Frank Bennett’s chopped XD Falcon Summernats cruiser SQUIRT

Looking back on Frank’s ridiculously short XD Falcon cruiser

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

You have to admire the lateral way this car’s creator, Frank Bennett, thinks. “They stretch cars and get them registered as limousines so I thought why not shorten ’em as well,” Frank says, all smiles. Why not indeed? That was the logic behind ‘Squirt’ – Frank’s ridiculously short XD Ford Falcon. That logic, combined with solid engineering and an engineer who shared his passion and unbelievable persistence, has paid off big – err, short, for Frank.

Yeah, it’s kinda hard to believe at first glance but this Falcon – which looks like a wind-up toy – really is street registered. Frank’s got all the officially stamped paperwork to prove it. Imagine cruising the streets in this thing! An open Esky on wheels that stops people of all ages in their tracks. It’s also dead easy to park in even the tightest spots and, according to the man himself, it’s the undisputed king of the donut paid. With ample V8 power, swapping ends in this jigger would be as easy as turning your head.

“It’s beautiful to drive,” Frank says. “It’s very responsive and the steering’s very direct. It doesn’t ride too rigid even though you’re sitting on the rear wheelarch. And it does great donuts.” Yeah, Frank. So you said.

Long-time street machiner Frank – his magenta XF Ford Falcon was featured in Street Machine in April/May ’95 – says he built Squirt to have a bit of cruising fun. He already had the V8 XF for serious fun, so Squirt was always going to be different. Frank says he did a lot of finger walking in the phone book before he found an enginner who’d take on the job.

“A lot of them were too scared to touch it,” he says. But then he found Phil Roberts who, like Frank, is based on the NSW South Coast and everything started to come together. Err, that should be, apart.

Frank’s never measured Squirt from nose to tail but he does know there’s bulk chopped out of its wheelbase, which makes it shorter than a Ford Festiva. Phil Robert’s job was made easier by the fact that he XD’s shortened rails were gussetted with quarter-inch plates, there’s no door openings to flex and Squirt tips the weighbridge at a solid 1250kg, despite its dimensions. The car retains its original seats, head restraints and retracting belts – all important stuff at final inspection time. And what about the stumpy windscreen? Where are the wipers? Frank’s got that one covered. It’s not a windscreen, he’ll tell you. It’s a wind deflector, which doesn’t need windscreen wipers. What does he do if it rains? “I check the weather before I leave home,” Frank says. Ask a silly question.

Mechanicals are relatively stock: 302 V8, FMX auto trans, Borg Warner rear axle, standard disc/drum brakes. The real workmanship is in those shortened bits and Frank credits Warilla’s Buttress Engineering with a great scalpel job in the tailshaft.

Frank’s the first to admit Squirt would have looked ridiculous at standard ride height, even on its 15 x 8 Simmons B45s and 245/50 and 60 series BFGs. And, if you remember his XF Falcon you’ll understand that Frank likes his cars low, anyway. So the lot’s been dropped 2.5 inches all round, with Pedders coils and reset leaf rear damped by Monroe shocks.

Paint and panels were by Frank and Street Machine contributing photographer Tony Rabbitte, who’s obviously taken the odd snap of Squirt since the project began two years ago. Another mate, David Allcock, retrimmed the interior in black velour with coloured inserts.

The original build for Summernats 10 took eight weeks, at the end of which Frank had earned a big trophy pile that included Judges’ Choice, Crazy Custom and Top Cruiser. The Summernats 11 rebuild, including the colour change from blue to Sweet ‘n Sassy magenta, went close to stressing out everybody in the Bennett and Rabbitte households. The paint was applied on Christmas Day. The car was buffed and finished in Canberra.

The stress was worth it, Frank says, just to have the car looking so good at Summernats 11. And because it’s registered, Frank’s rewards are pretty much year-round these days.

“People of all ages are just blown away whenever I drive it,” he says. “It doesn’t matter where I go. Even a guy in a Lamborghini gave me the thumbs up recently. I’d been looking at his car and he’d been admiring mine.”