XF Falcon ute in Milwaukee Young SMOTY

Odds are on Joel Lucas's Barra-swapped XF as the quickest YSMOTY chariot of 2023


There aren’t too many fellas of Joel Lucas’s vintage with a 10-second streeter to their name, and even fewer who can confidently say they did most of the work themselves. His banger Falcon ute is one of our final 16 contenders for YSMOTY ’23, the rest of which you’ll find at the bottom of this page!

“My name is Joel Lucas, I’m 21 and from a little Hunter Valley town in NSW. I bought my 1988 XF ute for $500 back in November 2020, with the original plan for it to be just a work ute. That then escalated to pulling the old crossflow and auto out with intentions of putting a stroked 347 Windsor and C4 in.

I had always joked with my dad about throwing a Barra in it, then one day at work Dad calls me and says he knows where there is a low-km BF greentop Barra for sale. Needless to say, I picked it up that arvo on the way home from work and it snowballed from there.

I stripped down the Barra and put in a set of billet oil pump gears, heavy duty timing chain kit, ARP head studs, and Cometic MLS head gasket. I got a hold of an FG turbo head with a good set of cams, and put some valve springs in it. The turbo is a standard BF F6 Garrett, as I wanted to get used to driving the car before throwing a bigger turbo on, while also having the car set up for more power down the track.

It’s a standard FG turbo exhaust manifold, and I fabbed up a J-pipe to get the turbo sitting where I wanted while allowing room to have the 50mm Turbosmart external gate plumbed back into the exhaust, and have the four-inch dump off the back of the turbo.

It took a bit of trial and error to get the intercooler, a/c condenser and radiator in with minimal cutting. It’s a Custom Alloy Welding Race Series forward-facing plenum, with a Plazmaman billet fuel rail holding in a set of Bosch 1150cc injectors, ready for E85 or 98 through them with the use of a Haltech flex fuel sensor.

I’m a fourth year apprentice industrial electrician at Tomago Aluminium Company, so I wanted to give the wiring a go on my own. After many hours (which added up to days) of research on forums, Google and plenty of conversations with a few guys from work, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do to make the standalone harness and how to get the conversion underway.

I’m running a Haltech iC-7 dash and Haltech Barra plug-in ECU to make it easier to get all my dash, gauges and speedo working for the engineering side of things. Using the Haltech ECU also made it a lot easier to control boost levels and wire inputs for the transbrake, Astra electric power steering, two-step, high-low boost and outputs for relays. I’ve done all the wiring myself, which has been a good learning experience, as I was and still am learning something new every day.

My dad had a C4 already in the shed that I managed to get off him, and I took it down to Al’s Race Glides in Sydney to get it built. It’s full-manual shift and transbraked with all the billet goodies inside. The stally was done down at SDE converters and is at 3500rpm to keep it streetable, but also good for the ’strip.

Under the rear it’s got an XB disc brake nine-inch diff (also donated from dad) that I rebuilt with 31-spline axles and 3.5 gears with a Truetrac, with a set of Caltracs for strength and traction which definitely help at the track.

The body on the ute was a standard builder’s ute with all the classic XF rust and dents. I’ve replaced the plenum, sills and all the heater vents as they were non-existent. It came with the FE LTD front end already on it and I wanted to keep it for something different. The original bonnet was beyond help so I managed to source another LTD bonnet; the only issue was it had a dirty big hole in it to suit a tunnel-ram set-up. Then came the idea of grafting an XR8 bulge onto the bonnet to not only cover up the hole but also for a unique look.

All the panel work, paint and detailing was done in our shed at home by myself with some help from Dad and Mum. The colour is Medium Aegean Metallic off a 1988 Ford Mercury; I chose this colour hoping it would suit the ute, and I’m glad I did as it’s always a conversation point wherever I go. It’s a clear over base two-pack, so spraying the base coat was up to me, but I left the clear for dad to do, hoping to get a better finish off the gun to make rubbing it back a shorter process.

All the fab work on the ute with the intercooler piping, heater pipes, external gate, etc. were done by me in the shed on the TIG. It definitely took some time getting the routing of everything neat, while also trying to minimise the cutting needed to help with engineering down the track.

I built a custom centre console to fit the Hurst ratchet shifter and Billet Automotive buttons, also because the big comfy XC seats don’t allow much room for the standard console. This achieved the more custom interior look I was after. The door trims are XD ones that I recovered with some material my mum had originally bought for her car, which matches the seats and console.

I’ve got Carbuilders sound deadening on the floor and firewall, covered in a new Tru-Fit Plush Series black carpet. It’s got a new black Moon Crater headlining that my mum made, and I made a custom fascia out of textured ABS plastic to mount the iC-7 display into the original dash cluster. Everything in the interior has either been reupholstered or altered to give it a personal and custom look.

Suspension-wise, on the front I went with the Castlemaine Rod Shop tubular coil-over setup with a set of 320mm Wilwood brakes to meet engineer’s requirements. The rear is standard XF leaf springs that I had reset to the height I wanted, with a set of Koni adjustable shocks and some Caltracs.

Wheels are 15×6 and 15×9 Weld Draglites to keep an old school look that I love, and they are wrapped in 205/65 and 275/60 treads to fill the guards just enough.

It makes just under 600hp at the wheels and about 680ft-lb at around 2300 rpm on high boost and E85, so it’s definitely a fun car to drive, but being a Barra it will also be happy sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home from work in the middle of summer.

My goal ended up being a 10-second street car that will sit in traffic through the week and then race on the weekend. The best it’s run is a 10.67@128mph off the footbrake at a Sunday Race 4 Real event at Eastern Creek, along with dozens of other 10-second passes there. I’m keen to race on a nice, prepped surface to get the power down on the transbrake and two-step, and see what it will run before needing to go with a ’cage.

The ute is fully engineered and on full NSW rego, use it as much as possible. There will always be something else I want to change or modify down the track and I look forward to the learning experiences (mistakes) that I will make along the way as it will only benefit me in the long run.

I am so grateful for the help (and parts) I have received from my mum and dad and mates, as this has allowed me to truly build a car from front to back in my backyard that I 100 per cent enjoy and drive on the regular.

I used to have the baby seat in Dads ’74 F-100 down at Summernats doing all the driving events with him and Mum back when that was allowed, and even managed to get in a Street Machine magazine standing on the driver’s seat in dads lap while steering their FC LTD in the Supercruise. Now I’ve entered my own car at Summernats two years in a row, it’s truly been an awesome experience with my family and mates that I am always looking forward to.

I’ve entered the ute in plenty of different events such Bathurst Autofest, the 2200 drag racing series, Race 4 Real, Summernats, test-and-tunes and pretty much anything I can attend when I’m not at work. I also love the surprised looks and reactions it gets when I lift the bonnet at local shows or park ups.

People are always saying ‘that definitely didn’t come out in an XF!’ Although I get some comments from people saying I’ve wasted my apprenticeship earnings so far on the ute and my 4×4 tow car, I’m 110 percent stoked on how the car’s turned out, and every time I drive it, it’s an awesome memory made.

Instagram @joel___lucas

Now, check out the rest of the contenders below and cast your vote for the chance to win $2500!