A Street Machine star in 1994, Danny Papa's immaculate time-capsule 1977 Ford Falcon XC coupe is once again ready for its close-up
This article on Danny's XC coupe was originally published in the July 2017 issue of Street Machine
WHEN you consider that this achingly nice Ford XC Fairmont coupe first appeared in Street Machine waaaay back in September 1994, it’s incredible that people still fondly remember it. “Everywhere I go, people recognise the car,” owner Danny Papa says. “They say: ‘That’s the car from Street Machine.’”
The five-year resto kicked off in 1988, with Jim Papa doing most of the work himself in his garage. This included stripping the car back to a shell before spending a lot of time getting the body straight for the Midnight Black acrylic. The paint has held up remarkably well
Once you’ve fetched that particular issue from your perfectly collated SM collection, you’ll notice the spec box lists an owner with a very similar name: Jim Papa. Jim is Danny’s older brother, and Danny bought the car off him two years ago.
“I’d sold my 1973 De Tomaso Pantera,” Danny says, “and was looking for something new. Much to my surprise, Jim suggested I buy the coupe and get it back on the road. I couldn’t believe he was willing to sell it; the car was like family to him. It was his first car; he bought it in 1983 when he was 18! As a young teenager, I remember Jim taking me cruising in it down Lygon Street. One of his mates, Con, had MRHEMI, a nice Charger with a hot 265; another had a Landau. They were huge nights – so many cars!”
With pumped guards and relocated rails, the Fairmont coupe used to run wider and taller (31-inch) Pro-Trac tyres
Looking at the flawless panel and paint, you’re probably thinking the coupe has had a recent freshen-up. Nope, it’s virtually untouched since Jim completed the five-year resto in 1993, which included the orange metalflake engine bay and clear Lexan bonnet – a major talking point that attracts lots of attention.
“I personally didn’t like the metalflake; it’s very 80s,” Danny says. “Initially I’d planned to repaint it gloss black and add heaps of chrome and polish – maybe even a blower. Then I started taking it to cruise nights, and everyone kept saying: ‘Leave it as it is.’ They love that it’s survived, untouched all these years.”
And survive it has. Despite Jim having no formal training (he’s a draftsman by trade), he did all the panel and paint himself in his home garage, including the pumped rear guards, laser-straight body and Midnight Black duco. Yep, that’s quarter-century-old acrylic you’re drooling over.
The engine is the same tough-as-nails 351 the car ran back then. It’s filled with a 4MA crank, 12.5:1 TRW forgies, 4V closed-chamber heads, solid Crane cam and Edelbrock Torker 4V manifold. The 4.56 Zoom gears and 28-spline axles in the shortened factory nine-inch housing remain, as do the beefed-up C6 tranny and big 4200rpm stall converter. Future plans include changing to a 3500 converter to make the car more streetable.
The XC Coupe as it appeared in SM, Sep '94
The XC coupe hadn’t been driven much when we featured it in ’94; it was still quite fresh and doing the show circuit. However, Jim boasted at the time that it was good for high 11s – bloody stout for an early-90s streeter. Much to his credit, the black beast subsequently netted an 11.6@127mph timeslip!
A tough 351 Clevo still takes pride of place in the engine bay, framed by that tasty period-perfect orange metalflake, with the whole shebang viewable through the distinctive clear Lexan bonnet
“At Easternats one year, the original Lexan bonnet blew off when heading down the back straight at Sandown,” Danny says. “The Lexan split around the bonnet pins and they pulled through; lucky it didn’t hit the body. At the time Jim had an XC Cobra bonnet with the scoop, so a mould was taken off that and the same guy out at Thomastown made the taller bonnet now on the car. The pins were also reinforced with steel plates.”
