Like most Kiwis, Clint Bower has always sat around the TV once a year to watch the monumental motorsport event that is the Bathurst 1000. One of Clint’s earliest memories was sitting in front of that old brown television, watching in awe as the likes of Peter Brock, John Goss and Alan Moffat battled through what many would consider the golden years at Mount Panorama, the mid-1970s.
It was Goss and Moffat with whom the very young Clint was most enamoured, not for their personalities of course, but their weapons of choice, the XA, XB and XC Ford Falcon GT coupes. Ever since those early days Clint has had of a love affair with the big, lardy Falcons, but although he has owned all sorts of other cars since, he never quite got the chance to call one his own. Until eight years ago that is, when he bit the bullet and bought himself a 1976 Ford Falcon XB coupe.
Since then this car has gone through the mother of all restorations, with 99 per cent of the work completed by Clint himself in his New Plymouth garage. It took all of those eight years to complete, and Clint and his Falcon have had some ups and downs. But come this year’s Kumeu Car Show it all became worth it when the Bower family packed their camping gear in the boot, fired up the sultry, smooth Ford and made the trip north. It was there that we first clapped eyes on this work of automotive art, and instantly set up a time and date for a closer look under a full set of noisy, iridescent studio lights.
Got The Looks!
What strikes you about this car upon first sighting it is its clean, smooth aesthetics and super-low stance on the pavement. Neither of these virtues was by any means easy to come by, and they’re the result of hundreds of hours put in by Clint and a few
First off, to achieve that ground-scraping look Clint needed to completely relocate the motor higher in the engine bay using custom mounts, then fabricate an exhaust system that sits so high up into the underbelly of the car, it is only really visible from beneath a hoist. This provides enough ground clearance to make full use of some seriously reset leaves in the back and Pedders springs with Monroe gas shocks in the front.
Being this low, the car now sucks up its deep 18-inch Work Equip wheels into its guards. I’m guessing many of you have never heard of these rollers before, let alone seen them on an Aussie V8. Tha’s because they are of Japanese descent, and more commonly found on hyperactive Nissan, Toyota and Mazda drift cars.
Regarded as one of the lightest, strongest and highest-quality rims built anywhere in the world, these 12-inch-wide rollers are very pricey. So the question must be asked, what made Clint go for a unique set of rims like these? “I had a friend who was building a Mazda RX-7 drift car,” he says. “He managed to pick up the wheels but, as it turns out, they were simply too wide to fit. Someone mentioned to me that he had them sitting in the garage, and of course older Fords have a 5×114.3 stud pattern like many Jappas, so I tried them on for size and it all seemed to work perfectly.” Who’d have thought Jap wheels could look so good on a muscle car?
With road stance covered, we turned our attention to the slick lines of the classically wedge-shaped Falcon body. Getting this just right was a painstaking process for Clint, and many hours were spent in the garage slowly perfecting his beloved machine. Besides removing rust and any other imperfections before painting, Clint also shaved the door handles, aerial and bumper bolts to aid in the slick look he was after. Once that was done, Clint also added Falcon GT flutes, a chin spoiler and, of all things, a Torana bonnet scoop for that extra bit of toughness he was after. A jack of all trades, Clint then fired up the compressor and got to work. He layered the car in primer, then a gorgeous shade of Wild Violet, then a tonne of clear coat to bring out that shine.
Got The Grunt
The Falcon now looks like a million bucks. It also honks along at a fair pace too, thanks to a Ford favourite, the 5752cc (351ci) Cleveland V8.
The motor sitting under Clint’s hood is a fairly serious piece of naturally aspirated iron, simply bristling with the strongest gear available. The 5.7-litre block houses an indestructible 4MA crank, flat-top pistons and shot-peened and polished rods using ARP rod bolts. A high-volume oil pump sitting in a custom enlarged sump lubricates all this, while an Iskey 270-degree Mega cam angrily spins away. The 2V heads bolted on top have also received much attention, benefiting from a full port and polish, plus lifters, springs and retainers from Isky and roller rockers from Yella Terra. All this gear makes for a very tough motor, capable of handling just about as much abuse as Clint can throw at it. Externally, power figures are helped along by a 750 CFM Double Pumper HP Series carb from Holley, which sits atop a Parker Funnel Web intake manifold and pulls air through a large K&N filter. Fuel is provided by a Holley Red pump working with the factory fuel tank, and is kept under control by a Holley regulator. What goes in must come out, which it does very efficiently in this 351’s case, thanks to a set of Pacemaker headers, dumping into a twin pipe exhaust system lifted high up underneath the car. The great thing about this motor is that although it throws serious punches when it comes to power figures, it is also one of the prettiest Clevos we have ever seen in NZV8. Everything under this Falcon’s hood has been painstakingly polished, painted and detailed by Clint to within an inch of its life. It’s a truly beautiful sight. The firewall, strut towers and, well, anything purple has been lovingly smoothed and reshaped to create a flawless, flowing look, while any trace of wiring has now been cleverly hidden away in the right-hand guard. Braided lines throughout finish the tough new look. In terms of power-to-ground, Clint opted for a four-speed top loader manual gearbox, mated to a Yella Terra steel flywheel and Centreforce heavy duty clutch.
