Jim Ayoubi nails some unfinished business with the build of his blown Falcon Hardtop MEANXC
This article on Jim's XC hardtop was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Street Machine
JIM Ayoubi just loves cars. As a kid he knew every make and model off the top of his head, and by 13 he was helping out at his cousin’s panel shop. So it’s not surprising to learn that these formative years steered the now 41-year-old Jim down a similar career path, with proof of his skillset evident when you eyeball the flawless panelwork spread across these pages.
Modern and chiselled was the order of the day for Jim’s XC, with a number of obvious and not-so-obvious mods undertaken to accentuate the hardtop’s shape
For Jim, the build of his seriously mean XC hardtop was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. He was keen to build a car for his son, Hatem, but had unfinished business to settle with a couple of previous projects.
The bodylines and all panel extremities were sharpened and the door handles and chrome trim given the flick. The Falcon also features tucked and colour-coded bumpers, and keen eyes will spot the reshaped rear wheelarches that better envelop the whopper 22x13 back rollers
“I bought my first car at 16. It was a V8 XB sedan that cost $150. I had big dreams and all these grand plans but no money to execute them, so I moved it on,” Jim says. “At 18, I bought my first XC hardtop and that build was coming along well, but family commitments and establishing our business became the priority, so it was sold off too.”
Fast-forward a number of years, and with Jim’s paint and panel shop, All West Autos, ticking along nicely, he knew it was time to again scratch that XC hardtop itch.
“It was 2008 and Hatem was seven years old, so I figured he was old enough to have his first car,” Jim laughs. “I found it advertised in the old Trading Post at a small town two hours west of Maroochydore on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It was a factory red V8 coupe that had been stripped bare, but came with everything bar the engine and transmission. The body was nearly mint; I removed no more than about 10 square centimetres of rust out of the whole thing.”
Jim knew the writing was already on the wall with ever-increasing Aussie two-door prices, so happily forked over the $5000 asking price and trucked the car back to his workshop in Sydney.
The XC was bare-metalled and work began on getting it up to scratch. The plan was always to finish the 1970s body as if it had been designed and manufactured in the present day, so all bodylines and panel edges were sharpened to create a tougher, chiselled, modern look. The door handles and all excess chrome trim were shaved, with any remaining brightware blasted of its shiny stuff in preparation for colour-coding.
The Showwheels V-Rod rollers employ colour-coded centres and satin-finished rims to provide some restrained bling
The chiselled concept was taken further as both sills were extended at their bottom edges to square up their profile, the lower quarter panels were tweaked, and the rear wheelarches were reshaped to tighten their lines – all to improve the proportional harmony of the hindquarters when in the vicinity of those whopping rear boots.
All panels were hung and treated to – as Jim describes it – ‘Honda’ gaps, no doubt a throwback to his daily trade experience and an obvious nod to that particular manufacturer’s inherent quality. Then it was time for the generous metalwork associated with these big Aussie two-door bodies to be lavished in a custom-mix metallic grey.
Naturally the paint was handled in-house at All West Autos by Jim’s painter, Jinyong Hwang. “Jinyong deserves credit for more than just the paint,” Jim says. “He’s a cluey fabricator, too, with a lot of hot rod experience, and he brought plenty of ideas to the table with all aspects of the build. If I got snowed under with day-to-day business commitments, I knew I could leave an idea in his hands and be confident that it would be done right.”
This teamwork and thirst for fresh ideas continued through to the interior, with the fitment of V2 Monaro front and rear seats, and the remaining interior custom-made to match. “It was a simple choice. I wanted seats from a larger two-door car that would fit, and the Monaro was the logical answer,” Jim says.
An 8/71 Blower Shop supercharger is a welcome blip against the smooth and understated exterior lines, and sits atop a 408-cube Cleveland donk screwed together by Sam Fenech at Westend Performance
The centre console started life in a BA Falcon before being extended to segue through to the rear bucket seats then spread its wings across the rear parcel shelf. The latter incorporates the coolest of speaker covers; I haven’t been this bowled over by speaker covers since spotting the guard flute-inspired ones in Neil Bunce’s HG Monaro (SM, Sep ’13).
“It made an easy 770hp on the engine dyno,” Sam says, “and that was with a soft tune. This combination has more in it, but you don’t want to lean much harder on factory Cleveland blocks.” The engine bay is as tidy and understated as the exterior, with the modern and old-school influences working together harmoniously
“We mapped out the basics for the interior before handing it over to Matt Gilkes at Inside Rides to make it viable,” Jim says. “That’s when things took an unexpected turn! The original plan called for Ferrari-style burnt orange leather, but Matt had an 11th-hour suggestion. He said: ‘Now just hear me out, after I show you this colour.’ Matt pulled out a sample of baby-blue leather and I was shocked! Hey, us guys don’t take colours like that lightly! But I love it and have to give Matt serious credit for creating an interior that is outside of the square but complements the rest of the car; I just went along with his vision and my jaw dropped when I saw the finished product. I’m rapt.”
