Family-heirloom Falcon XM ute

Oozing 60s cool and burbling with latent V8 muscle, Bradley Donaldson couldn’t let his uncle’s XM ute leave the family

Photographers: Guy Bowden

For many street machiners, the joy is in the build. These blokes spend months scouring the classifieds for just the right shell, then take years to lovingly massage every surface into absolute perfection. They drive hundreds of miles to obscure country swap meets, looking for that elusive part and apply countless coats of paint, only to buff them back and apply more.

First published in the November 2002 issue of Street Machine

When the job is done and every last nut, bolt and washer is perfectly aligned, they stop. The car might be taken to a few shows, maybe featured in a magazine or used in a mate’s wedding. But even as they are collecting their trophies, they aren’t really listening to the praise. Their minds are elsewhere, planning the next build, which inevitably gathers momentum until the ‘old’ project is forgotten or sold.

The builder of this beaut XM ute, Brett Donaldson is one such a bloke. With some help from his brothers and buddies, he flung the breathless six-pot for a stout Windsor V8 and spent two years getting this once-humble trayback arrow-straight. The bodywork was then coated in Agean Blue duco (the only good thing to come from a Ford Festiva).

Rolling on Weld rims and trimmed up a treat, he had the ute registered and looking the business. Brett collected his fair share of trophies then lost interest, like hundreds of other talented car builders before him. The car was put up for sale, which attracted the attention of Brett’s nephew, Bradley. Brad was only on his P-plates, but he had seen the car being built and knew it was an opportunity too good to miss.

“The car was in pretty straight condition when Brett started on it, but he just went ballistic on the details,” he says. “Every piece of chrome, glass and rubber was replaced with brand new gear. I just couldn’t pass it up.”

Uncle Brett was as pleased as punch to see the ute stay in the family, especially as Brad has gone on to add to the Falcon’s collection of silverware. Indeed, the XM has collected a grand total of six Top Ute trophies at various shows, plus Top Engineered Ford, Top P-plater, Top Interior and Top Street Machine.

Not that Bradley has been content to leave the car as he bought it. Being a young fella, he added a bunch of stonking car audio gear and has even snuck a trick sub enclosure into the tray area since our photo shoot.

He also dressed the engine bay up with a bunch of shiny stuff including braided line, Earls hose fittings and Ford Motorsport rocker covers and air cleaner. She’s detailed underneath too, painted in sensible black gloss, and Brad has been hard at work painting suspension and brake components in body colour for excellent effect.

Inside, the doortrims and bench seat were repadded, then trimmed in grey vinyl and velour. To continue the colour theme, the dash was resprayed in dark grey metallic, with charcoal carpet on the floor. The crazy-cool XM dash, with its strip speedo, has been left unmolested, with the unobtrusive addition of a Spec tacho. A B&M shifter with skull knob and a woodrimmed sports steering wheel are the finishing touches.

The Falc might look a million dollars, but that doesn’t mean Brad is afraid to drive it, and he has racked up plenty of weekend miles. It’s a fun thing to punt from all accounts, the reward for putting the time into engineering a complete package. The 302 was slotted in with the help of a Rod Tech conversion kit, with removable strut tower braces. XY front discs and XD drums, combined with a TF Cortina master cylinder take the ‘oh, my god’ out of the braking department.

Driveline wise, the 302 has more than enough herbs. It was built tough to run on regular gas by PGR Engines and breathes deep through an Edelbrock Torker inlet manifold and 650 Holley combo, while waste gasses are expelled via a set of custom extractors. Keeping good with the comfy cruiser theme is a rebuilt C4, 1800rpm stall converter and 3.0:1 nine-inch diff.

The coolest thing about this car is the way that it highlights the tasty factory panel work and detail trim. For a car designed to be a hog-hauling workhorse, the XM ute was blessed with classic styling cues, from the nifty ‘map of Australia’ badge on the tailgate, to the scalloped side panels and the chunky chrome badge work on the ‘C’ pillar.

The only jarring note from the factory was the crummy rear bumperettes, which looked about as appropriate as John Howard on the cover of Ralph. Correcting this abomination was a simple matter of replacing them with a full-length bumper bar from a wagon, coated in glorious chrome.

Now Brad has a bunch of plans to stamp his personality all over the ute.

“A set of three-inch front rims will be the next step,” he says. “After that I’m going to go ballistic on the bodywork, with suicide doors, reverse opening bonnet and side swing tailgate.”

That type of radical bodywork will really mark the XM as Brad’s car and should ensure plenty more trophies jostle for space in the pool room!


Ford proudly touted the Falcon as being built tough for Australian conditions, but it actually took them a couple of goes to get it right. The Falc debuted with the XK, a car was that was built with smooth American highways in mind, not Aussie goat tracks, so these cars were prone to ball joint failure. The ute was sold as being just the thing for builders to cart huge loads of gear around town in, but again the rough Aussie roads got the better of them.

The XL was built a little tougher, but it was the XM that was tested on Australia torture tracks and engineered to suit. The chassis was beefed up considerably, Fairlane upper wishbones were fitted, plus beefy rear spring hangers. The addition of a wider wheel/rim combination and the option of a 200ci Super Pursuit motor finally gave Ford the car match Holden.


Colour:Ford Festiva Agean Blue
Type:Windsor 302
Carb:Holley 650
Inlet:Edelbrock Torker
Air cleaner:Ford Motorsport
Gearbox:C4 auto
Diff:3:1 nine-inch
Brakes:XR discs front, XD drums rear
Rims:Weld 15×6.5 and 15×7
Rubber:195/65 and 215/65 Falken