Barra-powered 1966 Ford XR Falcon sleeper

Ben O’Neill tackled the Barra swap in his XR Falcon almost entirely in his own shed

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

THE term ‘sleeper’ means different things to different people. Some reckon that a car with a ground-shaking idle and 10in-wide drag radials qualifies as a sleeper as long as it’s also got venetians and a factory-style two-tone paintjob. Others feel that for a car to be truly sleepy, there can’t be any external cues to give away its real potential. Ben O’Neill’s XR follows the latter philosophy – it flies so far under the fast-car radar it may as well be subterranean!

This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Street Machine

“I bought it off a panel beater from Wollongong with the body and paint already done,” says Ben of his XR. “It’s neat and tidy; the gaps aren’t perfect, but it’s a street car. The bumpers and all the trims are original 1960s.” The hubcaps hide XF front brakes and AU rears, and the 3.5in exhaust exits through the base of the little muffler under the rear bar

The Falcon was a different beast when it entered Ben’s garage 10 years ago. “The paint and interior were good, but the mechanicals were pretty crap,” he says. “I took it for a quick spin around the block and it was just horrible to drive, so I started stripping it the next day!”

Ben’s homemade intake and exhaust manifolds allow the Barra to squeeze between the XR’s shock towers. He didn’t want to have any run-ins with the local constabulary though, so the Turbosmart blow-off valve is plumbed back into the intake and the catch can is completely sealed. Tucked away in the corner is a VN booster and master, and cooling is taken care of by a ridgey-didge late-model Falcon radiator and thermo fans for factory-level reliability

The 200ci pre-crossflow six and Celica five-speed made way for a tough little Windsor and C4, but after six years Ben got bored and went on the hunt for a boatload more power.

Taking pride of place in the engine bay these days is the 200’s grandchild: a BF Mk2 Barra with 16psi shoved down its gullet. The donk is basically stock, with a set of Atomic oil pump gears, Plazmaman valve springs and head studs added for reliability and a GTX3582R turbo from Proboost for making power. In order to fit the Barra into the tiny gap between the XR’s towers, Ben knocked up an exhaust manifold from steam pipe and made his own version of an FG intake plenum using cut-down BF runners and aluminium tube. While the TIG was handy, he took care of the intake plumbing, the four-inch dump and the 3.5-inch exhaust. “I wanted it to be quiet, so it’s got two of the biggest mufflers I could fit under the car – Barras sound terrible when they’re loud,” Ben laughs.

Backing up the Barra is a Converter Shop 3000rpm stally and a built C4 from Geartorque. Power travels to the ground through an M86 diff pillaged from an XR8 ute, equipped with billet axles, a Truetrac centre and the factory 3.23:1 gear ratio. Of course, the skinny shoes don’t do much for traction: “It’s a bit of a handful,” Ben admits. “First gear’s a waste of time, but second hooks up okay if you ease into it.”

Ben tackled almost the entire build in his shed, and says the most difficult job was wiring up the Haltech 2500. “The only things not done at home were the wheel alignment and tune,” he says.

Only the extra gauges and B&M shifter hint at the XR’s true potential in here. There’s no sound system, the AM radio is just there to fill the hole, and the little fan helps Ben imagine that he’s got air con!

After getting the car running himself and ironing out the kinks, Ben took the XR to ProFile Autosports to really get the Barra on song. With an easy 420hp at the tyres, the XR has run a best of 11.40@120mph at Willowbank, and Ben’s gunning for a 10. Having said that, it’s primarily a street car: “My wife Jen and the kids Abby and Jack are always keen to come for a ride,” Ben says. “I have to thank them all for putting up with me!”


Type: Ford Barra
Capacity: 4.0L
Head: Standard
Intake: Custom
Turbo: GTX3582R
Exhaust: 4in dump, 3.5in single system
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Fuel system: Pierburg 360 external pump, Bosch 1150cc injectors

Gearbox: C4
Diff: M86, Truetrac, 3.23:1 gears

Suspension: XF Falcon (f), King Springs leaves (r)
Brakes: XF Falcon (f), AU Falcon (r)

Rims: EF Falcon 15×6 with 1960 Buick hubcaps (f & r)
Rubber: Dunlop SP Sport 205/65/15 (f & r)

Got a car that looks mild, but goes wild? Send pics, car details and contact details to: Sleepers, Street Machine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166. Or email: [email protected].