Show-quality 434-cube 1980 Ford XD Falcon

Tristan Wright took this show-quality Ford XD Falcon and upped the ante in every way

Photographers: Ben Hosking

Buy it and drive it was the plan, but Tristan Wright couldn’t help himself – he had to make this show-quality Ford XD Falcon stronger, faster, better

This article on Tristan’s XD Falcon was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Street Machine

EVER since spying a tough XD at Summernats as a 15-year-old teenager, Tristan Wright has always had a soft spot for the model that took the Aussie Falcon into the 1980s. “They’re my dream car,” he says. “I love the shape.”

Early on Tristan satisfied his XD passion with a good-nick 351 Clevo-powered example. However, as often happens, life got in the way and his beloved XD got moved on.

Fast-forward to 2015. While a show-quality blown BF GT and a few nice 4x4s had graced his garage, the now 35-year-old Tristan was still just as passionate about the squared-edged Falcon. As fate would have it, his cousin Rob was at Showcars Melbourne and started texting Tristan photos of this awesome gunmetal grey XD on display.

“It was the right colour, right everything,” Tristan says. “I told Rob he had to wait there until the owner came back, to get his details.”

Unfortunately, the Falcon’s owner, Jamie Clay, was actually working at the show and didn’t return for the entire five hours Rob patiently waited.

“Rob photographed the brag board, which had Jamie’s name on it,” Tristan says. “So I Facebook-stalked him, finally touching base through one of the Ford forums.”

Unsurprisingly, the XD wasn’t for sale. Nonetheless, with a shared passion for the model, the pair kept in contact. Eventually, Jamie had a change of heart. A deal was struck and the gunmetal grey XD headed north up the Hume in a V8 Supercar-style transporter to its new home in Canberra.

Jamie had built the Falcon up from a 100,000-kay six-cylinder with zero rust. He added a 351, single-rail four-speed, got the body straight-as and had it painted in the custom-mix PPG grey. The 19-inch Intro billets were bolted on and leather interior added. All in all, a clean ’n’ classy ride.

“It was show-quality,” Tristan says. “The plan was to buy it and drive it. The only money I was going to spend was for a good-quality car cover.”

But Tristan soon had a hankering to give the XD his own personal touch, along the lines of a tougher engine, upgraded driveline, big audio and re-trimmed boot.

The old electric fuel pump was crazy-noisy, but the new set-up utilises in-tank pumps that are much quieter. To further hush the buzz, Dynamat has been added to the sides, back and bottom of the new fuel cell. “I can barely hear them,” Tristan says

Sitting ready to go at Pavtek Performance was just the thing to sate Tristan’s horsepower appetite: a 434ci Clevo with Dart block, CHI heads, CHI air-gap manifold and a roller cam with big lumps on it that churned out a romping 660hp@7500rpm – perfect! One problem: Tristan’s pockets weren’t that deep. Down but not out, Tristan begged, borrowed, connived, swindled, horse-traded, swapped, bartered and schemed his way to procuring the engine – it was an insanely convoluted deal.

Next up: gearbox. There was never any doubt ID WIN was staying a manual. Equally certain was that with 660 horses and the gear-busting, shaft-twisting grip of the fat R888 semi-slicks, leaving the single-rail in place was akin to playing Russian roulette.

“I never drive the car in the rain,” Tristan says, “so that didn’t really factor when selecting the Toyo R888 semi-slicks. They grip up really well, even with 860Nm of torque”

Slotting in one of Mal Wood Automotive’s 1000hp Tremec T56 Magnums was just what the doctor ordered. “The Tremec transformed the car,” Tristan says. “With the single-rail it was like stirring a bowl of porridge. The car’s really nice to drive now and the extra two gears makes a huge difference. Big thanks to Calwell Car Centre and Ultimate Tunes for handling the gearbox and motor installation.”