Got The Comfort
Finally, no muscle car would be complete without a tough, simple interior. Clint’s is just that, sporting new trim, a pair of XE Fairmont seats, a Momo steering wheel and a few essential gauges from Auto Meter. Simple, smooth and useful, just like the rest of the car.
It has been a long, hard eight years for Clint and his XB Falcon, but it is safe to say the journey has been worth it. Clint certainly things so. “I finally have the car I’ve always wanted ever since I can remember. So sure, it has been a pain in the arse at times, but what car hasn’t? It’s what you might call a labour of love.”
Ford campaigned its awesome Falcon GT coupes at Bathurst right through the mid-1970s, taking drivers like Alan Moffat and John Goss to multiple victories over that time. After Moffat’s 1971 victory in a Phase III GTHO, Ford announced its intention to campaign an even more brutal version of the car, the Phase IV. This meant the manufacturer would need to sell at least 200 units to the public in order to receive homologation for the race car. But once the press got a good look at just how brutally fast this car would be, they slated it in the papers with dramatic titles like, “160mph supercars on our roads!” Unfortunately for all us motor-heads, plans for the Phase IV were canned soon after, and Moffat had to compete in his old Phase III for ’72, losing out to Brock in his brand new Holden Torana XU-1 GTR.
1976 Ford Falcon XB coupe
Engine: 5752cc (351ci) Cleveland V8, 4MA crank, shot-peened and polished rods, ARP rod bolts, flat-top pistons, high-volume oil pump, JP timing chain, custom-built sump, oil restrictor kit, ported 2V heads, stainless valves, Yella Terra roller rockers, Isky lifters, Isky springs, Isky retainers, Isky 270 Mega cam, Parker Funnel Web intake manifold, 750 CFM Double Pumper HP Series Holley carburettor, K&N air filter, Holley Red fuel pump, Holley regulator, braided fuel lines, Goodridge fittings, Pacemaker headers, twin exhaust system, Flow Master mufflers, de-loomed engine bay, smoothed firewall, Honda Civic alternator, Mitsubishi Mirage power steering pump, 5mm sump plate, relocated engine
Driveline: Four-speed Top Loader trans, Hurst Vertical Gate shifter, rose-jointed linkages, Yella Terra steel flywheel, Centreforce clutch, Ford nine-inch diff, Jack Brace 3.5:1 gears
Brakes: XB discs and callipers
Suspension: Monroe Gas shocks, Pedder front springs, reset rear leaves, aftermarket front and rear sway bars
Wheels/Tyres: 18×10-inch Work Equip front rims, 18×12-inch Work Equip rear rims, 235/40R18 Dunlop front tyres, 315/30R18 rear Yokohama tyres
Exterior: Wild Violet re-spray, Torana bonnet scoop, shaved bumper bolts, shaved door handles, GT flutes, modified rear guards, chin spoiler
Interior: Re-trimmed XE Fairmont seats, new carpet, Momo steering wheel, white gauges, Auto Meter tacho, Auto Meter oil pressure gauge
Occupation: AA Road Service
Previously owned Cars: Austin A40, 460-powered XB, XB ute, XC wagon, Valiant Charger
Dream car: ’69 Dodge Challenger
Build time: Eight years
Length of ownership: Eight years
Thanks to: Wife and best mate Donna, the kids (Lockie & Tanesha), Blair, Sleepy, Mike, Shane, Andrew, Tidy Trim, Taranaki Motor Reconditioners, Hildred Motors
Story: Peter Kelly | Photos: Quinn Hamill