427ci XT Fairmont unveil at Rockynats 2022

Phil Kirby’s after-hours project is a die-straight, road-ready beast

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson

When Phil Kirby of Auto Craft Collective turned his attention to this XT Fairmont, he was seeking to cement his place in Rockhampton’s car building scene alongside business partner Grand MacLean.

“I thought I’d try and take it to the next level because I knew Rockynats was on,” Phil says. “And there’s not much getting built in Rocky!”

As Phil explains, the stunning car was little more than a shell just 18 months ago. “It’s been in my family since ‘82, so we knew every square inch of the car to start with,” he says. “It was a good base, so we didn’t have to do too much metalwork to it. We just focused on getting the thing so straight.”

Phil spent the next year and a half ensuring every panel and gap was perfect, entirely after-hours. “The hours I spent on that are unbelievable,” Phil laughs. “But polishing it up and the hours in that all paid off, because now it looks amazing.”

Under the bonnet is a Dart-blocked 427 Windsor, wearing Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads and Holley Sniper EFI. Pilfered from another car, it’s good for somewhere between 650 to 700 ponies.

It’s paired to an E-series Falcon T5 cogbox. “You never see a five-speed manual in a car now,” Phil reasons. “It’s all C4s or ‘Glides or something like that. I’m going to lose third gear in that ‘box before anything else, but if I don’t do anything stupid it’ll get me to work and home every day!”

Phil’s choice of gearbox plays into his intention to create a car with a top-quality finish without sacrificing practicality and drivability. “It’s about making it look elite while keeping it functional and not so high-maintenance,” he explains.

“I didn’t want to fully sheet-metal the engine bay, and the underside is all done in Raptor Liner — it’s built to be a driver.” An obligatory nine-inch with Truetrac locker fills out the rear, while rolling stock is a set of 18×8 and 18×9 American Racing wheels.

Aaron from All Stitched Up managed the interior fit-out, which retains plenty of period OE styling. The factory seat frames have been retained, tweaked slightly to fit later-model foams. “He’s a wizard with what he’s done to it,” Phil enthuses. “You could unbolt it all and put it straight in another X-series Falcon.”

The car’s debut in the Rockynats elite hall was Phil’s reward for countless long nights in the shed, where the car earned Top Interior in the Street class, plus a spot in the Rare Spares Top 20. “I honestly haven’t had a day off in 18 months — I was still painting things on the car yesterday,” he says. “I did the wheel alignment in my shed, and everything you see aside from the interior was done in-house at my shop. I’ve outsourced nothing, really.”

There’s a chance the Fairmont will return to the show circuit with a few changes next year, but for now Phil’s happy to simply lay down some miles, having rubbed shoulders with the big boys at Rockynats.