Top 60 Wild Plum XA Ford Fairmont

Ashley Bell’s XA Fairmont went from grandpa-spec to a Wild Plum stunner in under 12 months!

Photographers: Ben Hosking

We love a long-running muscle car rivalry. Ford diehards, for example, still argue over which model marked the peak of the third-generation Falcon – XA, XB or XC?

First published in the March 2024 issue of Street Machine

For Ashley Bell, it’s XA all the way, which is why in 2021 she sold her XC to build this gorgeous, Summernats Top 60-certified XA Fairmont as a counterpart to the XB GS built and owned by her partner, Michael Stivala of Hoon Customs (SM, Apr ’15). “Some people think it’s Michael’s car with a new paint scheme, which is funny,” Ash says. “We wanted them to match, but I like XAs more, so we built my car as a GS to complement the XB!”

Ash and Michael spent about a month scouting for the perfect starting point for the project. “We were literally about to buy one in Sydney that was pretty good, but it was just a Falcon 500 six-cylinder,” Ash says. “If it was going to be a six-cylinder we started with, I wanted it to be a factory Fairmont.” A two-owner gem in Tasmania ticked all the boxes – a six-pot survivor still wearing its original Pottery Beige paint. “The car came with the original sales receipt, logbooks and handwritten notes of everything ever done to it,” Ash grins.

Body-wise, Ash reckons this XA was one of the straightest unrestored cars around. “It was pretty much rust-free; there were a couple of tiny specks, but you’re never going to find one with nothing in it,” she says. “So many people begged us to leave it alone or buy a rusty shell or project car. We didn’t want something we were going to strip back and find a wreck underneath. We may have upset a few purists and past owners, but I think we’ve given the car the justice it deserves!”

The other half of Hoon Customs, Michael’s brother John Stivala, tidied up the undercarriage and engine bay before nailing the panel gaps, and Michael laid down the DeBeer Wild Plum, which was an optional hue in the XA range. “A lot of people think it’s a custom colour,” Ash says. “Even now people message me about it. When you do see them in this colour, they’re normally GTs with all the black parts, so it looks a bit different like this.”

A set of GS stripes were sprayed over the top in Diamond Pearl White, and Con Constantinou from Option 10 Windback Sunroofs supplied one of his sweet wind-backs to enhance the XA’s 70s coolness.

Michael’s XB packs a Jason Mansweto-built 351 Clevo, and Ash has taken a similar route with her Fairmont. Jason paired a stock bottom end with a Crow hydraulic cam running Ferrea valves in cast 2V open-chamber heads, with a Holley 650 double-pumper up top. A billet front dress from March Performance holds all the accessories, including a Vintage Air air con system.

Although Jason reckons it’s a “very mild” engine compared to his usual fare, it’s still good for 411hp and 420lb-ft of torque, sending that grunt via a C4 auto to a Pro Street Metalcraft shortened nine-inch with 3.55 gears. Viking coil-overs feature on both ends, helping the untubbed Fairmont tuck 20×8.5 and 20×10 Simmons FRs, with 275-wide rubber out back.

Ash had locked in the XA’s colour scheme years before even starting the project, and she and Michael set about applying as much Wild Plum as possible. There’s heaps of colour-coding throughout the engine bay and underneath, including the engine block, sump, subframes, shocks and more. Smaller details include braided, heat-resistant ignition lead sleeves sourced from a computer parts supplier, and even a pink-ish K&N air filter element.

The pink-and-white combo inside is a major focal point, though Ash describes the tartan highlights as one of her very few last-minute decisions. “I do apparel printing, so I designed the pattern and had it made,” she says. “It’s similar to a Volkswagen Golf plaid. I was just going to do plain white trim, but when it went off to the trimmer, I started thinking more about it! I asked [the trimmer] Angie’s opinion, and she said, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it.’”

The car’s strong bones and Ash’s clear design brief helped her and Michael achieve the super-quick turnaround for Street Machine Summernats 36, despite both of them operating businesses full-time. “We stripped the car on New Year’s Eve in 2022,” she says. “John started repairs in February 2023, so it took less than 12 months to build the car, with only a few hands on deck.”

With its striking finish and attention to detail, the XA was a no-brainer for the Meguiar’s Great Uncover at Summernats, and a Top 60 placing. “It was great to show off the car for the first time that way,” Ash enthuses. “I noticed there were swarms of people around it non-stop, so that was a good feeling, and I was surprised how many men loved the car!”

Ash and Michael have an EF XR8 waiting in the wings as their next project, but for now, she’s simply enjoying the XA as much as possible, including a planned trip from Sydney to Melbourne for MotorEx under the car’s own power. “We’ll see how we go,” she laughs. “Summernats was the first and last time I wanted to trailer it!”


Colour:DeBeer Wild Plum
Type:351ci Ford Cleveland
Carb:Holley 650cfm double-pumper
Induction:Edelbrock Performer
Heads:Ford 2V open-chamber
Camshaft:Crow hydraulic
Oil pump:Melling
Fuel system:Carter mechanical pump
Cooling:XA V8 radiator, EF Falcon thermo fans
Exhaust:Pacemaker extractors, 2.5in twin system
Converter:Dominator 3200rpm
Diff:9in, Truetrac centre, 3.55:1 gears
Front:Viking coil-overs
Rear:Viking adjustable coil-overs
Brakes:Wilwood discs and four-piston calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder:XA GT
Rims:Simmons FR; 20×8.5 (f), 20×10 (r)
Rubber:225/35R20 (f), 275/30R20 (r)

My partner Michael and his brother John at Hoon Customs; Tony Naughton at DeBeer; Jason at Mansweto Racing; Angie’s Custom Trim; Gary’s Motor Trimming; Con at Option 10 Sunroofs and Pro Street Metalcraft; Sam Green Restorations; Damien at Lowe Fabrications; Mitch at Pylec; George at GT Autobody Restorations; Callum at Adept Metal Polishing; Rob at RL Pro Car Care; Dean at Elite White Walls; Jayson at Autolac Industries; Michelle at Rare Spares; Ray Elia (KNG GPA).