THEY say that good things come to those who wait. Well, Brad Fletcher had to wait a while to get his XA coupe, but, as you’ll discover, it really wasn’t that good a thing to start with.
“It took me longer to find the car than it did to build it; XA coupes are just hard to come by, Brad says. “Every year maybe a dozen would come up for sale, but it would be 10 XBs and two XAs. And I wanted to start afresh; I want to buy something that was already built.
The car showed up on Gumtree so Brad went and had a look.
“It was your typical rusty coupe, he says. “It had been stripped for 14 or 15 years and had just sat in the shed. He wanted $14,500 for it and that was just too much, so I walked away.
About six months later the car turned up on eBay and Brad was the highest bidder at $8500, but that didn’t meet reserve. “He was adamant he wanted $10,000, so I let it go. Two months later he contacted me to see if the $8500 was still on the table, and here the fat bum is, four-and-a-half years later.
What Brad started off with wasn’t too flash, and there wasn’t an engine or trans, but he did get quite a few spare parts with it, so it turned out to be a pretty good deal.
The next step was to find a panel beater that could sort out the rust and get the car back to better-than-new. This, however, didn’t go as smoothly as it could have.
“I waited eight months for one guy who would tell me all the show cars he had done, showed me a few photos, but I couldn’t visit any owners. I should have known then to walk away, but my heart overrode my brain, Brad says. “When he finally started he butchered the left rear guard when rolling the lip. This guard was rust-free, which was unbelievable considering the rest of the car.
On the third day of working on the car the panel beater butchered the boot rubber channel, so at this point Brad took the XA home.
“I was lucky it only cost me time more than dollars, he says. “I got off lightly compared to some horror stories I’ve heard.
Brad didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself, though. Instead he got busy: “I did a lot of work myself on the body, and I replaced the floors.
“In the panel beating industry you get a lot of people that over-promise and underdeliver, Brad continues. “Rob from Perth Panel & Paint contacted me through the coupe club [XA-XB-XC Coupes WA]. He gave me a price, the number was where I wanted it to be, and he did it on time and on budget. classify him as a mate nowadays.
The car was originally white with a white interior, and Brad contemplated keeping the white theme inside, but Chris at Trimcare talked him out of it. The custom design is simple with a slight modern feel to it. The dash is mostly stock, although a few extra gauges have been added where the ashtray and clock once resided. The front seats – from a BA XR8 ute – tilt forward, and the rears are buckets from a BA sedan, making the car a four-seater now
The scoop is a slightly taller version of what you would find on a ’69 Mustang. The family resemblance carries through to the ridge running down the middle of the scoop and bonnet being an exact match
It’s a pretty tight fit, but the cutout shock towers and RRS front suspension free up some extra room. The modern compressor and condenser means the factory integrated a/c works better than ever
Brad decided on a full RRS suspension, straying from the more-oftenseen drag strip-inspired set-up to something a bit more useable and comfortable on long drives.
“I wanted a bit of both, he says. “I knew the drag strip was going to be something I wanted to do, but it wasn’t going to be every weekend; maybe once or twice a year.
Aside from better handling, one big advantage of using RRS suspension is that you can make a lot more space for headers when you remove a large portion of the shock towers. That space comes in extra handy when you’re planning on stuffing a big-block in the car, and not just any big-block.
“I wanted to go a big, big, big-block, Brad laughs. “It’s an A460 block, which is the Ford Racing block. It has four-bolt mains, siamesed bores, priority oiling and all the good bits and pieces.
Brad’s not joking; how does 600 cubes sound? With the factory block you can ‘only’ take them out to around 550 cubes, hence the need for the A460 block. It’s one of Kaase Racing Engines’ P-51 combinations that has had a bit of a freshen-up courtesy of Ierace Automotive.
“I bought it brand new but when I first fired it up the rear main started weeping, explains Brad. “I put up with it for a while but when I decided to sort it out thought we’d lean on it a bit. It came with a hydraulic-roller, so we went to a solid-roller to make it a little bit nastier.
When it comes to the body, the Fordophiles out there will pick the GT front guards and bonnet, but Brad’s not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. The car still wears its Fairmont badge proudly on the rear panel. The bonnet scoop is ’69 Mustang, which matched up perfectly due to the identical ridge that runs down the centre of both XA GT bonnets and ’69 Muzzie scoops, although Brad did have to make it slightly taller to clear the Quick Fuel 1150cfm Dominator carb.
These days a lot of people are getting a bit scared to modify the classic Aussie muscle cars that have long been the core material for the street machining scene, but that wasn’t the case for Brad.
“I wanted a no-rules car, he says. “I’ve got a really nice K-code XY Fairmont as well that I’ve had for 17 years, and it’s a beautiful car, but I’m just a caretaker maintaining it and it frustrated me a little bit, so that’s why s I wanted a car that I could do whatever I wanted to it – no rules.
Paint: Golden Blaze Green
Type: 600ci big-block Ford 385-series
Inlet: Trick Flow
Carb: Quick Fuel 1150cfm
Heads: Kaase P-51
Valves: 2.25in (in), 1.76in (ex)
Cam: 791thou lift, 273/280 duration
Pistons: Custom RaceTec
Crank: Scat stroker
Conrods: Scat H-beam
Radiator: Aussie Desert Cooler with twin Spal fans
Exhaust: Twin 3in with Lukey mufflers
Ignition: MSD 6AL, Mallory distributor, Kaase leads
Gearbox: AOD, full-manual valvebody, transbrake
Converter: FB Transmissions 10in, 3500rpm stall
Diff: Strange Truetrac centre, 3.9:1 gears, 31-spline axles
Front end: RRS
Shocks: RRS coil-overs (f & r) Rear end: RRS three-link
Brakes: Wilwood disc (f & r)
Rims: Weld S71; 18x8 (f), 20x13 (r)
Rubber: Nitto Invo; 235/40R18 (f), 345/25R20 (r)
Rob & Warren at Perth Panel & Paint; Stan & Rita at Ozzy Restos; XA-XB-XC Coupes WA and its members for the motivation; Cronic Customs; Scott at Torque Fabrication; Chris at Trimcare; Travis at Dean’s Autoglass; Kingy & Macca for always being there to lend a hand; Tony and the team at Superoo Falcon Spares; Blacky & Lauren at Black Magic Race Cars for their top-notch custom fabrication; my wife Tricia and two boys Tyler and Riley – without my family’s support there is no way I could achieve the goals set for this build