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Wheelin’ and dealin’: pro street, budget-built XB hardtop

11 June 2018



For a prolific car buyer and parts hustler like Willy Chapman, there was no way his dream car would be anything ordinary!

You’ve heard that story about the guy who turned one red paper clip into a house through simple bartering, right? Some people have a talent for wheeling and dealing, and being in the right place at the right time. If the art of hustling was academically recognized, Willy Chapman would have a PhD. He’s one of those guys who always knows who’s got what, who wants what, and how to arrange a deal that leaves everyone leaves satisfied. 

The advantages of this modern-day superpower should be obvious — Willy can play transactional Tetris to build pretty much whatever car he wants to. However, despite his abilities, this mean XB Fairmont has been a long time coming. 

“It’s always been in my mind to own a tubbed and blown Falcon coupe,” he says. 
While most people would have either acted upon that whim, or kept it as a dream, Willy just kept doing what he does best — making deals, and biding his time until the right car popped up. 

Willy has gone through more nice rides than most people could ever dream of owning — a Ford man through and through, coolness is the only prerequisite for him to own something, and he’s had Chevs, Holdens, Chryslers, and all sorts of American muscle cars over the years. Then he found out about a certain XB Fairmont coupe. 

“Around four years ago, Vance, a good mate of mine, stumbled across this beauty sitting in a shed in Napier. Once he had purchased the car and let me know about it, I knew I just had to have it in my shed,” Willy recalls. 

It took a few years of persistent harassing, but Willy got there in the end, coming up with a good enough deal to prise the keys from Vance’s hands. 
Having owned more than his fair share of tough street cars, Willy didn’t lose much sleep over his decision to pull the tough 460ci big block in favour of a more streetable set-up. Yeah, bragging rights are one thing, but Willy’s not about that if it takes away from his enjoyment of the car. 

“I suppose as you get older you get wiser,” he chuckles. 

It can’t have hurt to have a nicely built 351ci Cleveland and C6 transmission already sitting around in an EL Falcon he owned, either! Well, that was the plan until Willy found an almost complete 6–71 supercharger set-up on Trade Me. He took all the bits and pieces to Marty and Zoe Radford at Radford Ventures Ltd, and a plan of attack was drawn up, the end result being the tubbed and blown Falcon coupe Willy had always wanted. 

As the coupe had already been tubbed, with a narrowed rear chassis section, custom four-link, and Panhard rod set-up under the bum, Marty began work on the Cleveland immediately. It’s worth noting here that the gear he used is mostly reconditioned second-hand equipment — cost-effective, reliable, and more than enough for what Willy’s going to use the XB for. 
The distributor, for example, is a Marty special — a re-machined body and driveshaft to clear the supercharger snout, filled with MSD internals. With the exception of the blower-grind Edelbrock camshaft, the entire bottom end is as Willy removed it from his EL. The 4MA crankshaft is out of an American-assembled engine, and reputed to be stronger than the Australian cranks, while the ARP rod bolts should ensure Uncle Rodney doesn’t come for a visit. 

Rather than rip out this simple and effective bottom end, Willy lowered the compression ratio for the blower by replacing the existing 2V closed-chamber heads with a pair of 4V open chambers that Willy scored off Facebook — but, unfortunately, closer inspection revealed they were cracked. An annoying setback, but no problem for Willy, who was able to swap his closed chambers for a pair of 2V open-chamber heads. These were taken to Wayne at Henderson Automotive for machining, with larger 4V valves installed, as well as screw-in studs for the aftermarket roller rockers. 

As it turned out, that Trade Me Peterson blower manifold was also warped, so it was back to Wayne for surfacing before Marty could even think about bolting the GM 6–71 blower on. Having been sitting unsealed for years, the blower was full of muck and Marty first had to strip, clean, and repolish it back to perfection — a bit of good old-fashioned hard yakka has resulted in a blower barely distinguishable from a brand-new unit. 

There is a bit of brand new where it matters, though. New Zealand’s supercharger guru, Alan Shadwick at Als Blower Drives, came through with a blower drive and rear bearing plate, as well as the Garlits Streetcatcher scoop that sits above the boost-referenced Quick Fuel carburettor sourced from Dene at STA Parts. 

