Twin-turbo big-block XR Falcon ute

Brand loyalty be damned! This twin-turbo 540ci XR Falcon ute was built by a Holden man for Drag Challenge glory

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

ROBERT Giangrave admits he built this killer big-block XR Falcon ute simply because he kept tripping over the engine in his garage. “I built a blown big-block Ford for my mate’s tow truck, but then I ended up with it after doing some bartering,” the Victorian laughs.

First published in the October 2021 issue of Street Machine

Robert happened to chance upon the perfect recipient for the 540 cubes of Blue Oval grunt sitting in the corner of his shed when a mate mentioned he was thinking of moving his faithful ’68 XR ute on.

“It was my trimmer’s daily for 18 years, and he’d just had it painted,” Robert explains. “I bought it as a driving car with a 351, and that helped massively. I have always been a Holden man, but I like the shape of XR-XY Falcons and I knew what I was going to do with the car, so I didn’t mind cutting up a Ford!”

Ford fans know the challenge of fitting big engines into classic Falcons. With that in mind, Robert dropped the two-door off at McDonald Brothers for one of the company’s coil-over front ends that sheds the troublesome strut towers. While the McDonald team had the grinders out, they also stuck a sheet-metal nine-inch diff, four-link and coil-overs under the rear, and opened the wheel tubs up to the chassis rails, which were also reinforced.

“I was under the pump getting the ute ready for Drag Challenge in 2019, so I pulled the blower off and ran it naturally aspirated at that event,” Robert says.

While the ute made 722hp at the hubs and ran low 10s in the Carnage Outlaw Aspirated class, it wasn’t a happy ending. “I made it to Day Four, but I did a roller rocker between Mildura and Portland and nobody had a replacement in Australia, so we were out.

“The motor was fine, except for the rocker, but I sent it to Dandy Engines and Frank Marchese did a lot of work to the engine. We went with a Torrington bearing, so we had to start over from a bare block, but now we’ve got steel roller rockers, copper head gaskets and all sorts of good gear in there.”

The foundations of the monster donk is an SVO 460ci Ford big-block, which still runs all its conventional water jackets and sports a compression ratio of approximately 9.5:1. It swings 540ci thanks to a Bryant billet crank, H-beam rods and aluminium JE slugs, while the cam is a solid-roller specced out by Dandy with a custom grind.

Up top are deep-breathing Kaase P51 cylinder heads, topped by a Trick Flow intake manifold and 105mm Wilson throttlebody and elbow, while the FuelTech FT600 ECU controls the flow of E85 into the big-inch mill. Just in case 8.8 litres of Big Henry wasn’t enough, there are now two 88mm Pro Mod party-starters mounted up front, rather than the blower from the old combo.

“I had two options when it came to mounting the turbos – either rear-mount them in the tub, or put them up front,” Robert says. “They look killer up front, but the amount of work that goes into mounting the radiator in the back is massive.”

Running without an intercooler helps the packaging dilemma, though the tray is chock-a-block with hardware now that the whole cooling and fuel systems have had to be relocated rearward.

“It isn’t a show car, but it has all the goodies,” Robert says of the finished ute. “It is purpose-built for Drag Challenge, really. I’ve tried my hardest to build an endurance race car so it can do the kays and run fast.

“The motor is made for methanol, but we haven’t had much racing going on during COVID and I still need to creep up on the car, so there’s no real point to trying to push it hard now. My plan is to do Drag Challenge on E85, but later on down the track I’ll hit it with methanol.”

With 22psi blowing through the mill and a tank full of pump E85, the XR spun up 1500hp at the hubs. Robert wisely recognised this as being plenty in an untested car, and he’s itching to get to a track to start shaking the commercial down.

“I know where the car should be, but I’d rather not give away all my cards; I don’t care how much horsepower it has or what number it can do,” Robert says. “I want to creep up on it and learn the car. I have so much to fine-tune with tyres, gearing, gearboxes, suspension, so I’m not chasing a particular number. I really want to complete Drag Challenge first as my main goal.”


“I HAVE a ute, but it has no room for my racing bag with all the gear in the tray,” laughs Robert. This is because the tub now houses most of the important fluids needed to keep the XR on the road, including the intricate cooling system and the fuel system needed to feed the hungry big-block.

Front and centre in the rear is the fuel tank – a 98L monster. It is flanked by the transmission cooler and Optima battery, with the Holley fuel pump drivers used to control the electric fuel pumps mounted on the floor behind the tank.

Up front are the CO2 bottles for the wastegates and the fire system bottles, while the header tank and recovery tank for the cooling system have been mounted behind the driver’s-side bulkhead. The 20L cooling system is filled by plugging a garden hose in underneath the header tank, as Robert explains: “I didn’t want to have to fill the whole thing up with a soft drink bottle, so we put that valve in.” The tray-mounted radiator sucks air from underneath the car and blows it out the tub, and it seems to all work perfectly.

“My brother researched how to set up the radiator in the tray and size the piping, and then made it all,” says Robert. “When Nads from FuelTech came to tune it, he hit the key and it just idled perfectly. It doesn’t overheat, it runs great and I’ve never had a car that went through that process so easily.”


Paint:Ford Gold
Brand: Ford SVO 540ci
Induction: Trick Flow intake, Wilson 105mm throttlebody
ECU: FuelTech FT600
Turbos: Precision GEN2 Pro Mod 88
Heads: Kaase P51
Camshaft: Custom Dandy Engines solid-roller
Conrods: H-beam
Pistons: JE aluminium
Crank: Bryant Racing billet
Oil system: Custom sump, Peterson oil pump
Fuel system: FuelTech injectors, Holley electric pump
Cooling: Custom rear-mounted
Exhaust: Custom manifolds, custom bullhorn exhausts
Ignition: FuelTech coils
Gearbox: TH400 auto, Reid bellhousing
Converter: PTC bolt-together 
Diff: Fabricated 9in diff, 3.25:1 gears, Moser axles
Front: Viking coil-over struts, McDonald Brothers front end
Rear: Viking coil-over struts, McDonald Brothers four-link and anti-roll bar
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood


Frank at Dandy Engines; Nads at FuelTech; Jamie at Full Flight Engineering; Ricky M at GTech; Jim at Goumas Smash Repairs; Elie Boulos at Top Tune Motors; Stefan at Faultless Pty Ltd; my brother Anthony at Wimco Pty Ltd; all the boys who have been working on the car – you know who you are!