302 Windsor-powered Ford XR Falcon wagon – flashback

Ford should have named this model the Phoenix

Photographers: Phil Cooper

THE photographs capture one of those horrible moments in time. On a straight stretch of rural road, a burgundy 60s Fairmont lies on its side, roof peeled back, three corners crushed. One AU Falcon police car stands guard while another, further down the bitumen, holds back traffic. Broken glass and personal possessions litter the verge. Orange safety cones; an ambulance. A fluoro-suited fireman, helmet under arm, casts a glance over his left shoulder at the slaughtered classic.

This article was first published in the November 2008 issue of Street Machine

Ouch! Wayne’s dream of building a sharp XR got off to a rocky start

Not a good day for New Zealander Wayne Jolly. Just 24 hours earlier, Wayne and his fiancée Jane had flown from their home west of Christchurch in the south to New Zealand’s North Island to buy the clean Fairmont. Around 40 kays into the happy road-trip home, disaster struck: a nervous learner driver shied like a startled horse, darting right as Wayne overtook, running the Fairmont off the road.

Jane, in the front passenger seat, was injured in the roll-over. Wayne crawled out relatively unscathed but then had to watch the emergency fellas chop through the Fairmont’s turret to rescue his missus. Needless to say, the car didn’t matter at the time but recalling the situation now almost brings a tear to his eye. He had to watch as the jaws of life destroyed the mint windscreen trim, the only original bling on the Fairmont that wasn’t ripped or shredded in the crash.

The Fairmont was — of course — written off but Wayne bought it back from his insurance company. A couple of months later, when the shock had subsided, he decided he’d fit the mechanicals to another body shell.

“I tried to get a sedan body but nothing came up,” he says. “Then someone rang me about a wagon body outside a shed. It didn’t look too flash — a lot of surface rust and the pans had already been replaced. It had the usual rust in the bottoms of the doors. But worse, it’d had a Nissan diesel installed.

“Thankfully the engine was gone when I picked the car up but the radiator support panel had been hacked out, the engine mounts were different and it had a Toyota Crown shifter in it mounted on a wee box on the floor.”

All in all, the car seemed like a disaster. “Not ideal,” Wayne chuckles, “but I’m glad now that I bought the wagon as it’s a bit different. Ironically, I was offered a few sedan shells after I bought the wagon but you get that!”

The shell was carted home and the work began with a trip to Wayne’s work at the local council for a steam clean and a sandblast to get it all back to bare steel.

“I buckled a couple of panels,” he admits. “Oops! One of them was the roof. We had this new sandblasting machine at work and no-one knew how to use it. I was the guinea pig!”

The roof was straightened out with a bit of hammer work and filler. Wayne’s mate Corey Rose had the nous to fix it. He’s a foreman at Collision Plus in Ashburton and supervised most of Wayne’s enthusiastic body-fixing efforts.

“There’s quite a bit to panel work,” the learner-beater and now wiser Wayne says. “Quite often, I’d think I was smooth and flat and Corey would point out there was still more work required to get things perfect.”

With the body straight to Corey’s satisfaction, Wayne painted everything inside the shut-lines himself and had another mate, Nathan Duffel, put on the exterior colour (from a BA Falcon XR) in his garage.

Several other mates helped Wayne with his vision of an outstanding but useable streeter. Max Cawte powder-coated components such as the suspension and engine bay bits including the wiper motor. Brendan Patrick at Tinwald Canvas & Upholstery proved that his talents stretch beyond tents and campers, finishing the Fairmont buckets with ‘XR’ logos.

Wayne spent up big on a set of 17×8 and 17×9 Foose Legend wheels, wrapped in Kumho rubber. Then he lowered both ends with a King Springs and Koni combination. A fatter front anti-sway bar pulls the wagon flat through the twisties. The front brakes are factory V8 discs. Rechromed bumpers and restored exterior trim — yes, it was difficult to find — gave the reborn classic its final sparkle.

The wagon hit the road (no pun intended!) with the 289ci V8 from the wrecked Fairmont but there has since been another swap. Now it’s a 302ci V8, also XR vintage, rebuilt for more pizzazz by Mike Johnson at Ashburton’s Triangle Garage. The parts-list includes flat-top pistons, a ‘good’ cam, Edelbrock Performer heads, Holley Street Avenger carb and HPC-coated Pacemaker headers.

Since then the Victor Jr intake manifold has been swapped for an Air Gap item to give street drivability through its kitted C4 three-speed auto and rather tall 3.0 diff gears.

“I wanted a bit more punch down low,” Wayne says, “so we went for the Air Gap manifold. The Victor Jr breathes better, but it’s all up high.”

The entire project took 19 months from bought to on-the-road. Eight months were devoted to the body, with the rest of the time spent sourcing parts and finishing in the 6x9m garage at home.

And for a truly happy ending, Jane is now Wayne’s wife and thankfully her injuries weren’t as bad as first thought.


Colour: BA XR Orange

Engine: Windsor 302
Heads: Edelbrock Performer
Pistons: Flat tops
Cam: A good one
Manifold: Edelbrock Air Gap
Carb: Holley Street Avenger
Ignition: MSD
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers with HPC coating
Radiator: Ford V8-spec

Gearbox: C4 three-speed auto with shift kit
Diff: Mustang eight-inch, 3.0:1

Suspension: Koni dampers, King Springs, larger front anti-sway bar
Brakes: Ford V8 (f), drums (r)

Wheels: Foose Legends 17×8 (f), 17×9 (r)
Tyres: Kumho 215/40 (f), 255/40 (r)

Corey Rose, body; Nathan Duffel, paint; Mike Johnson, engine; Andy Skinner, wiring harness; Darcy Prendergast, the boss at work