MMost people start with the car they like and then figure out which engine they are going to fit. Tom Hastings went the other way with his ’66 XP hardtop.
“I bought the engine first,” he says, “then I bought the car, then everything else. It only took 11 months to build.
First published in the December 2010 issue. Street Machine
He stumbled upon the motor through the companion. It’s a 364-cube Windsor based on Tony O’Connor’s wheel-standing XP Falcon ute (Sm Fords 6). Running on methanol, the engine powered the XK-fronted hay hauler to a best speed of 9.88 @ 136mph. Who can say no to such a proven combo?
But naturally an engine needs a home and Tom desperately wanted an XP hardtop, so the search for a suitable canvas was on.
“I looked around for about three months and always took my panel beater with me so we knew what we were looking at. Nothing was really clear until we found this thing.
As seems to be the norm these days, Tom found exactly what he was looking for on the World Wide Web.
“I had been looking for a while so when it came up on the internet on Friday, I went to Burley Heads on Saturday, and it was for sale on the side of the road.”
The XP gun was metal gray and had undergone a complete resto about eight years ago, when it had a pair of new quarters, so the shell was almost completely rust-free. After a considerable amount of rego was left, Tom snapped it up and hung out two doors down for about nine months. At times he would save some cash and stock up on parts.
To modify the engine for pump fuel, he took it to TOCA Performance where they tore it down and added new pistons to lower the compression. You can’t get 364 cubes out of a factory 8.200in deck block but Tom is running an SVO ‘big bore’ block. Combining a 4.125in bore with a 3.400in stroke, you get 364 cubes and – in this case – 598hp at the crank.
“I have a small sign for shows but nobody believes it’s 364 cubes,” he says.
As a welding business owner, Tom has the skills and tools to tackle big jobs. So he installed a hoist in the corner of his shed and intended to slot the engine into the hardtop.
The fuel cell holds around 70 liters but it’s those cheeky factory-style wheel tubs that stand out the most at the rear.
“Originally I was just going to do a V8 conversion, clean up the engine bay and keep it gray,” he says.
His colleague Pat O’Shea had other ideas.
“I came home one day and the dash was orange. We pushed the shell out into the sun and I said: ‘Yeah, go with it.’
After sandblasting the engine bay, Tom proceeded to fill all the exterior holes and modify the strut tower supports to make engine replacement an easy proposition. He also grabbed a V8 conversion kit from Castlemaine Rod Shop to help things along.
No six-pot slugs here, just 364 cubes of pure Ford muscle. Note the stainless braces Tom made to replace the factory tower struts. They make removing the engine much easier.
Adjusting the pointed end, he turned his attention to the rear. With close to 600 horses on tap, he needed plenty of support.
“I drilled every spot weld out of the back seat, removed all the rails and every panel in the boot. I think I moved the back rails about five inches each way,” he says. He also widened the factory wheel tubs so they could easily handle 275-width tires. A shortened nine-inch suspension with a Strange alloy center and 35-spline Mark Williams axle ensures that all that power gets to the ground.
After marking the front, rear and chassis, paint was next on the list. Pete handled all the bodywork and preparation in Tom’s shed before he borrowed a booth from a colleague at Arancio Atlas to coat those long and curved panels. It’s a color normally found on a Lamborghini Murcielago but Tom and Pat gave it a bit more punch by spraying it over a white base.
Tom kept the interior styling mostly original with only a few performance oriented mods. The lack of a roll cage has cut the hardtop’s drag racing career tragically short.
“I’ve always liked the color but another guy I know painted Torana so I’ll stay away from it,” says Tom. Still, after seeing the full result we can bet he was glad he lost the gunmetal gray. Throw in some fresh chromed bumpers, a bit of polished stainless, and here’s a car that really jumps out at you.
Inside, Tom is a bit more understated.
“We wanted to keep it as if it had some kind of authenticity,” he says. “That’s why I put the louvers back as well.”
Dingo from Southside Marine Trimming tricked out the original bench seats with a mixture of tan and off-white vinyl, as well as a factory-style pearl steering wheel. There are of course a few nods to the performance industry, with an Autometer tacho, extra gauges and a B&M Pro Ratchet to shift the heavily massaged C4 transmission.
“I was going to put a roll cage in it but it’s a coupe so once you put in the ‘cage’ you can’t use the back seat,” says Tom.
This is probably why the XP’s drag racing career was so short.
“I did a couple of half passes to get a feel for the car and went 11.60 at about 80mph. Then I went out and did a full run and called it quits.
On its one and only full pass — running nine-inch slacks and pump fuel — the XP went 10.52@128mph. Those are some serious numbers for a naturally aspirated pump-gas combo, especially with almost zero track time.
The Kenwood head unit sits just behind the dash. “The hole is for a standard radio – I didn’t want to ruin the dash”
Despite the performance, Tom is happy to hit the road with his wife Michelle. Although he admits he doesn’t get out as much as he’d like, he tries to go on a cruise at least once a month. “I’d rather drive it than see it,” he says.
With a bump on the way, however, XP may have some changes.
“It’s so loud – Michelle keeps asking when the crate engine is coming with a quieter exhaust so we can put the baby seat in the back.”
Even if the XP gets a lobotomy, Tom still has his ’55 Cusso and its 516ci big-block striker to play with. And the early Falcon hardtop isn’t going anywhere — it’s part of the family.
“Michelle loves it. She’s seen how much time and effort goes into it, so she appreciates it.
“The day I proposed, we went for a drive down the beach, caught a few kilos of prawns from the trawlers, pulled up on the rocks, and that’s when I popped the question. It was funny because the car was there.
1966 Ford XP Hardtop
|the color:||Arancio Atlas|
|engine:||Windsor 364ci stroker|
|block:||SVO big bore|
|Carbohydrates:||Pro Systems 950cfm|
|Intake:||Edelbrock Super Victor|
|Piston: JE, 4.125 inch bore||AFR alloy|
|Crank:||Scat 4340, 3.400in stroke|
|Bars:||Skate H Beam|
|Ignition:||Axle dizzy, crane coil|
|Emissions:||Custom extractor, Borla muffler, twin 3.5 inch systems|
|Converter:||Stall at 4500rpm|
|Difference:||Nine inch, 3.9 gears, strange alloy center, 35 spline MW axle|
|Specs:||King (F), Reset (R)|
|shocks:||60/40 (f), Rancho (r)|
|password:||Weld Pro Stars, 15×6 (f), 15×10 (r)|
|Rubber:||Mickey Thompson, 26×7.5 (f), 275/60 (r)|
|Wheel: xp., encrusted with pearls||26×7.5 (f), 275/60 (r)|
|Seats:||Stock, reordered (f&r)|
|Gauges:||Standard, as well as Autometer|
|shifter:||B&M Pro Shaft|
Tony, TOCA performance; Pat O’Shea, paint and panel; Dingo, Southside Marine Trimming; Gav, fiberglass works; Dad and Michelle