1600hp blown 565ci big-block 1965 Ford XP Falcon – WAR-BIRD

The Rod Shop's battle-scarred XP Falcon packs over 1600 tyre-shredding horses

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

With a mental 1600hp mountain up front and a mind-blowing wrap job, WAR-BIRD is one of the most insane XP Falcons ever conceived

This article on The Rod Shop’s XP was originally published in the March 2018 issue of Street Machine

AT A glance, it may appear that brothers Heath and Marc Waddington from the Rod Shop in Castlemaine, Victoria, are slugging it out to see who can outdo the other. Heath fired the first shot with his gobsmacking bare-metal REAL DEAL Torana (SM, Jun ’17). Marc returned fire with WAR-BIRD – this incredibly striking XP.

Marc openly acknowledges the fact that WAR-BIRD is a group effort. “Virtually every one of Rod Shop’s 23-strong staff has had a hand in the build,” he says. “Dad even pitched in, painting the exterior.” And being a burnout car, the battlescarred look is perfect: “If the wrap gets ripped or burnt, it’ll just make it look even cooler!”

But it’s actually not sibling rivalry that was the catalyst behind this outrageous Falcon.

“I bought it to revamp all of the Rod Shop’s XM/XP engine and chassis kits,” Marc says. “It was stripped, fully sandblasted and primered with no running gear – a perfect test bed.”

After dropping it onto the Rod Shop’s chassis table and pulling the right-hand rear quarter back into alignment (it was 7mm too high), the XP soon became home to various Yank V8s, FoMoCo sixes, even a few Japanese inline sixes and a Lexus V8. The rear was also outfitted with myriad diff combinations – and of course chassis kits.

Once the Rod Shop kit revamp was done and dusted, Marc started tossing about ideas of what he could do with the bare shell. “I had no concrete plan,” he says, “but I’d never built a tube-frame chassis, so I decide to have a go at one.”

After ripping out the entire floor and getting some pointers from the Rod Shop’s R&D crew, Marc set about cutting, bending and welding a double tubular chassis. Surrounded by talented welders, Marc tacked it all together and left the final TIG work to the pros.

By now, the XP had well and truly morphed into a serious track car, with the chassis and rollcage all incorporated into one massively stiff, massively strong structure.

The sills might look like they’ve been blown off and stitched back on, and the body may appear to be peppered with bullet impacts and beaten to within an inch of its life. However, it’s all in the graphics; underneath, WAR-BIRD’s paint and panel is actually very good

With a dozen 6.5-metre lengths of 2.4mm-wall mild-steel tubing, WAR-BIRD is a tad on the heavy side. However, Marc wasn’t too worried; after all, a bit of extra weight is a good thing for salt racing, which he was now keen to have a crack at with this car.

“I left the factory front rails untouched,” he says. “That way I could use one of our double A-arm street front ends. I could have gone the optional power rack, but the manual rack is plenty light. My young fella is only seven; even he had no problem turning it when we were pushing the roller around the workshop. Also, REAL DEAL uses the same rack and it steers really well.”

Many features of the wrap, like the bugs on the bonnet and front bar, crumpled roof, and duct tape on the front guard, are incredibly realistic. Everywhere WARBIRD is displayed, spectators can’t help but ‘pick’ at the tape (myself included), and are blown away when they realise it’s not real

The tube chassis called for a custom four-link set-up out back, which was fashioned using an off-the-shelf universal kit. The smooth-back nine-inch with three-inch axle tubes is also an in-house jobbie. It’s filled with an alloy centre, 31-spline axles, full spool and 3.0:1 gears. Holding up each corner are Viking double-adjustable (compression and rebound) coil-overs.

All this chassis and suspension work enables WAR-BIRD to slam down over its American Legend Talon wheels, which the Rod Shop is a dealer for. To tie the wheels in with the exterior theme, Marc took advantage of American Legend’s custom finish options and ordered the 18x8s and 18x12s with a satin bronze centre, with contrasting satin brushed lips.

With the mountainous 565ci big-block Chev copping all the boost the equally gigantic blower can ram down its throat, it’s good for a tyrefrightening 1600 horses

The chassis and suspension work left the XP’s engine bay void of shock towers and firewall. Marc initially filled this gaping hole with a Chrysler V10 out of a Dodge Ram, in line with his salt-racing aspirations. The V10 was plenty different and attracted a ton of attention, but one ride in Steve Nogas’s KILLA-B burnout car changed everything.

“He’s unreal,” says Marc of Steve’s prowess at the wheel. “He’s half asleep and you’re shitting yourself!”

The 14/71 PSI blower housing was deliberately left raw; it simply adds to the XP’s overall battleweary theme

That ride in Steve’s legendary Camaro changed Marc’s world, as well as the direction of his XP: it was now going to be a nasty-arse skid pig. It just so happened the 565ci blown, injected big-block out of Steve Edsall’s ROGUE VE Commodore was for sale. Australian burnout engine whiz Brett Niddrie (BNR Engines) was then tasked with giving the methanol-slurping big-block a full going-over.

“Brett’s the Don Bradman of horsepower!” Marc laughs. “His engines win all the comps and if there’s ever any issue, no matter what time of day or night, he helps you out.”

Brett gave the big-block a bigger crank, a new fuel system and a monster 14/71 PSI blower. “We went the PSI and the Big & Ugly [injection] to put more power into it,” Marc says. Too true – WAR-BIRD’s 1600-plus neddies have every tyre within a 10-block radius quaking in its treads.

Park WAR-BIRD next to a stock XP and you’ll note a host of subtle differences. The bonnet has been extended down to meet the grille. The front bar has been smoothed off and now sits flush to the grille’s underside. And despite the fact that the incredibly realistic wrap job makes the body look like it’s beaten to shit, there’s actually pretty good bodywork hiding under there.

