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Escaping reality: 1973 Ford Falcon XA Coupe

20 February 2013


Published in NZV8 Issue No. 93

There’s not much that’s more annoying than buying some form of kit set, be it a new TV cabinet, or model car, and discovering that there’s no instruction manual with is. So instead, you slave away and take far longer than expected to construct it … only to find the instructions hidden under the last piece.

Well, the build of this XA Coupe is similar, in a way, as once the build was nearly completed, its owner Tarus Yanakopulos stumbled upon an Australian-made DVD series, which runs through the rebuild process of such a vehicle.

Lucky for Tarus though, as a mechanic by trade, and owner of busy workshop Mt Albert Automotive in central Auckland, he had no trouble working out the build as he went along. So instead of helping with the build, that DVD series keeps him entertained now that it’s completed.

Originally he planed to build a Dodge Super Bee, but after looking and not finding anything that suited, that plan changed to building anything else he thought was cool. He hadn’t even thought of an XA, until this one came along while he was looking at XYs. Having been stolen and recovered, then left to sit in a shed in the Waikato for over 10 years, the XA was the perfect starting point for a build that he could stamp his own mark on.

While the car he collected didn’t look too bad, the well worn-out, brown interior left plenty to be desired, as did a few small spots of rust in the usual places.

Upon getting it back to the workshop and stripping it down, Tarus was happy with how things were looking. Not knowing exactly what was under the paint though, it was stripped right back. What was exposed couldn’t have been any better, as the shell was one of the most rust-free examples around. The small visible spots were the only rust in the whole body — nothing hidden, and no nasty surprises!

After meeting Kayton from Real Rides socially, Tarus entrusted the job of body repairs and paintwork over to him, and he can’t speak highly enough of how straight they managed to get the shell. Not an easy task when the colour of choice is a straight deep black! While Tarus swears he’ll never do another black car, there’s just something about the big old Falcon coupes in black that can’t be beat by any other colour.

Ford-Falcon-XA-coupe-05While the bodywork was taking place, Tarus moved his attention to the drivetrain section of the build. At first the plan was to go automatic. So, with this in mind he sourced an appropriate auto box. But soon after, he began to prefer the idea of a manual, so a Toploader was soon sitting in the garage ready to go in. But, as the engine build snowballed, it was decided that something stronger was needed, and so a Tremec TKO-600 was also purchased, and that’s what eventually found its way into the car.

The engine build itself was performed by Glen and the team at Engine Specialties and it’s a very tough combo creating 470hp and 500ft/lb of torque. Based around a 351 Clevo block, bored 30-thou over, the engine now displaces 393ci thanks to the use of custom 10.25:1 JE pistons and H-beam rods. Up top sit a set of beautiful CNC-machined Airflow Dynamics heads filled with Competition Cams roller rockers. With a hydraulic cam down below giving the orders and an MSD ignition firing everything into life, it’s a very tough, yet streetable, combination. The task of wiring the monster motor and delooming the engine bay was handed over to long time friend Randy Lee Chee at West Coast Auto Worx, who was the only person Tarus trusted to do the job up to his high standards. Extracting the spent exhaust gasses are a set of Pacemaker headers, which feed into three-inch pipes and a pair of Flow Master mufflers. The sound the set-up creates sends tingles down your spine on start-up and leaves no doubt as to whether the car has the power to back up its tough looks.

Speaking of which, it took three different sets of wheels before Tarus was finally happy with how the it was looking, as well as a change of rear springs to not only set the wide rear end down low, but to stiffen it up as well. Up front sit a set of two-inch lowered springs with Koni adjustable shocks.

While Tarus saw no need to get too carried away with the brakes, and simply fitted larger GT rear drums, the interior, on the other hand, got a serious makeover. The worn, torn and faded brown made way for a full custom-stitched (to the original pattern) black trim, all new carpeting, a custom shift lever and plenty of detailing.

It’s hard to believe that such a high-quality build was completed in just seven months, but that’s what those who know Tarus have come to expect: once he sets his mind to something, there’s no stopping him.

While it may not be a Super Bee like he initially wanted, the result of the build is a seriously cool car that looks great and goes even better. Sounds like things couldn’t have really worked out any better to us!


Engine: 393ci Cleveland, 351 block, 30-thou over, JE pistons, H-beam rods, ARP fasteners, 10.25:1 compression, Airflow Dynamics 2V alloy heads, Competition Cams roller rockers, hydraulic cam, 750cfm Quick Fuel Slayer carb, Edelbrock Air-Gap manifold, High Energy sump, MSD leads, MSD-6AL ignition, MSD distributor, Pacemaker headers, three-inch exhaust, Flow Master mufflers, three-core radiator
Driveline: Tremec TKO-600 five-speed manual transmission, heavy-duty late-model Mustang clutch, nine-inch diff, 3.5:1 ratio, LSD head
Suspension: Two-inch lowered front springs, Koni adjustable shocks, custom leaf springs
Brakes: Slotted front rotors, GT finned rear drums
Wheels/tyres: 18×8 and 18×10-inch Foose Nitrous wheels, 235/40R18 and 295/35R18 tyres
Exterior: Onyx black paint
Interior: Full custom re-trim, custom shifter
Performance: 470hp, 500ft/lb torque

Driver Profile

Tarus Yanakopulos
Age: 39
Occupation: Owner of Mt Albert Automotive / Mobile Vehicle Tuning and Servicing
Previously owned cars: ’65 Pontiac Laurentian, ’76 HX Monaro, ’67 Mustang, V8 HT sedan, V8 HQ ute
Dream car: ’69 Super Bee Six Pack
Why the Falcon? I was looking for a blue ’69 Super Bee and couldn’t find one, but then happily stumbled across this, and haven’t looked back since
Build time: Seven months
Length of ownership: One year
Tarus thanks: Kayton and Al at Real Rides; Glen at Engine Specilties; Glenn Rhind for the upholstery work; Randy Lee Chee at West Coast Auto Worx; Louise, my partner, for being so understanding; Clint, Alton, Stevan, Ryan and Kahu for their help and input along the way

Words Todd Wylie
Photos: Adam Croy