AS UGLY ducklings go, the poor old AU Falcon is right up there in Aussie motoring lore. Launched to huge fanfare in the late 1990s as the Blue Oval’s answer to the VT Commodore, it was savaged for its controversial ‘edge’ styling that even Blind Freddie would’ve baulked at.
This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Street Machine
However, canny street machiners are now realising that all those dirt-cheap late ’90s Falcons add up to a glut of beaut drivetrains just waiting to be put into Other Cars. While it has been somewhat overshadowed by the DOHC Barra turbo six that replaced it, the AU’s Intech SOHC 4.0-litre straight six has proven in recent years it takes to turbocharging like a journo to cold beer.
You only need to look at Vince Riccotti’s awesome TC Cortina to see the results of going to town on one, with WILDTC spitting out 707hp at the treads! And that was done running LPG, not some race-only rocket fuel.
Jason Ghiller at Tunnel Vision Turbocharging is the man behind the magic figures rolled by WILDTC. He’s developed a huge gas-powered following thanks to the work he’s done on several big-hitting gas cars, including the gas-fuelled turbo six-pot ITUF65 Mustang that has run as quick as 9.2 and as fast as 153mph.
While Vince’s Cortina has gone through a few different identities and rebuilds, this latest transformation has really pushed the boundaries. Starting with a 2000 model AU SOHC six, Jason and Vince strapped a GT42 Garrett turbo to the side on a custom exhaust manifold.
The bottom-end was filled with custom H-beam conrods and SPS pistons, while the crank was left alone. When it came to the cylinder head, the sky was the limit as the cool thing about gas is that there is no such thing as too much, especially on a boosted engine.
With this in mind, Jason ported and polished the head, fitted custom stainless valves and Comp Cams springs and then added a huge, custom forward-facing inlet plenum that is plumbed up to the large polished intercooler sitting between the headlights. While that sounds easy, the truth is it caused its share of headaches.
Jason had to recess the firewall six inches and customise the sump to fit the overhead-cam inline six in the tight Cortina engine bay. The Intech six is fundamentally different to the old 250-cube motor, and the extra length and piping required for the turbo set-up saw WILDTC’s custom radiator banished to underneath the boot floor, where it was paired with a Spal thermo fan.
The rest of the drivetrain is traditional street machine, with a C10 auto and Dominator 2800-stall convertor joined together with the AU powerplant in holy matrimony by a Dellow bellhousing. Jason made a custom tailshaft to join up to the four-pinion BorgWarner diff, fitted with 31-spline Moser axles.
Jason had to customise the sump and firewall dramatically to fit the engine, sectioning the stock AU item around the crossmember
“Without Jason’s guidance the car wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Vince. We reckon he’s selling himself short there as although the drivetrain is impressive, the bodywork is nothing short of stunning.
And that isn’t bad considering the starting point of the car was a $200 dunger that Vince saved from a slow death in a paddock more than 10 years ago. Yes, WILDTC was once headed down the same path to a rusty grave that many Cortinas travelled, but Vince was determined to save this one. “I always liked the coke bottle lines of the TC-TD Cortina,” says the truck driver.
Custom radiator lives beneath the boot floor as there’s no space in the engine bay with the turbo and all the necessary piping
They’re easy to appreciate here, thanks to the stunning job Shane Kerr and Mark Potter at Exotic Customs did on the panel work. Apart from filling dents and rust they smoothed the engine bay before Shawn Potter (also from Exotic Customs) covered the lot in a thick layer of House of Kolor Passion Pearl. It’s a hue that doesn’t look out of place on the Cortina, given similar lairy colours were available on other Ford products back in the day. But they never shone like WILDTC does!
With the outside looking schmick, the inside came in for a full going over by Sam at Auto Image. Cream leather, Scheel bucket seats, custom door trims and centre console and Auto Meter gauges give a traditional street machine look, while Boston Audio and Alpine provide cruising tunes.
Scheel seats were one of the best features of the 80s ESP Falcon. Sam from Auto Image customised Vince’s to bring them into the 21st century
The purple shell is perfectly matched to the Intro Splits 18s, spanning seven inches up front and a meaty nine at the rear. King springs were used to drop the ride height, while Pedders 90/10s and Koni adjustable rear shocks were fitted to control the float. Braking is handled by XF discs and AUIII two-pot calipers up front as they can hide behind the smaller drag wheels when Vince takes the Cortina to the track.
Yep, while it is still being displayed at shows (it has collected six trophies from as many shows, including a Top 60 at Summernats), Vince is also using all the grunt the Cortina makes, trapping 135mph off the trailer at its first outing at Heathcote. A nine-second elite-level street machine? Yes, please!
GO WITH THE FLOW
A TURBO gas set-up makes a lot of sense for people wanting their mega-power engine to have a show-quality look. As a generalisation, LPG requires almost none of the messy plumbing and wiring a conventional petrol engine needs, thanks to its simpler mixing system. One look in WILDTC’s engine bay and you can see how few actual ancillary lines are required to feed the 500kW monster its juice, of which it uses plenty.
You see, unlike petrol, you can’t flood a gas engine with LPG. You can keep adding gas until you run out of airflow and, thanks to the design of the AU Intech six, that ceiling is very high. Vince isn’t on his Pat Malone when it comes to turbo AU donks, with a crop of mega-power SOHC sixes popping up everywhere in the last few years, and in everything from sleeper XE sedans to the nine-second ITUF65 Mustang. And when they’re as cheap and as common as they are, why not?
Another benefit to running these forced-induction mills on gas is that it’s generally easier to get engineering certification and, when it comes to running nine-second turbocharged rides on today’s streets, you need all the help you can get.
1972 FORD CORTINA
Colour: HOK Passion Pearl
Brand: Ford SOHC 4.0-litre six-cylinder
Induction: Tunnel Vision custom plenum, custom Gas Research carburettor
Head: Ported AU Falcon SOHC, custom stainless valves, Comp Cams valve springs
Camshaft: Custom grind
Conrods: Custom H-beams
Cooling: Custom Trikfab with Spal fan
Exhaust: Tunnel Vision custom 4in
Turbo: Garrett GT42
Wastegates: Twin Tial 38mm
Ignition: MSD electric
Gearbox: Ford C10
Convertor: Dominator 2800 hi-stall
Tailshaft: Tunnel Vision chrome-moly custom, Hardy Spicer unis
Diff: BorgWarner 4-pinion LSD, 3.23 gears, 31-spline Moser axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: King (f & r)
Shocks: Pedders 90/10s (f), Koni adjustable (r)
Brakes: 290mm XF rotors, AUIII twin-spot calipers (f), 290mm XF discs, rotors (r)
Master cylinder: One-inch master, twin VH40 boosters
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Intro Splits, 18x7in (f) 18x9in (r)
Rubber: 215/40 Falken (f), 255/35 Falken (r)
Shawn, Shane and Mark at Exotic Customs; Sam at Auto Image; Peg for wiring the entire car; Darren and Pauly at Trikfab; brother-in-law Vin for pushing me to finish the car after 10 years; Andrew at Preston Automatics; Vinney’s Electroplating; a big thanks to Jason at Tunnel Vision for creating and engineering a masterpiece with the limited room he had to work with