Ask Darwin’s Paul Tinning about his astounding Dodge V10-powered XP coupe, and he’ll tell you the build was almost preordained.
First published in the November 2022 issue of Street Machine. Images by Chris Thorogood
“I was having a few beers with [local drag racer] Matt Abel and he mentioned he had a second XP coupe he didn’t want anymore, so I asked him what he wanted for it,” Paul explains. “I went over the next day with some money in my pocket and took it away a couple of weeks later.”
Most of the coupe was missing, save for two door skins, but the body was in pretty good shape – a suitable starting point for the radical overhaul Paul had in mind. “There’d be purists out there cursing me for doing what I’ve done to this car, but that’s their problem, not mine,” he laughs.
Paul had a tough 427 Windsor-powered XW Falcon back then, but his big plans for the coupe meant it had to go. “Once I got rid of the XW, I had some spare funds to go and purchase better gear for the XP – bigger brakes and all the rest of it. The V10 cost me about the same as what I sold the Windsor for, so it’s sort of like it was meant to be.”
Paul came across the Mopar donk for sale in Melbourne, promptly getting it shipped up north with the factory T56 attached. “I’d always loved the Vipers, so I’d always wanted to put a V10 in something,” he says. “When this came around, it all sort of fell into place.”
Originally found in a third-generation Viper, the 8.3-litre mill features all-stock internals, plus the factory throttlebody and manifold. E85 is supplied through an Aeromotive pump and 80psi injectors, and lit up by LS coils. The stainless exhaust measures up at three inches all the way through, and runs through the chassis rails before exiting at the end of the sill panels. There’s also a custom sump for the slippery stuff.
A pair of NRE 72mm mirror-image snails hang through the bonnet, though Paul plays down their role. “The turbos are basically wank factor,” he laughs. “They’ve got 5psi running through them.
Later on I might chuck more in it, but it’s a standard engine, so I don’t want to go stupid and hurt it. It’s a 505ci engine with 500hp, and that’s more than enough for me to go for a drive and do a skid easily!” Between the all-alloy V10 and the XP coupe’s relatively trim dimensions, the whole thing comes in at around 1400kg.
The Viper T56 gearbox was kept in place, which Paul wrangles through an S1 sequential shifter and a Wilwood pedal box. It spins a GJ Drivelines 3.5-inch tailshaft and nine-inch diff with a Truetrac centre, 4.11 gears and 35-spline axles.
The 17×4.5 and 15×10 Billet Specialties wheels hide chunky six-piston Wilwood calipers and 355mm discs up front, paired to four-pots and 280mm discs in the rear, plus an E-Stopp electric parking brake.
Paul’s experience with the XW influenced his choice of big-and-little rolling stock for the coupe. “[The XW] had 20-inch wheels, but I wasn’t happy with how it rode, how it sat and how it steered,” he says. “So I went with the old-school wheel and tyre set-up this time around. I’ve driven it a bit and it’s so good – it’s really, really comfortable.”
The considerable body mods were all done by Paul and offsider Troy Dunning, including the removable one-piece front clip. It uses the front section of the original bonnet, but the rest was replaced with a lift-off carbonfibre panel. Twin fuel fillers sit behind the bootlid, itself featuring a modified opening and carbonfibre lid, and the body-coloured bumpers were narrowed and welded to the body. The firewall has been pushed well back to accommodate the chunky V10, and flat floorpans sit underneath, alongside a raised tunnel and obligatory set of tubs.
Paul’s day job running The Resto Shop brought the Hyundai Amazon Grey hue right to his doorstep. “I don’t like the bright, in-your-face sort of thing; it’s just not me,” he says. “A customer brought in a car in this colour to have some repairs done, and I just went, ‘That’s the one I want.’ People can spend months choosing colours, and I don’t blame them. You’ve gotta get it right.” Resto Shop team member Jacob Gorman laid down the paint.
