EVER met someone who embarked on a ‘quick tidy-up’ of a car and managed to keep a lid on it? Someone who managed to stay on brief, on schedule and on budget, and avoid having the entire build change scope almost of its own accord before their very eyes?
Nah, we haven’t either.
It’s something Sydney bloke Paul Xuereb certainly struggled with. In 2010, Paul finally managed to negotiate the purchase of this XM sedan after hassling the previous owner for yonks. He had the most modest of initial intentions, and even left it completely stock for the first two years. When he eventually did crack out the spanners, it was only so he could replace the car’s tired old six-pot with a mild Windsor, before resuming regular cruising. But we all know what they say about the best laid plans.
“I was only going to do a quick drivetrain conversion before my son was born in 2013, but on closer inspection I found the usual rust and that other repairs were needed,” Paul says.
“The firewall looked like Swiss cheese, with a thousand holes from previous owners who’d added unnecessary accessories.”
Paul works an office job from nine to five, but that didn’t stop him carrying out the bulk of the dirty work himself. “I’d helped my cousin Dave with his Cortina prior to doing the Falcon, so I learnt a lot from that. I’m self-taught with all the fab and bodywork, and I just asked a lot of questions, did some research online and learned how to do it along the way,” he says. “I figured I’d get in there and give it a go. At the end of the day it’s only a bit of steel; if you stuff it up you can always cut it out and go again.”
There was a fair bit of it to get through too, with the front floorpans, front guards and front passenger door all replaced on account of rust. After originally planning to fit the biggest tyres he could within the standard wheel tubs, Paul ended up buckling under peer pressure from his mates and mini-tubbing the car, tackling the whole job himself in the shed.
“The mini-tubs were a big job; I moved the springs inboard of the rails, so I got the engineer’s advice on what to do there,” he says. “I measured it all up, tacked everything in place, then got the engineer to check it out before I fully
welded it. Because of the droopy nose of the XM, if the arse sits a bit lower than the front it always seems to look much better, so I’m glad I went through with it.”
Powering the XM is a nicely warmed-over 289ci Windsor with SRP slugs, a Crow Cams stick and Edelbrock E-Street heads, mated to an Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap manifold with a Holley 650 Double Pumper. After trying two sets of aftermarket Mustang headers and getting nowhere, Paul opted for a custom set, then built the twin 2.5-inch exhaust system at home with help from his mate Daniel Attard.
Backing the Windsor is a shift-kitted C4 with a 3000rpm Dominator converter, funnelling grunt rearwards to a Truetracequipped nine-inch with 31-spline axles and 3.5 gears.
Michael Stivala, of GSHOON XB Fairmont fame (SM, Apr ’15), squirted on the stunning VW Pacific Blue duco, and subsequently introduced Paul to Angie Gordon, who ended up tackling the interior fit-out. Paul’s brief to Angie was to retain the original twin bench-seat configuration, and to trim the interior in either charcoal or black. She did just that, and came up with a design for the door trims that mimics the original pattern using custom CNC-machined aluminium pieces, trimmed over the top. The instrument cluster is a Ford Comet unit, which Paul shipped to the States to have fitted out with Dakota Digital instruments. Due to a bit of a shit-fight with customs, he almost never saw it again! “Australian Customs refused to release it to me because of new import taxes and GST laws. After parting with more money and giving them a detailed explanation, I finally got it back.”
Paul picked the car up from the trimmer on Christmas Eve 2016, and the thrash began with less than a fortnight to Summernats 30. He’d been attending Summernats as a spectator since before he was old enough to drive, catching the train down from Sydney with his mates, but none of that prepared him for everything that goes along with taking a car to the event.
“I didn’t set out to make the Top 60, but Mick [Stivala] pushed me to get it judged in the Elite class,” he says. “Making it into the hall was excellent, and it was really overwhelming to win 2nd Top Sedan. I built it as a driver to cruise in and have a good time with. That’s not to say that I’m not interested in shows, but it’s not really one of the things I aspire to do with the car. To do so well at Summernats after such a big push to get the car finished was a huge bonus.”
After four years of hard slog, Paul has ended up with an ownerbuilt, trophy-winning, elite-quality car that he can happily pile the family into and cruise anywhere at will. A fairly impressive outcome, really! s
Colour: PPG Pacific Blue
Brand: 289ci Windsor Induction: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap manifold, Holley 650cfm Double Pumper carb Heads: Edelbrock E-Street Camshaft: Crow Cams Conrods: SRP Pistons: SRP Crank: Standard Oil pump: High Volume Fuel system: Holley 125 pump Cooling: Alloy radiator, Spal fans Exhaust: Custom extractors, twin 2.5in system, Hooker mufflers Ignition: ICE
Gearbox: C4, stage 3 shift kit Converter: Dominator 3000rpm Diff: 9in, Truetrac, 31-spline Dutchman axles, 3.5:1 gears
Front: King Springs, Pedders shocks Rear: Relocated Lovells leaf springs, Pedders shocks Brakes: Discs with BA Falcon calipers (f), drums (r) Master cylinder: XY Falcon
Rims: Weld Drag Lite; 15x4 (f), 15x8 (r) Rubber: Federal 165/80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson 255/60/15 (r)
Michael Stivala at Lou’s Smash Repairs; Angie Gordon at Angie’s Custom Trim; Lowe Fabrications; Dean Sammut; Michael Murphy at Early Bird Restoration; Jamie Portelli; Concourse Trim; Electroplating Technology; Diff Technics; David Vassallo; Ralph Moore Autoglass; Motorsport Connections; Daniel Attard; David Xuereb; Chris Vella; my wife, finance manager, colour consultant, counsellor and media manager Larisa Xuereb