Lynda Rowe’s 1964 XM Falcon coupe

Johnny Z's Hot Rod & Custom shop brings Lynda Rowe's XM Falcon coupe into the 21st century via modern underpinnings, luxurious interior and a stout Windsor crate motor

Photographers: Shawn McCann

This XM Falcon coupe wasn’t what Jack from Melbourne’s Johnny Z’s Hot Rod & Custom Shop was waiting for. Its owner, Lynda Rowe, had an XY Falcon lined up for Jack and the team to start a full custom build on, but things changed.

“Lynda told me that she’d got her dad’s XY ute,” Jack begins. “It’d been in storage for the past 25-30 years, and she said she’d like to rebuild that. That was a Friday, and on a Monday morning I get a call at about 7:30. Lynda says, ‘There’s a bit of a change of plan – I bought an XM on the weekend, and it’s on the way to your workshop as we speak.’ And as I’m on the phone, this XM rocks up at the front door!”

First published in the February 2023 issue of Street Machine

Project XY turned into Project XM. “Lynda just wanted something that she could jump in and drive everyday – she wasn’t after a show car,” Jack explains. Part of that plan was for the two-door ’64 to be a showstopper at Lynda’s daughter’s wedding, so that meant that the Ford had to stand out but also run as smooth as butter.

That would be no easy task, as Lynda’s other cars included an HSV Maloo and a BMW, both high-water marks for driving dynamics compared to what was coming out of Broadmeadows in the mid-60s. That meant as many new parts and mod cons as possible had to be added to the XM, all while maintaining the sleek, crisp lines of the original.

The Ford was quickly up on the Johnny Z’s hoist to have its bodywork sorted. The shell appeared okay when it arrived at the workshop, but pulling it down revealed some rust issues. Jack also made a discovery after he’d made new door skins for the coupe.

“When we made the door skins, I was having a look and going, ‘The sills have got a big bow in them – have I screwed up these doors?’ I actually thought I’d curved the skins on them.”

Jack hadn’t – the car had bent. “When you pick them up on the old two-post hoist, you’re actually bending the car a little bit, so if you’ve got the doors open, you’ll notice it – you can’t open or close the doors properly on a two-poster,” he says.

Reinforcing rails were duly added to tie the front and rear back together, but before the custom paintwork and exterior touches could be done, fresh mechanicals were needed to transform the car into a modern daily driver. That meant a 351-cube Windsor V8 crate motor and a C4 trans as part of a completely new driveline and underpinnings.

“Lynda wanted a hot 289 or 302 and wanted us to send it to a builder, but if we send the motor to Joe Bloggs and it comes back with problems, that’s our issue,” Jack says. That’s why the XM runs a brand new 351, gearbox and diff. The motor also wears a new serpentine belt kit and Holley Sniper EFI.

The XM’s stopping and handling has also been vastly improved; Lynda will now notice far less of a difference when she jumps out of her Beemer into the Falcon. A custom RRS MacPherson-type strut front end and Watt’s-link rear sorts the suspension, while Wilwood brakes pull the car up smartly via a VH40 booster to deliver a soft, progressive brake-pedal feel.

The luxury mod cons continue inside, where custom Eggplant leather trim offsets niceties like power steering, air conditioning and power windows. A custom dash houses electronic gauges as well as a central digital screen for the sat-nav, reversing camera and audio. This is probably the only XM Falcon that has remote push-button start to pre-warm the cabin and warm up the Windsor under the bonnet!

The custom Ruby Star exterior colour was the work of Concept Paints, and one look around the XM reveals the many clever changes that bring it into the 21st century.

“We got rid of the indicators in the front bar, and we’re running late-model headlights,” Jack says. “They’re all LED, and they’ve got the halo and park light in them. We shaved the front and rear bars so they have a 5mm gap all the way around. It’s also got reverse sensors; anything you think about in a late-model car, the XM has it.”

The one thing the XM didn’t have during the build, though, was luck. The pandemic meant that Johnny Z’s was forced to temporarily close, and then there was the knock-on impact of parts shortages. That put the Falcon’s completion by the wedding date at serious risk.

“We virtually closed the doors – out of the two years of COVID, we were closed for 12 months,” Jack says. “So that threw the project behind. We were busting our arses trying to get it to the wedding – but we just couldn’t. Every time I see Lynda’s daughter, I still apologise for not getting there with the car.”

While it didn’t make the nuptials, the XM’s blend of classic cool with modern reliability and comfort is the perfect partnership. And what happened to the XY ute that Lynda was initially going to deliver to Jack? “Oh, it’s here,” he laughs. “We’re working on that now!”

Lynda Rowe
1964 Ford XM Falcon coupe

Paint:Concept Paints custom Ruby Star
Brand:Ford 351ci
Induction:Holley Sniper EFI
Oil pump:High-volume, modified sump
Fuel pump:Electric
Cooling:Aussie Desert Cooler aluminium radiator with twin thermo fans
Exhaust:Custom 2.5in mandrel-bent headers, 2.5in system
Ignition:MSD Digital 6A
Gearbox:TCI C4
Converter:2500rpm stall
Diff:Custom 9in
Front:RRS custom MacPherson-type struts, RRS power steering
Rear:RRS custom Watt’s link
Brakes:Wilwood discs and two-spot calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder:PBR VH40 booster
Rims:Rocket Racing Wheels Igniter; 15×6 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber:Hankook; 185/65R15 (f), 255/60/15 (r)

Jack at Johnny Z’s Hot Rod & Custom Shop; Glenn at Rocket Kustom Auto Trim; John at JSR Auto Electrics; all the crew at Concept Paints; Owen Webb and Shaun for the paint stock. Jack at Johnny Z’s would like to thank the owner, Lynda, for entrusting us with the project and future projects, and allowing us to run with the ideas – truly sorry we missed the wedding deadline; hey, we’re blaming COVID!