Frank Vadnjal’s ten-second 1970 XW Fairmont

Frank Vadnjal's son Nicholas was in hospital, so he decided the best way to bring him home was in a 10-second Fairmont

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

FOR Frank Vadnjal, cars are more than just fun toys to cruise around in on sunny Sunday arvos. Cars have provided an opportunity to work beside family and friends, to share in the joy of achieving something, and to build stronger bonds. His Lime Frost XW Fairmont is the epitome of that, and it’s been the catalyst for a stable of stout streeters that Frank and his 20-year-old son Nicholas have built up over the past few years.

First published in the September 2021 issue of Street Machine

Frank bought the 1970 Fairmont after a chance sighting at a car show in 2014. “I saw the XW for sale at the Picnic at Hanging Rock Classic Car Show,” he says.

“It was a totally unmolested factory V8 Fairmont that had sat around for the past 18 years.”

While Frank wasn’t chasing an XW per se, as a keen enthusiast, he knew that he’d found gold. “Getting a factory car in original condition is getting harder and harder,” he says. And with that simple truth, a deal was quickly sealed. Then, tragedy struck.

“Nicholas was 14 years old at the time and had become badly injured,” Frank recalls. “He had to be in hospital for six months, so I put the car on the back burner and gave all of my attention to him.”

But Nicholas had other ideas. “Not long after Nicholas had gone to hospital, I was visiting him and he asked that when the time came, he’d like to be brought home in the built XW,” Frank says. “So, I hit it hard to make it happen.”

Frank pulled out all the stops, calling in help from family and friends to get the XW sorted within the tight timeline. First up, the factory donk was pulled in favour of a stout 417-cuber.

“I had previously worked at Holden’s Fishermans Bend plant with James Melmoth, who now owns Melway Competition Engines,” says Frank. “James suggested this combo and it’s a testament to him as we use the car a lot with no hassles.”

With such a trusted workshop as MCE on the case, the Ford Windsor block had a ton of worthy parts lobbed at it, from a tough Scat crank, Compstar conrods, Manley slugs, custom bumpstick, solid-roller lifters through to a pair of CHI Kaase C400 heads. A CHI manifold sporting a Holley Dominator 1050 carb tops the lot. Overall, it’s a very healthy set-up that’s been bolted together right and pounds out a hefty 747 neddies at the flywheel.

Further down the line, everything is adequately updated to take a hiding. We’re talking a manualised C4 trans mated to a Dominator 5500rpm-stall converter, backed by a nine-inch stuffed with 31-spline billet axles, Truetrac, and 4.11s.

Frank’s timeline was tight, and no doubt his head wasn’t always in the game, yet at no point did he skimp on quality. His son deserved a superior build.

Underneath the car, Frank and co. went to town, with the entire suspension copping a thorough going-over to handle the bounce, twist and stop. Calvert CalTracs were bolted under the rear, with Calvert shocks positioned at all four corners. Fresh XF disc brakes feature at the pointy end, with the rears retaining the factory drum set-up. Rounding out the drag-spec sleeper vibe are sinister black Weld Magnums with Frank opting for tall ’n’ skinny 17×3.5-inch fronts with short and fat double-beadlocked 15×8.5-inch rears.

Back on top, fresh paint has only been laid where required, with the engine bay and reverse-cowl bonnet copping a fresh lick of Lime Frost to match with the original duco.

The retro revival continues inside, where Sunshine Motor Trimmers have whipped up a Saddle trim to complement the factory appointments. Frank chose to retain all original functionality and design with only a couple of sneaky additions, such as Auto Meter gauges and a B&M shifter.

By 2016, Nicholas was homeward bound, and the XW rolled out of the shed for the magical moment it was intended for. Since then, not only has Nicholas gone from strength to strength, he now works in the shed right alongside his dad.

“We’ve just finished building a 600kW GT-R Skyline together,” Frank says with a grin. “Plus, we have a pair of matching VL Berlina six-cylinder turbos too.

Mine has 500rwkW, and Nicholas’s will be worked next.”

With all of that going on, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the XW may’ve been shimmied down the line, but that’s not the case at all.

“I raced the XW once, running 10.4sec off the trailer,” says Frank. “Soon it’ll be getting a ProCharger, which will yield over 1000hp, so we are going to ’cage it and add racing seats and updated brakes.” The best part? This time around it will be a father-and-son project.


Paint: Lime Frost 
Brand: 417ci Ford Windsor
Induction: Holley Dominator 1050 carb
Manifold: CHI 
Heads: CHI Kaase C400 
Camshaft: Custom solid-roller
Conrods: Callies Compstar 
Pistons: Manley Performance
Crank: Scat
Oil pump: Melling, ASR sump, catch can
Fuel pump: Aeromotive 
Cooling: Aluminium radiator, Meziere water pump, twin Spal fans
Exhaust: 2in custom headers; 3½in exhaust; MagnaFlow mufflers
Ignition: MSD
Trans: Ford C4 manualised 
Converter: Dominator 5500rpm 
Tailshaft: Custom 4in
Diff: 9in, 31-spline axles, Truetrac, 4.11:1 gears
Front: King Springs, Calvert shocks
Rear: CalTracs, Calvert shocks
Brakes: Ford XF discs (f), Ford XW drums (r) 
Master cylinder: Ford XW 
Rims: Weld Magnum; 17×3.5 (f), 15×8.5 ®
Rubber: Mickey Thompson; 165/70/17 (f), ET Street 255/60/15 (r)

James Melmoth at Melway Competition Engines; DTM Automatic Transmissions; Ross at Fitzroy Motor Body Repairs; Roy at Classic & Custom Exhaust Factory; Pat Mesiti at Sunshine Motor Trimming; GT Ford Performance Shop; La Rock Auto Electrical; Chris’s Differential Services; Pat Caruso for all his help during the build; my wife Kathryn for letting me dabble in cars; my youngest son Daniel, who is my cruising partner!