Jamie Skews’s XA Falcon hardtop

Jamie Skews rescued this XA hardtop from a slow death via a 640hp Clevo heart transplant, a third pedal and the brightest green humanity has ever seen

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson

From an early age, Jamie Skews was steered towards an appreciation for Aussie muscle by his parents. “I was born into it,” he says. “My old man had a bit of everything: an HT Monaro; an XW GT; hatchback Toranas. I’ve had Commodores, XYs, HXs and Monaros, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Falcon hardtops; they’ve got a nice big arse you can fit fat tyres under.” Too right!

First published in the January 2022 issue of Street Machine

This particular XA has been living in Jamie’s shed for about eight years, but it hasn’t always looked quite so magnificent. “I was at a job in western Brisbane and saw the hardtop sitting in a backyard,” he says. “I knocked on the door and asked about it, but old mate said he was going to do it up. I was back that way two years later and it hadn’t moved, so I knocked on the door again. We ended up meeting the following weekend and I bought it.”

The coupe had been the subject of a rebuild in the distant past. The original Calypso Green and vinyl roof had made way for a heavily weathered mustard yellow, while the weak 250 drivetrain had been binned in favour of Henry’s finest: a 351 Cleveland, Top Loader and nine-inch.

The previous owner said the hardtop didn’t run, but Jamie discovered the cause of the problem was a clogged fuel filter. One filter change later, the fat Falc was back on the road. “We had good fun in it,” says Jamie. “I caned it everywhere and didn’t worry about it because it had crappy paint.”

Eventually, the combination of the coupe’s already hard life and a particularly exuberant evening racing a mate’s ’56 Chev led to the Clevo lunching a valve spring. “My mate still laughs at me; he says it was the most expensive valve spring ever,” Jamie laughs.

You see, Jamie turned to Queensland Clevo-whisperer Tony of Toca Performance for a quick engine refresh, but a few wise words from Tony led Jamie to pull the trigger on a new build instead. The Clevo now weighs in at 393 cubes thanks to a steel Scat crank, Scat rods and a set of JE slugs to fill the bores. Sealing in the explosions are AFD aluminium heads that are fed fuel and air by a 950cfm Holley on top of a CHI manifold. Down in the guts, a big Comp stick works Isky lifters, Trend pushrods and Comp roller rockers to control the valves when the tacho swings around to 7000rpm.

There’s not a skerrick of wiring to be seen on the Clevo thanks to Steve from Awesome Electrical, who also rewired the entire car and took care of a bunch of other details like running the fuel lines.

The Top Loader was treated to a birthday and NPC put together a tough new clutch to transfer the 640hp from the Clevo to the tyres. Since Jamie is fond of a visit to the strip, the venerable nine-inch diff was swapped out for a brand-new unit built by Mark at Aussie Diffs with all the good bits. “With the manual and the bigger tyres I thought I’d better put something strong in the back,” says Jamie.

After the driveline was inserted, the coupe headed over to Protrac Suspension for an adjustment in the altitude department and a general overhaul of everything that controls the bumps and bends.

Jamie couldn’t stand the crusty yellow paintjob any longer and handed the hardtop to Glenn at Killa Kustoms Paint & Panel to work his magic. Despite the cracked and crumbling visage, and the penchant two-door Falcons have for the dreaded tinworm, Glenn was surprised to find a generally straight and cancer-free body. At some point someone had replaced the XA front with XB panels, so they were given the flick in favour of a bunch of fresh XA GT bits. With the GT livery and that eye-popping Lime Glaze, the hardtop looks damn tough.

Of course, the interior needed a bit of an update to match the outside. The previous build had included SAAS buckets in the front, a matching re-trim for the rear and the obligatory Momo twirler. This time, Reid from Muscle Car Interiors dressed a pair of XA buckets in black vinyl with cloth inserts and re-trimmed the rear pew, while the sad XB dash was completely replaced with a new XA one. There’s also a simple stereo, but the twin 3.5-inch pipes shouting the Clevo’s war cry are the real sound system.

Hitting the streets in the XA is a weekly exercise for Jamie, and some time at the track rowing gears in the hunt for an 11 is high on his priority list. However, there’s more work to be done in the Skews family’s shed, with Jamie’s son Jeremy’s 1JZ-powered VH wagon currently in the build. “He’s helped me the whole way; he’s loved cars since he was a kid,” says Jamie.

Just in case the wagon is quicker than the XA, Jamie’s now building an LX hatch with a 1200hp Tremaniac-built LS7 for race duties. The hardtop clearly holds a special place in his heart though: “It’s a good street car; I love this thing,” he says.


Paint: Lime Glaze
Block: 393ci Cleveland
Crank: Scat
Rods: Scat
Pistons: JE
Heads: AFD
Cam: Comp solid Pushrods: Trend
Valve springs: Isky
Rockers: Comp Pro Magnum
Intake: CHI
Carb: Holley HP 950
Ignition: MSD
Sump: ASR
Oil pump: Melling
Headers: Custom
Fuel pump: RobbMc
Performance Cooling: PWR
Exhaust: Custom four-into-ones, X-pipe, custom twin 3.5in stainless system
Gearbox: Top Loader
Bellhousing: Lakewood steel
Shifter: Hurst Indy
Clutch: NPC
Tailshaft: 3.5in, billet yokes
Diff: 9in, Strange carrier, 3.9:1 gears, 35-spline axles
Front: King Springs, KYB shocks
Rear: Custom leaf springs, KYB shocks
Brakes: Standard discs (f), Wilwood discs (r)
Rims: Weld Pro Star; 15×4 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson; 26×6 (f), 28×12.5 (r)

My son Jeremy for all the help throughout the build – couldn’t have done it without him; my wife Tre-gai for being so understanding about our car obsession; Steve at Awesome Electrical for the full rewire and all the extra help finishing off the car; my brother Scott; Glenn at Killa Kustoms Paint & Panel; Tony at Toca Performance; Mark at Aussie Diffs; Craig at Extreme Engineering for the exhaust; Darren at Protrac Suspension; Lynton for the brakes; Brendan at Insane Detailing, who really finished off the car.