John Davidson’s XM Falcon coupe

John Davidson's family gave him this XP-fronted XM coupe for his birthday, but the real gift was its stunning transformation

Photographers: Troy Barker

Not many can attest to their family buying them a project car for their birthday, so we reckon John Davidson is one lucky fella, having been gifted this XP-fronted XM Falcon coupe for his 60th.

First published in the July 2022 issue of Street Machine

John’s wife Brenda and two sons Luke and Todd were keen to surprise the birthday boy with a project but weren’t sure what model to go for, so they decided to clue him in on their generous gift. Once the shock subsided, John knew exactly the kind of car he was after: “I had always liked the design and shape of the early Falcons and believed they would make a great restomod,” he says.

John’s lads located an example on Gumtree, advertised as a rust-free, unfinished project with a 289ci V8 and a heap of extra parts. A deal was struck and it was loaded up and trailered home. “Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was an XM Falcon that had a later-model XP clip fitted to the front,” John says. “This appealed to me, as I wanted to own a car that was unique or different.”

John got cracking on the project, hoping it’d be a great father-and-son experience. “I was thinking of running the 289 and adding nice paint and wheels. I figured that $30K should do it and then I’d have a nice car,” he laughs.

But the coupe had other ideas, requiring far more than a quick bolt-together and splash of paint, as the bodywork and panel alignment had seemingly been slapped together by a novice backyarder.

As the difficulty of the project had stepped up a notch, John hunted for a resto shop to turn out the tidy driver he required. “If I was going to do this, it was going to be done properly, as this was to be my legacy, remaining in the family long after I have gone.”

Enter Pro Customs. After seeing the chopped two-door FJ (SM, May ’17) and other very tidy builds the company had turned out, John was keen to let them loose on the XM.

The Pro Customs team took the coupe back to bare metal to discover the extent of the rust and prior suspect work. But instead of doom and gloom over the car’s sorry state, opportunities were seized, leading to a rethink of the entire build. Rusted wheelarches soon led to wheel tubs, which led to a nine-inch, graduating to a four-link and, well, you get the gist.

This ever-growing list of mods was a massive deviation from factory fitment, so John got on the blower to engineer Sot Kavuki to get the tick-off from the beginning on all the rights and wrongs. Adding to the list was a new powerplant, after John discovered that the cost of rebuilding the 289 was similar to simply buying a fresh BluePrint Engines 347ci Windsor cratey that makes 400hp out of the box. It wasn’t a hard decision to opt for the latter.

With driveline requirements clarified, attention turned to the external finishes. Here, much of the brightwork has been left off to allow the arrow-straight bodywork and glistening custom candy pearl red PPG hue to be the centre of attention. “I’m a believer in less is more,” John explains.

The interior offers a stunning complement to the dazzling outer colour. The Toyota Celica front seats look right at home, while the rear bench is an original item, modified to suit the enlarged wheelwells. The whole lot has been swathed in Capri Driftwood pebble-finish vinyl by Monaco Auto Trimmers.

While John didn’t quite get that hands-on experience with the project that he initially anticipated, he still became quite involved. “I enjoyed the journey immensely, and I acted as the ‘go-for’ – go for this, go for that – so I was always aware of what was happening with the build,” he says. “One of the most memorable moments was standing back looking at the car with the wheels fitted just after the body had been undercoated, and thinking to myself that this is going to be one awesome ride.”

‘Awesome’ certainly sums the car up, and many show judges have agreed. The coupe debuted on the PPG stand at the 2019 Adelaide Auto Expo, where it promptly took out Best Street Machine and Top Interior & Rear Compartment in the Street
Elite class.

And while the accolades are a wonderful tribute to the hard yakka and five-year build, the XM was always set to be a driver. “One of the reasons for building the coupe was so my wife and I could visit and enjoy various locations in our retirement, including country car shows,” John says. “And considering the build was started just prior to COVID, this appeals more than ever.”

And he means it, too. Having hooked up with the local Adelaide Rev Heads car club, John’s already begun racking up the kays in his beautiful two-door. “I intend to drive and enjoy this car and definitely not treat her as a trailer queen,” he says.


Paint: Custom PPG candy pearl red
Brand: BluePrint 347ci Ford Windsor
Carb: Holley 600
Manifold: Edelbrock
Heads: BluePrint alloy
Camshaft: Hydraulic-roller
Pistons: Forged
Crank: Cast steel stroker
Fuel system: Holley 150 pump
Cooling: Ron Davis radiator and twin 12in fans
Exhaust: Pacemaker headers, custom twin 21⁄2in stainless pipes
Ignition: MSD 6A2L
Transmission: C4 auto
Converter: Dominator 2500rpm
Diff: Strange 9in, 3.70:1, Truetrac, 31-spline axles
Front: McDonald Brothers tubular control arms, Viking coil-overs
Rear: McDonald Brothers four-link, Viking coil-overs
Steering: RRS power steering, Ididit column
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: US Mags Standard U104; 18×7 (f), 20×10 (r)
Rubber: Kinforest; 205/40R18 (f), 275/35R20 (r)

My wife and two sons for the car, and my wife’s patience and support throughout the build; Pro Customs: Anthony, Danny & Jay; Monaco Auto Trimmers; Fishop Falcons; Modified Vehicle Engineering