Steve Bezzina’s 1233hp turbo 1969 Ford XW Fairmont – flashback

Looking back on Steve Bezzina's XW Falcon when it was running leaf springs and knocking on sevens

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Steve’s XW Fairmont was originally published in the October 2011 issue of Street Machine magazine

IF YOU wanna go fast, the simple formula is light weight and big horsepower, and it’s been that way since Moses threw an extra horse in front of his chariot at the Red Sea Nationals. But that’s not to say that you can’t go fast in a heavy car. It’s just easier to rip off killer ETs when you’re not trying to overcome the inertia created by 1.5 tonnes of 60s muscle car. But Steve Bezzina isn’t most people.

Steve doesn’t care about trophies or records, he’s in it purely for good times. “I get great pleasure out of taking friends and family out to the track and having a lot of fun,” he says. “Unfortunately I like the big heavy cars, so I’m not going to take any titles out. It’s just good fun basically, cracking the numbers it’s cracking at the moment.”

Steve’s story starts years ago when he used to run a 12sec Falcon. He appreciates all good cars but admits to being a Blue Oval fan and he reckons he’s owned at least 40 XW/XY sedans over the years. But he gave it away to concentrate on business, family and all that important stuff.

Externally the only changes to the car are the Convo Pros, orange GT stripes and ’glass hood. Steve (pictured above) likes to throw on some subtle five-slots for cruising

Then a couple years ago, while cruising the ’net, he stumbled across a car that piqued his interest – this Starlight Blue XW Fairmont with light parchment interior and a very healthy 433ci Windsor. With 10.5sec time slips, the Fairmont was the perfect machine to take racing again without having to go through the pain of building something from scratch.

The Alpha Fibreglass reverse cowl bonnet that covers the gauge gear is one of the few external changes made since Steve bought the car

“It was virtually as you see it, except that we’ve changed the bonnet, the stripes and the wheels on the car,” Steve says. “So it was a neat car anyway. I ran it for 12 months in that form, with some tune ups; changing tyres and gears and that sort of thing.”

With some tuning help from Frank Marchese at Dandy Engines they got the Fairmont down to a best of 10.23 at 134mph. Bloody decent times, especially for a heavy car with a naturally aspirated small block.

“The car was great fun for 12 months, really consistent, and good for taking friends and family out to the track,” Steve says.

Then of course the speed bug bit and with a desire to do something different Steve had Frank redo the engine for an F1R Procharger. The basic combo was already there in terms of capacity, but new pistons and a few other tweaks were required. A carby wasn’t going to cut it though, so they ditched the four-barrel and went with a 90mm Holley throttle body on a 90-degree adaptor and a customised Victor Jnr intake. With boost and Motec fuel injection the blown small block was pumping out 1000hp at the crank, which was good for an easy 9.8 over the quarter, but they had issues with consistency.

“After a couple months we just got fed up with it,” Frank says. “It was frustrating that we couldn’t get a simple blower belt to last more than a couple of runs.”

Craig from Pro Pipes shoehorned the custom turbo headers in the relatively tight confines of the XW engine bay. The 94mm Proline turbo is good for around 1700hp

Since then they’ve discovered that a Kevlar belt might have made all the difference. Not that it matters now, because they’ve ditched the blower and fitted a massive 94mm Proline turbo up front.

“Steve could see that the Procharger was only going to make X amount of power at the end of the day,” Frank says. “He thought that while we’re still at that point we’ll move up to a turbo.”

Initially the turbo proved to be just as frustrating as the blower – even with the massive snail, the car wasn’t making any more power.

“As an engine builder, it was frustrating I can tell you,” Frank says. “Trying to answer to a customer why his car is going slower and slower. Then we threw it on a chassis dyno and found that the intercooler was just chock-a-block with rubber.”

Andrew Sanders built an adjustable anti-roll bar to allow for the track. The inner wheel tubs are in the stock location, but the outers have been slightly modified for extra clearance

The problem dated back to when the blown combo was shredding belts and wayward rubber was finding its way into the blower intake. Amazingly the blower wasn’t damaged at all, but the intercooler proved to be the perfect collection point for the rubber.

“It was so simple, something that was very easy to overlook,” Frank laughs.

With the intake restriction removed, the engine started to make real power. Running C16 and pumping 26psi boost the uber-tough small block makes 1233hp at the rear tyres. Heavy or not, 1233rwhp is going to give you some shove and on the track Steve’s exceeded all expectations.

After a best of 9.8 with the blower, the boys were hoping for a low nine-second run with the turbo, but the Fairmont blew everyone away with a blistering 8.4 second pass at 168mph.

“When it ran 8.40 it only had 24 pounds in it,” Frank reckons. “And Steve was off the throttle three times according to the data logger. The 60-foot was like a 1.7 or something, he blew the tyres off as he rolled out and the slow 60-foot killed the ET. But the mph shows it’s got more. Anyone in modified street running that kind of mph is in the 8.0s.”

And that’s just a bee’s dick away from the seven-sec zone, which is uncharted territory for a full-weight street Falcon running almost stock suspension.

The chrome-moly cage, RCI harness and Kirkey seat are necessary safety concessions. With 170mph capability you want a little more than 60s sheet metalto keep you safe

With such a massive and unexpected jump in speed, the boys were told to go away and come back with some decent safety equipment. Andrew Sanders from Specialised Power Porting was given the nod to weld in a chrome moly cage and fit an adjustable anti-roll bar in the boot, but other than that the suspension and brakes are just as Ford intended.

It seems almost insane for a late 60s muscle car to be going that fast without some serious suspension work, but the boys seem happy with how it’s going so far. Although Frank does admit that it seems almost surreal seeing a XW streeter go that fast.

“When you see it in motion you think to yourself it doesn’t look right, the speed. You can see it’s moving quick,” Frank says. “It’s one of Australia’s favourite muscle cars and I’ll be curious to see if it runs a seven. That’s what it should do; it should do it easy.”

Despite that seven-second potential, the car isn’t destined to become a full-time track machine. For Steve it’s still a toy, albeit a very fast toy, and he loves cruising it on the street as well.

“I put a set of five slots on it and I drive it around the street as sedate as the 450hp XY that I’ve got,” Steve says. “Being fuel injected and turboed, and the converter’s not huge, it’s a really easy street car to drive around – my wife drives it around. She loves the car more than me.”

(As we were going to print, Steve took the XW to Willowbank and with Steve Petty from Proline USA helping with the tune, ran an 8.17@173mph!)


Colour: Starlight Blue

Engine: 433ci Windsor
Block: Dart
Throttle body: 90mm
Turbo: Proline 94mm
Intake: Victor Jnr
Heads: AFR 195cc
Pistons: Diamond/Proline
Crank: Scat
Rods: Scat
Cam: Crower
Ignition: ICE
ECU: Motec M4
Injectors: Proline
Exhaust: Turbo headers by Propipes

Transmission: Protrans Powerglide
Converter: Proline turbo converter
Diff: Nine-inch, 3.5 gears, 31-spline Moser axles

Brakes: Std (f&r)
Springs: Std 6cyl (f), Std 5-leaf (r)
Shocks: 90/10 (f), 50/50 (r)

Rims: Center Line, Convo Pro, 4.5in (f), 8.5in (r)
Rubber: 4.5x15in (f), 28×10.5in (r)