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Big bang theory: Raj Patel’s blown XW Falcon

5 April 2017




There’s nothing we like more than a mountain of chrome poking out of a hole in a bonnet to signal one’s intentions. What do you think Raj Patel plans to do with his?

It appears that, in Whanganui, the habit, be it good or bad, of cramming the biggest possible engine into an engine bay is still alive and well — so much so that Raj Patel had to go to the extent of shaving his strut towers so that he could fit 545 supercharged cubes of Henry Ford’s biggest and baddest into his XW! We really don’t know what is in the water over there, but, for some reason, Whanganui pumps out stupidly over-engined street cars with almost monotonous regularity — not that we’re complaining.

This big blue Falcon has had a few different heartbeats over the years. The story almost reads like a ‘grandad’s axe’ tale — you know the one: it’s the same axe he’s had for 50 years, but it’s had three new handles and two new heads. You get the idea? Raj has owned his XW for 20 years. It all came about when Raj — who, until then, had owned a couple of Cortinas — was out and about downtown in Whangas, minding his own business. He spied the XW and immediately thought to himself, Man, I gotta have me a piece of that! Monies were exchanged and Raj had his own XW, just like the one that had faithfully served his mum and dad and the family back in the day. Their one wasn’t running a 351 Cleveland, four-speed Toploader, and a nine-inch like his did, though.

For a couple of years, old Raj felt 10-feet tall and bulletproof — as most of us did at his age. Like many locals of the time, he spent more than a few nights out on the prowl, occasionally thrashing the pants off the car. Unfortunately, his exuberance eventually came at a cost, as is often the case when you abuse a car the way he did, and the big blue brute developed a misfire. Long story short, the Clevo had eaten a lobe off the cam at some stage in its high rpm lifetime. Any sensible person would simply look at replacing the cam and carrying on as normal, but this is Whanganui, and when it comes to cars, they tend to be as far from normal as humanly possible. There was no way Raj was simply going to replace the cam when the XW’s engine bay was gagging for something larger

So, instead of replacing the cam, Raj decided to buy a gnarly 429 big block off a bloke in Tauranga. “She’ll be right; look at the size of the engine bay — it’ll bolt straight in, sweet as; we just have to hook it up to the four-speed and Bob’s ya uncle!” Ah, not quite … A desperate call to fellow Wanganui Road Rodders member Dean Scott followed, and Dean, who works at Rivers Speed and Spares, soon fabricated Raj a set of custom engine mounts to unite the mechanicals in perfect harmony — albeit an extremely loud harmony, though, as there wasn’t much room to run headers. The car was loaded onto a trailer and shipped east to Palmerston North to make things a bit less feral in the passenger compartment once the ignition key was twisted. Sadly for Raj, three months later, the car was chucked back onto the trailer and shipped back west, sans headers — “too hard”, apparently!

There was no way Raj was simply going to replace the cam when the XW’s engine  bay was gagging for something larger



It was straight back to Rivers Speed and Spares, this time with Grant Rivers on the tools. A couple of days of head scratching later, and a plan was hatched. “If we shave the strut towers a bit here, and massage things a bit there, I think we can make something work,” he reckoned. A month later, the job that had been “too hard” was complete, and a wicked set of custom headers was bolted in place — should’ve shopped local first, huh? With things all sussed in the engine department, Raj could turn his attention to the exterior, which was in dire need of a bit of a spruce up. Shaun Smith of Ross Francis Panel and Paint — and methanol-drinking Donovan-powered-Datsun-ute fame — smacked out all the imperfections and squirted on a hue of blue to make things nice and shiny on the outside.

Unfortunately for the Falcon, it was around this time that Raj lost interest in the project and decided to embark on his big OE to see the world. Nine years later, with a spring in his step and some new-found enthusiasm, he returned to complete the build so that he could once again have a bit of fun. Almost as soon as Raj cleared customs, the work began, and Raj’s days of swapping cogs were over. The Toploader was retired and an order for a Chuck Mann special was placed. Now, old Chuck knows his way around all things transmission, and uses only the best internals; Raj wanted something bulletproof, and that’s exactly what he got. The C6 was loaded with aftermarket bits, and had a JW 3500rpm stall converter thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, Raj didn’t have to go any further rearwards than that, as the Falcon already had a Chassisworks nine-inch under the bum, filled with a Strange head, 3.31:1 gears, and 31-spline axles.

