THERE are no two ways about it – building cars ain’t easy. More often than not, developing the vision and the skills required to piece together a top-quality street machine is something that’s done by making countless mistakes over the course of numerous projects, and learning from each and every one.
Then there are guys like Jason Rachele who build masterpieces like this XM Falcon coupe on their first attempt.
Granted, he took his time and had the guidance and support of a bunch of car-mad mates, but the XM is certainly of a standard befitting a far more experienced car crafter.
Based in the street machine heartland of Shepparton in rural Victoria, Jason has always been around cars. “My dad had a Wild Violet XY GS from new, which is now my brother’s car, and when I was growing up on the farm Dad and his brother had XY and XW utes as their company cars,” Jason says.
“It was always said that you drive a Ford or nothing! I liked XYs, but we already had one in the family, so I thought I’d do something different.”
Jason’s wife’s had an XM coupe in her family back in the 90s, so he always had a soft spot for them, and when he eventually went on the hunt for a project car, he found one tucked away in the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir. It was in great nick – straight, no rust and still registered – so Jason handed over the cash and drove it home to Shep.
“That was in 2002, and it was all new to me so I didn’t really know where to start,” he says. “I took the car to a workshop and had it stripped and the motor pulled out; then it sat there for months until I worked out where to take it and what to do next.”
Jason knew a bloke by the name of Con Kreskas who was into his cars and pretty handy with a welder, so he took the XM to him and they discussed the length and breadth of the build.
“I told him I wanted big rubber on the rear and he said we’d have to tub it. We also talked about the front end and what motor I wanted to put in it. Luckily my father-in-law owned an engine reconditioning shop, so he built me a 302ci Windsor.”
Con toiled away with the chassis work after hours for the next three years, and there was plenty of it to get through. It now sits on a three-quarter chassis with a four-link rear and QA1 coil-overs, with tubs to accommodate 285/30/20 Goodyear hoops on 20x10in Intro Twisted Vistas out back. At the pointy end there is an RRS coil-over suspension and rack-and-pinion steering set-up, with big twin-piston stoppers. Clearly the car has been built to drive.
Con also notched the shock towers for the Windsor conversion, built the headers and sculpted the beautiful custom steel dash, which draws influence from the shape of the factory item and integrates nicely with the steel tops on the door trims.
“At that point I had a panic moment because it was all starting to add up,” Jason says. “My wife would ask how the car was going and I’d say: ‘No worries, I’m on budget.’ If only she knew!”
EXTERIOR: The body was seam-welded and the fuel filler was deleted, with an aviation-style filler flush-mounted in the top of the driver’s side rear quarter. All moulds and emblems were deleted, the rear windscreen was flush-mounted and the front chrome moulds painted – all in the name of a cleaner look
With the fab work in the bag, the next step was to have the body and paint seen to, which was a job for Joe Cundari at Cundari Bros. The results speak for themselves, but the trickiest part was choosing the colour, which Jason tells us was a six-month process! “We finally made a custom mix of metallic grey and I said to Joe: ‘That’s it! That’s the colour I want!’ The car was finally painted and it looked awesome, and I started getting excited again.”
Meanwhile Jason had recruited his mate Peter Raditsas of East End Customs as project manager so that he could learn and benefit from his knowledge and experience. The car went out of the paint shop into Peter’s shop, where many late nights were spent with Jason’s brother Mark and mate Andy (of BLWNQ fame) assisting on the spanners to get the car assembled.
Along the way the lads decided that the little 302 Windsor wouldn’t cut the mustard, so it was switched out for a 351- cuber. Sporting Ford Motorsport heads, crank and rods, Arias pistons and a Crower solid stick, it should deliver somewhere north of 500hp – plenty for the car’s intended use. Jason has considered swapping the Edelbrock manifold and 750 Holley out for a blower and twin carbs, but right now he’s enjoying racking up plenty of road miles with the wife and kids.
“It handles really well and it drives beautifully. The whole family really enjoys it and we probably take it out together once a week.” s
Colour: Custom grey metallic
Brand: 351ci Windsor Induction: Edelbrock Victor Jr manifold, 750HP Holley carb Heads: Ford Motorsport Camshaft: Crower, solid Conrods: Ford Motorsport Pistons: Arias, forged Crank: Ford Motorsport Oil pump: Melling Fuel system: Holley mechanical pump Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler radiator, twin 12in thermos Exhaust: Custom 4-into-1 headers, twin 3in system Ignition: MSD
Gearbox: C4, shift kit Converter: TCI 3800rpm Diff: 9in, 4.11:1 gears, Detroit Locker, 31-spline axles
Springs: Viking (f & r) Shocks: RRS (f), QA1 (r) Brakes: DBA rotors, PBR calipers (f & r) Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Intro Twisted Vista II; 18x7 (f), 20x10 (r) Rubber: Federal; 215/35/18 (f), 285/30/20 (r)
Special thanks to Peter Raditsas for his long hours and late nights – he was like my second wife; my brother Mark and mate Andy – your work didn’t go unnoticed; Anthony the auto elec; Sam my logistics guy; Musti for the interior; Con Kreskas for the fabrication work; my best mate Michael for his engineering expertise; Joe Cundari for the paint and panel work; last but not least my wife for her support through this long journey and never once asking how much the build cost!