FORD’S GTHO Phase III was undoubtedly the King of the Hill for Aussie muscle cars back in the day, commanding a fearsome legend – with price tags to match – pretty much since it first rolled off the Broadmeadows lines. They haven’t got any cheaper in the four decades since, so plenty of people have chosen to build their own tribute to the Blue Oval’s most famous four-door supercar. But Melburnian Ray Zarb decided to inject even more attitude into his.
From humble beginnings as a neat GT replica, Ray has evolved his car through several builds into the 500hp, mini-tubbed monster it is today. The beauty of this car, however, is that it pays homage to the original JG33-plated GTs and HOs, hiding many of its modifications so well that you couldn’t pick them with a quick glance.
Like many street machiners, Ray’s love for the big-hipped Falcon started young. “I always wanted an XY, as my cousins used to own them when I was a kid and I have great memories of sitting in the back seat while cruising Lygon Street and Elwood Beach,” the sales executive says. “I spotted my car cruising along Dandenong Road on a late Saturday night many, many years ago. I asked the owner if he’d sell it and he laughed at me, but two days later the car was sitting in my garage!
“It was originally Track Red with a gold stripe, and it was built in three stages. First the interior was completely stripped out and reupholstered, including restoring the GT dash and fitting new carpets and headlining. A restored XY GT rim-blow steering wheel was sourced and the sunroof was restored with new runners and cables to enable it to be fully functional.”
The car lasted around four years before an engine bay fire prompted a complete nut-and-bolt restoration. Part of this rebuild also saw the colour change from Track Red to the current blue, with the respray carried out by Tony at Bayside Smash Repairs.
Bobby and Zoran at Competition Engines assembled a tough 351 Cleveland that actually measures 357 cubes thanks to oversized Hypertec pistons that also bump the static compression up to 10.6:1. They have been paired to resized stock rods, a tough 4MAB crank and Comp Cams 256-duration solid-grind cam in the short motor, with a Melling oil pump and High Energy oil pan safeguarding lubrication.
Up top, the 4V heads have been port-polished to give a theoretical ceiling of 680hp, and have been stuffed with Crane roller rockers, stainless 2.19-inch intake valves, 1.71-inch exhaust valves, K-Line guides, ARP head bolts, Trend pushrods and Comp Cam valve springs. A Pro Systems 780cfm fourbarrel gulps bulk air into a high-rise TFC intake manifold, with an Aeroflow fuel rail delivering 98RON go-juice from a high-volume XA GT mechanical fuel pump.
With a Bosch distributor, an MSD Blaster 3 coil and 6AL spark amplifier handling the zaps, and an HPC-coated twin three-inch exhaust removing noxious gases, the Clevo has a properly angry yet still streetable vibe. On the engine dyno it made 516hp and threw out 448lb-ft of torque to back up the bark.
A stock C4 was never going to cope with those numbers, so Competition Engines supplied a Mike’s Transmissions Ultimate C10 three-speed auto that is now reverse-pattern and equipped with a transbrake, should Ray ever feel the need to lift the skinny 15x5.5in Center Line Auto Drag front wheels off the line. The big-block ’box works through a 5000rpm nine-inch Dominator torque converter, with a three-inch thick-wall GT tailshaft and narrowed Ford nine-inch diff out the back.
That nine-inch is based off a shortened Strange housing, stuffed with Moser 31-spline axles, an Eaton Truetrac LSD and 4.33 Strange gears, riding on Calvert spring mounts. A factory diff wouldn’t have worked with Ray’s decision to fatten the car up by mini-tubbing it and squeezing 15x10 Center Lines under the Falcon’s curvy bum.
“I decided to mini-tub the car, but it had to be done in keeping with the XY’s original look,” Ray explains. So in 2016 he put the Falcon under the knife, with good friend Ange Zavlanos wielding the tools. “I didn’t want to run a fuel cell due to having to move the leaf springs inside the chassis rails, so I had the 36-gallon GT fuel tank cut and shut to suit the relocation of the springs.”
The six-leaf pack was relocated to sit inside the rails, but the front suspension and brakes remain stock GT spec, even down to the 16:1-ratio steering box, PBR alloy front calipers and biginch drums out back.
“The boot had to also look completely stock, so the original wheel tub material was extended to accommodate the new rim and tyre combo and narrowed diff set-up,” Ray explains. “All this work was performed in my garage by Ange over a period of 12 months.
“The car was entered into MotorEx 2016 and was credited as one of Street Machine’s Top 20 cars of the show.”
As for future projects, Ray is once again looking to his formative years for inspiration. “I’d like to find a ’71 HQ Monaro coupe, which was my first car, to park next to my XY in my shed someday.” s
Type: Ford 351 Cleveland Capacity: 357ci Heads: 4V Crank: 4MAB Cam: Comp Cams solid
’Box: Ford C10, reversepattern, transbrake Converter: 5000rpm Dominator Diff: Ford 9in, 31-spline axles, Truetrac LSD Brakes: XY GT (f & r)
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x5.5 (f), 15x10 (r) Rubber: Mickey Thompson Sportsman (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street (r)
Zoran, Bobby, Con and Alan from Competition Engines for the complete assembly of the car during the ground-up restoration in 2009-10; Tony at Bayside Smash Repairs for the body and paint and for supplying the use of the oven for the boot painting, fuel tank, etc; Francis at Auto Bling for the stainless steel restoration; Darren Reid for the fuel tank modifications; a massive thank you to Ange Zavlanos, his wife Maria and my goddaughter Sienna for their patience