Timeless big-block XT Falcon ute

Darren Whyte rescued, restored and sharpened the hell out of a 90s street machine, replete with big-block power

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

With its perfectly defined lines and sparkling silver paint, you’d almost think Darren Whyte’s super-sharp XT ute was machined from a solid block of steel. Combine the finish with Auto Drags and a Ford big-block, and you’ve got yourself a killer Geelong streeter. “It’s come up all right,” Darren says, immediately winning the Understatement of the Year award.

First published in the June 2024 issue of Street Machine

Darren’s been a dyed-in-the-wool Ford fella since day dot – a trait he picked up from his dad. “I did my apprenticeship at Ford, and my first couple of cars were XWs,” he says. “The second one copped a bit of a rebuild; it had a 289 with 302 heads, a Top Loader and a nine-inch. After that, I had a few XEs, an EA, a couple of XR8s and an F6 Typhoon. Once the kids had grown up, I bought an XE ute and did that up as a bit of a project, but my aim was always to get back into a chrome-bumper car.”

As luck would have it, this XT popped up on Darren’s radar at just the right time, so the XE was sold and he drove home with some new, considerably older metal.

The ute didn’t even get time to adjust to its new home before Darren had it strapped to an Adelaide-bound trailer for an appointment with panel beater Shaun Sparrow. “The car was a showbag – it looked shiny on the outside, but it was full of surprises,” Darren laughs. “You name it, we found it: bog, rust, chicken wire. It had everything.” Shaun knows his way around a car, and it wasn’t long before the XT was stripped to its dacks for some surgery.

Most of the exterior panels have been either repaired or replaced, including the doors, bonnet, sills and tailgate, with the exceptions of the front guards and floor. Shaun took care to make every bodyline and panel gap Mickey Mouse, resulting in edges so straight you could use them to calibrate your ruler. Most of the panels are in the same shape that Henry intended, until you reach the inside of the tub. Darren probably won’t be throwing any mowers or toolboxes in the back, because the floor is flat and smooth enough to play billiards on. The wheel tubs have been stretched to the chassis rails to accommodate fat 15×10 wheels, but they haven’t made their way under the ute just yet.

Once the shell was die-straight, Darren had to pick a colour for Matt Murphy, Shaun’s go-to gunslinger, to drench the panels in. “I’ve always liked silver, but I didn’t want to go too dark,” Darren explains. “Aston Martin had a few silvers at the time, and when I saw one in Magnetic Silver in the Melbourne showroom, I knew it was the colour I wanted to go with.” You’d have to be cuckoo to disagree – the British chemists had cooked up a colour that looks dark and sparkly but shifts to blinding brightness wherever light hits it. On Darren’s ute, it does a lovely job of framing the satin big-block.

“The car was a showbag – it looked shiny on the outside, but it was full of surprises!”

The XT is packing 460 cubic inches the old-fashioned way, and there’s a bit of story behind it. The big-block has called this ute home since the 1990s and was engineered for it way back then. Darren is at least the third owner since the conversion was done, and specifics of the ute’s powerplant have been lost with the passing of time. “It had a mild rebuild at some point, and when we put it on the dyno at Dalton Automotive, it made a touch under 400hp at the wheels,” Darren says. “Once the engine’s better, then we’ll do a bit to the trans too. I’ll enjoy it for a bit, and then we’ll start with a Holley 780 and see what happens.”

The ute is a fairly mild affair underneath, with a 2800rpm stall feeding the big-block’s torque to a C6 and nine-inch from Precision Automotive. Lowered King springs and Koni shocks in the front handle the weight of the mill, while reset rear leaf springs and more Konis with relocated mounts keep the back end settled on Geelong’s often-undulating asphalt.

Darren’s over the moon with the way the ute has turned out so far, as he should be. “It drives really well and it sounds great, so I’ve been taking it out on most weekends over summer,” he grins. “I had a vision in mind of how I wanted it to be from the beginning, and it took five years, but I knew it would be worth it.” If you ask us, the result of all that waiting speaks for itself!


Paint:PPG Aston Martin Magnetic Silver
Type:460ci Ford big-block
Diff:9in, 3.5:1 gears
Front:King Springs, Koni shocks
Rear:Reset leaf springs, Koni shocks
Brakes:Ford discs (f & r)
Rims:Center Line Auto Drag; 15×7 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
Rubber:Nankang 195/60R15 (f), Vitour Galaxy 255/60R15 (r)

Shaun Sparrow for his attention to detail, workmanship and patience with the build, assisted by Nigel and many others; Mark Menzies for allowing Shaun the time to weave his magic; Matt Murphy; my wife Sue for her support throughout; Mick ‘Cheesa’ Fiolet for allowing us to use his shed for the photoshoot; Breakaway Radiator Service; Exhaust Plus; Dalton Automotive; Precision Automotive; CDS Engineering for the mini-tubs and shock mounts; Warren at SA Suspension; Klemzig Platers; THR Developments; Ben at Dash Original; finally, my late dad Lloyd – he never got to see the finished product, but I’m sure he would have been proud of the end result.