Whenever there’s a Geelong-built powerplant featured in Street Machine, odds are it’s from Tony Di Biagio’s business, TDR Engines. “I’ve been building engines for 40 years, and professionally off-and-on for about 20,” he says.
First published in Street Machine’s Yearbook 2023
Knowing how to screw together a reliable, big-power small-block certainly came in handy when Tony finally made time to tackle his own project. “This one turned out good,” he enthuses. “Really good, actually!”
Tony spotted this tidy XY Fairmont for sale in Queensland and had it trucked down sight-unseen in 2018. It had already been coated in Wild Violet and given the GS treatment, and it came with a stout 393 combo that sent it straight to 10.8-second ETs with Tony at the helm.
However, that mill soon went into a mate’s XA, leaving Tony to start the XY’s mild makeover and enquickening. “I planned it over a year, collected all the parts, and then pulled the car off the road to fit everything,” he explains. “The biggest problem was finding the time to do it all while running my own business.”
He welded in a set of mini-tubs and plenty of undercarriage bracing, replaced the rolling stock with a set of big ’n’ little Billet Specialties Comp 7s, and then turned his attention to what he does best: building kick-arse engines.
The Clevor that Tony crafted (Mill of the Month, SM, Mar ’22) is a dead-set beast. He loaded a Dart Iron Eagle 9.5-deck Windsor-based block with custom CP forged pistons, Callies Ultra rods and a Magnum 4.1in-stroke crank, giving 451 cubes of displacement and a monstrous 13.2:1 compression ratio. Higgins Cleveland-type heads wear a high-flying single-plane manifold, topped with a Holley twin-blade throttlebody as part of the Dominator EFI system. A custom-order Bullet solid-roller bumpstick with 280/290 duration and .920in of lift runs the valvetrain, and two Walbro 525 pumps send either VP109 race fuel or pump 98 to Bosch 1650cc injectors.
The hefty small-block cranked out 905hp on the engine dyno on the drum juice and 860hp in servo-friendly form. A Peterson R4 external oil pump circulates the black stuff from a gated Toca Performance wet sump, while a Race Radiators cooler and Spal thermo fans keep everything happy as Tony winds it out to a screaming 8400rpm shift point on the drag strip.
Tony first planned to set the mill up for 500-600hp of nitrous, but has decided the XY will remain a proper all-motor job – for now. “It’s just about finding time with work,” he explains. “I think I’ll do one more [Drag Challenge] naturally aspirated, but I’ve got a block and some bits there to start another engine next year, and it’s all wired for nitrous.”
Behind the mega Clevor is a Reid-cased Turbo 400 from M&M Transmission, paired to a Shotgun Performance 6800rpm converter. It’s followed by a full-floater nine-inch with Wilwood discs, using a Strange alloy case packed with 4.56 gears and 35-spline axles. It hangs off Gazzard Brothers mono-leaf springs, while more Gazzard and Wilwood stuff fills out the front end.
Poking your head inside reveals a sweet white vinyl fit-out, a six-point chrome-moly rollcage, and a Holley EFI 12.3in Pro dash integrated beautifully within the binnacle. There’s a single Kirkey for Tony, but expect some changes there. “I plan to do two front seats covered with the same white trim; I just haven’t found time,” he says.
It’s all part of the traditional Geelong style: mostly stock body-and-interior cars with rad small-blocks and a cool stance, ready for plenty of weekend cruising. On that note, the XY has now pulled off two back-to-back, week-long Drag Challenges.
Tony finished fourth in the valvetrain-shredding Pacemaker Radial Aspirated class in February 2023, before having another crack in October. “We had pushrod issues and a couple of other little things the first time we did it; we learned from that and it was spot-on this time,” Tony says. “Not one drama!”
While Al Vella’s Capri had the all-motor class buttoned up in usual fashion at DC ’23, the absence of Keith Hards and Jarrod Wood made the other top spots anybody’s game. With a fresh torque converter and a bit more compression in the Clevor than on its first Drag Challenge, Tony piloted the XY to a best of 9.40@144mph at The Bend – cutting almost a third of a second off his previous PB and finishing as class runner-up!
Repeating mid-nines with an aspirated small-block on Drag Challenge is an achievement in itself, let alone doing it with a smile and no breakages. It’s a testament to Tony’s experience and understanding of what makes a reliable combo. “I had a ball this year; we had a really good time with the guys, stopping for a meal at every pub,” he grins. “We still had to drive at like 85 kays an hour; they’re keen to do a diff change. With 3.5s, we could do 100 kays and get there a bit earlier!”
TONY DI BIAGIO
1971 FORD XY FAIRMONT
|Holley throttlebody, Higgins single-plane manifold
|Higgins Cleveland 3.3
|Bullet custom solid-roller
|Race radiator, Spal fans
|Custom stainless 21/8in extractors, 3½in stainless system, Hooker and Growler mufflers
|Holley EFI Big Wire coils
|Shotgun Performance 6800rpm
|Race Products 9in, 4.56:1 gears, 35-spline axles
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|Gazzard Brothers coil-overs
|Gazzard Brothers mono-leaf springs
|Wilwood discs (f & r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Billet Specialties Comp 7; 17×4.5 (f), 15×10 (r)
|Mickey Thomspon Sportsman 26×6.00R17 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S 275/60R15 (r)
My wife and boys for putting up with my late nights and weekends working on the car; all my friends that helped me along the way: Anthony, Daryl, Steve, Luke, Rick, Andrew, Zerin, Mil and Ezekiel; Geelong Differential Services for the diff; Johnny Dyno Engines for the quick machining service; Charlie at Showroom Quality Paint; my sincere thanks to all those I have missed – you know who you are.