THE XY Falcon GT is the quintessential Aussie muscle car. No other home-grown tin-top before or since has captured the hearts and minds of enthusiasts and investors in quite the same way. We look back at Paul Cassar’s stunner which was our cover car from June 2014.
The model is forever etched into Australian motorsport folklore, thanks in no small part to the efforts of some Canadian bloke who steered it to Bathurst and Australian Touring Car Championship victories in 1971 and 1973 respectively.
Pristine, low-kilometre examples of the homologation special Phase III variant have been known to fetch prices in the realm of $750,000, and as a result, values of lesser XY models have also skyrocketed. Genuine GTs are now unobtainable for most enthusiasts, prompting a wave of replica builds.
In fact, it’s been said that there are significantly more XY GTs these days than the 1557 originally built by Ford, as building replicas has become an industry all its own, fuelled by an insatiable demand from punters longing to have their very own ‘GT’ parked in the shed. That being said, very few can hold a candle to Paul Cassar’s magnificent example.
It may come as a surprise to learn that such an inspired tribute to the XY GT legend is owned by a bloke who openly confesses to being a Holden man. “I’ve been a Holden and HSV fan most of my life and have had my fair share of Commodores and Clubbies,” says Paul. “But I’ve always had a soft spot for Aussie muscle cars in general, especially XW and XY Falcons. There’s something about the classic shape and the raw sound and grunt of a V8 that gives me tingles, and they remind me of cars my uncles and cousins had when I was younger.”
In the end, Paul was compelled to jump the fence when he married into a family whose blood ran true blue. “It was only a matter of time before I’d have to toe the line and purchase a classic Ford,” he says. “Before I knew it, my father-in-law and I jumped on a plane, and then I was driving home from Sydney to Melbourne in an XW GT replica. I really enjoyed that car – I drove it everywhere, and it turned heads constantly.”
Paul grew very attached indeed to his XW, but when the opportunity presented itself to get hold of an XY and build it from the ground up exactly as he wanted, it was too good to pass up.
Paul is a building surveyor by trade and was assisting a mate by the name of Michael Agius with the planning of a construction project. Michael is the owner of an award-winning Track Red XY called HIGEAR, and inevitably, the topic of conversation turned to cars.
“He told me about a really clean XY Fairmont he wanted to sell, and my immediate response was: ‘Show me this car,’ as I know how fussy Michael is and the level of workmanship he puts into his creations,” Paul says.
“There it was: a bare body in high-fill. I knew that this car would tum out to be something special and I had full faith in Michael to produce a car that I could enjoy for years, so we made a deal. Michael would spray and assemble the car, and I would organise and fund the running gear. There was no way that car was getting a stock 351.”
Since the body had already been seen to by Michael, the first call that had to be made was the choice of paint colour. Paul had long been a fan of the iconic Falcon hue Wild Violet, but Michael suggested a custom-mixed Electric Blue that he reckoned would look an absolute treat with white interior and orange GT stripes. Paul didn’t take much convincing; he gave the nod and Michael went to town on the shell.
With the styling decided on, Paul had a chat with Eugene from Flowcraft Race Engines about a suitable combo to power the beast. Having already vowed that a stock Clevo would never find its way between the rails, Paul settled on a standard-stroke, solid-cammed 351, with Ross forged pistons, Scat rods, 4MA crank, Trick Flow alloy heads, Edelbrock Air Gap manifold and Holley Street Ultra HP carby. On the engine dyno it produced 502hp on the first pull, before jetting adjustments and further tuning yielded a credible 520hp at the crank.
The C10 auto was shipped off to Ray Caruana who rebuilt it, fitted a stage-two shift kit and prescribed a Dominator 4200rpm stall converter. A disc-brake nine-inch diff was sourced from a Fairlane, and then Adrian from Taverna Chassis shortened it. The housing was then painted in two-pack, and fitted with new bearings, 3.9:1 gears, and a rebuilt centre and calipers.
Wheels can make or break any car, and Paul says this was probably the hardest decision he had to make. “With my other projects I have always been able to take the car down to the wheel centre and try different wheels against it,” he says. “This time I had to just go with my gut feeling and a bit of Photoshop on my PC.”
Chris and Tony from Showwheels sorted Paul out with their latest catalogue, and after much deliberation he locked in the Intro SW3s. “Once we got them fitted I was really happy with them. They looked great; they finished off the car perfectly and I knew that I was one of the first in Australia to have them.”
The build was progressing quickly, but as the deadline of the 2013 Geelong All Ford Day loomed ever-closer, there were plenty of late nights and skinned knuckles as Michael and Paul thrashed to get the car finished in time. In the end, they had a win.
“The car made the show and attracted a lot of attention as the colour combo of Electric Blue, white trim and orange GT stripes wasn’t very common,” Paul says. “To Michael’s credit and everyone else who helped put this car together, it was awarded runner-up in the category of Best XW-XY.”
It’s since gone on to score trophies for Best Overall at Westfad Car Show and Best Modified at Keilor Village Car Show, and Paul is keen as mustard to take it to Summernats.
But it begs the question: has Paul’s love affair with Falcons turned him off Holdens and onto Henrys for good? “Not really; I just love muscle cars,” he says. “I still own a couple of HSVs and a ’57 Chev, so to me it doesn’t matter if it’s American or Aussie, Ford or Holden – as long as it’s tough.”