With lots of heavy bar work in the double tubular chassis, WARBIRD is a bit on the tubby side. “The more weight the better for burnout stuff,” Marc reasons. “KILLA-B weights 2.5 tonnes”

Rather than one big panel, the all-new floor is actually made up of several smaller panels that fill in the voids between the intricate bar-work. In the rear, there’s a massive set of tubs that pretty much come up to the window line.

The 1600hp mill drinks around 160 litres of methanol during a three-minute burnout. That’s why WAR-BIRD’s boot is virtually all fuel tank. As for those seatbelts securing the tank, they were donated by one of the many R&D cars sitting out back. “We had new buckles sewn on them, then bolted them in pretty bloody tight,” Marc says. “They work great.”

As well as the CRS double A-arm front end, also note the four separate dump pipes out each side. WAR-BIRD is one mighty loud Falcon; fitment of earplugs is recommended for all passengers prior to flight!

Having worked on the car for over three years, it was a massive eight-week push at the very end to get it all done. Good friend Matt Czerny from Vinyl Wraps & Graphics was looking for a suitable canvas for his entry into the World-Wide Wrap Recognition & Appreciation Party (WWWRAP) at SEMA 2017, and the XP was his chosen vehicle (read more below).

The dash is pretty simple, with a brace of Auto Meter gauges and row of billet push-button switches. Dig the hessian bag design used on the seats and door trims! To ensure longevity of the 565ci blown, injected big-block, its dry-sump system is filled with 16L of oil

It was all hands on deck to get it done, with Rob Dekert from Unique Body Smash preparing and painting the engine bay, boot and cabin in record time, including colour-matching the rollcage and dash to the matte bronze finish on the American Legend wheels. Marc’s dad Kelvin even chipped in, picking up the spray gun to lay on the exterior paint. The group were rewarded for their efforts with Best Overall Design at the WWWRAP ceremony in Las Vegas.

A gauge allows Marc to keep an eye on the oil level and temp

Despite Marc starting the build with no set plan, WAR-BIRD ended up not only being a world-beater visually, but also one nasty burnout beast to boot.

“It’ll spend six months to a year on the show scene,” Marc says. “Then once we’ve finished skidding REAL DEAL it will be WAR-BIRD’s turn. We’ll skid at every comp, bar Summernats – it’s just too hard at Canberra with us having the big stand and all. I won’t be out there trying to win anything, just having fun.”

With burnout royalty like Steve Nogas, Brett Niddrie, Steve Loader, Tom Beltrame, Peter Grmusa and Clint Ogilvie as friends and customers, Marc’s ‘just for fun’ approach could well be short-lived – time will tell.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to the Chrysler V10, the lads are fitting it into an HT ute, to prove you can engineer a twin-turbo V10 in a ute for the street.

Having seen REAL DEAL and WAR-BIRD, it’s a sure bet the Waddington boys’ HT will be yet another jaw-dropper – watch this space!


Matt Czerny is known as the ideas guy at Vinyl Wraps & Graphics; one look at WAR-BIRD and you know this to be true. The Rod Shop crew came up with the military concept, and Matt dialled it up to 11.

“We wanted it to look like it’s been through the battle from hell and back,” Matt says. “Matte green with a big star on the door has been done to death; we wanted to go down a path that hadn’t been done before.

“While WAR-BIRD was our entry in the World-Wide Wrap competition, we couldn’t put our commercial work on hold; most of the XP was done after hours. This included about 120 design hours on the computer, another dozen in printing, plus laminating it in matte clear to get the right effect. We wrapped everything – inside the door jambs, door trims, even the seats. With the intricate design, wrapping the exterior was particularly time-consuming. At different times, there were as many as three of us working on it – often ’til after midnight, plus weekends. This was easily another 120-plus hours – all in under six weeks.”

Along with the realistic look of the dust settling on the surface, Matt loves the duct tape rendering. “It was a last-minute thing,” he says. “I’d wrapped the guard and decided it needed something extra. I peeled it off, redesigned, reprinted and rewrapped it. Very glad I did.” At the SEMA presentation, the Vinyl Wraps & Graphics team were incredibly surprised, honoured and humbled to beat a host of entries from around the globe to take out the big one: Best Overall Design 2017. From the competition the XP has generated an incredible amount of attention, especially among the Yanks, who love it. There’s even talk of getting the car over to SEMA 2018.


Colour: Combat-weary wrap

Engine: 565ci big-block Chev
Block: Dart
Intake: Blower Shop
Blower: 14/71 PSI Roots
Injection: Enderle Big & Ugly Fuel system: BNR
Heads: Dart
Cam: Crane roller
Crank/rods: Callies
Pistons: Ross
Ignition: MSD 7 Digital
Oiling: Dry-sump
Radiator: Race Radiators
Headers: Rod Shop, 2.5in primaries

Trans: MDT Powerglide
Converter: TCE
Diff: Rod Shop 9in, 3.0:1 gears, full spool, 31-spline axles

Front suspension: Rod Shop double A-arm, Viking coil-overs
Rear suspension: Rod Shop four-link, Viking coil-overs
Steering: Rod Shop rackand-pinion
Brakes: Wilwood fourpiston calipers and 355mm rotors (f), Wilwood fourpiston calipers and 320mm rotors (r)

Seats: Kirkey
Harnesses: Proforce
Shifter: TCI Outlaw
Gauges: Auto Meter
Pedal box: Wilwood

Rims: American Legend Talon; 18×8 (f), 18×12 (r)
Rubber: 215/35R18 (f), 305/35R18 (r)