DANIEL Wickman’s gorgeous XM Falcon is known as Grimace because it used to be purple, but that’s also the face its occupants make when the 76mm Garrett turbocharger builds positive boost pressure and the full-house Barra hurls them at the horizon. It’s funny, but 1068hp at the hubs has that effect on a person.
This article was first published in the December 2020 issue of Street Machine
Daniel had relatively modest plans when he first fronted with the car at Sydney’s Image Conversions to chat about a rebuild. “I got the car in 2016, always with the intention to put a Barra in it,” he says. “I have four kids and I wanted a six-seater we could all cruise in.”
Eighteen months later, the bench seats were definitely on-brief, but the scope of the project had expanded somewhat.
“Once we got started, everything went nuts,” grins Mick Ellard from Image. “Daniel’s vision changed as soon as he saw some of our past builds. Then he came in one day and said he’d ordered a 1000hp engine package, so we then started changing everything from suspension to paint.”
While the silhouette is still unmistakeably XM Falcon, a host of tasteful body mods drag the car’s aesthetic into the 21st century. The Image Conversions crew spent hours welding and grinding and perfecting the panel gaps, before laying on the PPG Jet Black over Precision Grey paintwork
And it’s a good thing they did, because that much grunt would have twisted the factory Falcon chassis like a pretzel. The whole car was comprehensively re-engineered to deal with the added shove, but also to deliver a level of handling and braking prowess that was unheard of back in 1964. We’re talking extensive chassis reinforcement, a bespoke-fabricated front end with rack-and-pinion power steering, a three-link rear end with Watt’s link, QA1 coil-overs all ’round, and whopping six-piston Brembo anchors. After all, it’s no use having all that poke if the rest of the car isn’t set up accordingly.
The engine was put together by Precision Racing, and as far as Barras go, it’s got all the good gear. It’s Precision’s PR10 package, which scores Cosworth pistons, Nitto I-beam conrods and a PR Stage 2 crankshaft spinning in ACL Race bearings, with the mains caps tied together by an Atomic girdle and the block grout-filled. The reconditioned and ported head was decked out with Precision’s HT2 camshafts, stainless-steel valves and 115lb springs, sealed with a fire-ring gasket and torqued down with ARP head studs.
Boost comes thanks to a Garrett/ProCharge PRO76 turbo mounted on a PR custom manifold, with boost regulated by a 60mm Turbosmart ’gate. The intake charge is cooled by a Plazmaman intercooler and delivered to the engine via a Plazmaman intake manifold loaded with flow-matched 1650cc Bosch injectors, while the electronics are handled by a full suite of MoTeC hardware, including an M130 ECU, two PDM15s, a wideband kit and MoTeC LTC.
With a heavily reinforced chassis, three-link rear end, custom front end, rack-and-pinion steering, coil-over shocks and monstrous Brembo brakes, Grimace has been built from the ground up to be a driver, and that’s exactly how Daniel intends to use it – elite-level finish or not!
A custom TCE Barra converter links the engine to a full-house Turbo 400 transmission, which in turn transmits grunt to a Strange Pro case-equipped nine-inch, with a Truetrac and highway-friendly 3.25:1 gears.
In many ways a Barra makes more sense in an XM than a V8 does; after all, the Barra has its roots in the smaller, cam-in-block inline six that originally powered the XM. Making a turbocharged Barra look pretty is no easy task, but the beautifully smoothed and re-worked engine cover, tasteful colour coding and lashings of billet and braid get the job done. It has the performance to match the looks, too – all 1068hp worth
It’s a fairly formidable mechanical package but the exceptional quality of the fit and finish of the car is just as impressive, and knowing what we do of Image Conversions’ handiwork, that comes as no surprise. There was a massive amount of fab work involved in achieving the desired look, from the mini-tubs to the smoothed engine bay, custom firewall, recessed fuel filler, shaved body mouldings and Kindig It Customs door handles. The deleted front quarter windows necessitated custom glass, while the front and rear bars were tucked, modified and painted black for a far more contemporary look. To further modernise the car, a custom grille with hexagon inserts was made, while head- and tail-lights are LED and the tail-light bezels are custom designed and 3D-printed.
