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Big-block 1974 Ford XB Falcon hardtop

By Iain Kelly | Photos: Ellen Dewar, 14 Jul 2019 Features

Big-block 1974 Ford XB Falcon hardtop

Pete Aitken didn’t let a rat infestation or blood disease stand in the way of his dream of building a blown, big-block XB hardtop

YOU FACE all types of obstacles when building a cool car, and Queensland’s Pete Aitken knows this all too well. While some battle shoddy tradesmen, the wrong parts turning up or hidden damage, Pete’s first hurdle to overcome while building his blown, big-block XB coupe called BADBLUD was more personal.

This article was first published in the July 2019 issue of Street Machine

Ford Falcon XB rearWhile Pete did the lion’s share of the build on his own, he recognises the importance of having mates involved. “It came together with a lot of my good friends who all put their two bob in,” he says. “It’s always good to have that help there. I get my mates around to help every now and again, and I had Neil here helping me with panelwork”

“I named the coupe after myself, because I had a blood disorder called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – twice,” Pete explains. “Because of the blood disorder and the fact I love the blood red colour, I thought I’d name it after what I went through; there are similarities to overcoming illness and building a car. The difference is I enjoyed the car!”

Watch next: 1400hp turbo small-block XB Falcon hardtop - video

Ford XB Falcon sideWhile most Falcons end up wearing lots of GT body parts, Pete resisted heading down that path. “I like the idea of the clean, single-headlight front, and it made the front nicer,” he says. “There was only about three-quarters of the original bonnet left, so we machined these bonnet pins up and welded them in. Plus I added electric openers for the bonnet and boot”

There is a lot to enjoy with Pete’s ’74 hardtop, packing a big-inch big-block, wearing EFI and an 8/71 air pump on top, with pro touring-style suspension, arrow-straight panels and lush trim. But he certainly didn’t start with a glamour.

Read next: Eight-second street-trim turbo 1973 XB Falcon

Ford XB Falcon front“I always wanted to build a tough hardtop,” Pete says. “A workmate said he had one at his dad’s farm near Roma, so I bought it sight-unseen. When it was delivered, it really was a sight to be seen! I’d been told it’d been sitting in a shed for 15 years and that it had a new interior when it was parked. When he said it was in a ‘shed’, it was actually in a lean-to, so when it turned up, it was an absolute rust bucket.”

Read next: Show-quality 1976 Ford XB Falcon streeter - BFAT

Ford XB Falcon wheelThe tin-worm issue was compounded by some undesirable squatters of the rodent variety, who’d done catastrophic damage to the Falcon’s interior and floorpans.

“It didn’t have a single rat in it – they were all married with kids!” laughs Pete. “The smell was that bad it didn’t stop stinking until it had been media-blasted and was in undercoat! The front floors were gone, and it looked like they’d been living in the back seat and dash. I had it stripped and on a rotisserie in two days, and ready to go mental from there.”

Read next: Street-elite 418-cube XB Falcon sedan

Ford XB Falcon bootWith help from panel wizard Neil Macleod, the whole shell was gone through to eradicate rust, smooth off factory lumps, and hone the awesome bones that FoMoCo gave Aussies with the ’70s Falcon coupe shape. Some of this included modifications you don’t always hear about if you’re not right into your XA-XC coupes, like the upgraded doors.

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Ford Falcon XB bonnet“I went for heavy-duty, late-model XC doors, as they are double-skinned and have side intrusion bars,” Pete explains. “The early doors break where the strikers are. The back parcel tray was also all handmade. I actually bought a stat write-off BA Falcon and we grafted all of the BA seating and steering column into the XB.”

Ford Falcon XB engine bayNow he’s fixed his blower idler issue, Pete is keen to start shaking the 545ci big-block down. “I only just finished it to get it to the Summernats and I’ve had a few little teething issues to sort out since,” he says. “It’s running on pump 98 fuel at the moment, but we are going to turn it over to E85 to try and take a bit of heat out of it”

The flush-mounted glass is a subtle modification, but one that seriously cleans up the Falcon’s glasshouse. While some might assume this required one-off glass, Pete was more practical in his approach.

Ford Falcon XB“We brought the car to the glass as it was cheaper than getting custom glass made,” he says. “I can still use original glass this way. We brought the cowl up and it totally changed the look of the car, so I decided we should do it to all the glass in the car.”

The shell was then coated in Concept Crimson Red by Gibbo’s Restoration in Seventeen Mile Rocks, with Pete going for a monotone look that eschews chrome and fancy detailing.

