STEVE Bezzina’s all-steel, leaf-sprung, 275-tyred XW Falcon ran 6.85@215mph at Sydney Dragway last Thursday, and it was no easy feat.
“We knew it was possible to run a six-second quarter-mile in the Falcon back in 2015,” says Frank Marchese from Dandy Engines, the man responsible for tuning and taking care of the Pro Line 481X motor in Steve’s now six-second XW. But why has it taken so long?
“Our issue was always parts failure,” Frank explains. “We knew when we had the twin-turbo small-block Ford in the car we had the power to do it, but we kept cracking blocks and breaking parts, so last year Steve decided to go with a new engine, a 540ci Pro Line 481X.”
The twin-turbo 481X engine combo in question had actually set a record in NHRA drag racing in America, running 5.77 down the quarter in a big-slick race car. So while it’s always had the power to run a six in Bezzina’s Falcon, the big challenge has been getting the car to put the power down.
“If it was as simple as putting a five-second engine combo into the car and turning it down to run sixes, everyone would be doing it,” Frank says. “The trouble we had was that no one has put an engine of this calibre into a car like this. They’re all in lightweight full-chassis race cars, like Jet Martin’s Commodore, for example. We’ve got the same thing in a 3700lb Falcon with factory suspension mountings, leaf springs and a little 275 radial tyre.
“We didn’t know what the car needed to be able to go fast,” Frank continues. “There were times where we thought we’d made a big mistake, because the car wasn’t able to put power down and we couldn’t get it to work just through power management.”
Joe and Jonathan Gauci from Profab have been the chassis and suspension guys on Steve’s Falcon for many years now, and they did the conversion from small-block Ford to 481X last year. The car now runs Menscer Motorsport shocks and a set of Gazzard Brothers mono-leaf rear springs.
“Since we last raced and went 7.01@211mph at Willowbank with a 1000ft shut-off, Joe and Jonathan have been working out crankshaft centreline and strut positioning to manage weight transfer and lift,” Frank says.
“We came out on Wednesday morning at Sydney Dragway with some changes from the last meeting at Willowbank and Joe felt he could improve the suspension setup, so Joe and Jonathan took the car back to Profab that night, worked through the night to prepare it for the next day and after the first half-track pass we knew we were on.”
The car matched its PB to the eighth-mile which the guys set on a full radial prep track, so they lined it up again to run it out the back door. The 60ft wasn’t brilliant – a 1.25 – but it stuck and went through for a 6.87@211mph!
Joe and Frank then had a tweak and Steve sent it again. The result: 6.85@215mph!
“We left on seven or eight pounds of boost, and by four seconds in it was showing 47psi and we held that though the line. This car really doesn’t start making big power until halftrack,” Frank says. “I just calculated based on the car weight and trap speed that it would have been making roughly 2948hp at the crank.”
And the crazy part is, the engine was running rich enough through the top end of the track that there was a risk it could have started shutting cylinders down. “We were showing 2.68 air-fuel ratio, and anyone who knows alcohol knows that’s enough to blow the spark out and start shutting down cylinders,” Frank explains. “Fortunately the FuelTech ignition system was strong enough to keep it going, but I think that’s why the mph is low compared to the ET. With correct AFRs I reckon we’d pick up close to 10mph.”
“Jamie Miller and Steve Petty from ProLine in America deserve a big thank-you, they’ve been crucial in helping us learn how to manage the power of the 481X engine in this car and get it down the track, we couldn’t have done it without those guys.”
Well there you go; there’s still plenty more left in this six-second, all-steel heavyweight XW Falcon. Congratulations boys, what an achievement!