Barra-swapped XF 25th Anniversary Ford Falcon

Mike Bowden's had an itch for modern EFI mumbo for nearly 30 years, and he finally scratched it with this drag-spec, Barra-powered XF Falcon

Photographers: Troy Barker

Adelaide’s Mike Bowden had been thinking about sticking a late-model EFI mill into an older car for nigh on 30 years, and he’s finally done so with his awesome Barra-powered XF Falcon. Why did it take him so long? Quite simply, he felt he didn’t have the know-how.

First published in the February 2024 issue of Street Machine

“I thought about making my spinner [SM, Sep ’19] retrotech by adding an EFI Ford Windsor engine,” he admits, “but at the time, the electronic stuff was a bit beyond me.”

That’s why, for the past few decades, Mike’s stuck with carby-fed rides that he’s wrenched on, panel-beaten and painted himself. His work as a panel guy with Adelaide’s Auto Transformers has also seen him fashion countless immaculate cruisers – check out Matt Mitchell’s ’Cuda (SM, Feb ’22), for example.

Even with this solid skillset, Mike’s mettle was tested with this project. “I had a stroke a year before I got the XF,” he begins. “Then during the build, I had to stop for about eight months while I had five rounds of chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant. It has really slowed me down, and I can’t work anymore, but I finished the XF in the end.”

Undoubtedly, Mike’s a battler, and his keenness to enter his creation into Street Machine Drag Challenge was a big impetus for him to see the project to fruition.

Proceedings kicked off in May 2020. “A mate offered to sell me an XF Fairmont Ghia or an XF 25th Anniversary Falcon missing its engine and trans. I acquired the 25th Anniversary because they are rarer than the Ghia, with only 2000 built. And I’m sure someone would get upset if I cut one up; I do like to upset the purists,” he laughs.

“It’s 90 per cent original paint, including the pinstripe, with 40 years of dents, scrapes and scratches. Even the original factory crayon marks were in the engine bay and behind the door cards.”

This decent foundation allowed for a change of tack early on. “I was planning on doing a full show-painted Drag Challenge car – I’m not into patina. But after I got crook, I had to change plans.”

Instead, Mike’s gone with a sleeper vibe for the XF by freshening up the factory-laid two-tone silver with a coating of clear, while the bay copped smoothing and hole-filling prior to a drenching in matching colour by Mike’s mate Ian Percival.

To fulfil his desire for a modern mill, Mike went beyond 90s EFI offerings, instead acquiring an EB burnout car with a running turbo Barra and trans. “I called the EB ‘Barry the Serial Killer’, as once the boost came in, the car would do a 180 on ya. Mate, I couldn’t tell if it was trying to kill me,” Mike laughs. “So, I knew I’d need bigger rubber under the XF.”

In addition to big rear meats, Mike eliminated the XF floor from the B-pillar to the boot before adding McDonald Brothers rear rails and a heavily adjustable rear suspension. A raised trans tunnel and new floor allow ample real estate for the updates beneath.

To fit that fatter rubber, Mike hand-formed tubs to follow the factory arch without compromising the 40-year-old paint.

As for the donk itself, that’s something of a mystery. “I know it’s a U Pull It [wreckers] greentop Barra with a Chinese turbo. But it works reasonably well,” Mike shrugs.

The greentop features a custom turbo manifold and heavy-duty Crow valve springs, and chugs down E85. Running around 13psi, the 3076 turbo flows down a four-inch dump pipe, while a custom three-inch exhaust removes spent gases.

With 413hp at the rears prior to Mike adding a water-to-air intercooler and beefier valve springs, he guesses that the current power is a rather more substantial 500rwhp. “I’m still learning turbos; I’m a supercharger guy,” he admits.

Backing up the engine is a BTR four-speed, which has already been earmarked as the weakest link. The third member, however, is a stout, big-bearing nine-inch packed with goodies. Eighties-spec, 15-inch CTM Muscle Globe wheels finish off the exterior, with decent-sized 29-inch Mickey Thompsons under the arse.

Thanks to the blending of X-series and E-series Fords, the XF has been dubbed ‘Terminator’. “It’s from the 80s but is full of future technology,” Mike explains.

“While electrics aren’t my thing, I did manage to swap all of the E-series and Barra stuff into my X-series, including the dash.”

The XF will be a real all-’rounder, built with rego in mind. “Building stout street cars for rego has always been part of my work with Auto Transformers,” Mike says. “I wanted something reliable that I could still drive to the shops – it rides really nice. And the race seat, wheelie bars, rear wing and parachute are removable.”

Now that the XF is tickety-boo, banging out a quarter-mile pass in the car is a high priority for Mike. “Chemo saw me miss the 2023 Street Machine Drag Challenge,” he sighs. “But soon I’ll head to a street meet at The Bend. On paper, it should run low 10s, and I’m happy with that.”


Paint:Ford two-tone Silver Grey and Charcoal
Brand:Ford greentop Barra
Inlet manifold:Stock, water-to-air intercooler
Induction:Ford EFI
Turbo:3076, custom manifold
Head:Stock, Crow heavy-duty valve springs
Fuel:E85, Walbro in-tank pump, E-series pick-up sender unit
Cooling:E-series Falcon radiator and fans
Exhaust:4in dump, custom 3in exhaust, high-flow cat, Aeroflow chambered muffler
Ignition:Stock BA Ford
Power:500rwhp (estimated)
Trans:BTR four-speed auto, full-manual shift kit
Converter:Stock Barra/BTR
Tailshaft:E-series Falcon
Diff:Narrowed 9in, big-bearing housing, 3.00:1 gears (street), 3.5:1 Truetrac (race), 31-spline axles
Front:Stock XF springs, 90/10 drag shocks, XG sway-bar
Rear:Adjustable coil-overs, triangulated four-bar kit, locator bar, Enemies Everywhere splined anti-roll bar, removable wheelie bars
Brakes:XF discs (f), EA Falcon discs (r)
Master cylinder:XF booster with EL master cylinder

Rod-Tech; Andrew at Auto Transformers; Ian Percival for beers and engine bay paint; the missus (Flic) for putting up with my tantrums when trying to figure out wiring.