Turbo Barra-powered 1982 Ford XE ute

Danny Howe's XE ute hides big power in a spotless package


PLENTY of quick turbo-Barra cars have tackled Street Machine Drag Challenge over the years, but few are as clean as Daniel Howe’s XE Falcon ute.

First published in the May 2021 issue of Street Machine

The 24-year-old mechanic from Melbourne spent his formative years hanging out around some properly fast cars and the characters who drive them, including Drag Challenge winner, Summernats Horsepower Hero and All Race Fabrications owner Brenden ‘Bubba’ Medlyn. “I’ve been friends with the boys since I was young, doing powerskids down the straight at Winton in Bubba’s VH Commodore,” says Danny, who now spends his spare time helping out around All Race.

With a bloke like Bubba in his ear, Danny was never going to settle for a sedate weekend cruiser. “As a kid, I always wanted something with 1000rwhp, but something I could drive whenever and wherever.

After riding in Bubba’s VH, how could you not want something fast when you grow up?”

Danny took ownership of the genuine S-Pack in 2017. “I thought a ute would be cool, as there weren’t many around,” he recalls. “It was originally owned by an elderly guy in Ninderry, Queensland. We got tickets and flew up, then drove it 26 hours back to Melbourne and it didn’t miss a beat.”

A week later, the ute was in the All Race workshop for the team to handle a set of tubs and a suspension overhaul. The leaf spring set-up was moved inboard and kitted out with a Gazzard Brothers assembly, with matching coil-overs up front.

A sucker for factory aesthetics, Danny says tidy bodywork was always vital. “The ute had been resprayed in the 90s and looked pretty good, but it had an extra fuel filler on the driver’s side that always pissed me off. I decided to get rid of it, which turned into a full body resto. I had worked with Rick and Dave from Southern Service Centre for years and they led me in that direction in terms of quality. They also didn’t mind my daily trips to Speed Pro to collect parts for it!”

After the panels were trued up, Shane Woods laid down a fresh coat of PPG Snow White paint, topped off with a replacement set of iconic S-Pack decals.

The asthmatic 250 crossflow was then yanked in favour of a force-fed Barra, built on an LPG donk that retained its stock internals and sent 630hp to the treads. “That was a massive deal as a 21-year-old,” recounts Danny.

Finished off in May 2019, the XE was ready for a tilt at Drag Challenge later that year in the Dial Your Own class. Danny dipped into the single digits on Day One in the uncaged ute. “I stopped handing in timeslips after that!” he laughs. “Then I couldn’t get a good pass at Mildura, so I just gave up.”

As 2020 rolled around, Danny decided it was time to raise the stakes. “Me and Pazzo [All Race’s Daniel Nunziante] went and saw Glenn West about building a new engine. I got a Precision 8891, and then it was game on to make 900kW [around 1200hp].”

This time, a BA-era Barra motor was packed with CP pistons and Nitto rods, still spinning the stock crank. A set of Kelford cams were slotted into the top end, which operate with VCT still enabled for improved driveability, and the head features Crow valve springs but is otherwise stock. The intake manifold is from Tunnel Vision, with the snail sitting atop a 6boost exhaust manifold. A 125hp shot of nitrous is used to help the big turbo spool up on the startline. Siemens 2400cc injectors offer up plenty of E85, provided by a Walbro pump. The oil pump is a Boundary unit, which pulls from a BA-type front-hump sump to clear the engine bay’s confines. A Haltech Elite Pro Plug-in ECU controls the whole lot, feeding data to a Racepak IQ3 dash.

Shifting duties are handled by a MDT-built TH400 auto. This spins a GJ Drivelines tailshaft and Strange nine-inch rear with 3.5:1 gears and 35-spline billet axles.

Danny performed most of the car’s final assembly himself before sending it to QuickBitz for tuning. With 40psi of boost, the ute spat out a frightening 1200hp at the hubs.

Danny unleashed the repowered Falcon at No Excuses #3 at Heathcote Park Raceway in February, returning on the Labour Day weekend for Tunnel Vision’s King Of The Street. At the latter event, the ute ran a ball-tearing 8.90@160mph.

It’s a serious number to be running in a car without a rollcage, which Danny acknowledges. “I’ll be playing with shock settings and extra boost to get out of the hole a little bit faster, but I’m not going to push it too much further until it’s all legit,” he says.

Though Danny won’t be racing the XE in October’s Drag Challenge, he’s keen to take on the event in 2022, teched-up and quicker than ever.

Tray & underneath

The rear end has had the full Gazzard Brothers treatment, including AFCO shocks and with mono-leaf springs moved inboard to help accommodate the fat rear rubber. The upper shock mount extends into the tray, allowing Danny to keep a low ride height but retain plenty of travel. There’s also a trans cooler mounted under the tray – a must for any high-powered turbo car when taking on Drag Challenge


Class: Vibrant Performance Dial Your Own

Engine: 4.0L Ford Barra
Turbo: Precision PT8891
Transmission: MDT TH400
Converter: SDE
Diff: 9in, 3.5:1 gears
Power: 1200rwhp

Previous PB: 8.90@160mph
Best DC 2019 Pass: 10.83@97mph