In 1980, thousands of fans watched Bathurst with great interest as a relatively unheard of driver took the early lead. 16 laps in, and Dick Johnson’s name was being repeated by the Channel 7 commentary team over and over. How long could this comparative unknown in his XD Falcon keep ahead of crowd favourite Peter Brock in his Torana?
One of those watching the coverage was young Aucklander Frank Malcon. While still many years away from being able to get his driver’s licence, he liked what he saw unfolding on the screen in front of him.
But then, as for most viewing that day, suddenly that enjoyment was rudely interrupted as a random split-second incident occurred that would both colour the legacy of Bathurst and landmark Dick Johnson’s nascent racing career. As a large boulder rolled from the unfenced spectator area above the track it came right into the racing line in front of Johnson’s car. With nowhere to go, hitting the concrete wall was the only option, and just like that, his car and his hopes of winning the event were destroyed.
That incident left a lasting impression on young Frank, one that many years later would see him get the urge to build a replica of the vehicle involved. Having done his time as a panelbeater and climbed the ranks to become the owner of his own panel shop (South Suburban Motor Bodies), he thought it was about time he put his skills to use on a project of his own. And what better to build than a copy of the car from that infamous moment?
To kick off the build, he purchased a cheap previously-raced XD, although after taking a closer look at it, there was really nothing salvageable at all. If he wanted things done right, he’d need to start with a fresh shell, preferably one that hadn’t been butchered like this one. He soon found a 1983 XD Fairmont — just the car for the job.
With plans to make the car competitive on the track, yet streetable too, he stripped out the tired running gear and sent the rolling body to Rebb at Westside Fabrication. What started as a simple roll cage build soon turned into Rebb looking after all fabrication aspects of the car, including custom building a 4-link rear end, raising the floor pan to allow for the exhausts and much more.
With the fab work sorted, it was back to Frank’s shop where he set about fitting the famous wide-body guards the original Tru Blu car was known for. With the guards fitted, Frank couldn’t decide on what to do with the rear wing. The real deal only had a small wing, yet he’d sourced and wanted to fit a much higher version off a later-model EA Falcon.
It was a battle of looks versus performance and childhood dreams versus a grown man’s desire, and, as you can tell, the latter won out and the larger wing was fitted. With this major decision made, the remainder of the build moved further away from being an exact replica and more towards a custom racer.
No longer was Frank confined to a baby motor; instead he could build exactly what he wanted, and for that he let both his imagination and his credit card run wild. West Auckland icon and Ford engine-building guru Paul Roper was the man in charge of piecing together Frank’s purchases, which included a NASCAR block, Eagle stroker kit and CHI heads. With JE pistons, a steel crank and that stroker kit, capacity is now 383ci with a compression ratio of 11.1:1.
A Crow cam along with Ferrea valves, Isky dual valve springs, retainers and roller rockers make up the impressive valvetrain. With all these good bits inside the engine, Frank knew there was no way he could let the package down by adding inferior quality parts to the exterior of it. Instead, under Paul’s advice, he opted for a Quick Fuel 750cfm carb, CHI manifold and a bunch of MSD ignition components. While it hasn’t been on the dyno, after being tuned by Paul from PJR Automotive the general consensus from the passenger’s seat is that it’s creating around 550hp.
Frank assures us the Toploader gearbox built by Performance Transmissions in Pukekohe should be up to the task of handling everything he throws at it, and by the sounds of things he’s not intending to be gentle with it. With high-performance syncros and a McLeod clutch all part of the gearbox setup, getting the power to the coilover-sprung 9-inch diff shouldn’t be a problem. The massive 13-inch-wide rims fitted with 345/35R18 tyres will certainly give the diff a workout though. Frank’s well aware that the tyres are, in reality, too narrow for the rims, but forking out for a set of Lamborghini Diablo-sized treads was a bit too much of an ask having just gone through the expense of building the car. The 10-inch-wide front rims have slightly more affordable 285/35R18′s wrapped around them.
The rims themselves were imported from Japan, but turned out to not be a good fit for the car they were bought for, which is when Frank stumbled upon them. While not a design he would have chosen had he gone out looking, they suit the car perfectly and add to the slightly modernised look the rear wing offers.
The advantage of them being 18-inches tall (rather than the 15′s originally planned for the build) is that they allowed Frank to add some serious brakes to the vehicle too. Up front the package consists of 4-pot Wilwood callipers and 330mm rotors, while down the back it’s matching callipers and 290mm rotors. With Koni adjustable front shocks, Koni coilovers in the rear and Whiteline sway bars on both ends, as well as those big fat tyres, the car should stick to the road like the proverbial to a blanket.
With over 400 hours of fabrication time from Rebb, plus Frank’s own time, the car was nearing completion just before his workshop was set to close for the Christmas break. Rather than let the fact his painter was away for a few weeks hold things up, he rolled the car into the booth and set about spraying it himself. While the colour may be near enough to the Tru Blu he’d always dreamed of, the graphics weren’t decided on until the car was ready to hit the road.
It may have taken three years to build, and 27 years of dreaming about it, but Frank finally has his dream machine. All that’s left to happen now is for it to make its first lap of the racetrack in anger — pretty sure we’re not the only ones who can’t wait to see that happen!
1983 Ford Fairmont – Specifications
Engine: 383ci small block Ford, NASCAR block, Eagle stroker kit, JE pistons, steel crank, H-beam rods, CHI heads, Ferrea valves, Isky dual valve springs, Isky retainers, roller rockers, Crow cam, CHI manifold, Quick Fuel 750cfm carb, 11.1:1 compression, Carter fuel pump, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD leads, MSD distributor, Pacemaker headers, 2-inch primaries, twin 3-inch exhausts, alloy radiator
Driveline: Toploader gearbox, high-performance syncros, 9-inch diff, 28 spline BorgWarner axles, BorgWarner centre, McLeod clutch
Suspension: King springs, Koni adjustable shocks, Whiteline sway bars, 4-link, Koni coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood 4-pot callipers, 330mm front rotors, 290mm rear rotors
Wheels/tyres: 18×10 and 18×13-inch rims, 285/35R18 and 345/35R18 Kumho tyres
Exterior: Group C spoiler kit, custom rear wing, Metalux paint, seam-welded chassis, external jacking points, modified floor
Interior: Sabelt seats, Sabelt harnesses, Auto Meter gauges, custom roll cage
Performance: Approx 550hp
Frank Malcon – Driver Profile
Previously Owned Cars: Too many to list
Dream car: Big block Torino
Why the Falcon?: Loved the look from behind, and it won Bathurst
Build time: 3 years
Length of ownership: 4 years
Frank thanks: Rebb from Westside Performance for the fabrication work, Paul Roper for the engine work, Rodney Filler for the wiring, Colin from Impact Stripes, Paul Harvey from PJR Automotive, George from Ezy Gee, the boys from South Suburban, and my sons Ethan and Wade
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 85. Get your copy here.[Gallery not found]