WILD THING

NICK LABARA’S 427CI WINDSOR-POWERED FORD FUTURA SPORTS COUPE IS OFF THE CHAIN

STORY ANDREW BROADLEY PHOTOS PAUL SUESSE

WHY these Ford Futura Sports Coupes aren’t more popular Down Under is completely beyond me. They’re just like our beloved XR Falcon sedans, but with two less doors and stylish Mustang-like rear flanks, they’re arguably way cooler.

They’re not especially sought after in the US either, and therefore are relatively cheap to acquire and easy enough to ship out to Australia.

You could convert one to right-hook with factory parts and create a two-door XR GT tribute, or do as Nick Labara has done and elect to build a fat-tyred, bigpowered pro street stonker.

Nick had been hunting for an XW-XY Falcon for a couple of years to no avail when he chanced upon this ’66 Futura Sports Coupe for sale locally. Still lefthand drive and fitted with a 289ci Windsor, Top Loader and nine-inch combo, it was painted metallic blue, in great shape, and tubbed to accommodate a set of hefty rear tyres.

“Right from the start I wanted to race it to see what it could do,” Nick says. “I put a C4 in it and took it to the track and all we could achieve with the 289 were 12s. That’s what prompted me to do a full nut-and-bolt restoration and up the horsepower and cubes, hoping to achieve low 10s.”

After a pow-wow with good mate Andrew Schrader, Nick hatched a plan.

He would rebuild the car from the ground up, converting it to right-hand drive and transforming it into a right and proper Aussie street-and-strip weapon in the process.

The first port of call was Miller Chassis, where Dave was briefed on the righthook conversion, along with strengthening the chassis, smoothing the firewall and trans tunnel, and replacing the existing rollcage with a more current, techinspected set-up with removable side intrusion bars.

Nick was over the moon with the quality of Dave’s work, but the same can’t be said of the panel shop that first attempted the body refinishing on the car.

“After Schrader mixed the perfect colour, we took the car to a panel shop where it was resprayed, but the end result was disappointing and not worth talking about,” Nick laments. “I have to say I was shattered.”

He did some research before calling Exclusive Customs at Heathcote, NSW,

STRAIGHT OFF THE TRAILER, THE COUPE CAME DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO REALISING NICK’S GOAL OF A LOW 10 ON THE FIRST PASS

which has a reputation as being one of the leading paint and panel businesses in the custom car game. Jason Coburn from Exclusive viewed the car and discussed the best approach to rectifying the Futura’s paint and body woes, then he and brother Glenn got stuck into the job.

“Exclusive Customs went over and above to keep me happy and to complete the job the way it should have been done in the first place,” Nick says. “It came out perfect and I was very happy.”

The car was taking shape, but the whole reason for the rebuild was to make it faster. To that end, John at Feneck’s Race Engines was enlisted to build a tough Windsor that would put the old 289 to shame. To a Dart block he added a Lunati crank, Carrillo rods and JE pistons for a final capacity of 427ci. The camshaft is a custom solid-roller, while the heads are Trick Flow High Port items, topped with an Edelbrock Super Victor and 1000cfm Holley carb. It’s a stout pump-fuel combo that spun the chassis dyno to the tune of 448rwhp, with tyre slip on the rollers.

“John was meticulous in the way he built the engine and his work was flawless. There really are no words for what he did for me,” says Nick.

“He was a major part of the set-up of the running gear and I can’t thank him enough.”

The engine is backed by a 4800rpm TCE converter and transbraked C4 transmission, with a braced nine-inch rear end equipped with a Detroit locker, Currie axles and 4.3:1 final drive gears.

Straight off the trailer, the coupe came dangerously close to realising Nick’s goal of a low 10 on the first pass, with a 10.50@127mph. He’s hoping tuning and set-up tweaks will yield an extra few tenths, and as soon as he coaxes a 10.2 out of it naturally aspirated, he plans to put it on the hose. “The engine was built for nitrous, so I’m really happy with mid-10s on the motor so far,” he says. “With the nitrous I’m hoping it’ll run into the bottom nines.”

Those goals aside, Nick enjoyed the build so much that he’s already planning another one!

“After working on this car and seeing how perfect it turned out, I’m already in discussions with Andrew Schrader and Exclusive Customs about our next project, which will be a tough XW or XY streeter,” he says.

No rest for the wicked, eh? s

NICK LABARA 1966 FORD FUTURA SPORTS COUPE

Paint: PPG Dannik Custom Blue

ENGINE

Brand: Dart Windsor 427ci Induction: Edelbrock Super Victor manifold, 1000cfm Holley carb Heads: Trick Flow High Port Camshaft: Custom solidroller Conrods: Carrillo Pistons: JE Crank: Lunati Oil pump: Melling Fuel system: MagnaFuel pump Cooling: Mustang radiator, twin SPAL fans Exhaust: Ceramic-coated headers, twin 3.5in system Ignition: MSD Digital 6, MSD distributor

TRANSMISSION

Gearbox: C4, reversepattern, transbrake Converter: TCE 4800rpm Diff: Braced 9in, Detroit Locker, Currie axles, 4.3:1 gears

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Springs: Lovells (f), relocated leaf springs with CalTracs (r) Shocks: Koni (f), Strange coil-overs (r) Brakes: XY Falcon discs and calipers (f), Wilwood discs and calipers (r) Master cylinder: XY Falcon

ROLLING STOCK

Rims: Weld Draglite; 15x4.5 (f), 15x10 (r) Rubber: Mickey Thompson; 26x4.5 (f), 15.5x29 (r)

THANKS

Andrew Schrader for helping build the car to its current condition; John at Feneck’s Race Engines for all his work; Dave at Miller Chassis for his expertise; Jason, Glenn, Rick and all the staff at Exclusive Customs; Keiran at 0409 TOWING; Troy at A&T Auto Trimmers Kirrawee for the great workmanship; Peter and Rob at Kirrawee Mufflers for custombuilding the exhaust system; Red at Craft Diffs for all the hard work in rebuilding the diff; Fred at Protrans for building a super-tough C4; John at Johnny’s Automotive for all his hard work; Clarkie at Cronulla Towing for being so careful with my car; my beautiful fiancée Rose for all her support throughout the whole process