This article on Pat's XR Fairmont was originally published in the December 2018 issue of Street Machine
NINE-hundred-and-thirteen horsepower – no blower, no turbos, no giggle gas. This 440-cube small-block is all natural, yet stout enough to push Pat & Kasia O’Shea’s heavyweight XR Fairmont down the quarter in the mid-nines with monotonous regularity. And if consistent mid-nines isn’t enough for you, during the recent Willowbank Winter Warm-Up it ran 9.20@145mph!
Pat and Kasia are the driving force behind Pat’s Pro Restos, a Queensland shop that has turned out a string of show winners and SM feature cars – with another 14 builds currently on the go. Pat originally bought the XR 15 years ago after writing off his 10-second XR ute (SM, Jan ’05). But the purchase of a new house and relocation of the business forced him to sell it not long after completing a full rebuild. Fortunately, it was to a mate, John Brian, who really looked after the car.
Pat's a painter and panel beater by trade and completed the bodywork and paint on the car over 10 years ago. Originally all red, he added the gold to give the XR a fresh look when competing in APSA True Street
“Around 18 months ago I started talking about doing another car,” Pat says. “Kasia even joked that I should ring John to see if he was interested in selling. Then, out of the blue John rings me offering it back to me! It was still in exactly the same condition, complete with the original panel-and-paint I did over 10 years ago in the Hilliers’ Tenterfield shop. Done!” With the ’67 back in the O’Shea garage, Pat’s original plan was to chuck in a 500hp Clevo and cruise it. But then he succumbed to the allure of Street Machine Drag Challenge, and the new engine and driveline build quickly spiralled out of control in an effort to ready the car for the 2017 event.
Watch next: Pat's nine-second XR Falcon at Drag Challenge
Pat concedes that the car could have made even more power and gone quicker at Drag Challenge if the motor had been built for E85. “But we didn’t want the hassle; finding E85 became a real issue for some competitors,” he explains. “All I took was a 20-litre ROO16 drum to race on. Then all we did was knock the timing from 28 degrees back to 25 to run 98 on the highway. This way we could fill up at just about any servo. At one point we couldn’t get 98 and had to put 94 in it just to get out of trouble. It ran fine; no way we could have done that with an engine built for E85. Also, with E85, you have to carry a shitload of fuel, and it corrodes up and makes a mess of the fuel system if the car sits for a long time.”
“I got everyone together, pitched the idea and they were all keen to make it happen,” says Pat. “Tony from TOCA Performance is not only one of the best engine builders in the country, he’s a great friend – I gave him free reign.”
Read next: Blown big-block 1967 XR Falcon - AT RISK
To run consistent mid-nines with a naturally aspirated smallblock Ford, Tony called on his many years of experience to cut, move, weld and radically rework the CHI heads and Scott Cook Air Supremacy intake manifold. With its huge 2.125-inch throttle blades, the billet carby is quite obvious. The cam tunnel was bored out to accommodate 55mm roller bearings.
Spinning inside this race-spec set-up is a solid-roller that not only features big lift and big duration (264/268@.050) but also gives the 440-cuber a different firing order. Why? Well, 915hp at 8100rpm and 648lb-ft at 7200rpm pretty much answers that question.
Next up was a C4 gearbox, again built by a mate of Pat’s: “Bob Grant Autos does all our gearbox work for the shop. Bob’s always going above and beyond for the cause – nothing is too much to ask.”
With no mini-tubs or flares, the 275/60R15 M/T Radial Pros really are a guardful
For Drag Challenge, Bob went a bit soft on the converter to cope with all the highway miles, but post-DC, the ‘soft’ 6800 stall converter was swapped for a 7200, and the Fairmont responded with a scintillating 9.26@144mph timeslip.
The 440ci small-block Ford will happily spin past 8000rpm during the car’s frequent 9sec passes. But to stop the valvetrain from killing itself during Drag Challenge’s 1600km of highway driving, the engine rpm was limited to 2800. With 4.56:1 diff gears, that’s around 80km/h
With a full workload at Pat’s Pro Restos, Pat left it to Paul and Bec from Performance Steering & Tuning to put the car together. “They were awesome,” he says. “I cannot thank them enough; they really built a killer car. They also did the pipes, the four-inch exhaust, brake system, fuel system and wired the car.”
Ross and Steve from Suspension Dynamics can take credit for the car’s wheelstanding antics. Up front they dropped the upper control arm mounts and fitted longer tie-rod ends to eliminate the factory bump steer. The front wheels now sit nice and straight on launch. Out back they fitted custom CalTracs, split mono-leaf springs and AFCO double adjustable shocks, with no rear sway-bar in sight.
The neat fabricated dash filled with Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges is a carry-over from Pat’s written-off gold XR ute. For strip work, the factory buckets make way for a set of Kirkey aluminium racing seats, along with a sixpoint harness and bolt-in side intrusion bars
“During Drag Challenge I gently rolled out of the hole,” says Pat. “But at the Winter Warm-Up I smashed the throttle and it stood straight up on the rear bar. There’s video of it on Willowbank’s FB page.”
While Pat admits the rebuild went pretty smoothly because he had the best people around him, that didn’t mean it wasn’t down to the wire.
“We finished the car and took it to Willowbank for a test ’n’ tune,” Pat says. “It worked straight of the trailer, running a 9.49@142mph. We only did one half-pass and two full passes – that’s it. With less than one road mile on it, we loaded it onto the trailer for the 2000km trek to Adelaide for Drag Challenge.”
Despite the lack of testing and sorting, the Fairmont ran exceptionally well – good enough to take second place in the Pacemaker Radial Aspirated. It ran mid-nines all week, with a best of 9.47 on the last day.
“Despite four of us on board and a trailer on the back, the car ran awesome,” says Pat. “Even on those 40-degree days. In fact, other than checking valve lash each day, we never laid a spanner on it. We all had an awesome time – as far as car events go, it’s the best one I’ve ever been a part of!” In February they backed it up with another second-in-class performance at the inaugural Drag Challenge Weekend in Queensland.
“I’m spewing I’m not doing Drag Challenge this year,” says Pat. “The car is ready to go; unfortunately with work and family commitments it’ll have to be next year. Kasia is awesome, she supports me so much it’s almost wrong – she even works harder at our business than I do! We need a bit of time for ourselves.”
With wheels-up action virtually every pass and consistent mid nine-second performance, the two-tone XR and Pat’s team will be sorely missed in 2018. All I can say is: Bring on 2019!
1967 XR FAIRMONT
Paint: PPG two-tone red and gold
Type: 440ci small-block Ford
Carby: Custom billet
Intake: Scott Cook Air Supremacy
Conrods: Callies Compstar
Fuel system: MagnaFuel 500
Ignition: MSD Power Grid
Exhaust: Custom headers, 4in pipes
Cooling: AFCO radiator, thermo fans
Converter: 6800rpm or 7200rpm stall
Tailshaft: Mark Williams alloy, billet yokes
Diff: 9in, 35-spline Mark Williams axles, Strange centre, 4.56:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Suspension Dynamics springs, AFCO double-adjustable shocks
Rear: Split mono-leaf springs, AFCO double-adjustable shocks
Brakes: Wilwood rotors and fourpiston calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood (no booster)
Seat: Kirkey alloy race bucket (track)
Rollcage: Six-point, removable door bars
Instruments: Auto Meter Pro Comp 2
Shifter: B&M Pro Ratchet
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld AlumaStar; 17x4.5 (f), 15x8 (r)
Rubber: M/T ET Street 26x6x17 (f), M/T Radial Pro 275/60R15 (r)