Grant Connor’s blown 427-cube XR Falcon

Summernats 31 Grand Champ Grant Connor is back with another killer XR, this time with more cubes and more power!

Photographers: Ellen Dewar

It takes a special kind of person to build the same model of car several times, especially when you’ve already taken one to the dizzying heights of Summernats Grand Champion. Grant Connor is that person, and he’s back on the scene with another killer XR Falcon.

First published in Street Machine’s 2022 Yearbook

“I’m obsessed with them,” the Orange, NSW bloke laughs. “It stems from when I was a little kid. My mate’s brother had one out in a paddock, and the round tail-lights had me mesmerised. As I got older, I progressed through the Auto Salon stuff and then I got into V8s, but I always remembered the XR tail-lights.”

This is the fourth XR Grant’s owned, following a stocker in his younger years, a 1000hp drag car, and of course the stunning ‘Bad Apple’ sedan that saw him hoist the sword at Street Machine Summernats 31. “Through COVID, I couldn’t race the drag car so I sold it,” he says. “I’d always wanted a blown XR Falcon; it was really hard to do that to Bad Apple, so I thought I’d build another one.”

When Grant came across a well-restored XR GT tribute for sale in Melbourne, he took a gamble. “The guy was moving interstate and had to get rid of it, so I said, ‘Mate, I’ll buy it,’ without even looking at it,” he says. “I jumped in my car two hours later and went down to pick it up. I’ve done that a few times, and you always expect the worst, but it was a really, really solid car. Whoever restored it did a really good job.”

Ben and the team at John Zelukovic Smash Repairs smoothed and resprayed the engine bay in Glasurit silver to match the paint on the rest of the car, while Grant pays tribute to his childhood round tail-light obsession with a pair of billet buckets, custom-designed by SM Expression Session’s Aidan Donald. “We worked pretty hard to get them right,” Grant recounts, “and nine out of 10 people won’t notice they’re different, but I wanted them to be something a bit special.”

With the body already super-straight and painted, Grant could focus on his big-ticket blown driveline. While Bad Apple packed a stroked Clevo, Adam Cope from ACM Engines & Dyno suggested a Windsor this time around. “I’d never owned a Windsor, funnily enough,” Grant says. “They just rev that hard; they’re a really solid thing. Adam swears by them, and he’s been doing it for a long time.”

The Dart Windsor block houses a Scat crank swinging JE pistons to displace 428 cubes. Heads are 220cc AFR Renegade units packed with Yella Terra lifters and Isky valve springs, all topped by a TBS 6/71 blower and twin Quick Fuel Brawler 750 carbs.

A Melling oil pump keeps it slippery, and a Race Radiators rad with twin thermo fans and a CVR electric pump handle cooling duties. In proper streeter style, it’s tuned for pump 98, enabling a beefy 765hp at the crank. “A lot of people say blown cars are pigs to drive, but this is probably the most reliable and easiest car I’ve had,” Grant enthuses.

Protrans built the tough C4 ’box, which is paired to a TCE 3800rpm converter, while a nine-inch with a Detroit Locker and 33-spline Strange axles fills out the rear end. The rear is still a leaf set-up, though a set of tubs and a four-link is on the horizon.

The interior fit-out is a big departure from Bad Apple, which Grant enjoys. “I’m going to have Simon Judd redo the interior and it’ll have a few different pieces for a custom look, but I’ll keep it GT-style. It just never goes out of date.”

It all comes together as a seriously presentable streeter, though it’s a conscious step down in detail from his show car of yore. “I couldn’t really drive Bad Apple; it was just too good of a car,” he says. “I loved it, but it just went above and beyond. Some people want that, but I’ve always loved driving cars. To be completely honest, even with all the achievements Bad Apple had, this is by far the most fun car I’ve ever had.”

Having now sampled an XR Falcon in just about every form, Grant seems to have found a favourite. “I’ve brought it around full-circle in that it’s something I can just get in and enjoy,” he says. “I like being able to take it down to the local street meet, or the pub for lunch.”

Street cruising aside, Grant took the unfinished car to Canberra for a quiet Summernats 34, before taking a Top 10 spot at Bathurst Autofest 2022.

Grant isn’t quite done tweaking the Falcon yet, with an XR GT gold respray planned alongside the interior renovation. “It’ll be a modern version [of the colour] with some more candy in it,” he says. “In the meantime, I’ve just been driving it as much as I can, because when they’re off the road, they’re off for a fair while.”

All the while, Grant’s had an XA hardtop on the go, now just a couple of months from completion. “It’ll be something special too; I think I’ll go a bit further with it,” he says. “It’ll be more of an Elite car with a ProCharged, 427 Arrow-block Cleveland, and it should be good for about 1200hp.”


Paint:Glasurit silver
Type:Dart 428ci Windsor
Carbs:Twin Quick Fuel 750
Supercharger:TBS 6/71
Heads:AFR 220cc
Crank & rods:Scat
Fuel system:Bain Racing cell, Aeromotive pump
Cooling:Race Radiators, twin thermo fans
Exhaust:17/8in extractors, 3in system
Gearbox:Protrans C4
Converter:TCE 3800rpm
Diff:9in, Detroit Locker, 33-spline axles
Front:King Springs, Koni shocks
Rear:Leaf springs, Koni shocks
Brakes: Stock (f & r)Leaf springs, Koni shocks
Master cylinder:Wilwood
Rims:Simmons FR; 20×8 (f), 20×9.5 (r)
Rubber:245/30R20 (f), 265/30R20 (r)

Ben, Bec, Darryl and Victor at Zelukovic Smash Repairs; Adam at ACM Bathurst; Lou for helping out with the engine; Bain Racing; Aidan Donald; Shaun’s Custom Alloy; all of my family and friends for supporting this addiction; my girlfriend for going on endless road trips to pick up cars and attend car shows