BLACK MAGIC

RHYS CHRISTOU’S XR FALCON CONTINUES A FAMILY TRADITION OF ROCKING THE STREET MACHINE SUMMERNATS

STORY CRAIG PARKER PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

IN KEEPING WITH RHYS’S PLANS

EVERY long-term Street Machine reader would remember the hugely successful Real Men Smoke Eagers ad campaign, starring Mr Double Fist himself, Chris Christou and his tyre-demolishing Electric Blue Phase III GTHO. Well they say the apple never falls far from the tree – this gorgeous XR Falcon belongs to Chris’s 27-year-old son, Rhys.

Rhys openly admits that as a young lad he wanted to follow in his father’s tyre-frying footsteps. Being the supportive type, Christou Sr was only too happy to both encourage and facilitate.

“At age 14, me and Dad went out and got me an XA K-code coupe,” Rhys says. It was earmarked as a skid pig, but Rhys ended up selling the hardtop just 12 months into the build.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for XRs,” he explains, “so when this one came up, I jumped at it.”

The XR was also destined for the burnout pad, so Rhys set about building it to suit. But while his intentions were pure, he never imagined the build would drag on for 11 long years! “I’ve had about 20 cars in between,” he admits. “I was young and got sidetracked easily – cars came and went.”

Mind-changing proved to be a strong theme of the XR’s build. As a young apprentice, Rhys added a set of modest tubs, but then he got excited and chopped those for a bigger set. Some years later he was no longer happy with the quality of some of his earlier tin work. So out it all came to be redone – again. Third time lucky, eh?

Rhys began by relocating the rear leaf springs, adding a pair of CalTracs to help keep them under control as well as a massive threeinch hollow sway-bar. “It’s the same set-up the Pro Stock tube-frame cars run,” he explains. Morwell-based company Romlik was a ton of help when it came to bits like this, supplying sheet metal work and numerous laser-cut pieces.

With the chassis mods finalised, the Falcon went onto a rotisserie for a bit of bodywork. Chris and Rhys replaced both sills, before addressing a few more rust issues. Blast Away in Moe then sandblasted the whole underside back to bare metal, so the lads could lay on etch primer and finish it properly. Stick your head underneath and you can immediately see it’s as good as the top.

While under there, you’d also notice the weapons-grade driveline: fullmanual Powerglide with transbrake and JW bellhousing; Strange 3.5-

TO SKID THE FALCON, THE STROKED 427CI WINDSOR SMALL-BLOCK IS PLENTY TOUGH

IT WAS GOING TO BE SILVER WITH AN ORANGE STRIPE, BUT THERE

inch chrome-moly tailshaft; full-floater Strange nine-inch. Rhys welded up this last item himself, before filling it with a Pro Iron centre and 35-spline axles.

Christou Sr was charged with the task of laying on the final paint, but I bet you can’t guess what happened before he did. Yep, Rhys had a change of heart about the colour. “It was going to be silver with an orange stripe,” he says. “But after going to a few shows and getting serious about the XR, I decided there were too many silver ones. I changed my mind to Glasurit straight black.”

And wow, what a change. Whoever coined the phrase ‘black is beautiful’ obviously had this mouth-watering Falcon in mind – when you see it in the metal the paint is absolutely stunning. The Summernats 29 judges definitely thought so, awarding the car Overall Winner in the Shannons Show ’n’ Shine. Not bad for its very first outing, and it was certainly one of the most talked-about and photographed cars at the event.

That glorious black extends into the engine bay, where you’ll find a 427- cube Windsor donk also dressed in black – it’s so dark and deep under the bonnet that onlookers have to be careful not to fall in.

A tough Cleveland was the early powerplant of choice, but that idea soon went out the window. “I bought a new World Products 9.2 block and alloy heads,” Rhys says. “I like the idea of the Windsor better; it’s what originally came in the XR.”

In keeping with Rhys’s original plans to skid the Falcon, the stroked small-block is plenty tough. A Scat crank and rods and Ross pistons combine to pump up the cubes. Theo from High Energy gave the AFR heads a bit of a tickle-up as well, to take full advantage of the SV1 Pro Systems carb, Victor Jr intake and Comp solid-roller cam.

Having built the engine himself (which included TIG-welding the twoinch into 21/8-inch headers, which were a bugger to get around the steering box), Rhys was somewhat nervous on first fire-up. However when they pulled the string and the dyno needle swung around to 650hp and 550ft-lb, it was ear-to-ear grins all ’round.

That’s plenty of ponies to generate great plumes of acrid tyre smoke, but for an extra kick, Rhys can always crack the tap on the Nitrous Express bottle and flick the switch – the dyno says there’s over 1000hp and

ARE TOO MANY SILVER ONES, SO I WENT FOR STRAIGHT BLACK

THROUGHOUT the 70s and most of the 80s, BF Goodrich dominated the ultra-low 50-series tyre market with its Radial T/A – the tyre of choice for Aussie street machiners.

