WHEN Manuel Thomason went looking for a project car to build with Wazza, his mate of 25 years, his first thought was to find an HQ. After all, the 48-year-old concreter considered himself a dyed-in-the-wool Holden man, having owned an HQ ute with a 327ci SBC, an HR Premier and a Torana running a hot six.
First published in the July 2021 issue of Street Machine
But all that changed when he and Wazza found an XP Falcon sedan hiding under a rotting tarp in a Penrith shed. The car had been sitting there for some 25 years, unloved and untouched, just waiting for someone to rescue it. Manuel took one look at it and handed over the cash.
While the XP came with six-cylinder running gear, Manuel had a clear vision for what he wanted the car to look like, so the old hardware was promptly binned and the credit card got a good workout. “I wasn’t inspired by any other cars exactly; it was probably more an era that I was inspired by – stuff I grew up liking,” he explains. “I wanted the tunnel ram and the carbs out the bonnet – the old-school look.”
Though Manuel is self-effacing about his ability on the tools, he and Wazza took a mere 18 months to take the XP from a dusty barn-find to a bona-fide beauty.
“We got stuck into it almost as soon as we had the car back home in the shed,” he says. “We stripped it down and got the shell sandblasted. Thankfully it was in pretty good shape.”
Manuel and Wazz performed the rust repairs themselves before handing the shell over to the crew at BLVD Customs for panel and paint. “We replaced both sills and cut out a few other areas,” Manuel says. “BLVD Customs said we did pretty well with it ‘for a couple of concreters’!”
Returning to the shed smooth and coated in layers of Lightning Blue metallic from a 2018 Mustang, the XP had been transformed from a neglected hulk into a thing of beauty. It was also the start of a mechanical journey that Manuel says taught him a lot. “It takes a bit of time to get things right,” he says. “Like, doing things twice – doing it and realising it’s not right and having to take the part off again and redo it.”
With limited experience when it came to working on engines beyond simple servicing, the pair tackled the job of selecting and fitting all the new parts they needed to achieve that old-school look that Manuel had in his head. Using a 347ci BluePrint Windsor V8 long motor from Eagle Auto Parts as a base, they screwed on a big old tunnel ram intake and a pair of 450cfm vac-sec carbs from Quick Fuel on top. Completed by a belt drive and a set of Pacemaker headers, the whole lot was squeezed into the Falcon engine bay using a conversion kit from The Rod Shop.
“The Eagle Auto Parts engine was rated at about 415hp, and we think the other bits we added will be good for about another 100hp,” Manuel says.
It’s probably a good thing, then, that Manuel ordered a Wilwood front brake upgrade from The Rod Shop at the same time. With four-piston calipers and 320mm detachable-hub rotors, they help pull up all those extra ponies and fill up the space behind those classic-looking 17-inch American Racing Rodder wheels. “What was good for us, being pretty inexperienced, was that all the Rod Shop stuff was pretty spot-on,” Manual says.
Aesthetically, the XP is quite understated. Mark from PROcoat lathered just about everything under the bonnet in black or textured black, as well as coating a lot of the undercarriage. His handiwork also extends into the cabin, where the billet steering wheel and hydro-dipped dash fascia help tie things together visually.
CMac Custom Upholstery is responsible for the grey and blue interior fit-out. It features a custom centre console, door cards and XR6 front buckets, as well as the original rear bench – all boasting a timeless pleated pattern. “The rear bench looked like no one had ever sat on it,” Manuel says. “It’s comfortable and has plenty of room for getting the family or the lads in for cruising.”
Manuel says that the hardest part of the entire build was bolting it all back together without scratching anything – certainly no easy feat when you consider the typical clearance between those strut towers and braces. Ultimately though, the build was a great chance for a couple of lifelong mates to work on something together.
“This was my first project car,” Manuel says. “I used to muck around with cars as a young bloke, but nothing this extreme. It was great to do something with Wazz; we’d always talked about doing something together. He’s a strong Ford guy, though – I don’t think I would have been able to get his help if I’d bought a Holden!”
Since its recent completion, Manuel has already cruised the car from its native Central Coast home to Newcastle a few times, and tries to get it on the road every weekend, work permitting. “It gets a lot of attention,” he says. “Thumbs-up and waves from other drivers. My young fella says I should put a blower on it, but that’s not happening!”
1965 FORD XP FALCON
|Ford Mustang Lightning Blue
|BluePrint Ford 347ci V8
|Alloy tunnel ram intake manifold, two 450cfm Quick Fuel carbs, 2in spacers
|BluePrint alloy heads
|Hydraulic-roller, 0.554in lift
|Twin thermo fans
|Extractors, twin 2.5in system
|Truetrac, custom tailshaft
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|King Springs, Monroe shocks
|Wilwood 320mm rotors and four-piston calipers (f), drums (r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|American Racing Rodder 17in (f & r)
|205/45/17 (f), 243/45/17 (r)
BLVD Customs; Mark at PROcoat