Phil Bartolo’s 520hp XP Futura hardtop

Old-school tough with a streetable 520hp thump and modern smarts, Phil Bartolo's XP hardtop was worth building twice

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

Taking on any decent-sized build requires patience and persistence. Phil Bartolo needed a double helping of both in order to get his stunning XP Futura coupe finished. Why? Because he built it twice!

First published in the April 2022 issue of Street Machine

Actually, Phil needed patience and persistence just to get the car into his shed in the first place. “As a kid, I always wanted an XP coupe,” he recalls. “I purchased this one in 2006 from the mechanic next door to my panel shop in South Melbourne after years of persuasion. I broke his balls for three years to get it!”

When Phil purchased the XP it was in pieces, but along with all those pieces were some choice spare parts. It all sat in the garage for the next few years before he found time to put the car back together in 2010.

“It had a mild 351 Cleveland, and was tan in colour with tan trim,” Phil recalls. “It was a pretty clean car; it only had a little bit of rust in one of the guards. We paint-stripped the whole car except for the quarters, because they were pretty straight and we were short on time.”

Phil’s long-time friend Andy Scicluna from Area 51 Garage handled the fab work. Andy tubbed the rear, fabricated a steel reverse-cowl bonnet, and bent up custom extractors for the Clevo. Phil then got the shoehorn out to fit the engine in the XP’s relatively compact engine bay. “They said I’d never fit a Cleveland in there!” he cackles triumphantly.

With serviceability being a priority, Phil trimmed the lower portion of the strut towers and fitted an RRS notch kit to gain an extra 11 inches of space. The firewall was recessed two inches to accommodate the offset of the Clevo heads, and the radiator was tucked into the radiator support for better clearance at the front.

Phil had the bumpers, door handles, grille and headlight surrounds satin-chromed before giving them a hand-brushed finish, and all exterior trims and most engine components were hand-brushed to match the Auto Drag rollers, too.

Feeling satisfied, Phil cruised and showed the coupe for six years until a dreaded case of tinworm arose. “I noticed a spot of rust in each quarter panel, so I pulled it down,” he says. “You always want more and more, so I just went all-out, knowing I had great mates to make it happen.”

Doubling down on his desire to transform the XP into the perfect cruiser, Phil stripped it back to a bare shell, ready for round two. Andy at Area 51 Garage again worked his magic on the Futura, refining the panelwork and replacing the rear quarters. While they were off, Andy unpicked the rear wheel tubs, widening and lifting them to accommodate the new 275/60 ET Streets.

Once done, it was ready for Phil and Sean Hammond to tackle the bodywork at Phil’s shop, South Melbourne Smash Repairs. “Sean did most of the bodywork, and over two summer breaks we splined the whole vehicle, then polyester primed it, splined that, primed it and splined that, too,” Phil laughs. “I’ve nicknamed him ‘The Spline King’!”

The new-and-improved XP was initially going to be black, but Phil changed his mind while performing a spray job on a red Porsche at his shop. “I could picture the red-on-red combo on the XP and just fell in love with the idea,“ he says. A spray painter for over 30 years, Phil put his own spin on the Porsche colour with a Glasurit custom-mix, which he laid on the laser-straight Futura personally.

The XP’s punchy paintwork needed a mill to match, so he had Tony Prosperi-Porta screw together the perfect 393 Clevo. A Comp hydraulic-roller cam, Scat crank and conrods and SRP flat-top pistons form the bottom end, while alloy Edelbrock Performer heads got the nod, topped by a Pro Systems 830cfm carby. The combo pulled 520hp at 6500rpm on Speed Works’ engine dyno, making it perfect for cruising duties.

The Clevo pushes power through a race-prepped C10 auto built by Sam at Raceshift Automatics in Epping, backed by a 1330-series tailshaft. Power gets to the ground via a Pro9 nine-inch packed with full-floater 31-spline axles and 3.7:1 gears. Phil also fitted a set of McDonald Brothers track rods to help keep the XP’s rear tyres planted.

Nowadays, it wouldn’t be considered a perfect cruiser without power steering and air conditioning, so Ballarat Heating & Cooling set up the Vintage Air a/c unit, with two custom-made condensers and Spal fans under each guard. Phil’s good mate Damian Borg took care of the installation of the RRS power steering, including the pump, plumbing and brackets to suit the March serpentine system.

Meticulous by nature, Damian extended himself to sort many of the finer details and add the final touches to the car. “Damian is a freak!” Phil says by way of a compliment. “He’s a very neat and sought-after tradesman.”

Phil was happy to call the car finished, until another mate, Jamie Small, gifted him a Holley Sniper EFI system as payment for a favour. After some teething problems making the transition to EFI, the XP is running great. “Jamie replaced the MSD dizzy and box with Holley Sniper gear; now it’s awesome to drive,” Phil claims.

With the XP fully engineered, super-reliable and looking sharper than ever, Phil is ready to enjoy it. “I plan to take the XP to MotorEx, and then I’ll take it to Bright with all the boys,” he says. “Eventually, I’d like to take it for a pass.”


With the XP now doubly finished, Phil’s focus has shifted to his next project: an all-steel, gasser-style ’41 Willys. Ron Smith from KustomBitz is currently fabricating a custom chassis for it, and there’s a Boss 520ci John Kaase big-block waiting to go in. “Ron’s doing an amazing job on the chassis,” says Phil.

“I’ve bare-metalled the car, and once the chassis is completed we can start the mock-up.” From there, it’ll be up to Andy from Area 51 to tackle the bodywork before Phil lays down some 60s gasser-style signwriting, followed by a coat of satin clear. How good does that sound?


Paint: Glasurit custom red
Brand: Ford Cleveland
Capacity: 393ci
Induction: Holley Sniper, eight injectors, polished throttlebody
Inlet: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap
ECU: Holley Sniper EFI
Heads: Edelbrock Performer
Cam: Comp Cams hydraulic-roller
Rods: Scat H-beam 6in
Pistons: SRP flat-top
Rings: Total Seal
Pushrods: 5/16in
Valve springs: Comp Cams
Crank: Scat 393
Bearings: Clevite
Oil pump: Cleveland
Oil System: Modified High Energy sump
Fuel pump: Aeromotive Phantom 340 Stealth
Cooling: D&D Radiator Service custom alloy radiator, Spal fans
Exhaust: Custom extractors, dual 2.5in Exhaust Bros system
Ignition: Holley HyperSpark distributor, HyperSpark coil, ICE Ignition leads
Gearbox: Race-prepped C10
Converter: Dominator 3000rpm
Tailshaft: Geelong Differential Services 1330-series
Diff: Pro9 9in, full-floating 31-spline axles, 3.7:1 gears
Front: RRS coil-over struts, RRS strut brace kit, RRS power rack-and-pinion
Rear: Koni shocks, McDonald Brothers track rods
Brakes: RRS discs (f), Pro9 discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15×6 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
Rubber: Firestone F-560 155R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/60R15 (r)


I couldn’t have built this car without the help of my best mates Ken Sandham, Jamie Small, Andy Scicluna, Sean Hammond and Damian Borg; special thanks to Andrew at Werribee Brake & Clutch; Jack at Citywide Towing; Ballarat Heating & Cooling; John Lang at Pro9; Tony Prosperi-Porta; Stuart at Wishart Auto Tech; Chris and Dave at Duncan Auto Electrical; Sam at Raceshift Automatics; South Melbourne Smash Repairs; my wife Natalie and sons Mark and Jesse for being so patient

Photographers: Chris Thorogood