Barra turbo-powered Ford EL Falcon XR6

Back in the day, Tony Balalovski had the world’s first BA Falcon XR6 turbo conversion — and it was a beauty!

Photographers: Cristian Brunelli

GIVE it a few more years and we’ll be finding Ford’s current turbo powerhouse shoe-horned into anything with a blue oval badge. The XR6 power-train is already reaching cult status among turbo fans and with 320-odd ponies in stock trim it’s easy to see why.

This article on Tony Balalovski’s EL Falcon was originally published in the March 2005 issue of Street Machine

Tony Balalovski knows all about it. His EL Falcon has picked up half a dozen awards, including State Champion Ford gong at Melbourne’s 2004 Holden vs Ford Show and Top Ford at the 2004 Melbourne Auto Salon. It lays down 533hp at the treads, yet drives like a factory car. We reckon he’s among the first to undertake what many will do.

“I haven’t seen another like this,” ponders Tony. “I’m sure we’ll start seeing more conversions popping up as the engines become available though. I wanted to do something a little different so I thought I’d get in first on this deal. The guys at the local Ford dealership said it wouldn’t fit. We proved them wrong!”

Tony wanted to turbo-charge the EL from day one — and did so with the original single cam engine. “It had a computer, front-mount cooler, roller-bearing turbo etc. The car went really well and still had a stock bottom end. It was making 400hp at the treads on 15psi boost. I got a real good offer on the engine so I sold it but didn’t really think about what I was going to do, so luckily we got this in.

“We found it at a local wrecker,” he explains. “There was a brand new XR6 turbo some bloke had stolen from the dealership and crashed and burned. I only wanted the block and head anyway.” Tony’s best mate, Brad Link, tragically passed away last year — but not before he built Tony a tough engine.

Still a four-litre, the block was O-ringed, got a set of SPS forged pistons and had the factory rods shot-peened. The standard oiling system is known to be more than capable at this power range. One problem area when extracting power from the Barra donk is the valve springs. Head Stud Developments supplied replacements springs and valves while Brad bashed away at the ports.

Hanging off the custom fabricated extractor manifold is a big-banger Garrett GT40 turbo, rated at 800hp. The stock unit is a smaller Garrett but Tony didn’t have the word ‘standard’ in his vocabulary. Large Rochester injectors and a Bosch Motorsport pump beef up the fuel system and a Wolf 3D computer ensures nothing is going to go wrong under the bonnet.

The XR6 runs a trick fly by wire throttle control — there’s no accelerator cable or conventional throttle body. Tony says: “We had to fit an accelerator cable and add an XF throttlebody instead. We originally had a custom inlet manifold with twin 40mm throttles but it never ran right. In the end I bit the bullet and purchased the current Nizpro Cobra plenum. We’re still tuning but Peter Kacurov, from Rank Rotary, is confident we’ll see more than 650hp on high boost.”

The swap was quite straightforward as the guys were keeping in the Ford bloodline. “The only modification needed was to modify the engine crossmember for sump clearance,” says Tony. They also cut a hole in the bonnet due to the additional height of the front of the rocker cover.

So how does she feel over the original set-up? “It’s stronger all round; it definitely revs harder. You can feel the cams kick in but it sounds so smooth and refined. It starts, idles and drives like a stock car. A major difference on these engines over the AU is the variable cam timing and we’re still sorting that out. We know there’s a lot more power left in this set-up to come,” he reckons.

Like many owners of high performance, manually shifted cars, Tony has had his share of gearbox woes. “Oh mate, I’ve busted three ’boxes in three weeks. I’m using the T5 ’box and there’s no real simple way of strengthening it without spending a lot of money on custom parts. It was fine with the previous engine. I love the manual shift but it’s no fun breaking parts, not to mention hurting the bank account, so I’m looking at an auto: a C-series tranny or a Powerglide perhaps.”

The rest of the EL is pretty schmick too. Race Paint carried out a full re-spray — that Red Ice Pearl wasn’t just layered over the top.

“The front bar is a one-piece, one-off custom mould from Jetspeed, so I’d better not smash it!” Tony says. A set of 20-inch BSA wheels wear a chrome coating. “We had to modify the front stub axles and use narrow 225/35 tyres to make them fit but I’m just about to fit wider 245 rubber on the back.”

Tony was stoked with the Auto Image work on the interior. The modified seats are dressed in black and grey leather, while the rear was converted to twin buckets. Autometer gauges and in-car entertainment finish it off — even rear passengers have their own personal TV screens.

“It’s a shame Brad couldn’t see it finished but I’m sure he’s watching over us. This is my first project car and I reckon it’s turned out pretty good.”

Tony Balalovski – 1998 Ford EL Falcon

Colour: Factory Blue with Red Ice Pearl

Engine: BA XR6T
Head: Alloy, ported, custom springs and retainers, O-ringed
Crank: Balanced
Rods: Shot peened
Pistons: SPS forged, gapless rings
Sump: Modified
Management: Wolf 3D, Version 4
Turbo: Garrett GT40, custom air-air intercooler
Fuel System: Bosch Motorsport pump, Rochester 1000cc injectors
Exhaust: Custom manifold, three-inch, single muffler

Trans: T5 5-speed
Clutch: Daiken heavy-duty, single-plate
Diff: Borg Warner four-pinion, mini-spool, 3.7:1 centre

Suspension: Pedders shocks and springs
Brakes: DBA 330mm drilled and slotted discs,VT twin piston calipers, ABS

Trim: Charcoal and grey leather
Seats: Modified factory (f), twin buckets (r)
Wheel: Isotta
Shift: Herod Motorsport short-throw
Dials: Autometer; Wolf 3D handset
Stereo: Pioneer 7in fold out screen; Pioneer splits, Pioneer 6x9s & 15in sub woofer; TV screens in headrests; Sony Playstation 2; Pioneer Surround Sound pre-amp

Rolling Stock
Rims: BSA 20×8.5 chrome
Rubber: Nitto 225/35/20

Peter Kacurov at Rank Rotary (03 9553 2303); Brain Blackwell at Racetech; Simon at Race Paint (03 9587 6643); Sam at Auto Image Interiors (03 9464 1157); Victor at Jetspeed Melbourne (03 9548 8828); Ahmad at Motorsport Wheels Dandenong (03 9793 3244); Brad Link; Chris Maso; Tom (WLD-PSI); Vinny (WILD-TC)