1974 Ford Falcon XB GT tribute - Reader Resto

By: Chris Totos with Guy Allen, Photography by: Mark Bean

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Chris Totos had a very clear goal in mind when this project started - the car he would have ordered new

I always had an interest in cars and when I was about 14 my dad had an 1974 XB GS 302. That was metallic brown with a gold stripe and a four-speed in it, and a white interior. That combination was classic 70s and is what sparked my interest in the Fords and XBs in particular.

I remember going to visit my cousin Angelo in Adelaide, who has an original XB 351 GT four-door in orange with the cola paint-outs, and still has it to this day. He’s been very helpful in building this car as he knows a lot about them.

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The story of this car starts about 20 years ago when I was helping a friend clear out his shed. He’s also into cars. He happened to have a Golde sunroof out of a written-off XB GT that he was going to throw out. For some reason I said I’d take it and it has hung around with me ever since! Even though I moved houses along the way, I kept it, hoping one day I could build a muscle car and, if it didn’t have a sunroof, I had one to go in.

| Watch the video: Chris' XB GT tribute

Nearly every car I’ve owned has had a sunroof. Obviously these ones from the seventies aren’t electric, but it adds to the charm that it’s a wind-back. I think it completes the car and makes it a bit special and nothing beats cruising on a sunny day with the roof open.

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Flush fitting tail lights

About three years ago I got serious about finding one. Having had a look at quite a number of cars, the majority of them weren’t done very well. As is often the case a lot of the cars out of the seventies, you don’t always know what’s under the paint.

| 2019 Market Review: Ford Falcon XA-XB GT/Goss

I came very close to buying an Onyx Black four-door, XB sunroof car. But it needed a lot of work and the reason I didn’t go ahead was it was quite dear to begin with. On top of that, my plan was maybe to put a bigger motor in it, further down the track, and I didn’t want to wreck a matching numbers car to do that. Unfortunately the moment you do that to those cars, they lose all value.

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We started looking at GS and other options with the GT bits – I had a clear vision from the start, which was the way I would have ordered the car if I had bought it new. That means it had to be black with silver paint-outs, white interior, all the GT bits and pieces including the Globe wheels and redwall tyres. And, most importantly, the sunroof!

| Buyer's Guide: Ford Falcon XA GT

A cousin put me on to Jim from Bentleigh Garage in Melbourne. I saw him for some advice, as I wanted to do something with a GS I’d found on the net. It was more involved than I thought and that’s when we started talking about doing a ground-up build. At the time, Jim had a beautiful four-door body in the corner of his workshop. It was virtually rust-free, which is rare, and it was in primer, ready to go. It was a good short-cut to starting the job.

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The car started off as a Tropic Gold, which is a pretty ugly brown colour and on the build plate it was down as a six-seater. So it had a bench front seat and a three-on the-tree and was a Falcon 500. It was a Broadmeadows car, which is what I wanted.

It was a three-year process and one problem was that Jim was in Melbourne and I was in Canberra, so I couldn’t visit as often as I’d like. Finding parts was by far the hardest part. We went to the extent of finding the right parts for everything, down to details like correct tramp rods at the rear, correct engine cross-member up front, correct dash pad. A lot of those correct pats are expensive and hard to find.

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Signature engine colour of a 351 Ford V8

We did get some wins, such as the seats, which are genuine GT. Overall, it stacks up as a GT, minus the ID plate. We even went to the trouble of painting the diff the right way, with the rear black and the front red. The bushes are all the spearmint green for a GT. I think it started off as a simple and straight-forward idea but, as these things do, it snowballed.

Of course I have to mention Sunny Mizzi, who made it possible to get that Golde sunroof installed and working – two decades after I first got it! He has the correct jig to make the all-important cut in the roof.

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The cream and black combo is hugely appealing

The engine is an Australian-market 351 with a 750 Holley double-pumper, with a three-speed FMX auto with a 9-inch diff running fairly low 355 gears. Brakes are PBR discs all round, while we’ve lowered it a little to give it the right stance. It’s riding on 15 x 7 Globe replica wheels with BFG Goodrich tyres – one of the few brands that has the red stripe moulded into the wall, so it’s not painted on. They’re expensive for a 15-inch tyre, but worth it.

We did the final set-up of the car here in Canberra, with the help of local mechanic Russell at Advanced Tech Automotive. He got it running nicely. I’ve used him on all my cars and he’s been around long enough to understand the older stuff.

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It drives unbelievable well. When you’ve done a ground-up build you’re receiving a car that’s as close as possible to new – there’s no part in the car that hasn’t been redone or renewed. It feels like it’s out of a showroom. They’re a great cruiser, though with the 355 gearing I’ve chosen it revs a little higher on the highway. But that’s okay as the majority of the use is around town.

Next project? When I started this I had been tossing up between a sedan and a coupe, but couldn’t find a hardtop that I was happy with. And they were a lot more expensive and it was good to do a car that reminds me of Dad’s old GS.

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Once it was a Falcon 500, now Mecano pieces

I still have a hankering to do an XA or XB coupe and like the fact that on the rear you can fit quite a wide tyre without having to minitub.

For the time being I’m happy to enjoy the sedan. But if the right coupe turned up, maybe I’d jump at it. That’s if I can put up with another three years of chasing parts!

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Bare body rubbed down and primed

THE RESTO:

It all started here

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One genuine Golde sunroof, to whihc Chris added a Falcon.

 

Let the preparations begin

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Despite the body being pretty much rust free, there was much to do.

 

Hinged

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Every detail was cleaned, prepped and painted.

 

Ready

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This gap will eventually be full of V8 engine.

 

Making life easier

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Doorless interior easier to work in with non standard tiller to be replaced.

 

Booted

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All stripped and primed and ready for the finishing touches.


Back in black

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The blemish free body gets its coat of black paintwork.

 

Globe mags

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Originally produced by local company Globe wheels, they debuted on the Phase III GT-HO.

 

Underbelly

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The XB GT Henry gets its nether regions repainted.

 

Nine inch

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The default nine-inch limited slip diff was added.

 

Quieten down

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Sound deadening makes for a more peaceful ride.

 

The business end

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Eight cylinders of Henry’s finest V8 giving the XBGT a good dose of grunt.

 

1976 Ford Falcon XB GT tribute specs

Body: integrated body/chassis four-door sedans
Engine: 5763cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
Power & torque: 220kW @ 5400rpm, 510Nm @ 3400rpm
Performance: 0-96km/h: @8.0 seconds, 0-400 metres @16.0 seconds
Transmission: 3-speed auto or 4-speed manual
Suspension: (f) independent with coil springs, wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers; (r) livew axle with leaf springs
Brakes: discs f & r with power assistance
Tyres: E70HR-14

 

From Unique Cars #444, Sep 2020

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