The clean aesthetic carries through the interior, where the dash was wiped clean of its switches, gauges, glovebox, radio opening and ashtray. A Haltech iC-7 dash lets Paul keep tabs on the car, and a Haltech CAN Keypad mounted in the bench seat provides light, heat and wiper controls. This also operates as a horn switch, allowing Paul to delete the factory tiller’s horn and continue the minimalist look.
In April this year, Paul hooked up his car trailer for a 3700km journey to debut the coupe at Melbourne’s MotorEx. “I wanted to take it to Summernats last year, but it fell behind with a couple of things, so Owen Webb said, ‘Don’t rush it; just bring it to MotorEx and we’ll unveil it.’ Towing a car trailer through the Adelaide Hills is not good fun!”
Paul also admits the big reveal was a nervy experience. “We sort of stepped away as soon as they opened the doors,” he says. “Everyone sort of made a beeline for the back, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, shit, what have I done wrong here? Is it the colour? Is it the car?’
Then a couple of people stopped and looked, and then there were people around it everywhere. It was pretty cool, and that’s when I went, ‘Okay, it’s accepted – I’m out of here!’ So we just walked out and let ’em at it.”
The cherry on top for Paul was earning the coveted Laurie Starling Engineering Excellence Award, bestowed by the late fabricator’s dad Rob, brother Jamie and Owen Webb. “We were totally surprised by that,” Paul enthuses. “They told us to come down to the stage, and they were talking about the Laurie Starling Award.
I looked at the guy who helped me from day one, Troy, and he went, ‘Nah, surely not!’ To come away with that was mind-blowing. It’s the one award I didn’t even think of getting, but it’s the one you really want, I think.”
Since the triumph at MotorEx, Paul’s also had a solid crack at Grand Champ at Red CentreNATS 2022 and came away with more tinware, including Top Undercarriage/Engineered and a Top Five Elite finish.
Falcon big job
Buying a cool car and a tough mill to put together is one thing, but finding all the parts to complete a rolling shell is another undertaking altogether – especially when the nearest capital city is 3000km away.
“Not knowing what was missing and then trying to fit things up and realising you don’t have them was incredibly frustrating,” Paul concedes. “I had a heap of help from Falcon groups on Facebook; some of the guys and girls on there have been amazing. Trying to do a build like this in Darwin has been a challenge, but the guys that have helped out throughout the build are awesome.”
That includes Paul’s wife, Nadya. “She’s been extremely patient, that’s for sure! I’ve been pretty much living in the shed doing the car. When I was doing the bodywork, I spent every night and all weekends doing it, for seven weeks. I’d beep the horn as I drove past the house on my way to the shed to let her know I was home!”
1965 FORD XP FALCON
|Baslac Amazon Grey
|Dodge 8.3L V10
|Haltech Nexus R5
|Twin NRE 72mm
|Aeromotive, 80psi injectors
|Custom PWR radiator
|Custom 3in system
|T56 six-speed manual
|9in, 4.11:1 Truetrac, 35-spline axles
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|Rod-Tech IFS, rack-and-pinion steering, coil-overs
|McDonald Brothers four-link, Strange coil-overs
|Wilwood (f & r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Billet Specialties Win Lite; 17×4.5 (f), 15×10 (r)
|Mickey Thompson; 17×5 (f), 15×12 (r)
Troy Dunning for fabrication; Chris Tinning for wiring; Karl Stowers for all his help; Radek Saitz; Jacob Gorman for paint; Liam Price; Craig at ABBFAB; Wholesale Paint Group; Phillips Lighting; Lenny Zanni; Anthony Rodrigues and Keelan Peck for tuning; Craig at All Car Upholstery; Ally at Autoglass NT; all my staff for putting up with me during the final stages of the build; Dilan Saitz for coming with me on the drive to MotorEx and Red CentreNATS; Owen Webb for shuffling things around for the MotorEx unveil; and of course my wife Nadya for being a legend and letting me do what I had to do.