Barra-powered XY Fairmont GS

It’s been a long time between drives for Vinnie Tigani and his XY Fairmont, but he’s rapidly making up those lost miles thanks to a stout modern-day driveline

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson

THEY say you never forget your first. Many moons ago, I was a teenage apprentice mechanic at a performance shop, and one of my boss’s best mates owned a beautiful white XY Fairmont running a tough 302 Windsor. Working on that XY was a formative experience for me. It was the first car I heard with a big stall converter and diff dumper exhausts, the first I rolled the guards on, and the first I rode shotgun in while power-skidding up the street.

First published in the December 2021 issue of Street Machine

That boss’s mate was a young Vinnie Tigani, and that beautiful XY was the very car spread across these pages. In the 30 years since those days, a lot has changed with this Fairmont, but then again, there’s plenty that hasn’t.

“When I was a kid, my dad Tony had a white XW sedan, and I fell in love with it,” the Brisbane resident begins. “It was just always there, and when it came to cars, it was all I really knew. Sadly, Dad passed away in a work accident back in 1985 when I was 16. It destroyed me, but we kept that XW and it became my first car. I learnt to drive in it and had complete sentimental attachment to it.

“It was only a 221-cuber with a three-on-the-tree and a bench seat, but I was pretty much like every other teenage P-plater back then burning around in Aussie metal. Unfortunately, youthful exuberance and revving the shit out of the ol’ 221 were a bad combination, and within six months I had pretty much destroyed the car.”

Vinnie decided to try his hand at something more modern, and parted ways with the XW for a black Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo.

He poured plenty of coin into that Cordia, making it look and go like he wanted, but it didn’t fill that void left by his dad’s old XW.

But in 1989, fate intervened. “I was driving home from work one afternoon and spotted a white XY Fairmont in the window at Alex Salter Prestige Cars on Brisbane’s south side,” Vinnie says. “I circled back for a closer look and just knew I had to have this XY. Its recent magazine feature in Performance Street Car was sitting on the back seat, which just took its appeal to the next level, but the salesman wanted ridiculous money for it.”

Vinnie let it go, but couldn’t get the Fairmont out of his head, so he swung by again a couple of weeks later. Thankfully, it was still there, and by now the salesman was eager to move it on, so Vinnie straight-swapped his Cordia for the XY and drove away feeling whole again.

“My mum Rosa was upset that I’d swapped new for old, and my now-wife Kas said, ‘What’s this bogan rubbish; where’s your sports car?’” Vinnie laughs. “But everyone else loved it; my cousins and mates lost their minds, and it became a part of me. It felt right. I was home.”

Over the next few years, the XY scored a few changes. The Top Loader was swapped for a more cruise-friendly C4, the 302 was freshened up with a few more goodies, and some of the aforementioned mods that I had a hand in were carried out.

By 1997, life had got serious for Vinnie. He’d started La Dolce Vita café in Milton with his cousin, and was getting married and buying his first home, so the XY was parked up at his mum’s place with plans to rebuild it sometime in the future. “In 1999 I did sell the engine, gearbox and exhaust to one of my uncle’s mates, but otherwise the XY just sat there for 16 years untouched,” he says.

In 2013, with Vinnie’s family and work commitments starting to plateau, he rang his panel beater Dave Cerra and said it was time. Dave stripped the XY to get things moving, but in 2014, Vinnie’s mum passed away. “Losing Mum just killed my drive,” he admits. “I’d lost my dad at such a young age that she became everything. I just didn’t think about the XY.”

Later that year, Kas and Vinnie’s best mate Dario Pittis reignited his passion for the car and gave him the push he needed to get busy. “Every afternoon when I finished work, I’d drive to Dave’s and be his lackey, doing whatever he needed like paint stripping and such. The white was actually its original paint, and there were only minimal repairs needed to get the shell up to scratch.”

With the body prep sorted, Dave sent the car to Joe and his team at The Bump Shop in Eagle Farm, where painter Troy Swift laid down the glorious PPG Jet Black basecoat before flowcoating the Fairmont in PPG OptiCLEAR. A factory GS stripe in contrasting red was the perfect finishing touch.

