I DON’T know about you guys and girls, but whenever I see an old ute done up I automatically walk over for a closer look.
I’m always curious to see how well these ageing workhorses have held up after so many years of use – and quite often abuse.
More often than not a peek in the tray area gives you a pretty good indication as to how many bales of hay, engine blocks and lumps of wood the old girl has carted in her life.
That’s pretty much what went through my head when I spied Jono Clark’s XP ute at Motorvation 31. In the late-afternoon light, the turquoise blue paint had a lovely soft glow and the white steelies and sun visor suggested this was just a laidback cruiser. As I strolled closer I noticed the widened rims, and when I peeked in the back I saw the flat floor and tubs. Hmmm, something’s going on here. A quick look underneath revealed a nine-inch with a McDonald Brothers four-link and QA1 coil-overs.
I dusted myself off and headed towards the front to check out what was under the alreadypopped bonnet, quickly glancing at the interior on the way and noticing the split-bench seat covered in white vinyl and a matching white steering wheel of the factory kind. At this point it was still looking like a 60s cruiser – then I got to the engine bay and had one of those ‘Holy shit!’ moments.
Nestled between the towers and well under the bonnet was a beautifully detailed, lowbling, twin-turbo Windsor. There was nothing over-the-top about it, just a simple set of factory ‘Power By Ford’ rocker covers painted in body colour and a really tidy turbo plumbing layout that didn’t detract from the classic look of a carbed V8. If it wasn’t raw cast aluminium, it was black; header wrap, breather hoses, plug leads, carb and intake plumbing were all lowkey satin black. The smattering of shiny stuff was left to the top shock mounts, radiator cap and turbo inlets. It looked the business – and it is the business.
By this stage I still hadn’t found the owner, but I did manage to collar Wayne Smith from Performance Carb Tuning, who told me that the little Windsor wasn’t so little any more, measuring up at 363 cubes! With just 8.5psi of boost on a safe tune, the car had already made 505hp at the wheels.
I finally tracked down Jono to have a chat about what makes him tick and how the car came about, and not surprisingly, it was passed on in the genes from his father and grandfather: “They were into vintage cars like Model Ts and Rileys, the kind of cars they used to get around in when they were young,” Jono said. “I used to love going to my grandfather’s place every Sunday and checking out the garage; he always had a project on the go. I was always into cars. When we were little, me and my brothers would play with Dinky cars; we’d put them on road maps and do burnouts along the streets and stuff like that.”
After chatting for a while, I soon realised Jono was one of our Kiwi cousins, although his accent has softened after 10 years in Western Australia. “I’m originally from Invercargill – you’ve probably seen The World’s Fastest Indian? Down there, per head of population, the amount of people that own old cars is crazy.
The population is only 60,000 but everyone’s got old-school American cars. I heard about
Australia and the money you can make, that’s what got me over here. I worked away for six years and the habit for cars grew from there as I started to get some money.”
Jono did have his heart set on a ’40 Ford pick-up, but the timing was all wrong. While he was lamenting his loss, a workmate spotted the XP ute on eBay, resplendent in its bright orange paintwork and polished big-diameter five-spokes. “I actually got the ute from Melbourne off eBay and it had a little Weiand top-mount blower and a little scoop, so the bonnet already had a hole in it,” Jono said. “To me, that didn’t appeal for the look I was going for; I wanted more of a sleeper. But it had all the running gear I needed to be able to run the 363 engine. I rang the guy and he said he wouldn’t let it go for less than $20,000, but he wanted to let the auction run out, so I put a bid on for $15,000 and I won it!”
Jono drove it around for a little bit, but it wasn’t long before he found the limits of the engine and gearbox: “I gave it a bit of a workout and popped a couple of the lifters and burnt the transmission out as well. Paul at KEAS Transmissions opened it up and it was stuffed. It was only a 28-spline C4 and it wasn’t going to be enough to handle the new motor, so he gave me a quote to build another C4 or a Powerglide, but he made the prices real similar because he wanted me to go to a Powerglide! It was kind of a no-brainer.”
While Jono’s intentions were honourable in buying a car that already had a lot of the hard work done, in the end he just about changed everything. “I bought it thinking it was the cheapest option because it already had the running gear, but in hindsight, I’ve had to upgrade everything on it anyway as far as the driveline goes. It was all right, but not for that amount of power.”
The good news is, the power is only going to go up. With some E85 in the tank and the boost wound up to 15psi, there should be anywhere between 650 and 700hp at the treads. “The motor is good for 25psi, but I don’t want to push it too hard; I just built it as a street car, not a drag car.
Having said that, he does plan to run a number, so when that happens we’ll let you know how it goes. s
Paint: PPG custom turquoise
Type: 363ci Windsor Inlet: Edelbrock Victor Jr Carb: QFT 750cfm by Performance Carb Tuning Turbos: Twin Precision 5862 Heads: Trick Flow 170cc Cam: Custom hydraulic-roller Pistons: Diamond Crank: Eagle stroker Conrods: Eagle Radiator: Triple-core custom aluminium Exhaust: Twin 3in stainless system, Magnaflow mufflers Ignition: MSD 6AL-2
’Box: Powerglide, fully manualised, transbrake Converter: Allfast 9.5in Diff: 9in, 31-spline, Truetrac, 3.25 gears
Shocks: Koni adjustable (f), QA1 coil-overs (r) Steering: RRS rack-andpinion, XY column Brakes: Hoppers Stoppers PBR discs (f), drums (r)
Rims: Bear Smoothies; 15x7 (f), 15x10 (r) Rubber: Sumitomo 215/60/15 (f), Maxxis 265/50/15 (r)
The businesses that went out of their way for me: Phil & Gina at Extreme Panel & Paint; Streetbuilt Racing; Paul at KEAS Transmissions; Wayne at Performance Carb Tuning; Steve at Lundy Race Fabrication; Dan at The Auto Sparky.
Special thanks to Matt Richardson from Streetbuilt Racing for the after-hours help; Dana Callaghan; and my mates Daniel Mason and Ben Evans