Leisa & Shane Chinnock’s PSYCHO XF Falcon

Looking back on Leisa and Shane Chinnock's wild, chopped and blown Ford XF Falcon show car, PSYCHO

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

If you want to get a reaction from the crowd, tear your car apart and start over.

First published in the November 2011 issue of Street Machine

Recognise this car? You’re doing well if you can because since it made the Elite Hall at Summernats 13, it’s undergone more surgery than Robocop.

Back then, the machine that Tasmanian Ford fan Leisa Chinnock bought from her employer after years of faithful service as a gunmetal grey company car, had been painted pink and worked over enough to make the Top 20 and scoop Top Sedan (SM, May ’00). Not bad, but Leisa and husband Shane wanted the ‘Wow!’ factor.

“We weren’t happy with the way the car went at earlier shows. We wanted a chop top, suicide doors and a flat floor,” Shane says. “We wanted it to have more impact.”

They turned to Greg Maskell at Maskell’s Customs & Classics who’d impressed them with the work he’d done on Trent Brennan’s Capri (SM, July ’02) and wowed thousands more with his contributions to Gary Myers’s Silver Bullet (Sept ’04).

“We were in the same motel at Summernats 2000, got talking and we’ve been mates ever since,” Greg says. “A couple of years later, Shane saw the Passion Purple paint on Trent’s Capri and told me: ‘You’re going to paint our car that colour.’”

However, like the good guys always are, Greg was booked out for a year so they decided to get a local Taswegian to perform the initial fabrication, with Greg acting as project manager and taking over the job of finishing the car when his schedule freed up. And just seven years later, here we are!

“The first guy chopped it up and it sat there for four years,” Greg says. “Then Anthony Wilkins took over and got stuck into it. He chopped the top, did the two-door conversion, built the chassis and the suicide doors.”

With the body packing a swinging boot, bonnet and doors, it was shipped to Greg’s workshop in Shepparton, Victoria. But with Shane and Leisa based in Tasmania, there was still a lot of interstate collaboration. Hobart boy Dave Webb did a lot of billet fabrication work and fellow Hobartian Chris Tanner knocked up the gorgeous exhaust. Surely on a build of this scale, that would have made things tough?

“It was a bit awkward at first,” Greg says, “but we got into a rhythm. For all the billet pieces Dave made — such as the boot and bonnet hinges, the fuel cap and the speaker grilles — I’d either make a drawing or post down a template for him. It worked pretty well; distance doesn’t matter when you have good people on the other end of the phone.”

The real trick with this car was the bodywork. “When you modify one thing, you have to modify everything,” Greg says. “When you modify the roof, you have to modify the pillars, then you have to modify the quarters and the cowl and the bonnet. Then the character lines in the side look wrong with the roof chop and you have to alter them. So it looks like an XF but nothing on that car is standard XF.

“The grille is narrower and longer, the bumpers are steel, the tail panel is one piece instead of two. Where the exhaust pipe comes out, the floor pan where the exhaust is, the bumper bar, headlight extensions, the cowl modifications, the mirrors, custom glass, electric actuators for bonnet, boot and doors — it’s all new.”

While they were at it, they made the car as smart as it is sexy. Greg got hold of Shepparton computer whiz Gary Lomer, who usually designs software to control industrial machinery, to create a touchscreen system akin to an iPhone so they could eliminate manual buttons on the dash. What he came up with is revolutionary.

“It opens and closes the doors, boot and bonnet, controls the airbags, starts and stops the engine, and it can control the thermo-fan and water pump, lights and windscreen wipers,” Gary explains. “It’s wireless so you can log on to websites and there’s potential to do engine diagnostics. You can operate a lot of it from a key fob but we wanted to keep it fairly simple to start with.”

This is groundbreaking street machine technology but Gary says he can do so much more with iPhone connectivity and engine tuning. That’ll come in handy controlling the supercharged tower of power that fulfils another of Leisa and Shane’s requirements.

“We wanted a supercharged car and thought we’d go a bit different with the 8/71 rather than the 6/71 that everyone else goes for,” Leisa says.

They collected all the parts then contacted Dennis Cooper in Hobart to put it all together. He’s a real Ford man who builds engines for the touring cars in England.

“We had it on the dyno a few weeks ago and we took it to 5000rpm, where it was making 605hp with 7psi — that’s the street tune,” Shane says. “That’s all we need. We wanted to make it nice on the street; we’re not racing it or chasing horsepower. Maybe one day we’ll put it down the track but it wasn’t built for that purpose.”

The purpose was to wow people at shows and going a long way to achieving that is the incredible interior stitched by young Michael Carter, a part of Greg’s team.

“He’s got a mind that’s continually coming up with different things and we were very pleased with what he did,” Leisa says. “He even came to Hobart to talk though what we wanted. Being so young, he wasn’t what we were expecting but he had a look at the car and brought samples of what he thought would look good and we were guided by what he recommended. We just said that with the roof chopped we wanted the seats low so it wasn’t too ‘over dimensional’ — we wanted a kick-arse interior.”

A look over the custom seats covered in luxurious German leather is enough to tell you that’s another box ticked.

With MotorEx fast approaching it was time to consider paint and Shane started to second-guess the Passion Pearl, making Greg anxious. “Three weeks to go and we hadn’t worked out the colour, so I rang him up and said we had to do it. His first thought had been Passion Pearl so we ended up going with that. I tweaked it a bit and had to make up a name for it. I figured he had finally Made A Decision — MAD — so we called it Mad Passion. It really suits the car.”

The unveiling at MotorEx justified the seven-year build and it earned a Gold Champion award for that stunning interior, with Bronze for bodywork.

“The reaction at MotorEx was great,” Leisa says. “We said we wanted the wow factor and that’s what we got. My mum wanted to punch someone for saying it was just an XF but others said it was the way they should have been made.”

Leisa & Shane Chinnock
1986 Ford XF Falcon

Colour:HOK Mad Passion
Engine:Cleveland 351
Induction:Enderle hat, EFI
Blower:BDS 8/71
Heads:AFD aluminium
Cam:Crower solid
Ignition:Crank trigger converted to flywheel
Exhaust:Equal-length extractors, twin 3in system
Diff:Full floating nine-inch, Detroit locker
Converter:Dominator 3500
Front:Tubular stainless steel double wishbone
Springs:Air Ride Shockwaves Steering: Flaming River
Brakes:Wilwood four-spots, 330mm rotors (f&r)
Rims:Billet Specialties Psycho, 17×8 (f) 17×13 (r)
Rubber:Pirelli P Zero (f&r)