WHAT you’re looking at is a matching pair of full-weight, untubbed, leaf-sprung XW Falcons that run deep into the sevens on 275 radial tyres. It’s a feat that seems to defy the laws of physics, but what these cars may lack in terms of giant slicks, tube chassis, lightweight body panels and any semblance of aerodynamics, they more than compensate for with a combined 4400hp!
“People often ask if the time boards are working properly!” laughs Steve Bezzina, owner of the blue XW. At present, the car is among the top dogs in Outlaw Radial, and has gone as quick as firstname.lastname@example.org.
The white one is a 7.54-second, 3800lb behemoth owned by Lou Ludica and Frank Marchese of Dandy Engines fame, and they’re the blokes responsible for screwing together the identical twin-turbo 427ci donks in both cars.
The combo is based on a Dart Windsor block and CHI Cleveland cylinder heads, with a Bryant crankshaft, BME rods and Diamond pistons. A custom Pro Line camshaft is common to both cars, as are twin 88mm Precision Pro Mod turbos and a water-to-air intercooler system. “Dandy Engines is the Australian agent for Pro Line, and without those guys we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” Frank says. “The owner Eric Dillard and tuner Steve Petty have taught us so much – they are our backbone with the turbo stuff.”
The Dandy/Pro Line partnership has certainly proven fruitful. While dynoing an engine like this isn’t exactly a straightforward proposition, the Moroso calculator puts power output in the vicinity of 2200hp – an astronomical figure for an engine that can be (and often is) used on the street.
“Sometimes I take my 15-year-old daughter for a cruise in the car, and she thinks it’s the coolest thing ever,” Frank says. “For the street I just change the fuel over to pump and hit a button on the FuelTech ECU; it’s that simple. I also have a CO2 bottle that operates the boost controller at the track, and I take that out when I drive the car on the street. Any more than 10psi and I need the parachutes to stop!”
Likewise, Steve isn’t shy about racking up road miles in his car. “Right now I’m focused on going 200mph, running a six and trying to win the championship, but the car is registered and does still occasionally get driven on the street,” he says. “It drives better than an aspirated car around town, and once we achieve the numbers we want, the exhaust will go back on, the big tank will go back in and I’ll start driving it to some shows.
“Oddly enough though, it almost feels like a 600hp aspirated car to race; it drives the track beautifully, but it also gives you that feeling in your stomach that builds as it moves down the track and the G-forces increase. The coolest part is when you come back from a pass and the crowd can relate to the car because it’s an Aussie muscle icon, and they’re blown away by how fast it goes. I’ve owned 43 of these cars in my time, and I have no desire to go to a lighter or smaller car to go faster.”
One of the only areas where the two cars differ is the transmission. Steve’s runs a Powerglide, while Frank’s has a Turbo 400, but both were built by Fred at Protrans and both run Pro Line bolt-together converters. “Fred built me an amazing transmission that has gone the distance in a very heavy car with huge power,” Steve says.
Both cars also run 40-spline nine-inch diffs by Joe and Jonathon Gauci from ProFab Race Car Fabrications, who also took care of much of the general fab work. Wilwood brakes were used front and rear, and with terminal speeds approaching 200mph, parachutes are very much a necessity.
A careful combination of diff length and wheel offset has meant that 275/60/15 radials could be tucked neatly under the bums of the XWs. “The only thing we found was that when we pulled the ’chutes from 175mph onwards, the back wheels were coming forward and the tyres were touching the doglegs, so we’ve trimmed them back a bit,” Frank says. “These two cars are the least cut up you’ll find at the track. All the suspension points are standard, and we consider them as stock as we can possibly make them. Our car has stock tubs, and Steve’s have been squared off, just so it can look tough when it’s sitting low.”
CalTracs are fitted at the rear of each car, and while Frank and Lou’s has mono-leaf springs and Strange shocks, Steve’s retains the factory leaf springs and runs Koni adjustables. To help with weight transfer, 90/10 shocks were used, and custom ProFab travel limiters were fitted in the absence of wheelie bars.
“We have found what works best in terms of things like shock settings, springs and ride height,” Frank says. “We’ve worked out what makes these cars happy, and Bezzina’s has gone 1.27 to the 60ft mark, but I’m sure we can get that down to 1.1.”
Indeed, neither Steve nor Frank are content to rest on their laurels, and are quick to point out that while the cars are already decidedly fast for standard-bodied Falcons with full interiors and stock suspension, there are still plenty of avenues to explore and plenty of development to be done. “We’ve really only got five meetings on the cars, so we’ll keep turning them up until we hit a brick wall power-wise, and then we’ll try some 94mm turbos,” Frank says.
Steve’s car has already exceeded his expectations, but he too is confident there’s more to be had. “I never thought a car of this shape and weight that gets driven on the street would run these times,” he says. “The chassis might be fairly simple but the engine and transmission are very advanced, so we’re pushing the boundaries of how quick you can go on leaf springs and a stock front end.
“When I was growing up, Victor Bray was running sevens in a Doorslammer, so to comprehend that a car this heavy is running sevens on a small tyre is amazing. I have no doubt it can go 200mph, and if it can run a six I’ll be over the moon.
“I really love the racing, and winning isn’t everything, but this year has a special meaning,” Steve continues. “Craig Brewer from Pro Pipes & Race Cars was a good friend who was heavily involved with this car, and before he passed away he knew we were a good chance at winning the championship. That’s a big motivator to do well this year.”
“I’m not going to give up until I see a six flash up on that board,” Frank declares. “I don’t care if it’s Bezzina or me that does it!”
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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