Ross Puliafito’s Falcon XB GT hardtop

Ross Puliafito rescues an ailing GT with a lot of help from his friend

Photographers: John Jovic

It’d had a hard life I think. Everything I touched had been butchered before. It was stuffed.”

When the guy building your car says that, you’ve got to worry, even when he’s your mate. Still, new owner Ross Puliafito didn’t give up. You don’t when it’s something you’ve lusted over most of your life.

First published in the March 2007 issue of Street Machine

“Oh man, I’ve loved coupes since I was 11 or so,” said Ross when we asked why he bought this ’73 XB GT hardtop. You and a million others too.

You have to wonder if what passes for new factory muscle in 2007 will have the same effect in 2040 as the muscle cars of the 60s and 70s have on us now. It’s hard to get excited by plastic engine covers and fancy body kits when you compare them to the swoopy lines of a Falcon coupe.

Ross owned a Landau hardtop when he was just 18 and that satisfied the urge for three years. There’s nothing like owning a genuine GT, however, so when he spotted this beast from Queensland in 1999, he wanted to know more.

Back then, the GT was in its factory red and black colours and ran regular drag duties with the aid of some giggle gas. The price was right but with Ross living some 1500km away in Victoria, it wasn’t a matter of simply ducking over with a mate and going for a drive.

“He sent me a videotape of it,” says Ross. That was enough inspiration to jump on a bomber heading north.

While it was rough around the edges, the GT was all there and, having run a best of 11.4 seconds, it was quick enough.

So he paid the man, drove the hardtop to a transport yard and jumped back on a southbound bomber. The hardtop showed up a couple of days later.

“It was a good thing, I guess,” Ross says in hindsight, “but in fairly average condition. I raced it a couple of times when I first got it. It went 12.2 without the nitrous which was alright at the time.”

That engine ended up lunching itself, however, so Ross had a stronger one built. Combining stock rods and crank with forged pistons, a Crane F246 cam and some ported 2V cast-iron heads earned quicker ETs.

With a Weiand X-celerator intake and 750cfm Holley carb, the new donk was quicker at 11.9 without gas but it didn’t perform when the switch was flicked so after a while Ross decided on a more thorough rebuild, including refurbishing the body.

He shipped the shell off to a panel shop, expecting a fairly quick turnaround but after 12 months it hadn’t been touched so off it went to another shop. Where it again sat untouched. Eventually, Ross’s good mate Jason Hoctor tapped him on the shoulder and said he’d take on the job.

“Originally, I just wanted a blow-over but Jason doesn’t do jobs like that,” says Ross. Just as well too — a quickie spray job wouldn’t do this car justice.

Jason is well-known in the Victorian scene for his turquoise TD Cortina with WINDSOR numberplates. It’s a genuine low nine-second machine, proof that Jason knows his way around quick street cars.

So why did he take the job on?

“Just to help Ross out. There’s a bit of personal satisfaction there but mainly to help Ross get a good car,” Jason says.

He gets a lot of requests to build cars but he likes to pick and choose. The hardtop was built after hours, mostly in the garage at home and for cost — Jason didn’t charge Ross for labour at all. How’s that for a good mate?

Building the hardtop wasn’t a simple job. There were kinks in the chassis rails from an excursion into a ditch and the shell was riddled with tin-worm.

Jason fixed the rails and welded a truckload of new metal into the shell. Among the items repaired or replaced were the radiator support, sill panels, lower rear quarters, lower front guards, and the doors. You might also notice the hand-crafted rear support panel with exhaust cut-outs — made possible by the removal of the fuel tank. And the rear wheelarches were extended to accept 30in tyres if needed, while the reverse scoop was moulded into a non-GT bonnet for a smooth look. She’s pretty slick now and a million miles away from the rusty race car that made the trip down from Queensland.

Ross decided that black and silver would look much better with the white interior than the red and black ever did, so Jason coated the GT in straight black tinter with Asteroid Silver highlights. Like most of us, Jason hasn’t got a car-sized oven at home so the GT was sprayed and baked at his workplace, Ultrafinish in Clayton.

Although body and paint are Jason’s fortes, he was put in charge of the whole build. Shipping the interior to McBride Auto Upholstery proved to be a good move because David McBride had the original white GT material needed to rework the seats and door trims. According to the tags, this GT actually left the factory with red and black paint and white trim — an unusual combination.

TCE was responsible for the eight-inch 5000rpm converter, GE Performance worked the C10 auto and John Taverna Chassis narrowed a drum-brake nine-inch to replace the stock disc brake rear end. This allowed them to fit 10in-wide Convo Pros with 12.5in-wide Mickey Thompsons. Yep, 12.5 inches of rubber without tubs or relocated springs!

Back when the rebuild began, Ross sold the engine but hearing that the guy who’d bought it hadn’t used it, he bought it back. Jason took it to Graham Cerini at Total Performance for extra compression, a TFC high-rise intake and a 750cfm Demon carb. This was a wake-up call for the Clevo powerplant and it soon ran as fast as 11.1@119mph on alcohol.

Since these photos were taken, things have taken a downward turn. As the engine was basically the same unit that had been built six years before, Ross decided it was time for a ground-up rebuild and it was shipped off to a workshop (not Total Performance) that promised a quick turnaround. Rebuild in haste, repent at leisure — the engine lunched itself when it returned to the track and currently the hardtop sits in the garage minus its engine.

George Haddad’s down as the new engine builder but Ross hasn’t decided which way to go: 408-cube Clevo or 460ci small-block Windsor with all the fruit.

“It all comes down to money at the end of the day,” he says.


Back when Ross bought the hardtop, he paid just $13,000. That wasn’t a bad price for an 11sec-streeter back then, let alone a genuine GT. Obviously he’s spent a whole lot more on it since. But back in the late 90s, GT Falcons were only just starting to appreciate and it was XY and XW HOs that were bringing in the big bucks. While that’s not likely to change, the wild prices that people are paying for XW/XY GTs these days has upped the prices of the XA and XB GTs as well.

Unfortunately, many hardtops have made their way to the US where Mad Max replicas are all the rage.

People are starting to realise that they aren’t being made any more and there seems to be a game of musical chairs going on among enthusiasts as they scramble for a keeper before the prices hit outer space. With Monaros and Chargers following suit, make sure you’ve got your piece of Aussie muscle before the music stops.


Colour:Black tinter/Asteroid Silver
Engine:Clevo 351
Carb:Barry Grant 750DP
Manifold:TFC high-rise
Heads:Ported 2V cast-iron heads
Rods:Standard, ARP bolts
Cam:Crane F246
Cooling:Three-row radiator, AU thermo fans
Ignition:Bosch electronic
Exhaust:Four-into-one extractors, Hooker mufflers, three-inch system
Converter:Eight-inch TCE, 5000rpm
Diff:Shortened nine-inch, 31-spline axles, full spool, nodular iron centre
Brakes:Disc (f), F100 drums (r)
Springs:Stock six-cylinder (f), reset leaves, lowered three-inches (r)
Shocks:90/10 (f), 50/50 (r)
Rims:Center Line Convo Pro, 4×15 (f), 10×15 (r)
Rubber:Hankook 165/80 (f), M/T 28×12.5in (r)
Seats:Retrimmed GT, white factory vinyl
Gauges:GT & Auto Meter
Stereo:CD head unit
Shifter:B&M Quicksilver

All my friends and family but especially Jason Hoctor for building the complete car from start to finish; McBride Auto Upholstery; GE Performance; Ultrafinish; Total Performance.