Owen Webb is the chief judge for both Street Machine Summernats and Meguiar’s MotorEx, but he got his start with the XW Falcon ute ‘Bruiser’ in the late 1970s. It is an instantly recognisable car to those of us of a certain age, thanks to the blacked-out bar and distinctive rear spoiler.
“I’d owned a few EJ Holdens and stuff beforehand, but it was the first car that really got me hooked on the whole car scene,” Owen says. “It was traded in on a new ute at the Bowral Ford Dealership where I was doing my panel beating and spray painting apprenticeship – Nugget Gold, with a 250 2V six. A local earthmoving contractor had owned it, so it was pretty knocked around. Being 18 and an apprentice, I gave it the cheapest spray job possible and 12-slotters, which took me about a month.
“I drove it around like that for about four years before taking if off the road for rebuild number two. This time around, I gave it a good paintjob and added the 351 Cleveland and nine-inch. It was also one of the very first to have Center Line Auto Drags and BF Goodrich TAs; I thought that was pretty cool, the bee’s knees!”
Other mods included vinyl/velour trim (both in the cabin and the tray!), flared rear guards in steel, XB exterior mirrors, XW GT chin spoiler, a Ford Blue Oval etched into the rear window, and the ubiquitous letterbox scoop.
“I took it to a lot of shows – Roselands, Yennora, Orange, Wollongong, Albury Street Rod show. I used to come up to Sydney and hang out with guys like Graham Stubbs and Steve Turner, High Performance World. I took it to the 4th Street Machine Nationals in Narrandera, Easter 1980; that was a huge show. I did the first two Street Machine Summernats in that car, went in all the driving events – even the burnouts held on the main drag.
Bruiser made its first appearance in Street Machine in the Reader’s Cars section, way back in the April/May 1983 issue
“The ute was my first car ever featured in a magazine – Custom Vans & Trucks,” Owen continues. “It was also David Featherston’s last-ever Aussie shoot for Street Machine magazine (Jan/Feb 1986). He photographed the car and flew back home to the States the next day. David and I still regularly catch up whenever I go over.”
Owen was stoked to see that the ute is still in good shape and seemingly still in the hands of the bloke he sold it to in Ulladulla way back when. “I sold it in the early 1990s, to fund a ’38 Ford coupe project,” he says. “The only real changes are that it has 12-slotters back on it, XY tail-lights and a shaker. Other than that, it looks exactly the same!”
While Bruiser was Owen’s first streeter, his most famous build remains his ‘Wild Thing’ XY sedan, which was a Summernats Top 10 car and the March 1988 Street Machine cover star.