Family heirloom blown XM hardtop

Brendan Wright's blown, Dart stroker-powered XM hardtop heirloom is a briliant tribute to his late grandfather

Photographers: Trackside Photography

Brendan Wright, there’s never been a time when this stunning XM Falcon coupe wasn’t in his life. Of course, it didn’t always go, steer and stop quite like this.

First published in the January 2024 issue of Street Machine

“This was my pop, Bob’s car,” the Thirlmere, NSW bloke says proudly. “It was bought in 1978 for $97. Times were tough back then; Pop scraped together every spare dollar he could, even emptying his money box to make the purchase.”

The six-pot, automatic coupe was already nearly 15 years old by that point, and eventually it passed between family members until it landed in the backyard of Brendan’s uncle. Brendan’s dad, Norm, purchased it around 2010 and enlisted Brendan’s older brother Craig and his best mate Pat Wojtkowski to rescue the now-miserable body.

“The bodywork was done first, and I was still young; I’m 29 now and they started it 13 years ago,” Brendan says. “All the quarters were replaced. So were the sills, door skins and the boot floor, with the lines as from the factory. It had rust everywhere!” The fuel door was deleted, as were the chrome strips and the left-over mounting holes. Craig and Pat also welded in a pair of mini-tubs to accommodate a four-link and ginormous 19×13-inch Intro billet rear wheels, which are wrapped with 345-wide Nitto rubber.

In the front, Pat slotted in a Rod Shop IFS kit, replaced the steering box with an Astra pump-assisted rack, and swapped the big shock towers with bolt-in blanking panels. Combined with Viking coil-overs and Wilwood discs front and rear, this XM is now a positively planted steerer. “For a car that’s 50-plus years old, it drives really well,” Brendan grins. “But you should see some of the potholes out my way!”

As for the powerplant itself, it began with a spot of recycling. “The motor was supplied by a good mate, Ian Kovacevic, as he had it in his XR Falcon,” Brendan explains. “He blew it up while drag racing and decided to go big-block.”

Apples and the lads at Hi-Torque Performance resurrected the blown, Windsor-based 364ci Dart stroker using a Scat steel crank, Oliver rods and JE pistons. The heads are from RHS, matched to a TBS manifold and BDS 6/71 air pump. The blower wears twin Holley 750 carbies, feeding E85 via a MagnaFuel pump. With ignition controlled by an MSD unit, it’s been tuned to a safe 509rwhp – great fun in a fairly lightweight package and more than willing to fry the steamroller meats. “It breaks them out like nothing; no ifs or buts with traction,” Brendan laughs. “It’s just gone!”

A Reid-cased ’Glide and Dominator 4500rpm converter fill out the tunnel, with a heavily shortened sheet-metal nine-inch third member on the other end featuring a Truetrac, 4.11 gearing and Strange 35-spline axles from Fireball Kustom Fabrication in Burpengary, Queensland.

Contrasting with the smoothed bay and angry driveline, the interior is one of the most stock you’ll see within these pages. Even the Monster tacho was a hard sell to Norm, as Brendan laughs. “It was still Dad’s car at the time, and he said, ‘Don’t go putting that in there!’ It’s got the oil pressure, coolant temperature and oil temperature on it too; there was a hole under the bottom of the dash, so it’s mounted to a hole that was already there.”

Brendan enjoys the pure factory set-up too, which has so far stopped him from hitting the drag strip in search of a proper number. “It was on the cards; the thing is I don’t want to put a ’cage in it,” he says. “I’d like to keep the lap belts, and the drag strips might not like that!”

Wrapping up about two years ago, the project took well over a decade all up. Bob sadly didn’t make it to the end, passing away after health battles. “I’ve had the car since the last Summernats, but I’ve only owned it for about two weeks,” Brendan says. “Dad did pretty much the whole build; I’ve just been stuck with the boring shit that no one wants to do: window regulators and all that stuff nobody sees.”

Red CentreNATS 9 saw Brendan scoop up a Top 10 place in the Street class, plus the coveted People’s Choice trophy. He also lent his support to the recent ‘A Night For Austin’ fundraiser in regional NSW, earning Grand Champion and Best Engineered to help raise money for the young fella’s cancer treatment.

Despite the XM’s huge transformation into a trophy-collecting beast, Brendan still finds plenty of connections to his pop whenever he jumps into the driver’s seat for a pub run or a big event like Red CentreNATS. “For example, I’m looking through the same mirrors that Pop did back in 1978,” he says. “The original key is still being used today. The last time Pop registered this car was in 1987, and that sticker is still on the window.”

Just like how Brendan inherited the XM, he’ll eventually pass that original key over to his own son, Braxton. “It’ll go through its fourth generation,” he says. “Hopefully in the future you’ll see the car built bigger and better. I’ve got an HX Monaro to focus on for now, but down the track, a nice big-block and injection wouldn’t be bad!”


Paint:Pearl white
Type:364ci Dart Windsor
Carbs:Holley 750
Supercharger:BDS 6/71
Cam:Comp hydraulic-roller
Fuel system:MagnaFuel pump, custom 80L cell
Cooling:PWR alloy radiator, twin thermo fans, CVR electric water pump
Exhaust:Custom extractors, twin 3.5in system, Hooker mufflers
Gearbox:Reid-case Powerglide
Converter:Dominator 4500rpm
Diff:9in, Truetrac, 4.11:1 gears, Strange 35-spline axles
Front:Rod Shop IFS, Viking coil-overs
Rear:Four-link, Viking coil-overs
Brakes:Wilwood discs (f & r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood boosterless
Rims:Intro billet; 19×7.5 (f), 19×13 (r)
Rubber:Rapid; 225/35R19 (f), 345/30R19 (r)

Craig Wright and Pat Wojtkowski; Silke Fabrication for the power steering, exhaust, fuel and brake lines; Troy at TNS Auto for the full rewire; Andy at Fireball Kustom Fabrication for the diff; Ian Kovacevic for the engine; Apples and the boys at Hi-Torque Performance for the rebuild.