It was Marty’s handiwork that brought the whole package together, though, including the alternator brackets and pulley that he machined up, the full electrical rewire, and the three-inch exhaust system with X-pipe to suit the tri-Y headers. While he was under there, he also took the opportunity to strengthen the narrowed rear chassis and Panhard rod mounts, as well as install a driveshaft hoop to get the car ready for LVV certification. 

Street legality was paramount, which is why the jewellery hanging out of the bonnet isn’t anything too crazy — enough to give the car the badass pro-street attitude Willy always wanted, but nothing to draw its legality into question. The low-profile Streetcatcher scoop certainly helps in that respect, and Willy also went low with the rear, getting the XB’s fat bum right down over the huge 15×15-inch Centreline Convo Pros. In the process, the existing 31-inch tyres were swapped out for a pair of 29×18.5-15 Mickey Thompsons — a subtle change that makes a big difference. 

Things are no less serious inside. Thanks to the car’s previous life as a street and strip weapon, a six-point roll cage had already been welded in, and, while Willy’s not planning to go fast enough to need it, it’s a welcome piece of his pro-street puzzle. However, once he’s pretzelled himself into the Recaro bucket seat, his forward view is surprisingly reserved, with just the polished blower and scoop, a trio of Auto Meter gauges, and the B&M shifter providing any indication that the stock Fairmont gauges are connected to a package far more potent than the bigwigs at Ford Australia could have dreamed of in 1974.

On the other side of that coin, it’s everything a younger Willy Chapman dreamed of — the real teller for a guy like him, though, is going to be how long it takes for him to swing a deal and flick it off like the countless other tough cars before it. We’ve got a feeling he might be keeping this one for an uncharacteristically long time.


Vehicle: 1974 Ford XB Fairmont
Engine: 351ci Ford Cleveland V8, 0.030-inch overbore, 4MA crankshaft, Romac harmonic balancer, ARP rod bolts, Edelbrock camshaft, Cleveland 2V open-chamber iron heads, stainless-steel Cleveland 4V valves, screw-in rocker studs, roller rockers, Peterson supercharger manifold, GM 6–71 supercharger, Als Blower Drives supercharger drive gears, Als Blower Drives rear bearing plate, boost-referenced Quick Fuel carburettor, Garlits Streetcatcher scoop, Mallory electric fuel pump, custom distributor housing, MSD distributor internals, MSD 6AL ignition, 4-2-1 headers, three-inch exhaust, ProCool radiator
Driveline: Ford C6 three-speed automatic, Ford nine-inch diff, Strange Engineering diff centre, 31-spline billet axles, 4.56:1 diff ratio
Suspension: Factory front suspension, Koni front shocks, custom four-link rear, rear coilovers, rear Panhard rod
Brakes: Drilled and slotted front discs, rear drums
Wheels/Tyres: 15×6-inch and 15×15-inch Centreline Convo Pro wheels, 29×18.5-15 Mickey Thompson rear tyres
Exterior: Satin orange paint, white pearl
Chassis: Custom rear section, driveshaft safety hoop
Interior: Recaro bucket seats, B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges, roll cage
Performance: Untested (so far)

Driver: William ‘What’s the Deals’ Chapman
Car club: On a Roll
Age: 46
Occupation: Painter
Previously owned cars: I’ve lost count of how many cars I’ve owned — XY GT replicas, twin-turbo 347ci XF ute, ’69 Chevelle SS 396, two tubbed Capris, the list goes on
Dream car: Probably this one
Why the Fairmont? I always wanted something that was big, bad, tubbed, and blown!
Build time: One year
Length of ownership: One-and-a-half years
Willy thanks: First of all, I have to say chur to Vance for selling me the coupe; my partner Lisa, son David, and good friend Keith, for chipping in here and there; most of all, a huge thank you to Marty and Zoe Radford at Radford Ventures Ltd, for basically turning a rolling body into a get-in, turnkey dream car — they have worked on most of my cars, and I would recommend them to anyone; Wayne at Henderson Automotive, for the engine machining; Alan at Als Blower Drives, for the help and information