With three in-tank pumps, this Aeromotive regulator is working overtime to keep fuel pressure to the Holley HP Ultra 950 at a steady 7.5psi. Even with 660hp on tap, the whole system is overkill, but it does have scope if Tristan decides to go turbo or blown in the future

In the spirit of one thing leading to another, Tristan’s attention now turned to the BorgWarner diff. “By the time I changed the 2.98 centre, added new axles and all the rest of it, I figured I might as well do a whole new diff,” he says.

Ben from Natrad fabricated the mirror-image oil catch-cans that flank the Aussie Desert Cooler radiator. Note the flush-fitting filters/breathers that have been countersunk into the top corner of each tank – very neat

His figuring manifested itself in the form of a Competition Engineering sheet-metal nine-inch. The braced chrome-moly housing is filled with a 35-spline Strange alloy centre, billet yoke and 4.11:1 gears. “The diff’s pretty full-on,” Tristan says. “But I’ll never have to go back and do it over again.”

Finally, the fuel system. Wanting the option to go turbo or blown in the future, Tristan went to town, adding larger hard lines, an alloy tank in the boot and triple in-tank pumps. Trims By Shaun re-did the entire boot to match the existing custom door trims.

The stock XD fuel gauge just wasn’t playing friendly with the available sender units for the fuel cell, and hooking up a cable-driven speedo was looking problematic at best, but a brace of Auto Meter gauges solved these problems. “It worked out well,” Tristan says. “With the layout of the factory dash I was able to get the Auto Meter gauges to sit neatly in the same place. Dave’s Mobile Auto Electrical has done a few street machines, so I got him to wire the gauges and a host of other stuff.”

Michael Stahl got the dash and factory radio looking like new. According to Tristan, Michael’s a total Ford expert who painstakingly hand-painted all the lettering on the radio and a/c controls

The set-up not only looks great, the GPS speedo allows Tristan to play with gearing and tyre size without affecting accuracy – oh, and the fuel gauge now reads spot-on.

Being a Sunday cruiser, a rocking audio system for the XD was a must. Mind you, the exquisitely restored factory radio (sourced through eBay) is just there for looks. Audiotech Tuggeranong built the system around a hidden source unit that Bluetooth-connects to Tristan’s iPhone. From there he controls Rockford Fosgate amps and speakers, plus an under-seat Kicker subwoofer for that all-important bass thump.

The Falcon’s security system (which can do pretty much everything except start the car), is also controlled via iPhone or smartwatch.

The last piece of the puzzle was the ID WIN plates. “They’re just a gee-up,” Tristan says. “When I first posted them on the forums, they blew up. Guys were saying the car had better do eights otherwise I had no right to put them on.”

For the record, Tristan has no intention of racing every car in Oz to confirm the plates’ claim; they’re just for fun – much like his sterling XD.


Paint: PPG Grey

Engine: 434ci Dart Iron Eagle block
Heads: CHI 225cc
Intake: CHI air-gap
Cam: Hydraulic-roller
Sump: Moroso High-Volume Strip
Ignition: ICE
Carby: Holley HP Ultra 950cfm
Radiator: Aussie Desert Cooler
Exhaust: 2in headers, 3in system, Magnaflow mufflers
Preferred fuel: PULP
Power: 660hp @7500rpm

Gearbox: T56 Magnum
Bellhousing: Quick Time steel
Clutch: 11in Option 3 Plus
Tailshaft: 3in chrome-moly
Diff: Sheet-metal 9in, 35-spline, 4.11:1

Springs: King lowered (f & r)
Shocks: Koni (f & r)
Sway-bars: Whiteline
Bushes: Nolathane
Brakes: BF XR8 discs, Wilwood four-piston calipers (f & r)

Trim: Leather
Seats: Factory buckets
Door trims: Custom leather
Wheel: MOMO
Gauges: Auto Meter
Shifter: MWA Quick Shifter
Head unit: Bluetooth hide-away
Amp/speakers: Rockford Fosgate and Kicker subwoofer

Rims & rubber
Wheels: Intro; 19×8 (f), 19×10.5 (r)
Tyres: Toyo R888; 235/35R19 (f), 295/30/R19 (r)