Andrew Holdsworth’s GTA Fairlane

This big American coupe finally hit the strip after a 30-year journey

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Shaun Tanner, Michelle Porobic

When Andrew Holdsworth’s real-deal 1967 GTA Fairlane rolled up to scrutineering at Drag Challenge Weekend 2022, it had been a long time in the making.

The Vermont bloke is a certified street machining legend. He campaigned his iconic yellow XR Falcon in the early days of the Aussie pro street scene, and founded multiple Aussie brands – ET Performance Products, High Energy Oil Pans, and most recently Kool Wrap, which lent its support to this year’s 235 Aspirated class.

Andrew bought the Fairlane in the early 90s, a few years after selling the XR. “It was a rolling shell,” he recounted. “It was yellow and really beaten-up; it had been in Echuca for a number of years as a bit of a backstreet racer, I think.”

He and one of his High Energy staff soon got to work. “Over the next 12 or 14 years, we mini-tubbed the car, did subframe connectors, put in a new quarter panel, narrowed the rear end and bought an engine and interior,” he said. The aforementioned powerplant was (and still is) a two-bolt 460 big-block with a nitrous kit, matched to a Turbo 400 and nine-inch diff.

The American coupe had all the makings of a tough street/strip fighter, but family life and business obligations got in the way, leading Andrew to sell the car unfinished in 2007.

“That really ate away at me for a long time,” he admitted. “The guy that bought it off me got his workshop to put it together pretty roughly. He drove it for about 500km and then parked it in his car collection for 12 years, where it didn’t move, as it still had some issues.

“So I rang him up one day recently because I really wanted the car back, and he said, ‘You can have it.’ So I bought it back!”

Andrew pulled the Fairlane back down to a bare shell, with the electrical, nitrous and fuel systems getting an overhaul at the same time. Cooling from Race Radiators was installed to keep the big-block happy, which ended up making 540hp on the engine dyno. “It’s a pretty reasonable engine, but it was built 20 years ago, so it’s a bit old-school,” he said.

“It’s got standard shock towers, so the pipes really hug in and you don’t get very good flow. We actually lost about 50hp just putting those headers on, so we put the nitrous on just to get that power back again.” The build also serves as a test bed for Kool Wrap products, including plenty of heat shielding.

Dandenong’s Pro Autos handled the Turbo 400, which Andrew admitted is a “bit unusual” to see behind a Ford in 2022. “These days you can get a C4 with all the cool stuff in it, but back when I was putting the car together, the Turbo 400 was the gearbox to have,” he explained. The rear end holds 3.9 gears, resting in a leaf-sprung two-link arrangement.

Work on the car wrapped up a few days before DCW 2022. Andrew’s entry in Vibrant Performance Dial Your Own would mark his first trip down a quarter-mile in 15 years, a milestone not lost on him. “I’d never driven an auto car down the track, never driven a nitrous car, and never driven a car with a high-stall,” he admitted. “It’s funny how it’s all pretty straightforward, but when you get to the startline your mind just seems to go blank!”

After a few sluggish starts on Day One, Andrew pulled off a 12.03@118mph on the Heathcote strip with a 100hp shot of nitrous – his best time for the weekend.

The trip wasn’t without drama, with a fried MSD ignition box leaving him stranded on the side of the road on Saturday night. Greg Richards and his crew eventually came to the rescue in their own Fairlane, helping wire up Andrew’s spare 6AL for a 1am hotel arrival. Andrew still managed to compete through all three days, handing over a 12.43@108mph timeslip on Sunday.

Though Andrew didn’t quite achieve his goal of a bottle-fed 10.90 ET, he was stoked to finally have the car out and racing. “It’s been a 30-year mission, and I can’t believe I’m here,” he enthused at DCW. “I’m on cloud nine, I must admit.”

Next on the agenda is a respray to make the Fairlane more presentable, plus a little bit more nitrous. “I think the bottom end is good for 700hp, so I might put a 150-shot in it one day,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t get to play much when I was young, so I’m having a go now!”