Ford Falcon XB engine“It originally had a Dyers 8/71 blower on it, but it had a massive backfire when I got the car running, and then I started getting oil into the manifold,” Pete says. “The front bearing plate in the blower had a hairline crack. I tried to buy a new end-plate but it ended up being quicker to just buy a new blower”

One part of the car that isn’t slicked and hidden is the 8/71-blown Ford big-block punching through the GT-style bonnet. It’s a shame that Ford never offered its 1970s coupes with big-block power, as the 545ci mill in Pete’s engine bay looks right at home.

ford XB falcon under“It’s a stroked 460,” says Pete. “From what I’ve been told, the original motor was built by Sam Gauci for a hot rod he had, using an American 460 block that he stroked out to 545ci.”

Sam used a 4340 forged steel RPM crank, Scat H-beam rods and SRP 26cc dished pistons to wind up at those cubes, with a solid-roller Comp cam pushing the valvetrain bolted into the Edelbrock Performer alloy heads. A Wolf ECU controls the spark coming out of the HMC coil and MSD Digital 6 ignition box, while twin in-line Holley pumps and 1200cc injectors deliver the pump fuel to the base of the Mooneyham 8/71 blower.

Ford Falcon XB interiorPete did the interior himself, with custom-trimmed BA Falcon seats in the front and rear. “The door cards are also hand-sculpted out of foam and fibreglass to make it a bit more modern,” Pete says. “They’re about 3.5in further out from stock. I left the dash as it was, but made my own cluster for the dials and incorporated all the Auto Meter gauges into it”

Topping the powdercoated pump is a custom top-box fitted with eight 50mm throttlebodies, while Kempy Race Pipes handled getting the spent gasses out of the motor with a twin three-inch exhaust. It’s all good hardware that’ll make plenty of snot when Pete has time to get it back on the dyno rollers.

Ford Falcon XB interior“It certainly pushes you back in the seat, but I haven’t pushed it hard yet,” says Pete. “I went down to Forced Performance in Toowoomba, and gave it a shot on the dyno up to 4200rpm, but the tensioner was coming loose. Still, it made 450rwhp on one pound of boost; it’s got a couple of donkeys under the bonnet.”

The 18x10-inch and 18x12-inch Schott SL65 wheels that Pete chose for the XB are next-level awesome, giving it a mega-tough pro touring vibe. The big hoops were able to be squeezed under the guards thanks to full RRS front and rear ends, including a Trans Am-style three-link out back.

Ford Falcon XB dash“Going to the three-link suspension means you can put a big set of meats under the rear, plus it gives me coil-over suspension, it’s easily adjustable, and gives a far better ride than leaf springs,” Pete explains. “I’ve been tinkering around with Super Sedans for a long time, so I knew it was a better option. The RRS front end also allowed more space to fit the big motor, thanks largely to the notched-out strut towers, as this allowed me to put bigger headers on it.”

Finished just in time for Summernats 32, Pete dragged the big-hipped coupe down to Canberra to try his luck in Tuff Street judging. Amazingly, he found himself in the Elite Hall as part of the Top 60!

Ford Falcon XB interior“I originally entered it into Tuff Street, but they pulled it out and put it into Elite,” he laughs. “I nearly missed out as I didn’t see my number on the board. I was gobsmacked at the whole thing; it was a real eye-opener!”

After three years in the build, Pete is happy shaking the coupe down, though he isn’t sitting still, as he’s got a 1980 Corvette in the build. You just can’t keep a good man down.

Pete AitkenPETE AITKEN
1974 FORD XB FALCON

Paint: Concept Crimson Red

ENGINE
Brand: Ford 545ci big-block
Induction: Eight 50mm throttlebodies
ECU: Wolf 3D
Blower: Mooneyham 8/71
Heads: Edelbrock #6066 Performer
Camshaft: Comp solid-roller
Conrods: Scat 4340 H-beam
Pistons: SRP 26cc forged, dished
Crank: RPM 4340 forged
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: 1200cc injectors, twin Holley in-line pumps
Cooling: Custom Aussie Desert Coolers radiator
Exhaust: Kempy Race Pipes twin 3in
Ignition: MSD Digital 6, HMC coil

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: Manualised C6 auto
Converter: Eliminator 3500rpm
Diff: Strange Engineering 9in, Truetrac centre, 31-spline axles

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: RRS struts, Lovell coil-over springs, RRS electric power steering rack, RRS front arms
Rear: QA1 shocks, Lovell coil-over springs, RRS three-link
Brakes: Wilwood discs and six-pot calipers (f), Wilwood discs and four-pot calipers (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Schott SL65; 18x10 (f), 18x12 (r)
Rubber: Toyo Proxes; 255/40 (f), 315/40 (r)

THANKS
Pete Ein; Neil Macleod; Alex and Matthew Pankau from RRS; Mark Filmer; Shane Kemp from Kempy Race Pipes; Tim and the team at Gibbo’s Restoration; Jarrod McNally from Advanced Auto Glass; a huge thank you to everyone who helped with the car, as there were so many involved in getting it done!