Where are they now? Lorry Gatt’s XA GT hardtop

Nearly 40 years after it appeared in Street Machine, this tough Falcon hardtop is still dropping jaws


With its fat rubber, hunkered-down stance and eye-popping Red Pepper paint, it’s little wonder Lorry Gatt’s XA GT hardtop is still so fondly remembered nearly 40 years after we featured it in the February-March 1984 issue of Street Machine. The photo in that feature of the car diving into a corner is one of the most iconic images in the mag’s history.

First published in the September 2023 issue of Street Machine

Back when we published that story, it was believed that the car was an RPO 83 – those highly desirable XA GTs fitted with Phase IV goodies. However, while Lorry’s XA does have some similar options to the RPO 83s, it isn’t one. The RPOs didn’t start rolling down the production line until August ’73, while this car was built in September ’72. That said, it’s still a rare beast indeed, as it’s the only XA GT hardtop to have been painted Surfer Orange from the factory, making it a true one-of-one.

In those early days of street machining, the Gatt coupe was seemingly everywhere and always driven hard. Fast-forward to 2023 and this legendary Aussie hardtop is still going strong, having been fastidiously restored in 2011, which included returning it back to its original Surfer Orange.

At the 2023 Falcon GT Nationals in Bathurst, the XA’s current custodian, Wayne Reeves, caught up with previous owners Lorry Gatt, Grant Hilder and John Murphy to swap war stories and pose for a photo. We took the opportunity to ask Lorry, John and Wayne to reflect on their time with this grand old tourer.


When did the XA come into your life, Lorry?

I bought it out of the Trading Post for $600 in 1978. It was in terrible condition. Ian, the guy I bought it off, had painted it a horrible maroon colour; it dead-set looked like it had been painted with a vacuum cleaner! It had a hit on the front passenger side, and the guard, radiator support and inner skirt were damaged. I was just going to fix it up and flog it off. But it came up pretty good, and I decided to keep it.

How long did the rebuild take?

Finished it in 1981-ish. I couldn’t believe how much rust it had in it. No replacement panels back then, so I had to go around Sydney’s wrecking yards cutting pieces out of other coupes – some of which were in better shape than mine! I rebuilt it a second time in 1989, after a police car ran into the side of me.

Going by the photoshoot in our 1984 feature, it looks like you didn’t mind driving it hard?

It was such a fantastic car to drive. It was never a trailer queen; I drove it everywhere – John and Wayne shudder when I talk about what I used to do with the car. I drag-raced it at Castlereagh and Oran Park. The chassis would twist up, so my mate Grant Hilder and I put a ’cage in it. Me and my mates loved going to the Street Machine Nationals; we had tons of fun. We entered all the driving events like the spear-a-spud and the slalom. I won the go-to-whoa at the ’86 Nationals. I gave that trophy and the Best Modified trophy from the ’89 GT Nationals to the current owner, Wayne Reeves. He’s been a great custodian of the car.

Did you ever blow it up?

Bent a few pushrods, but that was about it. Amazingly, that car still has all its original driveline. Yes, it’s all been rebuilt, but it’s still the original gear from ’72. I find that remarkable.

Did you know how unique the car was when you bought it?

I had no idea – that’s why I street machined it! But being such a highly optioned car, I did understand it was special. It had the Phase IV winged sump, big tank, wind-back sunroof, eight-track player and front and rear speakers, but no air and no [power] steer – you had to be Hercules to drive it. The rear quarter panels were also at least an inch wider than normal.

Why did you sell it?

I actually sold it twice! In ’88 or ’89, I sold it to Grant, but bought it back six months later. By the late 90s, I was into American cars and sold it to a guy from Singleton for over $20K. It was the most expensive XA coupe ever sold in Australia. Around the same time, I bought a one-owner Phase II HO for $8000!


Did you know the rarity of this car when you bought it?

I probably would not have bought it if I didn’t know how rare it was. I was on the hunt for a 351 GT when I spotted [the ‘for sale’] ad.

And you fully restored it?

I can’t take much of the credit; my brother Steve [of Murphy’s Spray Painting, Toowoomba] did all the hard yakka. I’d owned it for about 18 months when I decided to give it a rebuild. Initially, we were just going to yank the engine, give it a quick respray back to Surfer Orange and off we go. Then I decided to do it properly, and it blew out of proportion – as they do.

How bad was the blow-out?

Seven years. There were plenty of sins under the skin. We pulled it off the road in 2004, and the last thing to get done was the exhaust. We pretty much drove it from the exhaust shop to the 2011 Brisbane GT Nationals, where it won Entrants’ Choice! I was very pleased that Wayne won it again at Bathurst [this year].

Why did you sell it?

I was retiring and wanted to get my ducks in a row. I was silly to sell. I missed owning it so much that I ended up buying another hardtop a year later. There are so many restored GTs out there, but this is the only Surfer Orange XA GT hardtop. That makes this car pretty special.


Congratulations on taking out Entrants’ Choice at the GT Nationals, mate!

That was quite a surprise. Some close mates had made up a few ‘Vote for 1 of 1’ T-shirts, which I reckon helped a bit. Nonetheless, I felt extremely honoured to be selected out of 420 GTs.

How did the car come into your possession?

I first spotted it at the 2011 Brisbane Nationals. I didn’t really know John other than to say hello. In 2016, I was helping his nephew with some info on a schmick XA GS ute. I recognised the surname and commented that if his uncle ever wanted to sell the orange coupe, I’d be interested. He responded, “As a matter of fact, he is looking to sell.”

You must have been pretty keen?

My dream car has always been a Surfer Orange Phase II GTHO, but they’ve always been just out of my reach. I’m a hardtop man, previously owning several XA-XC beauties, and with this one being the only one in Surfer Orange, I had to have it. I moved on two other coupes to get it: a Wild Violet with white trim and a Lime Glaze with black trim.

Have you done much to the car?

John and his brother Steve did a great job. I’ve just tidied up a few little detail things – nothing major. I did, however, get the engine rebuilt. The theme I’ve gone for is like a dealer-fitted performance pack. Ford Plus Performance was a program where Ford dealers sold high-performance parts over the counter. I’ve incorporated some of them on this car, like the HM Phase IV extractors, factory alloy intake, the 780 Holley, the big harmonic balancer and the Option 52 wheels.

Do you get it out much?

Being based in Goondiwindi, Queensland, there’s not many events close by. I drove it to the Adelaide GT Nats in 2019, the last GT weekend at Valla in 2019, several other events, and of course Bathurst this year. I love driving it; I’ve got a group of mates who own seven or eight coupes and we all regularly go out cruising together.

The history of this car is incredible.

It is, but there are some gaps. We know it was sold in 1972 from Peter Warren Fairfield, but between ’72 and Lorry buying it off Ian in ’78, we have nothing. I’ve been able to track a lot of the history through the dedicated Facebook page I’ve set up, Surfer Orange – Hardtop.

Being such an unusual colour, you’d think someone would remember it?

Not just that, but also the very unique options. Someone has specially ordered that car. Maybe it was ordered to go into the showroom, or for one of the owners or managers. I’m hoping a former Peter Warren employee might come forward and fill in the missing pieces.