two-door muscle car — modified to not only go better, but also stop, handle and perform like a much more modern car. There’s usually a fair bit of horsepower under the hood but the defining features are really the large diameter wheels, low profile tyres, big brakes and ground-scraping stance.
Those rear quarters look pretty sweet now but Adam reckons they were stuffed and “full of soup!” The body line in the panel had to be marked up with a length of string and then hammered back into shape
We know some of you don’t believe that the cars we feature get driven but that’s exactly what Adam plans to do with the coupe — once it’s finished, of course. The more observant of you may have noticed that the steering wheel is on the wrong side (or maybe you thought we got the photos arse-about) but put the phone down, there’s a perfectly good reason for the left-hook conversion.
The drive Adam’s thinking about going on isn’t around the block, or even down to Sydney for the weekend. Nope, he’s talking Hot Rod Power Tour in the good ol’ US of A. For those of you not familiar with this mega-cruise, it’s a week-long cross-country jaunt, in company with more than 1000 cars and it’s always a huge heap of fun. Don’t bother asking if there are any spare seats either — we already did and he said: “No!”
The whole Pro Touring thing is something that Adam has always been attracted to: “I guess it has a bit to do with US influences but it’s always been my interest. Pro Street just doesn’t do it for me; it never has. The whole Chip Foose or Troy Trepanier look with the big wheels and slammed stance is what I’m going for.”
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Even though this car will be built to the highest standards, Adam insists that it won’t be a show pony.
“Show cars are all smoke and mirrors but with this car I’m trying to make it work.”
To that end, a lot of thought has gone into the suspension design and the chassis set-up of the car. The whole floor, firewall and rear parcel shelf was cut out, then replaced with a tubular chassis and a fabricated firewall. The backbone of the chassis is a couple of rectangular rails that run the full length of the car. Tube sections were then created to hang the front suspension from, but as Adam likes to do things a little differently, he didn’t just bolt the factory stuff back in place.
Instead, he fabricated tubular suspension wishbones that actuate pushrods, which transfer the suspension movement to inboard-mounted airbags via bell cranks. It looks like something off a race car. Which is exactly how Adam wanted it to look.
Having the airbags smack in the middle of the engine bay is a bit of a problem when you go to put the motor back in, however. Adam got around that by moving the motor back — a long way! The whole lot now sits behind the front axle line; once again, just like a race car.
The rear suspension is a similar system of pushrods, bell cranks and clever fabrication but instead of airbags, Adam’s used a couple of air cylinders. These are special units that have built-in damping valves and they effectively work both as shock absorbers and springs. He’s pretty sure that it should ride and handle nicely but, just in case, he’s engineered it so that he can replace the airbags and cylinders with coil-over shocks.
As cutting-edge as the chassis design of this car is, the driveline is good ol’ Aussie street machine muscle. A stroked Clevo sits in front of a six-speed Tremec, and out back it’s got an LSD nine-inch fitted with 4.11s.
When it came to induction, Adam went on a high carb diet. Four 48mm IDA Webers will supply the juice, a slight departure from the original plan for eight throttlebody injectors, but there’s rhyme behind his reason.
“I basically wanted to work with what we had in the 70s. Those Webers cost me a bucket-load but I saw them and fell in love. I just had to have them.”
You’re probably struggling to figure out what on earth is 70s about this car. Okay, it’s not some throwback to the black and white days before Street Machine but there are a lot of references to the muscle car era — they just have a bit of a modern twist.
Take the wheels for instance, a monster set of Intro Vista IIs — 20x8.5 up front and 22x10 out back. Sure, it’s not the first time we’ve seen ’em on an Aussie car but check out those three-bar spinners. Adam had them carved from 10mm billet, then bent them in a press to get the right look. Yep, he needed to get five made — oops! That small detail takes the wheels from just another set of big-inch billets to something with a little more history. If you squint you can almost see them as a set of Halibrand knock-off wheels. Almost.
It’s a fair guess that the interior isn’t going to be a set of buckets and some crushed velour — although we hear it’s making a comeback. Instead, Adam’s going for a dirty blood-red trim that will be stitched with a diamond pattern. The front seats will be lightweight racing units but low-backed to keep that coupe profile pure. House Of Kolor is lined up to supply the silver paint and that will be set off by some Galaxy Grey racing stripes. Once again it’s old school but with some new-age flash.
