MIAMI SPICE

WITH HIS 11-SECOND XE FALCON, KYLE DEPIAZZA THROWS A SUPERCHARGED, LATE-MODEL FORD V8 CAT AMONGST THE LS PIGEONS

STORY GLENN TORRENS

DESPITE the huge variety of cars that participate at Drag Challenge, it seems that every second one is powered by an LS-series V8. GM’s all-alloy bent-eight is easy to find, inexpensive, relatively light and goes like stink. It’s a stout choice for earlier Holdens, and just about anything else, too.

But Kyle DePiazza, who lives near Newcastle, hopes to swing that situation back towards later-model Ford V8s. Trading under his Kyle’s Conversions banner, this bloke has been retroteching street machines with later-model Aussie and Japanese donks for the past 15 years. His latest project has been two years of after-hours tinkering with a supercharged Miami V8 in his XE Falcon, which he proudly campaigned at the first Drag Challenge Weekend in Queensland earlier this year.

Kyle bought the XE four years ago with the intention of giving it the first Miami conversion of its kind in Australia. The Ford engine and gearbox, along with a list of other bits Kyle needed, were sourced from a munted FG Falcon XR8 donor ute. Fitting a Ford V8 into a Falcon was simply a matter of drop in, wire up and fire up, right?

Not exactly. The word ‘tinkering’ sells short the immense effort that has gone into making Ford Australia’s locally developed, supercharged all-alloy 5.0-litre powerhouse – and its matching six-speed auto – fit and function in the earlier Falcon. The heft of the DOHC, four-valve-perpot donk meant it couldn’t fit between the XE’s standard shock towers. So the Ford’s front suspension has been binned in favour of aftermarket struts and rack-and-pinion steering; the skinny struts allow the shock towers to be sliced and plated, providing more engine bay real estate.

The sump is a Canton Racing Products item, hanging forward of the XE’s standard crossmember rather than aft as in the donor FG. The engine pipes were weeks of work for Kyle. “Now we can scan these and have them CNCed, he says. The Falcon’s standard fuel tank was replaced with an EFI-spec unit fitted with a Walbro pump.

Other transplant tweaks include a firewall scallop to allow clearance for the entry duct into the rear of the blower, and a re-plumbed heater core under the dash to keep it customer-friendly and street-legal; the air con will soon be piped into place. For cooling, the FG’s radiator and fans were swung in the XE nose with a few stout but simple brackets. The crossmember under the FG’s matching ZF six-slusher is fabbed and retains the standard FG rubber mount. Under the rear is a standard-type (but later-model) BorgWarner built with a Truetrac and 3.7s.

The Kyle-built centre console that surrounds the FG sports-mode auto shifter looks like it was fitted in 1984, as do the instruments that have also cleverly been converted to take signals from the FG’s CAN-bus management system, and show 8000rpm and 240km/h with classic factory fonts. Brilliant!

Standard, the supercharged Miami V8 ran a modest 6psi boost (or thereabouts), so didn’t require intercooling. However, the intake manifold design has provision for an intercooler, so Kyle added Aussie-made StreetFighter hardware, allowing for around double the boost.

No one’s going to argue that 620hp at the treads and 11-second runs all event long at Drag Challenge Weekend (with a best of 11.00@120mph) is a great start from the 100 per cent street-legal combo. Can the supercharged Miami-powered Falcon chase down some of the wilder single-digit LS or Barra transplants? Who cares? With a breadth of real-world performance – docile idle, relaxed 2000rpm cruise at 110km/h, super-sippy fuel economy, and that supercharger’s soul-satisfying shriek – this is an awesome transplant that sure ticks plenty of boxes!

DRAG CHATTER

CHERRY ON TOP

WORD on the street is that serial Drag Challenge competitor Brendan Cherry is up to no good. We’ve seen him campaign both a turbo LS HQ Monaro and a gorgeous boosted big-block HK coupe at DC, but he has liberated the HK of its powertrain and has teamed up with good mate and fellow Drag Challenger Josh Ploeger to build a mega-tough VL Commodore, using most of the HK’s vital organs. A pretty serious rollcage has been made up, along with a tubular front end, and they’ve also gone to a 315 radial, which will place the VL in the Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class.

Now begins the process of transferring the monster 572ci Merlin big-block Chev from the Monaro into the Commodore. Cherry and Josh are running the motor on E85 with water/ methanol injection to negate the need for an intercooler. And if the numbers this combo made in the Monaro are anything to go by, we might see these two joining our seven-second club this year. That’s the plan, anyway.

“We’re thinking it should go 180mph,” Brendan says. “I’ve never been able to put any more then 10psi in the Monaro. We’ll be turning it up and this car is roughly 400kg lighter than the Monaro, with a bigger tyre. I want that red hat!”

SPRAY AND PRAY

DRAG Challenge isn’t all about turbo LS-swapped Holdens! Marcus Howe’s Falcon has had a tickle-up ahead of Drag Challenge 2018, with the 434ci stroker stomping out a none-too-shabby 450rwkW on the motor, on pump 98 fuel. Then, with the bottle turned on, out popped a very impressive 651.8rwkW, which should get the old girl down the quarter in no time flat. All this from a set-up with a low-rise intake that fits underneath a factory bonnet. Too cool!

WEEKEND WARRIOR

ACCOMPANYING Kyle’ XE Falcon during Drag Challenge Weekend was a sleeper VTII Calais (pictured) owned by Kyle’ customer and mate Scott Whitley. With oh-so-90s pearl paint, lovely soft grey leather trim and a sunroof, the comfy Calais definitely flies under the radar, with no hints to its 720+ horses and flat 10sec performance!

The built 6.0L LS with a BorgWarner S480 turbo fit without too many hassles; the power steer pump was converted to electric. As well as the turbo, breathing has been upgraded with Edelbrock and Plazmaman bits that relocate the throttlebody. A Haltech Elite 2500 is the little black box, with boost set to 15psi, tuned by Jez at DVS Tuning. Behind the LS is a TCE 3500rpm converter, a built Powerglide and standard-type limited slip diff.

But as many others have discovered, trying to get the grunt to the ground with Holden’ independent rear suspension is a challenge. For now, there’ little more than some plastic bushes and a set of caravanner-type airbags in the rear coil springs to stop the squat and flailing-tyre camber angles. But with Holden’ later-model Control-Link rear end – and a few other tricks – available to refine the car’ power-down, nines shouldn’ be too far away.