427 Windsor-powered 1969 Ford XT Fairmont

Expensive misfortune couldn’t stop Matt Kennedy from turning his rusty XT Fairmont cruiser into a street bruiser

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

BUILDING a dream car often means diving headfirst into the unknown. Even the best-laid plans can be thrust into peril by any number of complications, be they mechanical, financial or personal. When the challenges start to pile up, many just roll their project into a corner and throw their hands up in defeat, but Matt Kennedy persisted. His reward? This gorgeous XT Fairmont with a tough aspirated powerplant to match.

First published in the August 2021 issue of Street Machine

Having spent his younger years hooning around in XWs and XYs, the now 45-year-old admits he has something of a soft spot for second-generation Falcons. “I paid $15,000 for the XT in 2011 from a bloke in Dromana,” recounts the self-employed powdercoater. “It was a complete car with a little 302 Windsor and C4; you could just turn the key and cruise anywhere.” Rolling on Convo Pro wheels and finished in dark blue, the Fairmont spent several years reliably performing weekend duties.

In 2016, Matt elected to take the car off the road for a makeover. “I knew it had a bit of rust,” he says, “but it wasn’t until I dug a bit deeper that I found all of it. The torque boxes were almost gone – they’d been held together with bog and chicken wire!”

To Matt’s dismay, the tinworm didn’t stop there. By the time the body was together again, he had replaced the sills, lower front guards, rear quarters, all four door skins, and even the rear half of the boot. “With the new glass and rubbers, there’s not much of the original car left!” he laughs. All the work was done by panel guru Mark Potter, who Matt credits with the car’s super-smooth finish. “Mark is incredible in the way he sees every tiny imperfection,” he says. “He’s the best in the biz.”

With the Fairmont’s metalwork die-straight, Matt set his mind to its complexion. “Originally I’d planned to paint the car in a shade of pewter grey or silver, with the interior retrimmed in black,” he says. “But with the paintwork being done at a place called Exotic Kustoms, it had to stand out from the crowd!” A custom-mix blue was laid down at the shop’s urging.

The immaculate Snowflake trim inside tells a similar tale. Matt came across Adrian from Marrocco Vehicle Trimming while he was working next door to Exotic Kustoms. He initially asked Adrian to retrim the car in tan. “Once he saw the car painted, he convinced me it had to be white,” says Matt.

Getting a new engine into the car proved far less straightforward, and threw Matt right into the middle of what he can only describe as a “horror story”.

“The original mechanic promised me a 440-cube Windsor with 700hp. I trusted him, as he was a family friend,” he relates, placing emphasis on “was”.

“Over a period of two years, I gave him four instalments, which came to $20,000. One day I paid him a surprise visit and asked to see my engine. There wasn’t even a block to see! I never recovered that money, and let’s just say we’re not friends anymore.”

His trust and wallet bruised, Matt got in touch with Dandy Engines, where Lou Iudica stepped up to build a capable donk. “Lou’s not only the nicest bloke ever, but I also have a 700hp Windsor sitting in the engine bay,” Matt enthuses. Considering some of the herculean powerplants assembled by the brains at Dandy, there was never any doubt as to Lou’s suitability for the job.

He began with a Dart SHP Windsor block decked to 9.5 inches, which was packed with a Callies Magnum four-inch stroker crank, Callies Compstar rods and SRP pistons to bring displacement to 427 cubes. Up top are Higgins Cleveland-style heads, mated to an SCM Engine Developments manifold and APD Billet Enforcer 950 carb. A BA Falcon-sourced fuel pump happily feeds the Clevor with 98-octane pump juice.

Matt then sourced a manualised Powerglide from Geelong’s ever-reliable DTM Automatic Transmissions, which he packed with a TCE 4500rpm stall converter. The remainder of the powertrain comprises a GJ Drivelines tailshaft and a nine-inch diff with a Strange centre, 4.11 gears and Moser 35-spline axles. “A great mate of mine once told me that to build the car tough enough, you build from the diff forward,” says Matt. “And he was right – it’s a monster!”

The Fairmont finally returned to the blacktop in late 2020, capping off a tough four-and-a-half-year build process. It’s seen street duties only since then, though Matt has plans to run the quarter soon. “I’m yet to show it, too,” he says, “but I would love to get it to the Bright Rod Run or Street Machine Summernats.”

Matt says he couldn’t have done it without his wife, Kelly. “She’s the best wife in the world – and also the finance officer!” he laughs. “I’m not going to tell her, but I’d love a ’54-’56 F100 to park beside the XT.” Sorry Matt, but your secret’s out now.


Paint: Exotic Kustoms custom-mixed blue
Type:427ci Dart Windsor block
Induction: SCM Engine Developments manifold, 950 APD Billet Enforcer carb
Heads: Higgins Cleveland-type
Camshaft: COMP 
Conrods: Callies Compstar 6.000in
Crank: Callies Magnum 4.000in
Fuel system: BA Falcon in-tank pump
Cooling: Race Radiators 
Exhaust: Custom headers, twin 3in stainless system 
Ignition: MSD 6AL, MSD Blaster coil, MSD dizzy 
Gearbox: Manualised Powerglide
Converter: TCE 4500rpm 
Diff: 9in, 4.11:1 gears, Moser 35-spline axles 
Front: RRS coil-overs
Rear:Reset factory leaf springs, CalTracs 
Brakes: RRS 297mm discs and two-piston calipers (f), drums (r)
Master cylinder:Cruisin Automotive
Rims: Billet Specialties; 17×4.5 (f), 15×8 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson; 26×6 (f), 255/60/15 (r)

Exotic Kustoms; Mark Potter; G&R Towing for moving it around a lot; Dandy Engines; Progen for the fuel and brake lines; Racewires for the electrics; Matt Sadler at GJ Drivelines; Extracted Performance; Travis Condon at Sodablast Ringwood; All Race Fabrications; Race Radiators; Danko at Adicted Performance; Marrocco Vehicle Trimming for the perfect white trim