SOME of the best ideas were born in sheds over a few beers, and this one was no different. With a characterful but completely rooted XP coupe shell and a perfectly functional EL Falcon at my disposal, my mates and I decided that two would become one over this year’s Easter long weekend. Here’s how it went down.
This article was first published in the June 2019 issue of Street Machine
The well-worn XP two-door (shown above) was found on a nearby farm, and had been used as a parts car to save another coupe. The 54-year-old Falcon sat in a state of disrepair, covered in dust on the dirt floor of a hayshed, and it was ready for the scrappers. Everything about the old girl was rough – real rough – and realistically she was not overly good for anything. Still, I had to have it. A deal was made and pretty soon the rotted-out body was trailered back to the workshop. I had no real plans for it at that stage, so it sat silently in the yard, awaiting its fate.
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Around the same time, I had purchased a beat-up EL Falcon (above) as a parts car and soon realised the old four-litre was a plum runner and drove well. That must have been the lightbulb moment. A chat with some mates and a few brews later, we had the measuring tape out. The EL’s wheelbase was only 10mm different to the coupe, and while the track was 80mm wider on the EL, it was close enough.
With the Easter weekend fast approaching, a plan was formulated, and the invites went out to a bunch of knowledgeable blokes who I knew could assist in throwing together something that could be used as a track car. It would make perfect use of – and breathe life back into – the dilapidated coupe body.
Before long, the four-day weekend was upon us.
STEP 1a: Friday morning saw us strip the EL of all the parts that would no longer serve a purpose.
1b: The XP coupe body was in need of a square-up, and we braced it front to back before removing what was left of the floorpans
STEP 2: Now with complete access to the EL floorpan, accurate measurements were taken across the inner sill panels of both vehicles, and wouldn’t you know it, things looked like they would be close enough to slide the coupe body over the top of the EL pan and inners sills
STEP 3: With the EL dash out, doors off and roof chopped, all the wiring was saved and reconnected to avoid starting issues down the track
STEP 4: With great progress on Friday, Saturday morning was a case of lots of measuring. Front-to-back measurements were taken with the bodyshell laid on. The appropriate metal, including the rear of the boot floor and the upper radiator support panel, was removed
STEP 5: Before chopping the remaining structure – the outer sills – from the EL, jack stands were added front and rear, and the middle was given some support
STEP 6: The XP dash was neatly cut out for clearance, to be refitted later on. The car also lost its firewall, lower plenum and the entire front clip
STEP 7: Another important job was welding the diff. Due to time restraints, instead of using a mini-spool, a few nuts and bolts were added into the spider gears and locked together with the MIG. To rectify the wider track issue, AU offset rims were added to the back, which provided perfect clearance. Up front a pair of front-runners were added and the fenders received some massaging to clear the steering
STEP 8: Sunday morning saw the body and the chassis come together as one. With the XP sills sitting level with the EL inner sills and floorpan, the body was pushed down a further two inches, effectively ‘body dropping’ or ‘channelling’ the vehicle. With the pan now sitting higher up in the vehicle, things like driver position to steering wheel and head clearances had to be taken into account. The front sheet metal was also mocked up to check things such as engine-to-bonnet clearance. Once in place, the coupe’s radiator support panel was cut, shut and added to the EL, squaring up the hanging sheet metal
STEP 9: Due to both bodies having rust issues, the original plans of a basic rollover hoop were scrapped. An upgrade to a full six-point rollcage was decided on to ensure safety and eliminate any chances of the body wanting to come down like a house of cards, so it was fabricated and welded into place.The passenger’s door got some 6mm rod added into the inner gaps and was then stitch-welded shut to add extra structure
STEP 10: An EK steering wheel was pulled from the shop wall and adapted to fit the 90s column. The original EL buckets (albeit with headrests removed) and mounting points remained, and an old five-point racing harness was strapped in
STEP 11: Monday morning was soon upon us, and with the fuel tank strapped back in and some nondescript bumpers modified and fitted, it was time to turn the key and hit the road
STEP 12: A few kays out of town, a closed road had been secured as a test track. With the car now approximately half its original body weight, the handling and power-to-weight ratio ensured good times were plentiful. Still, with loads of room under the bonnet, it would be rude not to carry out some engine upgrades in the not-too-distant future
At the end of the day, it’s often more about the opportunities cars like these lend themselves to than how shiny the paint is. A classic has been somewhat saved, and a late-90s E-series – certainly destined for scrap – has been utilised. Most importantly, the people these types of projects allow us to meet and learn from can leave us with great mates and even greater memories.
Special thanks to Chops, Grant, Helen, Jo, Merv, Mick, Paul, Steve, the boys and everyone else that made an appearance!