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Silk Purse From A Sow’s Ear

13 April 2022

Wanting to come out and play with the big boys, Bryce decided to build himself a Falcon, and he made a bloody good job of it

Words: Shane Wishnowsky Photos: Aaron Mai

During his formative years, Bryce Hogg’s dad Jonathan was busy building a Lotus 7 in the shed. Given Dad’s passion for building and racing circuit cars, it came as no surprise that Bryce and brother Gareth followed in his footsteps. Once the Lotus was finished, the driving duties were shared about, and Bryce got his first taste of going fast on a racetrack. He was instantly hooked, and the rest is history. The rapid open-topped Lotus wasn’t the only car to be built in the Hogg family’s sheds over the years. Two BMW track cars started their lives in family sheds: Dad’s is finished and racing, while brother Gareth’s is still a work in progress and, once finished, will join the grid and race alongside his family’s cars.

But, long before their current builds, Bryce and Gareth found themselves behind the wheel of a Mazda MX-5 and raced in the MX-5 Cup winter and summer series. For eight years, Bryce was happy pedalling the small Japanese sports car around racetracks, but the desire to go a bit quicker was always at the back of his mind; he just needed to work out how he was going to make that happen. He acquired another MX-5 and began chopping it up but quickly realised that the cost to build it to have some real fun in wouldn’t be a cheap exercise, and the classes that he could run it competitively in were extremely thin. So the decision was made to build something a bit more masculine. “My dad and brother had built classic race cars, so I thought I’d join in the fun,” he says.

However, selling the MX-5 wasn’t an option, as there was a fair bit of sentimental value attached to it — Bryce proposed to fiancée Alice at the track during a test day; the claimed “gearbox issues” were just an excuse to stop racing so that he could pop the question. So, rather than park the car permanently, Alice found herself behind the wheel and has been a track regular since the end of lockdown in 2020.

The hunt was on for something Bryce could build in his shed, something he could truly call his own. Initially, he had his mind set on a Bathurst-destroying R32 Skyline — there is no denying that that’s a hell of a car, both on and off the track, and would certainly quench his appetite for quicker lap times. But that thought was fleeting and quickly shelved, as Bryce explains: “A classic Group A–styled race car was going to be absurd due to the cost of a chassis, plus all the bits and pieces that would go along with building that type of car.”

Then the idea of building a Falcon was floated by his dad. And the more Bryce thought about it, the more he liked it. Now, all he needed to do was find a car so he could join with his father and brother in some ‘fun’ building cars.

Eventually, Bryce found a suitable base vehicle to turn into a track weapon, located way up in the hills behind Palmy and belonging to a guy named Bert. Now, old Bert was a bit of a Falcon collector and had had roughly 13 odd XD Falcons at his disposal over the years. The one on offer was the last Bert was selling, so Bryce snapped it up quickly. The car was a roller; came with heaps of spares; and, most important, the “shell was mint”, or so he was led to believe.

Once the car was home, Bryce could examine things a bit more closely and, you guessed it, that “mint shell” turned out to be far from mint in his eyes. Feeling a bit disheartened, he pushed the square four-door into the corner of the shed in disgrace. What he’d thought was going to be a relatively quick build was starting to look like a bit of a mission, as is often the case. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Bryce began collecting all the parts needed, so that, when the time was right, he could finally begin building the Falcon. Over the following years, the parts pile grew and became just the motivation he needed.

When the shell was devoid of everything, it made its way to good friend and workmate Warrick’s place (Warfab) for him to tackle the inside panel work and all the fiddly engineering inside the car. He also fitted up the three-link in the rear and later bent up the exhaust system when those jobs needed doing.

The car then found its way to the panel shop to have the rest of the imperfections addressed and to determine just how bad it was. The verdict was “rust pretty much everywhere”. Resigned to the fact that nothing short of some pretty extensive panel replacement was going to be required to bring the shell up to scratch, Bryce gave Dittmer Collision Repair the go-ahead to chop out the wrongs and weld in the rights. While the talented guys were quietly cutting, grinding, replacing, and welding, Bryce was working out what he wanted the race car to look like. He briefly toyed with the idea of an Army Reserve–liveried car; he also quite liked the idea of a Dick Johnson–inspired ‘Tru-Blu’ replica, but as there are already a few of those floating around, he didn’t want to be a sheep. Sitting on his shelf was a scale model of Allan Moffat’s bright yellow Federation Insurance XD. The eye-watering hue would certainly stand out both on and off the track, so that’s what he went with.

In no time, Dittmer had finished de-rusting the shell, and it was all ready for Tim Lloyd from Octane Automotive to glue together an extremely stiff cage to help protect Bryce on the track. Bryce loved the aggressive look of the Group C racers of the era. He had already sourced a suitable kit, and, with the help of his fiancée, the giant flares, front lip, and rear spoiler were applied, making for a tough-looking car. The whole lot was then sprayed in Suzuki Swift Championship Yellow and the car was ready for Bryce to throw in everything else he had accumulated over the years.

Now, remember that Bryce’s plan was to have something with a bit more go on the track. It just so happened that his dad had an XB Falcon coupe with a big block, which he decided to return to numbers-matching, so out came the 429 crate motor and guess where it went? Straight into Bryce’s XD — score! Mated to the big block is a brand new Tremec TKO 600 transmission, while power is fed through a McLeod twin-disc clutch and travels down a Collier Motor Engineers custom driveshaft to a Krysler Shop three-linked nine-inch rear end.

Race car life means that everything needs to be adjustable suspension-wise. Thus, the front end was converted to MacPherson strut, the lower control arms strengthened, and an RRS front suspension kit installed up front along with some QA1 shocks at the back. All this plus a Watt’s linkage help Bryce dial in the grip and bring the lap times down as much as possible. And while he was at it, every single bush left in the car was replaced with Nolathane items to stiffen everything up.

Inside, it’s all function over form — a pair of Racetech seats sit front and centre for both driver and brave passenger; Racetech also supplied the steering wheel. Nestled in the driver’s footwell is an OBP Motorsport pedal box.

The centre pedal squeezes the Wilwood brakes on all four corners and, along with some super sticky Nankang semi-slicks, warp speeds are brought down rapidly when the straights quickly turn into corners. Almost obligatory for the period, Simmons OM wheels are also a nice touch. Auto Meter gauges are set into a custom black flocked dashboard fabricated by Turner Metal Fabrication. With the finish line in sight, Capture Signs added the tribute-inspired decals to complete the look, something we think Allan would be proud of.

Bryce has only raced the car at Manfeild in the classic cup in the Manawatu Car Club Feilding Auto Electrical Winter Race Series; to date, he has a best lap time of 1min 22.66s. After the initial shakedown, he felt that the XD was lacking a bit in speed, so the bright yellow Falcon was bolted up to the hub dyno at Danny’s Auto Services in Palmy where tuner Matt was able to extract some more horsepower and torque. Finally, after just shy of six years, Bryce Hogg has a car he can truly call his own, and, along with Dad, brother, and now fiancée, they truly are one fast family!

This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue No. 197