Adam LeBrese’s SMOTY-winning 1978 Ford XC GS Falcon – flashback

Adam LeBrese’s XC Falcon coupe is meaner than a junkyard dog

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

Adam LeBrese now joins Gary Myers as only the second person to win Valvoline Street Machine Of The Year twice, once in a Holden and now in a Ford. Back in 2003 it was his game-changing EH sedan delivery that won in a landslide victory. This year it was a much tighter race, but once the dust had settled, our Telf was off on another jaunt to Queensland to deliver the trophy and hand over the 15 large.

This article on Adam’s XC coupe was first published in the December 2012 issue of Street Machine

When you think about it, Adam’s achievements are pretty damned impressive. Two SMOTY wins, plus the reader-voted Ultimate Street Machine Of All Time award in 2011, then Australia’s Most Impressive Custom Car at MotorEx 2011, which took the coupe off to SEMA in Las Vegas. Not bad for an ex-Bobcat driver!

Yet when it came to winning SMOTY a second time, Adam was more surprised than anyone: “To be honest, I thought one of the Monaros was going to top me because this car didn’t seem to have the appeal that the EH did. A lot of people would come up and say: ‘I love the car but the EH is my favourite.’

“I’m happier with the hardtop; I feel I’ve achieved good things with it. I’ve improved myself as a car builder with it but it’s not the EH. I think the EH is special for us too, just because it was our first one.”

There’s no denying that Adam’s learnt a lot in the past 10 years when it comes to building killer street machines, and he’s obviously onto a winning formula.

“I saw the car in my head half way through the build of the EH and I had to make it happen. I just didn’t know how it was going to happen. When you strip a car down, you don’t look at it as the whole car; it would be overwhelming.

“Your design and foresight have to be on a grand scale but when you go to hammer into it, if you think: ‘Oh my God, I’ve got all this work to do,’ you’ll never do it. You’ve got to split it up into categories.

“The front-end and chassis were the first major things, then the whole car was off after that. It’s just discipline. I’m just a normal person, I’ve just got to sit back and work at it.”

He hasn’t had a lot of chances to get behind the wheel yet but already he’s pretty happy with how it goes.

“We’ve driven it two or three times, once out here really hard, and it goes! We’ve had it in third gear on the rev limiter, hazing the tyres. That was in between the paint changes. I thought: ‘We’re going to paint this, so I’m going for it!’ Got about 150 stone chips!”

Although Adam wasn’t really sold on the car’s previous silver finish, his hand was forced when the car copped some damage on the way back from the US: “That’s why we repainted it. Customs damaged the undercarriage — which was a full teardown and rotisserie job to fix — so that’s why we just thought: ‘Screw it!’ It was trim out, glass out, everything out.

“To me, when it was silver it just looked like a luxo-barge. It didn’t have that appeal I wanted. With black you lose all the detail and shape; you see the wobbles in it. It’s just like a black pit. When we painted the jambs white I knew we weren’t getting away with anything. Then I thought: ‘Why did I paint it white?’”

The decision to go with white wasn’t made until the very last minute. There were a few trips around the colour wheel. Occasionally it would slow down as it wobbled through the bronze spectrum but it kept going back around to silver.

“The car I was worried about was Foose’s TERRACUDA. That was nearly a colour we mixed up but it was going to look too similar. We just went right around the colour chart and ended up going back to silver.

“Finally, I just said: ‘I’ll be happy to do it white.’ I’ve always loved white and that’s how it came around.

“It’s pearl white, even though I told iCandy Custom Resprays it had to be a base white. The painter did a test panel and it had pearl in it. He goes: ‘That’s the only white that HOK does.’ Then I rang up Owen to order the paint and Brent yells out: ‘Don’t forget the Silver Streak!’ I said: ‘What’s Silver Streak?’ and he said: ‘That’s the pearl you throw into the paint.’ They tricked me into that but I’m glad they did. It just seems to show the shell a lot better; the sharpness of it, the straightness of it.”

The painted-out bonnet is one of many inspired touches. It really looks at home on the big coupe and does a pretty good job of minimising the impact of that hefty bonnet bulge. It’s a feature that Adam had planned all along but time was against him when he had to make the debut at MotorEx 2011.

“It was always going to have Galaxy Grey on it but we ran out of time with the silver — we just had no time, so we painted the whole car silver and the day before the show we masked out the satin silver area, and satined it before MotorEx. One day I’m going to build a car I can show when the paint’s dry!”

Breaking up the big expanse of satin grey is a massive billboard for the stroker Cleveland — 393ci of Ford’s finest. Most people would assume that it’s a vinyl sticker, but it’s a completely hand-masked and beautifully blended piece of art. To tie in with the wheels, the gold shadowing is the same colour as the wheel centres, and like most things on this car, there’s a story in that too.

“It’s a custom hue that we mixed up on the day we needed it. Brent rings me up and says: ‘We need that gold for the wheels.’ I said: ‘We haven’t even decided on a colour.’

“I think half an hour later we had decided on the colour, run down to the paint shop and had two or three litres of it mixed. He had to do the bonnet first, so we were all pretty relaxed because we didn’t have to paint the wheels until last but he said: ‘No, I need it for the numbers!’”

The 20×8½ and 22×10 Intro Vista IIs are the same rims that were on the car before but with a whole new look thanks to that custom paint — and a scouring pad.

“What we did was weld a nine-inch to a jig. There was no centre but it had the axle with a bearing and I bolted the wheel to that. Then I got an exercise bike up against it and had my son Seth pedal while I did the machine finish with a Scotchbrite pad. I don’t know too many people who can fit a 22-inch wheel in a lathe.

“The car’s minimal, the whole less is more approach. No air conditioning, no digital airbag stuff. It’s all pneumatic — you actually open a valve with your hand. Everything runs off bell cranks or cables; there’re no poppers or crap. The most high-tech thing in the car is the 6AL ignition.”

It might be low on tech but it’s high on impact and off the scale for appeal, that’s obvious. Now it’s finished, Adam can get back to working on some customer cars, and you can bet there will some amazing stuff rolling out the door.


Paint:HOK Galaxy Grey on Pearl White
Type:Cleveland 393ci
Inlet:Redline Quattro
Carb:Weber 48IDA x4
Heads:Edelbrock Performer RPM
Conrods:SCAT I-beam
Radiator:Alloy PWR radiator
Exhaust:Side exit
Ignition:MSD Pro Billet, 6AL
Box:Tremec six-speed
Clutch:Mal Wood single-plate
Diff:Nine-inch, LSD, 4.11s, 28-spline axles
Front end:Custom tubular IFS
Shocks:Shockwave airbags (f), air cylinders (r)
Steering:Torana rack
Brakes:Alcon 389mm discs with six-piston calipers (f&r) with bias adjustment
Master cylinder & pedal box:Wilwood
Rims:Intro Vista II 20×8.5 (f), 22×10 (r)
Rubber:245/35 (f), 285/35 (r)

Everyone who voted for me! Owen Webb at House Of Kolor; Chris Morris at Showwheels; Brent and Lincoln at iCandy Custom Resprays; Michael and Chris Palazzo at Rocket Industries; James Foden at Foden Designs; Adam Laird for the trim; Craig Rose; Steve Malcolm; Chris McGrath; Mark Rimon; Rodney Collis; Anthony Carmody; Aeroflow and of course, Alisha, Seth and Jensen.