351 Cleveland-Powered 1973 Ford XA Fairmont Wagon

It's heavy metal from start to finish with Darren Condy's Ford XA wagon

Photographers: Cristian Brunelli

There’s no plastic in Darren Condy’s 1973 Ford XA Fairmont Wagon, as you’d expect from a heavy metal drummer

This article on Darren’s XA wagon was originally published in the April 2000 issue of Street Machine

MELBOURNE’S Darren Condy loves metal — heavy metal, death metal and cars made from metal. None of that plastic crap for this bloke. You can also tell Darren likes to do things a little differently — when was the last time you saw a modified XA station wagon? Especially one as good as this. It couldn’t stand out more if it tried.

Darren’s love affair with the wagon started early in life — he bought it at the tender age of 16.

“It was my first car; I paid $1000 for it,” he says. Owned by an old bloke, the wagon had been lovingly cared for in its early years unlike so many other family trucksters you find.

“He was very thorough in explaining how much it hurt him to part with this car.”

Originally painted a dark shade called Jewel Green, with a 302 Clevo heart, the XA was plenty of car for a young bloke and Darren spent the next two years doing it up before he got his licence.

“It was a grandad machine, so I wanted to make it stand out. It had these big Mack truck-style mudflaps on it. They were the first things to come off. Then my parents put it on gas for me, as an 18th birthday present,” he says.

Playing the drums in a band means you need some spacious transport and Darren’s dad reckoned the wagon was a good choice for travelling to gigs and carrying his drum kit.

Over the years, as with most young blokes, the hunger for power and speed became insatiable. A trip to Summernats 2000 lit the light bulb in Darren’s head and he knew it was time to dump the LPG and give the wagon a full-metal makeover.

Darren works for Peter Stevens, a huge Melbourne-based bike network, modifying Harley-Davidsons. He knows his way around a set of spanners, so the wagon was soon laid bare.

The wagon’s shell was pretty clean, with just a little tin-worm to cut out of the rear quarters. A mate re-skinned the double-action tailgate with a smooth sheet, removing the dicky original window winder. With good mates Mikez and Tom lending a hand, the boys got stuck into it. Darren came up with the groovy flame design on the bonnet, Tom filled in the engine bay holes and other bodywork and Mikez blew the custom green paint over the whole lot.

Velour inserts were stitched into the seats and a set of Convo Pros with appropriately sized rubber were bolted underneath. The whole job took about nine months from start to finish and all of a sudden the wagon wasn’t a grandad car anymore.

You’d think that with a passion for music and plenty of room inside, Darren would have packed the XA full of trick stereo gear but that’s not the case. There’s a basic Clarion CD in the dash with cheap speakers providing cruising tunes. Like many V8 owners, Darren prefers the music from the Pacemaker headers and three-inch system.

Wedging a 4.11:1-geared nine-inch under the bum and throwing in a three-grand converter, Darren used a healthy 600thou cam and Weiand tunnel ram to push the big wagon down the quarter in 14.2 seconds. Not bad for a heavy barge with small cubes but the stress of the large-lift cam on the stock valvetrain proved too much after a while and the baby Clevo ate a valve.

With other priorities and a hole in his pocket, the wagon had to wait five years before a new motor could be pieced together. Using the original 302 block, Mikez filled the guts with a 351 crank and rods for more cubes. With 4V closed chamber heads up top, the forged pistons had to be machined to drop the squeeze to a more reasonable 10:1 comp, and a big solid Crow cam got the nod. The most noticeable feature is the Weiand 4V tunnel ram poking through the bonnet sporting twin 600 Holleys.

Those 4V heads moved the powerband further up the rev range, so a bigger 4500rpm converter was needed in the modded C10 trans. It’s a pretty healthy set-up and we witnessed the big green beastie pumping 304.6hp to the tyres at Summernats 20. If that doesn’t excite you, then how about a quarter-mile figure around the 12.4sec mark? Not bad for a full-steel behemoth.

When the loud pedal hits the floor, the wagon squats so hard that the front wheel nearly pops off the ground. Darren would love to stick a big-cube big-block between the towers after seeing the figures that Trick and Mansweto pulled at Summernats but that’ll only happen when he has more folding stuff.

Whatever happens with the XA, one thing is certain: the wagon will always have a tunnel ram on it. “I love my rammed engines.”


Darren loves his music – especially death metal. “I live and breathe the shit, it’s like listening to a Top Fueller,” he says.

As mentioned, Darren plays the drums – in death metal band, Potential Citizens. The five band members are also members of the informal Full Metal Jacket Car Club, a bunch of car-orientated mates who hook up at shows like Summernats, and for cruises around the Melbourne area.


Colour: Custom green

Engine: Cleveland 351
Carb: Twin 600 Holleys
Manifold: Weiand 4V tunnel ram
Heads: 4V closed chamber
Pistons: Forged, machined to 10:1 comp
Crank: Cast
Cam: Crow
Ignition: ProComp Billet
Exhaust: Pacemaker four-into-one headers, three-inch single system

Transmission: Modified C10
Converter: 4500rpm Dominator
Diff: Nine-inch, 4.11 gears, full spool

Brakes: All standard
Springs: Pedders (f), stock lowered (r)
Shocks: Pedders (f&r)
Bushes: Nolathane & rubber

Wheel: GS factory
Seats: Stock, with velour inserts
Gauges: VDO
Stereo: Clarion
Shifter: B&M Megashifter

Rims: Center Line Convo Pro, 3.5×15 (f), 8.5×15 (r)
Rubber: 155/15 (f), 265/15 (r)