With the running gear and panel and paint completed in record time, it was onto the long list of tedious stuff: wiring; installation of the bucket seats, B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, Auto Meter gauges, new carpets … the list went on and on but rapidly grew shorter. It had been a long time between drinks for Raj, and he was itching to get back behind the wheel. For good measure, and with safety in mind, Dean Scott whipped up a removable four-point roll cage. This is a street car first and foremost, and Raj needs it to perform street-car duties — in his mind, a fixed roll cage leans too much towards the ‘race car that is driven on the street’ category, and that’s not for him.

By 2011, it was all go. Raj took the XW to its first outing at the Wanganui Street Drags, then down to Wellington for the Port Road Drags. As he was having so much fun on the eighth-mile tracks, it was only natural that he would have a crack at going twice the distance. Masterton Motorplex and Meremere were frequented, with the big, heavy car cutting an 11.7-second pass at 121mph — not bad for something with a WOF and rego on the windscreen.

But, as is often the case with enthusiasts — and a seemingly natural progression over time — Raj decided he wanted a blower, and he wanted one bad. To help fund things, the 429 was removed from the engine bay and shipped off to a chap in Opunake. Through the grapevine, Raj had heard of a suitable engine that was for sale — although, when we say ‘engine’, we mean every part of the engine except the block. The 545-cube rotating assembly, heads, blower, and manifold had been sourced from the UK and shipped to New Zealand. Based on a 460ci big block, the engine had been running sweet — until it had kicked a rod out the side and killed the block, hence the reason that part was missing!

There is no greater feeling for a car bloke than when he gets to fire his baby into life for the very first time



A block was sourced and everything required to build a tough short block was chucked in the back of Raj’s car and dumped on Phil Blumont’s workbench at Palmerston North Engine Rebuilders. Four weeks later, it was back west to the river city, so that Raj could fumble his way through the rest of the assembly. With a lot of advice and some educated guesswork, he methodically pieced the rest together. 

There is no greater feeling for a car bloke than when he gets to fire his baby into life for the very first time. The grin on Raj’s face stretched from ear to ear the first time he heard that glorious blower whine in his quiet suburban Whanganui garage, and we bet the neighbours were stoked! Mission accomplished — Whanganui had yet another tough street car in its fold.
With a soft tune on board, the XW took its maiden journey to the 2015 Palmy Swap Meet — and performed flawlessly. With street duties now a success and his new-found enthusiasm, Raj is keen to put the car on the quarter and see what the big old girl can do. We are predicting vast quantities of noise, smoke, and another huge grin on Raj’s face! 

Raj Patel
Car club: Wanganui Road Rodders
Age: 39
Occupation: Service manager
Previously owned cars: Ford Cortina TE 4.1, V8 Cortina Mk2, Ford Fairmont XY GS
Dream car: Ford Falcon XY GT (manual)
Why the Falcon? Have always had a passion for XW–XY Falcons. When I was growing up, we had one as a family car.
Build time: 18 months this time!
Length of ownership: 20 years
Raj thanks: Shaun Smith at Ross Francis Panel and Paint; Phil Blumont at Palmerston North Engine Rebuilders; Grant Rivers at Rivers Speed and Spares; Dean Scott; John Chalk; Lee Taylor at Taylor Engineering

1970 Ford Falcon XW

Engine: 545ci big block Ford, standard two-bolt block, main stud kit, main girdle, Scat rotating assembly, JE forged pistons, H-beam rods, Mellings high-volume oil pump, Milodon race sump, ported Cobra Jet heads, Crane Cams custom-grind solid-roller camshaft, roller rockers, stud girdle, twin Holley 950cfm boost-referenced carburettors, Hampton 6-71 supercharger, Hampton seven-inch race manifold with Cobra Jet ports, 60-litre fuel cell, MagnaFuel 500 pump, four-port regulator, shortened MSD Pro-Billet distributor, MSD BTM, MSD 7AL-2, MSD Pro Power HVC coil, Ford Racing ignition leads, custom four-into-one headers, twin three-inch exhausts, custom twin-core radiator, twin 16-inch thermo fans
Driveline: Ford C6, JW 3500rpm stall converter, Chassisworks-fabricated nine-inch rear end, Strange 31-spline axles, Strange head, 3.31:1 final-drive ratio
Suspension: Standard front suspension, lowered coils, 90/10 front shocks, standard rear suspension
Brakes: Stock front discs and calipers, late-model Falcon rear discs and rotors
Wheels/Tyres: 15×7-inch and 15×9-inch Centreline Convo Pro wheels; 225/50R15 BF Goodrich and 265/50R15 Yokohama tyres
Exterior: Cowl-mount gauge cluster, shaved strut towers
Chassis: Stock
Interior: M&H race seats, B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges, four-point roll cage
Performance: Yet to be properly tested