Throughout the paint and panel process, Vinnie had been toying with driveline ideas, always planning on a carbied stroker Clevo. But a chance trip to the drags at Willowbank altered those plans.

“An XR6 turbo came out of the lanes and you couldn’t even hear it against the monster V8 rumbling like an earthquake staging against it. I had a chuckle, but the joke was on me when this XR6 took off like a missile and ran a high 10,” Vinnie recalls. “From that point on I realised that a turbo Barra was exactly what I wanted for the XY. I’d read about Lee Bloom from Real Dyno Performance, so I spoke to him about converting and engineering the car, and he was happy to take on the project.”

Vinnie sourced a BF Series II XR6 Falcon as a donor car. Its 120,000km Barra donk was simply treated to the proven upgrades of head studs, Crow valve springs, billet oil pump gears and larger 1000cc injectors, with the factory T35/40 turbo left in situ but aided by a Process West intercooler nestled in the XY’s flanks. The result? A cool 517hp at the hubs – more than ample for Vinnie’s needs.

The stock ZF automatic transmission was given a shot but only lasted a few months under Vinnie’s heavy right foot. It’s since been upgraded to a Stage 2 ZF and 2800rpm stall converter from Monsta Torque in Perth. The diff is the nine-inch from the car’s first incarnation, now running 3.0:1 gears and 28-spline axles.

Part of the conversion process involved a switch to rack-and-pinion steering and the addition of an underdash brake master cylinder and booster kit, all from RRS. The brakes themselves and remaining suspension componetry are rebuilt Ford items, albeit with a two-inch drop.

Those 1980s chrome 12-slots just weren’t going to cut it in the Fairmont’s new guise, so Vinnie went with 15×7 and 15×10 Center Line Auto Drags, decked out with 215/60 and 255/60 rubber respectively.

The interior is a harmonious blend of old and new. Autotechnica retro low-back buckets were chosen for the front, while the rear seat is the factory Fairmont item still wearing its 1971 trim. The XY GS steering wheel fronts a GT dash cluster that has been converted by Real Dyno Performance to run Barra-friendly Speedhut gauges. A custom console houses the donor BF XR6 shifter, and a RetroSound head unit sorts the cruising tunes.

“It was finished by Easter of 2019, but then COVID hit and I couldn’t drive it,” Vinnie says. “But now I mainly go cruising with my son Daniel or my mates. The beauty of the turbo Barra is that it can be grandpa-docile, but when you get the shits it turns into a fire-breathing dragon without all the aspo V8 drama. I love to take it Lakeside and give it a hit, but I can also start it at 6am on a Sunday and not piss the neighbours off.

“The hardware is there to switch it to E85, so the only real future plan is to try and run a high 10 at the drags. Then it’s ‘job done’; I’ll just drive it and enjoy it. Maybe I’ll do my kids’ weddings with it too, but no doubt they’ll want to use something boring like a Ferrari instead!”

We wouldn’t be too sure about that, Vinnie!


Colour: PPG Jet Black
Make: BF Falcon 4.0L Barra
Block: Factory 
Crank: Standard
Camshaft: FG Falcon XR6
Valve springs: Crow 
Injectors: 1000cc
Exhaust: Catalytic converter-back twin 2.5in system
Cooling: Modified BF Falcon radiator and thermo fans 
Gearbox: Monsta Torque Stage 2 ZF automatic
Converter: Monsta Torque 2800rpm stall
Diff: Factory XY 9in, 3.0:1 gears
Front: Rebuilt factory, 2in-lowered King Springs, Sachs shocks
Rear: Standard semi-elliptical, 2in-lowered King Springs, Pedders shocks
Brakes: XC Falcon discs (f), drums (r)
Master cylinder: Under-dash RRS and booster
Steering: RRS rack-and-pinion
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15×7 (f), 15×10 (r)
Tyres: Vitour Galaxy 215/60R15 (f), Sonar 255/60R15 (r)

My panel beater David Cerra; Lee, Paula and the team at Real Dyno Performance; Joe, Troy and all the boys at The Bump Shop; Tim at Tbass who sorted the interior; Josh and Scott at Purnell tyres; Brodie and Quinton at QR Electrical; anyone else I’ve forgotten to mention – your help was greatly appreciated!