Born again XP Falcon hardtop

This early-80s show car was saved and brought back badder than ever

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

Buying someone else’s project car can be a recipe for disaster, with hidden issues and dodgy work threatening to kill the good times. But Vince Livaditis’s experience with his ’65 XP Falcon coupe has proved to be quite the opposite.

First published in the December 2021 issue of Street Machine

“I’d seen the car around the traps for quite a few years, and as an early Falcon fan, I fell in love with it,” Vince says. “I’d owned an XP sedan many years ago and I love the styling. After that I bought a 265 Hemi Valiant VG hardtop and stuck a 500hp, 408ci Mopar small-block in it so it ran low 11s, but someone bought that off me. Then this car came up for sale and I had to have it.”

While Vince didn’t take the XP and build it from a rusty original car, his Falcon’s history is something to behold, and something he savours today. “It was a show car in the early 80s when Peter Lawson’s brother built and owned it,” he explains. “In the 1990s, Peter found it on Gumtree some 10 years after his brother sold it, and bought it for $3000. He mothballed it until 2015, when he decided to bring it back.”

Many street machines and customs didn’t survive the 80s and 90s, back when they were just cheap cars, but the XP still had excellent bones. Although the car changed hands several times while on the comeback trail, nobody lost sight of the need to preserve its 80s street-car styling.

“Those radiused guards are what they did back in the 80s, and I love them now,” Vince says. “They’re done using XM Falcon front guard openings, and I think they’re more tasteful than those huge round radius jobs. Plus, it’s the only way to get the wheels on and off! Aside from the rear guards, the body is pretty original, apart from the reverse-cowl.”

Meanwhile, under the XP’s skin, Peter switched the stock leaf springs for a McDonald Brothers four-link, to which RRS coil-over struts were added to match the RRS coil-over front end. The sloppy stock steering box was swapped out for one of RRS’s steering rack set-ups, working on a Castlemaine Rod Shop column, while RRS also supplied the VT Commodore twin-pot disc brake upgrade.

The rear brakes are Oldsmobile discs hiding behind the Champion Stripster 15×9 wheels and Maxxis 265/50 black donuts on the back, with 15x4s wrapped in Nankang 165/80s on the front.

“I’ve seen photos of the car in bare metal and it didn’t need any rust repairs; you could see all the lead-wiped joins and it was original,” says Vince, who notes that Peter didn’t restore the car exactly as his brother had built it originally. “The car was a burgundy colour back in the 1980s, but Peter wanted something to pop, so he painted it Mazda Velocity Red.”

Another thing that makes the car pop is the stout Windsor between the front chassis rails. While Vince’s XP left the factory with a 170ci six, its first rebuild in the 80s saw a bent-eight powerplant given the nod.

“Peter’s brother put a 302 Windsor in it back in the early 80s, which Peter says was quite a task given the aftermarket was a fraction of the size it is today, with not much available off the shelf,” Vince explains. “After starting the restoration, Peter sold the Falcon as a roller to Jason White, who fitted the 363ci Windsor and drivetrain in it, and I got it off Jason a couple of years ago.”

While it used to run around with a mild 302, the Falcon has 495rwhp on offer these days. Based on a Dart Windsor, it displaces 363ci thanks to 4.125-inch-bore SRP slugs, a 3.4-inch stroker Scat crank and 5.4-inch Scat rods. The cam is a Comp solid-roller with 0.672 lift, while the heads are 58cc RHS alloy units filled with Ferrea 2.08-inch intake and 1.6-inch exhaust valves.

“I’ve raced Super Karts at 230km/h with my bum an inch off the ground, but this car scares the pants off me,” Vince laughs. “It blows the tyres off in any gear and it keeps revving and revving, and it’s a really well-built engine. My engine builder just did the new valvetrain and got it going even better.”

Behind the SBF is a 5000rpm Dominator converter and Bob Grant-built C4 auto, with a tough nine-inch living out back. The third member has been stuffed with all the good gear, like billet 35-spline axles and a mini-spool, but Vince reckons the 4.86 gears will get the chop soon. “I want to put some taller diff gears in it, maybe 3.9s, because it’s revving too hard on the highway,” he says. “We’ll be upgrading the cooling system and maybe eventually do another paintjob to get it show quality. I am also keen to do Drag Challenge in this car.”

Hey, we’d like to see that happen too, Vince!


Paint: Mazda Velocity Red 
Brand: Dart Windsor 363ci
Induction: Edelbrock single-plane
Carb: Holley 950 XP
Heads: RHS 58cc alloy
Camshaft: Comp solid-roller
Conrods: Scat 5.4in
Pistons: SRP 4.125in 
Crank: Scat 3.4in stroker
Oil system: High-volume ASR sump
Fuel system: Holley Black HP 200gph
Cooling: Custom radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust: Custom headers, twin 3in system
Ignition: MSD
Gearbox: Bob Grant C4
Converter: Dominator 5000rpm
Diff: 9in, Strange Engineering centre, mini-spool, Strange 35-spline billet
axles, 4.86:1 gears 
Front: RRS coil-over struts, RRS steering rack
Rear: RRS coil-over struts, McDonald Brothers four-link
Brakes: RRS two-piston discs, (f), Oldsmobile discs (r)
Master cylinder: PBR 
Rims: Champion Stripster; 15×4 (f), 15×9 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80 (f), Maxxis 265/50 (r)

Peter Lawson and Jason White for building the car; Zoran from ZOK Race Carbs for all the engine work; Brian from Pedders Geebung for sorting the suspension; Adam from Red Devil Radiators Lawnton for the custom radiator and providing the space for the photoshoot; my wife Vicky, who co-owns the car with me