The immaculate black Fairmont starred in a series of Speco/VHT ads during the 90s. This one appeared on the back cover of Street Machine in March 1996
Though the car is virtually unchanged from 20-odd years ago, Danny did want to personalise it a bit. “Like Jim, I’m old-school and love the drag look,” he says, “so I swapped the original 15x12 and 15x4.5 12-slotters for Auto Drags and replaced the SuperTrapps with three-inch tailpipes. That’s it!”
Wrapped around those 15x12.5 rear Center Lines are meaty 29x15.5x15 MTs. The coupe was able to swallow such fat rubber thanks to the rear rails and reset GT leaf springs being moved inboard 40mm by John Taverna during the original build. Even that wasn’t enough for the wider and taller 31-inch Pro-Tracs the coupe originally sported – that’s why Jim pumped the wheelarches.
“Jim was very fussy, very protective of the car,” Danny says. “He raced it a bit, but did very few miles. Then it developed a fuel issue that he couldn’t rectify. It’d run, then just conk out for no reason. After playing up again at Easternats 2004, it pretty much sat gathering dust. When I purchased it in 2015, it hadn’t moved in over 10 years. Jim’s got a 1970 convertible Mustang now, which is his focus, and I guess he thought I’d look after the coupe for him, as Jim was very worried about something happening to it. Especially after his daily-driver XA GT was stolen from his house a couple of years ago.”
Other than stitching up a little tear in the driver’s seat, that’s an all-original, unrestored GXL houndstooth interior. The only deviations are the B&M Quicksilver shifter and the Auto Meter tacho, trans, water and oil gauges for peace of mind
Before driving Danny’s new purchase home, he and Jim changed all the fluids and sparkplugs, rebuilt the rear brakes and replaced every rubber hose, including brake and fuel lines. Much to Jim’s bemusement, this appears to have rectified the fuel issue that originally saw the coupe banished to the back of the shed.
“I love the car to death,” Danny says. “I’ve been driving it all the time. I might own it now, but I still look at it as Jim’s car – I’m just the caretaker. If I ever decided to sell it, it would only be back to him.
Danny’s first car was this sinister black 1976 LTD, which was also the first car brother Jim ever painted. “He learnt on my car before tackling the coupe,” Danny says
“I can’t thank Jim enough, not only for selling me the car, but for all the help he’s given me over the years. He’s always been there with a helping hand to work on my cars. He even painted my first car, a 1976 LTD – black of course!”
Danny’s XC coupe shares the garage with his equally bitchin’ black ’32 Ford roadster, complete with a blown small-block Chev. “It’s my first blown car and I’m rapt,” Danny says. His fleet also includes a 1970 Ford Capri RS with a 302W, a 1956 oval-window Beetle and a 1988 Harley Springer Softail! “I work hard, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke; my passion is my cars and I love spending my money on them,” Danny says. Luckily his wife Gabby and sons Marcus and Dion support his passion!
This seriously sexy black XC coupe is a bloody credit to Danny and Jim. Here’s hoping it still looks this pristine in the July 2040 issue of Street Machine!
1977 XC FAIRMONT COUPE SPECS
Colour: Dulux Midnight Black
Type: 351 Cleveland
Induction: Holley 850 double-pumper
Intake: Edelbrock Torker 4V
Heads: 4V closed-chamber
Cam: Crane solid, 600thou lift, 320 duration
Pistons: 12.5:1 forged TRW pop-tops
Ignition: MSD 6, MSD magnetic dizzy
Sump: Super Pan with windage tray
Exhaust: Pacemaker 3in, Hurricane mufflers
Preferred fuel: 98 PULP
Trans: C6 auto
Converter: Eliminator 4200 stall
Diff: Ford 9in, 4.56 Zoom gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Selby coils (f), reset GT leaves (r)
Shocks: Koni adjustable
Brakes: XC discs (f), XA GT 11in drums (r)
Wheels: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x5.5 (f), 15x12.5 (r)
Tyres: MT Sportsman; 26x7.5x15 (f), 29x15.5x15 (r)