It was like being in a marriage!” says Phil Wright of his role as builder/project manager for this flawless XB GT coupe. As the owner and only full-time hands-on staff member of Matakana-based panel specialists Auto Body Works, his role was to deliver the owner, Ed Fernley, what he wanted — even if there was the odd disagreement between them.
“Ed had plenty of his own ideas, and knew what he wanted, but sometimes he was keen for my suggestions and ideas also, so the end result is a perfect mix of both,” and when Phil says perfect, he’s not overstating the finish of the vehicle.
Although Ed owns a seriously tough Mustang, he’s more into late model European, or more specifically, Italian and German cars. But when a friend turned up at Ed’s a few years back with an XB coupe, he soon took interest, even if it was — with ‘just’ eight cylinders — a few slices short of what Ed was driving at the time. “I told him I’d buy it off him,” says Ed, “but he was determined not to sell it; so I told him that if he didn’t sell, I’d build one even better.” And that’s exactly what he then set out to do. But how would he actually achieve it? How would he know it was better than the car he’d seen and fallen in love with? The answer was simple: use his mate’s own panel beater — Phil — to not only do the work, but to co-manage the project from the get-go right through to VINing and delivery.
It was a devious plan, and one that no doubt didn’t go down too well with his Falcon-owning friend, but after seeing Phil’s work, Ed knew he was the only man for the job.
With a plan now in place and Phil on board, the almost impossible hunt began for a decent shell to base the build on. Little did Ed know that after an extensive search, this would result in sending Phil to Australia to check out an un-loved rolling body hiding in the back of a panel shop.
Hidden below the dust and parts of various other vehicles was a rusting shell, but at least all the parts for it were there, and better still, some work had already been performed, with the entire interior having been retrimmed, and that would be coming with the car. “It was pretty sad looking. It needed that Kiwi touch,” says Phil.
A month or two later, that epic Kiwi build would commence. Slowly piece-by-piece new metal sections were formed to replace the cancerous areas, and the shell began to take shape.
While Phil was working his magic on the body, he commissioned Carr Engine Services to transform the matching numbers 351 engine to the same condition. After giving the block a bore and hone, it was rebuilt with forged pistons, prepped rods and ARP fasteners. Atop of this now sits a pair of Edelbrock alloy heads and a matching Edelbrock intake.
With reliability and presentation a higher priority than outright performance, each and every part of the engine and engine bay was thoroughly cleaned and detailed before being prepped for reinstallation. Not wanting to take away from the car’s genuine GT status, only a mild tidy-up of the engine bay took place so as to not lose any of the car’s character or genuine features. Included in this, though, was the filling of any unused holes and a thorough de-looming. The same care, attention to detail and renewal of every single nut and bolt has also followed through to the undercarriage and driveline of the vehicle.
The custom brandy colour that now adorns every inch of the body was sprayed by Auto Body Works’ painter of choice, Advanced Auto Refinishers, and has been applied with the level of perfection we’ve come to expect from them. Wanting to add his own custom touches, Ed had Phil remove the bumper bolts, and rather than having the bumpers re-chromed, opted to colour-code them instead. The usually chrome door handles also received the same treatment.
The most obvious visual change that Ed made from the stock appearance of the car was the fitting of custom-made Foose rims, and those who know their Falcons will have also picked the extended bonnet bulge. Knowing full well how rare the GT bonnets are, Phil made sure they left the original item alone before attacking a second one and raising the hump 50mm from standard. The result is subtle yet effective.
The wheels on the other hand, which measure in at 19×8 inches up front and an impressively large 20-inches tall and 10-inches wide on the rear are anything but subtle.
Even though Phil was predominantly working alone on the build, it was transformed from a pile of parts to flawless cruiser in just over eight months. The finishing touch before it hit the road was a custom exhaust by GR Engineering and the re-setting of the leaf springs to bring the rear end down a bit. As you’d hope from a car of this calibre, it flew through the VINing process and was dropped off to an exuberant Ed. While his Falcon-owning mate hasn’t had a chance to check it out in person as yet, we’re assured he was the first to get sent the photos of the completed project. While we’re not sure what his reaction was, we are informed he’s already got something else in the build, which in theory will trump Ed’s Falcon… then again, Ed’s already on the lookout for another project too. So no matter what happens next, we like where this game of one-upmanship is heading!
1974 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe – Specifications
Engine: 351 Cleveland, bored 30-thou over, forged pistons, ARP fasteners, Edelbrock alloy heads, Edelbrock intake, Holley high-volume mechanical fuel pump, MSD coil, Mallory distributor, 9.5mm leads, custom exhausts, Desert Cooler radiator, twin electric fans, alloy pulleys, braided hoses
Driveline: FMX auto transmission, 9-inch diff
Suspension: 60mm lowering springs, re-set rear leaves, Monroe shocks
Brakes: stock discs
Wheels/tyres: 19×8½ and 20×10-inch Foose rims, 245/35R18 and 315/35R20 tyres
Exterior: Custom bonnet, colour-coded bumpers and handles, custom PPG paint
Ed Fernley – Driver Profile
Occupation: Contracts Manager
Previously Owned Cars: Many, but none like this
Dream Car: Bugatti Veyron (Sang Noir model)
Build time: 8 months
Length of Ownership: 12 months
Ed thanks: Auto Body Works, GR Engineers, Carr Engineering Services, Advanced Auto Refinishers, Dan Granger (who tirelessly searched the net and found endless bits and pieces to complete the build)
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy
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