MEET Bruce Donaldson. Bruce comes from an automotive family that lives, breathes and loves cars – specifically the ones with Blue Oval badges up front. “Dad, his brothers and mates were always into Fords, and I was always around cars as a kid,” Bruce says.
But it wasn’t until he met Kendall, a cool chick from a hot-rodding family that he decided to get back to his metal-bumpered Ford roots. “After we got together I was bitten pretty hard by the old-car bug and I decided to get an old Falcon. They were fairly cheap and no one was messing around with them nine years ago.”
So Bruce set about slotting this eye-popping XM together. “I was inspired by mid-60s mild customs and early lowriders – that short period of time where the two blurred together,” he says. “The roof and body colour are the same, just to be different from other mild custom Falcons. I had the finished car pictured in my head before I was even done pulling it apart.”
Finding a car to start with proved a little more difficult than he first thought. Bruce spent three disheartening months looking at “pieces of shit” before his mum spotted a newspaper ad for an original matching-numbers XM. “I looked at it and bought it the following day, for $2300,” Bruce says.
Over the next few years the XM did everything they wanted, and then in June 2010, Bruce and Kendall visited America, and that gave Bruce more than a few ideas.
“Every late-50s and early-60s car I saw was airbagged. So I decided to ’bag the XM, especially as there weren’t many stock-ish ’bagged cars here.”
While they were there, Bruce also gave Kendall some ring-finger bling, which put his car on the back-burner, but not for the usual reasons. Kendall wanted to be driven to the wedding in her own ’33 Ford coupe, which wasn’t finished yet. So they thrashed to get the hot rod ready in time.
“Then a week after we were married, I went into the shed and ended up pulling the XM apart,” Bruce says. “I figured it wasn’t going to build itself!”
He got stuck into sorting out the undercarriage, reconditioning parts and freshening things up. Next the shell went to mate Aaron Bray for bodywork and a triangulated four-link rear.
Aaron’s a bit of a whiz with metal, and he laid the foundation for what separates this XM from the flock. After debadging and filling the body seams, he smoothed and sharpened the hood bulge, crafted a new stainless tube grille and deleted the door and boot locks. With the metal makeover complete, the XM required a hue to suit. “I knew it was going to be green, but I wasn’t sure of the shade until I saw a stock XA GT in Calypso Green – the colour punched you in the face. I knew that was it; a real 60s pure green,” Bruce says.
Nick Baker and Josh Janetzki from Dents R Us, Nuriootpa, laid on the face-melting PPG tint, with Bruce also lending a hand on weekends. Three months later Bruce was piecing the painted body back together while Steve Baum from Stateside Trim took on interior creative duties.
“I’m big on interiors,” Bruce says, “and I put a lot of thought into the trim. Steve and I worked out the basic design with 60s squares and buttons, then he did his thing.”
Steve swathed the stock benches in Neon Atomic fabric and off-white vinyl, after slightly modifying the seats and armrests. It looks fantastic, especially with the angel-hair carpet parcel shelf finished off with a pair of organ-pipe speaker grilles.
When it came to the powerplant, Bruce didn’t want to confuse things, so he decided to stick with the stock Ford 170ci Pursuit up front. “Putting a V8 in it would have detracted from the theme,” he says.
Now it’s finished he’s got something that looks fantastic, fits his expanding family, and doesn’t mind doing some miles on the open road.
“Recently we took the XM on a 1000km round trip to Halls Gap. It was its first big drive and it didn’t miss a beat. The car turned out better than I expected. I might take it to shows, but I’m not interested in having it judged.”
Nevertheless, we reckon Bruce’s ride is a definite show-stopper.
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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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