Summernats Top 60 1967 Ford XR Falcon

Ben Grayland's modest plan for a nice, simple cruiser kicked off an eight-year snowball that landed his XR Falcon in the Summernats Top 60

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

NOT every car in the Summernats Top 60 Elite Hall has had every single panel customised and pumps out ridiculous horsepower from a chrome mountain rising from the bonnet. Sometimes, all it takes is damn fine paint, meticulous detailing and just the right amount of original brightwork to receive the judges’ tick of approval.

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

Ben Grayland’s ’Nats 33 Top 60-placing XR Falcon is one such car. “It was supposed to just be a neat cruiser,” Ben says of his initial build plans. “Just a quick paintjob and get it on the road.” So much for that!

Ben found the car for auction on eBay. “I think the guy I bought it off was using it for parts to restore a Fairlane. It was a rolling shell with no interior or driver’s door, but it was fairly straight and rust-free.” Second-gen Falcons free of the dreaded tinworm are few and far between, so Ben was fortunate to purchase an XR that only needed a few patches in the plenum and under the rear window.

The car sat quietly in the shed for a couple of years while Ben collected parts, but he then handed the shell over to his mate Brad Simpson. Brad straightened the panels, fixed the minimal rust and deleted all the shiny bits along the Falcon’s flanks. He’s obviously a bit of a whiz with the hammer and dolly, because those lines are tight.

Aside from the smoothed and painted floorpan, the underneath is fairly standard, with rebuilt suspension and lowered King springs. Wilwood four-piston front calipers bite into 320mm discs for a huge improvement over 1967 brakes, while the entire exhaust system is from Damien Reeves’ blown Windsor XT

With all the metal the correct shape, the XR was delivered to Dom Stillitano at Hardcore Restorations for a coat of something colourful, and Ben found just the right blue on a car you’re not likely to see in these pages. “It was going to be an original Falcon colour,” he says, “but then I spotted a Peugeot in Belle Ile Metallic and decided to paint it in that.” French paint on an Australian car? Sounds like spreading dijon mustard on a lamington, but the gorgeous bright blue makes the Falcon look like it’s been painted with a summer sky.

You may have noticed a lack of conduit and zip-ties under the bonnet, as Ben put in the hard yards when he wired the XR to make sure it was all tucked carefully out of sight. The billet bonnet hinges are from Bliss Custom Machining, the strut tops come from Bullet Products and the sheet-metal rocker covers are from Bocam

While he focused on rebuilding the car and collecting parts, Ben had his mate Mark Schouten bolt together a short-deck Windsor with a bit of attitude to give the XR some decent cruising ability. Mark worked with Flowcraft Race Engines to put together a suitable mill based around an AU block and containing a Scat crank and rods with Wiseco slugs for a final capacity of 347 cubes. Further up, a custom solid cam controls the valves in a pair of Flowcraft’s own CNC-ported aluminium heads, and a 650cfm Brawler four-barrel delivers 98 to the chambers through an Edelbrock dual-plain intake.

Ben’s mate Darryn Wishart (SM, Sep ’18) knocked up the boot trim panels before Tony at TLC wrapped them in white. The tank is an XY GT long-range one, which will come in handy once the XR hits the road for its intended purpose

Behind the little Windsor is a C10 that was worked over by Tassie Ainley with a few extra clutch packs and a shift kit for added toughness. Down the back, the shortened nine-inch housing was done by Aikman Engineering, and PDR Diffs supplied an LSD centre and tailshaft to suit.

With the XR back in his shed, a visit to Summernats 31 inspired Ben to make even more changes to his neat cruiser plan. “After the ’Nats, I decided it looked ugly underneath and I wanted to paint it,” he says. “So I made up the floor plates and Brad smoothed them out ready for paint.”

Tony from TLC Motor Trimming was called in to re-trim the seats and build new door cards in the bright white you see before you. The gauges are from Speedhut and the shifter was originally fitted to an altered dragster. Note the lack of speakers or a stereo – the only tunes in this XR are provided by Henry!

Unfortunately, Dom had shut up shop, so Ben and his mates had a couple of goes at painting it themselves before admitting defeat and handing the job to another painter, which turned into a messy experience. Eventually though, it was all sorted and the XR was finally ready to be reassembled.

Ben had entered the Falcon in the ’Nats a few years in a row but never had it finished in time to make the show. With encouragement from his mates and family and only a couple of months before Summernats 33, he got stuck into putting the XR back together. “There were a lot of late nights in the rush to Summernats,” he says. “The first time I ever drove it was up and down our court a few days before we left.” We’re sure a Summernats Top 60 berth made Ben and the crew’s hard work worthwhile!

“At the moment I want to do a few shows before I start driving it because of the painted underside; then I’ll just cruise it and enjoy it,” says Ben. “I’ll do a few things to it – change the mufflers and fit O2 sensors for tuning – but it’s pretty much finished. I’ve got another XR sedan and an XT ute to build as well.”

We look forward to seeing how the next Falcon to leave the Grayland shed turns out; if the XR is anything to go by, it should be a real clean machine.


Paint: Peugeot Belle Ile Metallic

Block: 347ci Windsor V8
Carb: Brawler 650
Manifold: Edelbrock
Heads: Flowcraft
Camshaft: Flowcraft custom solid
Springs: PAC
Pistons: Wiseco
Conrods: Scat
Crank: Scat
Sump: ASR
Exhaust: 4-into-1s, twin 2.5in system
Ignition: MSD
Cooling: Race Radiators

Gearbox: C10
Converter: Dominator 3200rpm
Diff: Aikman 9in, 31-spline axles, 3.7:1 gears

Springs: King
Shocks: Sachs
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers and 320mm discs (f), drums (r)

Rims: Weld Magnum; 17×4.5 (f), 15×9 (r)
Rubber: M&H Racemaster 185/55/17 (f) MT 275/50/15 (r)

My girlfriend Cory for being so supportive throughout the build; Brad Simpson for the panelwork and all his help along the way; Mark Schouten and Flowcraft for the engine; Tassie Ainley for the auto; Dazza, HK, Gene, Wattsy and everyone else that helped along the way