The colour and finish of the XC’s interior is on-point, and mixes fresh innovation with some carefully retained factory styling cues; a further application of the modern/old-school melding applied throughout this build.
And the fun is far from over – I’m sure you’ve spotted the 8/71 huffer and twin carbs sprouting through the bonnet; no second-guessing is required as to the source of this inspiration. Jim, like most of us, was gobsmacked as a kid by a particular black Max Rockatansky Falcon hardtop whining across the big screen, and locked away the need for a blower firmly on his bucket list. “I actually wanted to build a supercharged V8 Mini Minor, but was beaten to that idea, so kept the blower dream alive with the Falcon instead. It is unashamedly a nod to the Interceptor coupe, the car that started it all for me anyway.”
The reputation of Sam Fenech at Westend Performance precedes him, and his skills to screw together tough engines made him a logical choice for Jim. Sam started by stroking a factory 351 Cleveland block to 408 cubes by way of a four-inch Scat crank that connects to Scat H-beam rods and forged JE blower pistons.
The baby-blue leather interior sure makes a statement. “It’s not the colour you’d expect to see inside a gunmetal grey car, but it adds to the modern punch of Jim’s build without being over-the-top,” explains elite trimmer Matt Gilkes from Inside Rides
A Kinetic Cams mechanical-roller from the late, great Dennis Verteouris rounds out the bottom end, while CHI alloy heads were massaged before being decked out with Ferrea valves along with Iskysprings and Yella Terra roller rockers. A Newby inlet manifold mounts that droolworthy Blower Shop 8/71, which is topped with twin 750 Holley carbs. Racers Choice built a custom set of snakes that slither down to a dumped 3.5-inch twin system.
A healthy 770hp tickles Jim’s fancy, and makes for plenty of fun when rowing through the cogs of the Tremec T56 six-speed, especially when coupled to a 4.1-geared nine-inch. “A manual transmission was such an exciting part of old-school V8s like GTs and Monaros, and I was keen to do something different to the norm,” he says.
The electric Monaro seats took some work to fit comfortably, with modifications needed to the runners and cushioning to position them nice and low. The headrests were removed as a nod to the lowback styling of the 70s
PAR Engineering handled the gearbox freshen-up, fronting it with a McLeod dual-plate clutch, while the Detroit Locker-equipped rear end was built by Gearbox Express. A custom extreme-duty tailshaft from Sydney Driveline Service keeps the two connected.
“It has plenty of grunt off the line but cruises nicely with the two overdrive gears; even with the short diff ratio it revs comfortably at 100km/h, and the larger rolling diameter of the rear wheels knock a bit off it too,” Jim says.
And those rims tucked so neatly front and rear of Jim’s XC are Showwheels Intro V-Rods measuring 20x8 and a mega 22x13 respectively, shod in Pirelli 245/35 and 335/25 rubber.
Big wheels need big brakes to fill the void, and Brembo discs and calipers all ’round are more than up to task. RRS Suspension provided ride quality to match, with Jim choosing coil-over units for the front and a trick three-link set-up to make better use of the tubbed rear, with directional duties updated via a power steering rack conversion.
The XC was finished in 2015 and has earned its share of accolades, including a Top 20 berth, Top Custom Interior and second Top Coupe at Summernats 29, and a third place in Best Custom Trim at MotorEx 2015.
“There’s a few tweaks in the wings before the next MotorEx; then I can truly say it’s finished,” Jim says. Sure, we’ve all heard that before, but Jim has a new project on the go that he’s keen to get cracking with.
The XC dash and gauge cluster have been retained but tweaked to blend perfectly with their fresh surrounds
“Hatem is 16 now and he and his mates just love the Falcon, but I think I’ve created a rod for own back; my seven-year-old Jacob has cottoned on to the whole ‘cars for sons’ thing, so now I’m building him a ’68 Camaro.”
Well, I’m just going to put it out there Jim – I’m available for adoption should you be looking to go the trifecta with a Mopar project!
1976 FORD XC FALCON HARDTOP
Colour: Metallic Grey
Engine: Cleveland 408ci
Block: Factory cast
Crank: Scat 4in stroke
Rods: Scat H-Beam
Pistons: JE forged
Cam: Kinetic Cams mechanical roller
Heads: CHI alloy
Valve springs: Iskenderian
Rockers: Yella Terra
Intake: Newby blower manifold
Supercharger: The Blower Shop 8/71
Carbs: Twin Holley 750cfm
Exhaust: Custom headers, twin 3.5in system
Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed
Clutch: McLeod dual-plate
Tailshaft: Sydney Driveline Services
Diff: 9in, Detroit Locker, 4.1 gears, 31-spline axles beneath
Suspension: RRS coil-overs (f); RRS three-link (r)
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Brembo slotted rotors with Brembo six-piston calipers (f), Brembo slotted rotors with four-piston calipers (r)
Rims: Showwheels Intro V-Rod; 20x8 (f), 22x13 (r)
Tyres: Pirelli; 245/35R20 (f), 335/25R22 (r)