“The XM is a classic-shaped Ford that everyone loves, but we took it from beach cruiser to mean machine,” enthuses Mick.
The cabin is lush, and retains that all-important six-seat capacity Daniel was chasing from the word go. Both benches were custom built, with the rears having the added complication of the mini-tubs to contend with. The dash is also built from scratch, and houses Speedhut instruments, a bunch of billet buttons and the controls for the Vintage Air air-conditioning system. Other mod-cons include central locking, push-button start and power steering, while Daniel plucks gears via column-mounted paddle shifters. The trim was tackled by Hy-Tone Motor Trimming, and uses red Nappa leather with a black suede headlining and Porsche goat-hair carpet – flash!
Seating for six was imperative for Daniel, because he has four kids and wants to be able to take the whole family out cruising. Both bench seats are custom made, as is the dash, the door trims and just about anything else you see here. The cabin abounds with modern niceties such as Nappa leather, air con, central locking and even paddle shifters mounted on the Ididit billet column
“The build was great fun, and Daniel was very easy to deal with,” says Mick. “By the end of it he was with us three days a week helping with assembly of the car, and we now have a great friendship.
“Everything went together perfectly and the car is an animal. It’s definitely the best vehicle that’s rolled out of our shop, and it’s also had a lot of extra love from Matt, Paul and myself because we want that SMOTY trophy and that Summernats Grand Champion sword. This thing should turn heads and perform.”
And while the finished product differs significantly from the modest family cruiser Daniel first set out to build, he has no regrets. “I absolutely love the way it’s turned out,” he says. “It’s become something I’m fairly protective of, but that might wear off in time. The plan was to get all the big shows where the car would be heavily scrutinised before I started driving it, but coronavirus has changed that and I’m already out there enjoying it. I’ve already put 700km or so on it just cruising around locally.
“It drives beautifully; just like a modern car. It sounds fairly aggressive and lumpy but it’s very driveable, though when it comes on boost it’s a real handful. We’ll probably tidy it up again and do some bigger shows when I can, but I’m really looking forward to just cruising it and doing low-key shows like cars-and-coffee events.”
Photos: Ben Hosking & Will Horner
1964 FORD XM FALCON
Paint: Precision Grey & Jet Black
Brand: 4.0L Ford Barra six
Induction: Plazmaman inlet manifold
ECU: MoTeC M130, two MoTeC PDM15s, MoTeC LTC, wideband kit
Turbo: Garrett/ProCharge PRO76, 60mm Turbosmart wastegate
Head: Ported, stainless valves, ARP 9/16in studs
Camshafts: Precision Racing HT2
Conrods: Nitto I-beam
Crank: PR Stage 2, Atomic mains girdle
Oil pump: PR-spec, billet gears
Fuel system: Plazmaman triple pump surge tank
Cooling: Custom PWR radiator, Maradyne fans
Exhaust: PR custom turbo manifold, 4in exhaust system
Ignition: Platinum Racing R35/Barra kit
Gearbox: TH400, reverse-pattern, transbrake
Diff: 9in, Strange Pro case, Truetrac, 3.25:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Custom front end, Lovells Springs, QA1 shocks
Rear: Three-link, Disguyz Customs Watt’s link, Lovells springs, QA1 shocks
Brakes: VTTR 330mm discs, Brembo six-piston calipers (f & r)
Mer cylinderast: Falcon
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: American Legend; 18x8 (f), 20x9.5 (r)
Rubber: Pirelli P-Zero; 225/40/18 (f), 255/35/20 (r)
Image Conversions; Hy-Tone; Precision Racing; Pro Wire
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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