408-cube 1964 Ford XM Falcon

Not many people hang on to their first car, let alone turn it into something as sweet as Mat Salvador's Ford XM Falcon

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Mat’s XM Falcon was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Street Machine

TAKE a moment to drink in that glowing turquoise and all the factory brightwork sparkling in the sun. Feast your eyes on those ruler-straight panels, the serious suspension and extensive chassis work. Yep, Mat Salvador’s XM Falcon is one stunning street machine, but needless to say, it wasn’t always so neat.

Our story begins in 1995 with a crusty garden ornament and a 15-year-old with a dream. “I went to look at the car with my brother-in-law Keijo, and it was shocking,” Mat remembers. “It was all different colours, the interior was screwed, every single orifice was filled with pine needles and there was grass growing out of the gutters. We offered the guy 250 bucks and took it home that arvo.

“I worked on it every chance I had and spent all of my money on it for four years. We painted it in Mum and Dad’s garage while they were overseas, and they cracked the shits when they got home because the walls were turquoise!”

The XM has come a long way since Mat bought it for $250 back in 1995! Mat and his brother-in-law treated it to a home respray and had it looking pretty respectable for a P-plate ride, but she is at a whole new level now!

The boys stuffed the XM with a 2V 250, C4 and Centura diff, and it served as Mat’s daily for a few years until 2002, when he decided to take it off the road to fit a Windsor. A protracted period of inactivity on the XM front followed until 2008, when Mat figured it was time to build the car he’d always dreamed of. While thumbing through old copies of SM, he came across Daniel Cassar’s name, proprietor of Fast Lane Speed Shop in Ballarat. Daniel was immediately interested in the build, so the car was quickly delivered to him for what would turn into a five-year stay.

Apparently the wait was worth it: you won’t find many lines smoother than these outside of a five-axis CNC port job! The shell was pretty good to begin with, only requiring new sills and lower quarters as far as rust repairs were concerned, but every panel line has been sharpened. Look underneath those lines, however, and you’ll see that there’s far more to this turquoise toughie than meets the eye.

To make sure the Windsor is always comfortable, the radiator is a big custom unit with twin thermos, and there’s a thermostatically controlled engine oil cooler too. “I hate having a car that you have to worry about overheating in traffic,” Mat says

Starting under the bonnet, the most obvious body mod is not an addition, but a subtraction. The Falcon’s restrictive shock towers are long gone, replaced by flat panels that have been swaged to resemble factory metal. Down at the bum, the chassis rails from the rear seats back were given the flick in favour of fabricated items to add some much-needed rigidity and allow room for some big changes to the driveline. Inside the boot is a rolling wave of turquoise steel, flanked by widened tubs and a ’70 Mustang fuel tank.

All the metal work wasn’t done just to pretty up the engine bay and boot; there was a far more practical reason. Mat wanted a car that stopped and steered far better than anything a stock 60s sedan could offer, so there’s absolutely nothing left of the original running gear. Propping up the front end is a fabricated Mustang II-style suspension system, with QA1 coil-overs, Wilwood four-pots and a shortened UC Torana rack. Out the back is a heavily modified RRS three-link, with more QA1s handling the bumps and the Watt’s link replaced with a Panhard bar. Mat says: “It handles well, rides well and just drives really nice. When you nail it, it just goes dead straight; there’s no wandering.”

Providing a tasty 523hp worth of shove is a 408ci Windsor that houses a Scat crank and rods, SRP forgies, a Comp Cams Xtreme Energy bumpstick, AFR 205cc race-port heads, an Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap and a 750 Holley HP carby. The ignition is all MSD, with a 6AL box controlling the sparks and a Pro Billet dizzy pointing them in the right direction. Burnt dinosaurs are whisked away from the motor by Mat-fabbed 17/8-inch equal-length extractors, into 2.5-inch pipes with Flowmaster mufflers and resonators. “The engine made 500lb-ft from as low as they could pull it on the MCE engine dyno, so it’s awesome to drive,” Mat says. “It lights ’em up in any gear and just sounds mental.”

“I’d had this vision of the red interior since I was a kid, and everyone always said: ‘Ergh’ when I told them, but it’s turned out exactly as I imagined,” Mat says. Emmanuel Bazzano from The Trim Shop was responsible for translating Mat’s vision into leather and Alcantara. The front seats are VB Commodore buckets, the rear is the original with a few mods and the door trims are all-new

Since the XM was built to be driven, Mat decided to go the extra mile and make it road-legal too. “The engineer was involved right from the start, so there wasn’t much that needed to be redone. Getting the seatbelt mountings right was a fair drama though, and when he drove it for the brake/road test the lower radiator hose kinked and the temp soared to 230!”

Mat had a machinist cut out the centre of the original gauge cluster so that he could mount this spiffy digital one with a custom Delrin bucket to hold it in place. All of the wiring in the car has been replaced with an ISIS Intelligent Multiplex system, a neat set-up that uses a couple of CAN-based control boxes placed around the car instead of metres of messy wiring

All that work has definitely paid dividends though, with the XM picking up a bronze medal for engineering at MotorEx Melbourne 2018. Mat’s pretty chuffed with the car: “I just bloody love it and drive it every opportunity I get. There’s just something about this car and the memories of working on it as a young fella. To me it’s the most special car; I’ll never sell it. I’m just going to look after it and drive the wheels off it!”


Paint: Glasurit Turquoise

Brand: Ford Windsor
Cubes: 408
Carb: Holley 750 HP vacuum secondary
Intake: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap
Heads: AFR 205
Camshaft: Comp Cams Xtreme Energy hydraulic-roller
Lifters: Comp Cams Magnum Valve springs: PAC Racing
Conrods: Scat I-beam
Pistons: SRP forged 10.5:1
Crank: Scat
Oil pump: Melling HV
Sump: Modified Bronco
Fuel pump: Edelbrock Victor
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator, twin thermos, oil cooler
Exhaust: Custom four-intoones, twin 2.5in, H-pipe, Flowmaster Hushpower II mufflers and resonators
Ignition: MSD 6AL, MSD Blaster 3 coil, MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD wires

Gearbox: Full manual C4
Converter: TCE 4000rpm stall
Diff: Ford 9in, LSD, 3.5:1 gears, 31-spline billet axles

Front: Mustang II, QA1 coilovers, 2in drop spindles
Rear: Modified RRS three-link, QA1 coil-overs
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston (f), Ford drums (r) Master cylinder: Wilwood, 7in dual-diaphragm booster

Rims: Weld Magnum 2.0; 15×3.5 (f), 15×9 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson 275/50/15 (r)