But in the late 80s, two new players entered the arena: Yokohama with its 352 range, and Bridgestone’s Eager series. To kickstart sales, Bridgestone came up with the infamous Real Men Smoke Eagers campaign. Now part of Street Machine folklore, the campaign’s ad featured Chris Christou and his tough-as-nails Electric Blue GTHO Phase III frying a set of 265/50/15 tyres in a massive burnout.

Chris and HO 775 were already well known to SM readers, having lit ’em up for the mag’s smoketastic Aug/Sep 1984 cover.

His trademark fist-out-the-window style (which he later evolved into the doublefist – one out the sunroof as well), carried him to back-to-back Summernats Burnout Championships in 1990 and 1991.

Along the way his stunning Hoey also scored a second feature (Jan/Feb ’89) – no wonder it made Street Machine’s list of the All Time Greatest Falcons (Aug 2013).

In Chris’s original 1984 article, he stated he’d never sell the car. He’s obviously a man of his word, as HO 775 still takes pride of place in his garage. Mind you, he’s retired it from skid duties, having built a replica for pad work.

As for Bridgestone, they came up with a new campaign in the early 90s: the Eager Maniac competition, which ran until 1995.

Owners submitted photos and info of their car, and Bridgestone selected qualifiers to grace the back cover of Street Machine. Each year, the overall winner was crowned the Bridgestone Eager Maniac!

REAL MEN

FOR AN EXTRA KICK, RHYS CAN CRACK THE TAP ON THE NITROUS BOTTLE – THERE’S OVER 1000HP OF FUN TO BE HAD. YEE-HAH!

900ft-lb of fun to be had. Yee-hah! In naturally aspirated mode, the engine happily runs on 98 PULP. However for added protection when running on the bottle, the SV1 cops a jet change and the tank is filled with C16.

The not-so-shy red interior follows the GT theme for the most part. Muscle Motor Trimmers supplied the reproduction dashtop, door trims and new seat coverings, which were fitted by Straight Line Motor Trimming. Simple? Sure, but why go re-inventing the wheel when the original Broadmeadows interior guys nailed it?

With the build dragging on for so long, Rhys finally set his sights on Summernats 29. “As soon as the entry forms came out in March 2015, I entered,” he says. “No more saying: ‘I’ll finish it this year’ – I was locked in, it had to be done.”

Thanks to a massive amount of help from his father, his two brothers Steve (’69 Camaro) and Mitch (XW GT), and an army of close mates, they got there – just in the nick of time. “I was working 38-hour stints,” Rhys says. “We started painting in November. On New Year’s Day, it didn’t even have doors!”

On the Thursday of Summernats, they dropped it off the hoist and took it for a run up the street. It drove well, so it was back to the workshop to add the stripes before loading it onto the Canberra-bound trailer.

Rhys acknowledges that if it wasn’t for the big hours from everyone involved, the Falcon would never have made it – he can’t thank them enough. “Same for my beautiful wife Christalla for supporting me and sitting beside me on the late nights so I had company,” he says. “She even got her hands dirty a couple of times, rubbing primer and whatnot. Coming home with that winner’s trophy made it all worthwhile.”

And before all of you bust a valve at the thought of Rhys heading to the nearest burnout pad with such a wondrous beauty, there’s been yet another rethink.

“Probably not at the moment; it’s turned out a bit too nice to skid,” he admits.

We’ll see. My guess is the lad’s got smoke in the blood. I for one wouldn’t be at all surprised to see JXR-427 make the occasional appearance in the black colosseum. s

RHYS CHRISTOU 1967 XR FALCON

Colour: Glasurit Straight Black

MOTIVATION

Engine: 427ci Windsor Block: World 9.2 Man O’ War Heads: AFR alloy 225 Intake: Edelbrock Victor Jr Carb: SV1 Pro Systems Cam: Comp solid-roller Crank/rods: Scat H-beam 2000 Pistons: Ross Oiling: Peterson dry sump Ignition: MSD Exhaust: Custom extractors into 3in system, Magnaflow mufflers Nitrous: NX plate system Cooling: Race Radiator, AU thermo fans Fuel: 98/C16 with nitrous Power: 650hp N/A, 1010hp on the bottle

DRIVELINE

Gearbox: Two-speed Powerglide with transbrake Converter: Dominator Diff: Strange 3.7:1 Pro Iron 9in, full-floater, 35-spline

BENEATH

Springs/shocks: Pedders coils, Pedders 90/10 shocks (f); re-set leaves, double-adjustable QA1 (r) Brakes: Wilwood four-piston (f & r), Wilwood master cylinder

ROLLING STOCK

Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x5.5 (f), 15x10 (r) Rubber: Mickey Thompson S/R; 26x6x15 (f), 29x15x15 (r)

HUGE THANKS TO

Andy at Lucas Oil; Ernie at Blast Away; Tony At Romlik; Marcus at Speed Pro; Dad; Mitch; Steve; Suey; Johnno (Trucka); Michael (Schena); Rhodos; Jack (Frappe); Tim; Sherms; Graham; Ali; Terry; Bowen; Mother Christou for all her support and making sure we always had food to eat; and most importantly, my wife Christalla