Running killer numbers in drag racing generally requires a surplus of horsepower and as little weight as possible. But Tasmania’s Paul Hamilton has another take on this equation: keep the weight but add more power. His full-fat, big-tyre XA sedan has run 8.0@180mph thanks to a twin-turbo 600ci big-block, but this is only part of the car’s near 30-year story.
First published in the January 2023 issue of Street Machine
Paul recalls how it all began. “I’ve always been a Ford man, but I never really cared that much about cars ’til I was about 17 and a mate’s brother had an XA GT,” he explains. “I paid around $1000 for this one, and it wasn’t a glamour, but this was 1994-’95 when they were just getting taken to the tip. It was green with a Parchment vinyl roof and interior. It was rough around the edges, but it was a V8 XA, which was what I was after.”
While XAs are a hot-ticket item today, this wasn’t the case in the era of grunge. This gave Paul carte blanche to build his sedan the way he wanted, which meant turning it into a tough streeter that would rock the Apple Isle.
“It was just a daily driver when I got it,” Paul says. “It was stock as a rock, and it just evolved – particularly after I lost my licence. Around ’98 or ’99, I put a 501ci big-block Ford in it, as I was talking to a mate about supercharging the 351 and he said, ‘Why don’t you just get a bigger motor?’
“Around that time, a bloke at the drags was selling a stroked big-block, so I bought it and his C6 auto. Then after a while, I figured if big is good, then bigger is better, so I had to have more.”
While Paul’s Fairmont left the factory with a two-barrel 351, it has levelled up its game massively thanks to 600 cubes of Blue Oval big-block between its chassis rails.
Based off Ford’s legendary 385-series 429ci/460ci big-blocks of the late 60s, the Eliminator Products four-bolt, 10.31in-deck-height iron block has been packed full of all the good fruit by Powerhouse Engines to make a planet-turning 2100hp at the hubs on 26psi of boost from twin 88mm Garrett GTX50 turbos.
The rotating assembly features a Callies Magnum crank, custom 9.5:1-comp JE pistons and 6.7-inch Callies Enforcer rods. A 65mm-core PHE solid-roller bumpstick – measuring 280°@.050-inch on the intake and .800-inch lift – and Jesel keyway lifters round out the short motor.
The cylinder heads are Ford Performance A460 Motorsport castings with titanium Inconel valves, Jet Engineering 7/16-inch pushrods, and shaft-mount Jesel 1.7-ratio rockers. Though they flow huge numbers, the altered valve locations of the heads caused Paul some grief when it came to packaging.
“When I put the 600-cuber in, the taller heads meant we had to cut the shock towers,” he says. “It had 2.5-inch primaries and this huge exhaust system to get the gas out of the aspirated motor. Everything is huge on the big-blocks, so packaging is important.”
Those NA primaries are no longer required thanks to MPW Performance building a set of custom manifolds, onto which the twin Garrett turbos and Turbosmart 60mm CO2 wastegates are mounted. Spent gases leave the Falcon via a twin four-inch, oval-tube exhaust system.
Producing two Bugatti Veyrons’ worth of horsepower requires good oil control, and that’s been one area that Paul, MPW and Powerhouse Engines spent plenty of time researching. To ensure proper lubrication, EAT454 now wears an ASR dry-sump pan and Peterson multi-stage oil pump, along with some huge supply lines.
“We found out big-block Ford engines consume a lot of oil, so we had to upgrade the dry sump lines to 20AN to circulate the required amount of oil in the system,” Paul explains. “They’re huge now, but the system works. These big-block Fords aren’t cheap to build to this level, but that’s life, and I’m Ford to my bootstraps.”
A Reid-case Powerglide has been built with a girthy 11/8-inch input shaft and TH400 output shaft to take the 9.8-litre’s grunt, which gets to the ground via a ProTorque converter, GJ Drivelines Pro Series tailshaft and a serious nine-inch diff. Running a Strange Pro Iron 9.5-inch centre with a full spool and 3.25 gears, the diff rides on Gazzard Brothers leaf springs and shocks.
“When we put the 500ci combo in, my mate Michael Prehn cut the rear end out from the back seat to the rear bar,” Paul explains. “He also did the RRS steering-rack front end and chassis connectors when we put the 600ci engine in. It’s pretty rigid now, and although it’s added a bit of weight, you can jack up one corner and the whole side comes up.”
Power is nothing without control, as the old saying goes, and to that end, EAT454 is wholly managed by a Haltech Nexus R5 vehicle control unit, with Haltech IGN-1A coils replacing a traditional distributor.
The Nexus can handle power distribution, so no fuses are needed, while sensors keep the XA running straight and true at the track, monitoring things like exhaust gas temp, wheel speed, shock travel, ride height, air-fuel ratios and gear position. “The electronics side of the car is crazy and incredible,” says Paul. “It’s really out of my league with wheel speed sensors and the like.”
While the XA has all the hardware needed to run big-dog numbers, don’t expect to see Paul sending it to the moon first lap out. “It’s a whole new car basically, so we’ll start from the beginning again and build towards putting a pass down,” he says. “But I want to run a seven, and a serious seven.
“It’s been a journey to get here, but I’ll never try to make it light, and I’ll never sell the car, even if I only drive it once in a blue moon.”
1972 FORD XA FAIRMONT
|Brand:||Eliminator Products 600ci big-block Ford|
|Heads:||Ford Performance A460 Motorsport|
|Turbos:||Twin Garrett GTX50 88mm|
|ECU:||Haltech Nexus R5|
|Oil system:||Peterson pump, ASR dry sump|
|Fuel system:||Eight XX Racing 5500cc injectors (methanol), eight Siemens Deka 2400cc injectors (pump fuel); Aeromotive cable pump (methanol), MagnaFuel electric pump (pump fuel)|
|Cooling:||Aussie Desert Cooler radiator, SPAL fan, Meziere water pump|
|Exhaust:||Custom MPW manifolds, twin 4in oval exhaust, Turbosmart 60mm CO2 wastegates|
|Ignition:||Haltech IGN-1A coils|
|Diff:||9.5in, Strange Engineering Pro Iron centre, 3.25:1 gears, full spool|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||RRS front end, Gazzard Bros coil-over struts, RRS rack-and-pinion steering|
|Rear:||Gazzard Bros leaf springs and shocks|
|Brakes:||RRS discs (f), Wilwood discs (r)|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||Weld Magnum; 15×4 (f), 15×14 (r)|
|Rubber:||Mickey Thompson front-runners (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pro 315/60R15 (r)|
Adam Rogash at MPW Performance; Johnny Pilla at Powerhouse Engines; Mike Prehn for the tub job 20 years ago; everyone else who has helped along the way – there is a long list, so you know who you are!