Plans are to debut the car at Summernats 21, which would be a big ask except that Adam has quit building cars part-time and joined up as a partner in Kustom City, a Gold Coast-based workshop. So we’re confident we’ll be able show you the XC with its clothes on early next year.
After he’s knocked the socks off the Yanks, it’s a fair bet the coupe may stay Stateside — the LHD conversion makes it more attractive to Seppo buyers. They love Mad Max cars so Adam might even chuck some 44-gallon drums in the boot!
1. As you can see, not your average Falcon coupe! The entire chassis has been replaced with a tubular construction. Upper tubes are outboard of the lower rails, allowing longer lower control arms, which helps induce negative camber when cornering. Adam hand-fabricated the entire front suspension. Inboard airbags are connected to the suspension arms by pushrods. Original plans were for an eight-throttlebody injected set-up but Adam saw this quartet of 48mm IDA Webers and just had to have them! They also worked better with the 70s twist on the Pro Touring theme.
2. That lump of machined alloy you can see in between the guard and wiper cowl is the door opener and it was machined by Adam’s wife, Alisha.
3. Massive 389mm Alcon rotors and six-spot calipers all ’round add to the race style. Those high-tech aero-tube suspension arms are all Adam’s work too, starting with round tube then adding flat sheet to get the wing profile.
4. That funky curved shape is essentially how the back seat will look. A trimmed fibreglass panel will be tucked in between the seat back and parcel shelf.
5. Here you can see that the bell crank pivots about a point two-thirds along its length, effectively making it work with a 2:1 ratio. That means with 3.5in of movement at the airbag, there’s around 7in of suspension travel at the wheel.
6. At first glance this looks like silver leather but look closely and you can see the grind marks! Yep, it’s cast alloy — Adam bogged up an expensive steering wheel and made a mould from it. The quality is so good, you can even see the perforations in the leather but they’ll be gone when the wheel gets polished.
7. When Adam says he moved the engine back “a fair bit” he wasn’t joking! The entire donk sits behind the front axle line, which means the handling should be sweet. Adam created all the tinwork in the car from flat sheet, including the wheel tubs.
8. Door hinges are mounted to this fully adjustable spine which ties in to the rollcage. They’re big, heavy doors and Adam wants to make sure they don’t go anywhere.
9. The complete opening mechanisms for the suicide doors was fitted to the front pillar. This means that only the window regulators will be in the doors and Adam doesn’t have to run cables across the door jamb.
10. A massive amount of work went into modifying the body to make the suicide doors work. Adam started with some type of factory hinge but chucked them and fabricating these from scratch.
11. Cut-outs under the bumper aren’t for exhausts; they’re diffusers. Basically there are channels that run the full length of the underbody and get wider and taller towards the rear. This creates lower pressure under the car, producing downforce without the need for a wing. It also helps scavenge air from under the car, which can be a problem when you’re going really fast.
12. How’s this for trick? As with the front suspension, pushrods connect to a bell crank but this time they act on air cylinders. These are special units that have damping valves in them, so they work as springs and shock absorbers. There’s about eight inches of travel in the rear.
ADAM & ALISHA LE BRESE
1978 XC FALCON GS COUPE
Colour: FoMoCo Steel
Brand: Ford Cleveland
Induction: Quad 48 IDA Webers
Cooling: Alloy PWR radiator
Gearbox: Tremec six-speed
Diff: Nine-inch LSD
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs & shocks: Shockwave airbags (f), air cylinders (r)
Mods: Cantilevered pushrods
Brakes: Alcon 389mm (f&r)
Calipers: Alcon 6-piston (f&r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood (pedal box and cylinders)
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Intro Vista II 5 20x8.5 (f), 22x10 (r)
Tyres: Toyo (f&r)
JC and James, PWR (07 5598 1499); Chris Morris, Showwheels (03 9763 7100); KV, KV’s Resto and Race Fabrication (07 5451 0100); Owen Webb, HOK (02 9737 9422); Kustom City (07 5534 2077); my mates; Chris Williams; Chris McGrath; Carl. And Alisha — she did heaps!