454-cube Cleveland-powered XA GT Falcon

A Mansweto 454-cubic inch Cleveland powers this genuine Wild Plumb XA GT Falcon

Photographers: Ben Hosking

Tony Murr’s XA Falcon GT sedan has a lot to live up to. You see, Tony’s dad, Joe, had a horsepower addiction that saw a young Tony brought up on high-octane, seriously swift GT Falcons.

First published in the May 2022 issue of Street Machine

“My old man built motors for John Goss back in the day, so he worked on his engines and rubbed shoulders with Moffat, Brock, Seton and all those guys,” Tony says. Papa Joe had also bought an XA GT sedan brand new, tuned the hell out of it and spanked it around the track – and the streets. “My dad told me the same story a thousand times: there wasn’t a car on the street that could keep up with his XA,” Tony says.

As for Tony, he’s built a serious back catalogue of cars that have graced the pages of Street Machine, but when it came to building an XA Falcon, it was something more personal. “When I bought this GT, it was about reliving that era with my dad so he could jump into an XA sedan again,” he says. “But I also wanted to make sure that the motor in it had enough power to beat most cars on the street and give him that sort of buzz.”

Being a genuine GT sedan, Tony wanted the XA to keep its original spirit. “I just thought it’d be nice to do more of a factory-looking car but still have it as a tough car,” he says. “I don’t want to take away from the era of the car; I feel like that’s what loses the character. I was trying to keep that classic look.”

This particular GT sedan is one of only 44 built with Wild Plum paint, and one of only eight that rolled out of the factory with the racing bonnet, automatic transmission and Parchment interior, so it’s a little different.

“When I got the car, I knew it needed a paintjob,” Tony says. “It was rough and ready, but it’d had that typical bodge-job hiding everything.” Tony can’t speak highly enough of Jason Hornby and his hard- working crew at Callaghan Collision Centre. “We literally just took it back to metal and panel-beated the thing until it was straight,” he says. “It was thousands of hours of panel beating.”

With the bodywork being attended to, there was the crucial question of what would go under the factory bonnet. Tony sat down with his father to establish what would make this a stand-out XA. “Everyone’s got a 383 stroker or a 408 stroker – like, big deal, everyone does that; it’s been done a zillion times before,” says Tony. “To Dad it would be like, ‘Well, you haven’t really done anything different to any other XA GT out there.’ So for me it was all about doing something with smart engineering.”

That’s where Joe’s wisdom was tapped; Tony’s had some potent Fords running big power from big-blocks, but that’s not how his dad saw things for the XA. “I said to Dad, ‘What do you reckon?’ He said, ‘Keep it a small-block but get some serious cubes about it.’ So he told me what crank and what size cubes we should go, and then I took that combo and called Jason Mansweto.”

The goal was 800 horses. Jason took a new Arrow block and built up a Cleveland stroker to 454 cubes with a custom manifold, custom Traum pistons, Callies crank, Scat rods, big Crow solid-roller stick and CHI alloy heads, fed by a Dominator 1050cfm carb. Via the C4 trans, power heads back to a Shane’s Chassis custom nine-inch, supported by CalTracs to aid traction, which Jason also installed. In fact, he took care of the entire driveline, suspension, interior and wiring. “I drove the car out of Jason Mansweto’s workshop and have never been back because there have been zero issues,” Tony says. “Of the 30 cars I’ve built, this is the first car to be flawless.”

That didn’t come without considerable effort, though. First up was Dad’s expectation of the XA being a street outlaw, a world-beater. “That part was a little bit tricky, because things are a little bit different these days,” Tony says. “To beat every car on the street is not as easy as it was back then. That’s what drove me to go and see Jason about building the engine.”

Jason was also given a strict set of parameters. “The biggest restriction that I put on him from the beginning was that it has to be under the factory bonnet, and not only that, it has to sit inside a genuine GT air filter,” Tony says. “The last thing I want to do is put a blower out of the bonnet and destroy the look of the fact that it’s a genuine GT.”

Was 800hp realistic with these sorts of limitations? You bet – it drove out of the shop with north of 900. “Getting that engine to make that power and stay under the bonnet and as greatly engineered as Jason made it was one of the hardest things,” Tony admits. “I love putting the car in top gear and being able to drive 70 or 80km/h, then nailing the thing in a straight line and frying the tyres. That feeling to me is the ultimate.”

Those tyres are being fried on custom 20-inch Globes by Sam Taleb at Simmons, which are also large enough to house Wilwood brakes. That’s because it had to stop and go – it had to be easy to drive, so that getting behind the wheel doesn’t require a pilot’s licence, even though it has power to burn.

The interior was in good condition when the car came into Tony’s garage, but he’s had the dash restored, new hoodlining and sound insulation installed and the seats re-done from scratch. Apart from the gauges, it still looks and feels like a GT should – with extras like the Alpine stereo cleverly hidden.

With the build completed, it was time for the true test for Tony’s XA: his old man’s verdict. “Yeah, I got the reaction that I wanted,” Tony says. “He actually said, “I think you guys are nuts making this power out of cars for the street – it’s a bit over the top!’”


The XA GT may be true to the original, but Tony is not one to park such legendary machines – he drives them. “I’m into street machines, not boring classic cars. I have an appreciation for them and I respect how nice they are, but I don’t find them exciting to drive at all,” he says. “And people don’t drive them because they don’t want to put kays on an original Cleveland block.

“I also have a two-door Yellow Glow XB GT. I took the original block out of it, pulled it down and put in another 351. I drove the car last night in the rain and fried the tyres and flat-changed it three gears, and I don’t care because I’m not worrying about breaking a 50-year-old block.”


Paint: Wild Plum
Brand: 454ci Ford Cleveland, Arrow block
Induction: Pro Systems 1050cfm carburettor
Heads: CNC-ported CHI alloy
Camshaft: Crow Cams
Lifters: Black Mamba Solid-roller
Conrods: Scat
Pistons: Custom Traum, chrome-moly rings
Crank: Callies 4.125in Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Triple Walbro; XA GT tank, expanded 50L
Cooling: Custom aluminium radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust: Mansweto custom 3.5in mandrel-bent, Pacemaker headers, X-pipe
Gearbox: Al’s Race Glides C4, manualised
Converter: Dominator 5500rpm stall
Tailshaft: Mark Williams 3.5in
Diff: Shane’s Chassis custom 9in, Truetrac centre, 35-spline axles
Front: Factory
Rear: Factory, CalTracs
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r) 
Master cylinder: Factory
Steering: Custom power steering
Rims: Custom Globe; 20×8 (f), 20×10 (r)
Rubber: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S; 235/35R20 (f), 285/30R20 (r)

Jason Hornby and his team for all the hours to make it straight; Jason Mansweto for the phenomenal engine he built and helping me put the entire car back together; Sam Taleb at Tempe Tyres for making me the one-off set of wheels; Simon Michael at Autolux for the interior and stereo