Bryce McCabe’s tunnel-rammed XR Falcon

Dragged from a shed and brought back from the dead, Bryce McCabe's XR is a true blue-collar success story

Photographers: Phil Cooper

Languishing in a shed for 20 years had done this XR Falcon no favours, but its young custodian Bryce McCabe was more than up to the task of giving it a second life. It just took him five years and a ridiculous amount of hard yakka to get it together.

First published in the February 2024 issue of Street Machine

You see, Bryce has been a Ford fan since birth, and he’d always wanted an XR. “I’ve always liked Falcons with circular tail-lights, and that, combined with the overall styling of the car, is what drew me to them,” he says.

But at age 16 and just grasping a set of L-plates, those ambitions were too grandiose for his budget, so he switched his focus to another classic, an early Corolla! With a spray painting apprenticeship underway, Bryce launched into working on the Toyota in his spare time. It was his baptism into custom car work, and turning a profit on it would be a financial stepping stone towards his XR goal.

But getting the funds was merely the first hurdle he had to overcome. Next was the task of finding a decent XR Falcon. Six potential candidates were rejected, and the hunt had been going on for a year before a promising blip appeared on the radar. It was a 1967 model in Victoria that had been parked in a shed 20 years earlier and hadn’t moved since. The owner had seen Bryce’s pleas on Facebook and said something along the lines of, “You’re a keen young fella and I want to see you do something with it. It’s 100 per cent original, and if you want it, I’ll sell it to you; otherwise it’s not for sale.”

Based in NSW and with no way of viewing the car, Bryce relied on conversations with the owner and a promise of some photos. The owner took three months to organise the pictures because the car was tucked away in a shed three hours from his house. “I was sitting in a bit of distress thinking, ‘Is he going to sell it to me or not?’” Bryce recalls.

Eventually, about 60 photos came through. Bryce studied the images and liked what he saw. “It was a clean base, didn’t have rust hanging out of it, and it was all there complete,” he says. “I’ve changed most of the stuff anyway, but it’s better to start with a clean car. I just bit the bullet and bought it.”

A tow truck promptly delivered his new prize and Bryce rolled it into the garage, where he planned to buff the paint, freshen up the engine and enjoy a tough, original cruiser. But when the paint responded brilliantly to a bit of attention, his eyeballs widened and the plans expanded. “Then I decided to mini-tub it, so I chopped all the rear end out of it, put the wheels under it, made it look good and it kind of snowballed from there,” he says with a laugh.

Bryce did all the custom fabrication for the rear end himself before booking the car in for some treatment at Xtreme Fabworx. There, the team beefed up the rear with a McDonald Brothers four-link, Strange coil-overs and a custom sheet-metal nine-inch with 3.89 gears.

At that point, Bryce decided to crank the dial to 11 and go full rebuild. A mobile sandblasting company was called in, and the shell was stripped naked before Bryce tackled some rust and welded in some new panels. “I’d already gone so far, so I decided on new door skins, lower quarters, guards and bonnet,” he says.

Next, he welded in a flat firewall, smoothed out the engine bay and primed the shell. The panels were all gapped before progress momentarily ground to a halt while Bryce plugged the bank account to prevent it from bleeding dry.

“By the time it was stripped, I thought, ‘I’m not going to put the car together and then pull it apart later to put a rollcage in,’” Bryce recalls. “So it sat in the shed for a couple more months while I saved the money for that.”

Next stop for the XR was Wicked Industries, where a chrome-moly rollcage was smartly tucked away behind the dash and through into the boot. Then it was off to Wollondilly Smash, where Bryce was serving his apprenticeship. The car was rolled into a spray booth and he coated the shell in custom Platinum Blue. It’s the same colour as his dad’s XR, which Bryce says he was always looking at and thinking, “That would look cool with the way I want to do my car.”

Back in the shed, and the build had to endure a lengthy time-out as funds had now thoroughly dried up. No rest for Bryce, though. He ramped up the after-hours jobs at home to draw the dollars back in to feed the project.

“I was full-time at the apprenticeship, and when I came home from work, I wouldn’t even go in the house,” he recounts. “I was already dirty, so I’d just go straight back into it, open the roller door and put in another three or four hours working on other people’s cars to save money for the engine and gearbox.”

It was another six months before a front-end kit was bought from Castlemaine Rod Shop and fitted up, complete with Viking coil-overs and Wilwood discs with four-pot calipers.

Next came the motor, and the decision there was simple: a 351 Cleveland was Bryce’s only choice. As he puts it: “It’s an easy fit, and I just love the sound of an old-school Ford Clevo.”

An engine was bought via Marketplace and taken to George at Wild Automotive. “He was one of Dad’s good mates, and he knows his stuff with Fords,” says Bryce, who requested a tough street mill boasting around 650hp. The dollars were trickle-fed to George over 18 months as the lungs were lengthened to 393, a Scat backbone was added to the bottom end, and a set of AFD 4V heads was topped with a Weiand tunnel ram fed by custom twin BRE 750 carbs. Waste is disposed of via Pacemaker headers matched to a three-inch stainless system.

An Al’s Race Glides C4 auto and TCE 5500rpm converter were bolted on, and Bryce dropped in the engine and trans. Then it was down to the final touches – cooling system, fuel cell, fuel lines, a bagful of rechroming and more. New door handles, bumpers, headlights and even windows were some of the items on a long to-do list that added to the time spent in the shed, where Bryce toiled mostly single-handedly for five years.

The final piece of the puzzle was the upholstery, which was entrusted to Nathan from Motive Upholstery. Bryce knew that only certain colours would match the exterior blue, and he didn’t want to go black. Instead he chose brown, similar to the old Kingswoods. One of the first things he’d bought for the car was one of the very last to be fitted: a set of Kirkey race seats, which he asked Nathan to pad up for added style and comfort.

It was a long road to success, but the results speak for themselves. The car is a stunner – a testament to Bryce’s unwavering determination.

“It’s had a lot of interest,” he enthuses. “The first week it was finished, some bloke came up to me and said, ‘I want it, how much?’ And I was like, ‘No mate, it’s not for sale.’ I don’t see myself selling it any time soon.”

The XR’s duties now include trips to the pub, car shows and roll racing. Street Machine Summernats and Bathurst Autofest will also be annual pilgrimages. Who could wish for more?

Bryce McCabe 
1967 Ford XR Falcon 

Paint:Custom Platinum Blue
Type:393ci Cleveland
Heads:AFD 4V
Carbs:Twin BRE 750
Inlet:Weiand tunnel ram
Cam:Marshall Custom Cams custom-grind
Rockers:Yella Terra
Fuel:Fuel cell, pump 98
Exhaust:Pacemaker headers to 3in stainless exhaust, Hooker mufflers
Cooling:Competition Engines radiator
Gearbox:Al’s Race Glides C4 auto
Converter:TCE 5500rpm
Diff:9in, Strange centre, full spool, 3.89:1 gears
Front:Castlemaine Rod Shop with Viking coil-overs
Rear:McDonald Brothers Racing four-link with Strange coil-overs
Brakes:Wilwood discs, four-pot calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood
Rims:Weld Racing AlumaStar; 15×3.5 (f), 15×9 (r)
Rubber:Nankang; 165/80R15 (f), 275/60R15 (r)

Wild Automotive; Xtreme Fabworx; Wicked Industries; Al’s Race Glides; Motive Upholstery; TSR Smash; Westend Performance; the Thirlmere Fryer boys; my close mates that helped along the way; Mum and Dad for everything they did, especially letting me take over the shed!