Most people start with their car of choice and then work out what engine they’re going to fit. Tom Hastings went the other way with his ’66 XP hardtop.

“I bought the engine first,” he says, “then I bought the car, then everything else. It only took 11 months to build.”

First published in the December 2010 issue of Street Machine

He stumbled across the motor through a mate. It’s a 364-cube Windsor that used to power Tony O’Connor’s wheelstanding XP Falcon ute (SM Fords 6). Running methanol, the engine powered the XK-fronted hay hauler to a best of 9.88@136mph. Who could say no to a proven combo like that?

But naturally an engine needs a home and Tom had a strong desire for an XP hardtop, so the search was on for a suitable canvas.

“I’d looked around for about three months and always took Pat, my panel beater, with me so we knew what we were looking at. Nothing was really clean until we found this thing.”

As seems to be the norm these days, Tom turned up exactly what he was looking for on the World Wide Web.

“I’d been looking for a while so when this one come up on the internet on the Friday, I went down on the Saturday, to Burleigh Heads, and it was on the side of the road for sale.”

The XP was gunmetal grey and had been through a full resto about eight years previously, when it’d scored a pair of new quarters, so the shell was almost totally rust-free. With plenty of rego left, Tom snapped it up and drove the lanky two-door around for about nine months. Time he used to save some cash and stock up on parts.

To modify the engine for pump fuel, he took it to TOCA Performance where they tore it apart and relaxed the compression by adding new pistons. You can’t get 364 cubes from a factory 8.200in deck block but Tom’s running an SVO ‘big-bore’ block. Combining a 4.125in bore with a 3.400in stroke, gives you 364 cubes and — in this case — 598hp at the crank.

“I’ve got a little sign made up for shows but no-one believes it’s 364 cubes,” he says.

As the owner of a welding business, Tom has the skills and tools to tackle big jobs. So he installed a hoist in the corner of his shed and set about slotting the engine into the hardtop.

Fuel cell holds about 70 litres but it’s those chunky factory-style wheel tubs that are the most noticeable items at the rear

“Originally I was just going to do the V8 conversion, tidy up the engine bay and keep it all grey,” he says.

His mate Pat O’Shea had other ideas.

“I came home one day and the dash was painted orange. We pushed the shell out into the sun and I said: ‘Yep, go with that.’”

After getting the engine bay sandblasted, Tom proceeded to fill all the extraneous holes and modify the strut tower supports to make engine swaps an easier proposition. He also grabbed a V8 conversion kit from Castlemaine Rod Shop to help things along.

No six-pot slugs here, just 364 cubes of pure Ford muscle. Note the stainless braces Tom made up to replace the factory tower struts. They make engine removal much easier

With the pointy end sorted, he turned his attention to the rear; with close to 600 horses on tap, it was going to need plenty of help.

“I drilled out every spot weld from the back seat back, unpicked all the rails and every panel in the boot. I think I moved the back rails in five inches on each side,” he says. He also stretched the factory wheel tubs so they handle 275-width tyres with ease. A shortened nine-inch with a Strange alloy centre and 35-spline Mark Williams axles make sure all that power gets to the ground.

Having ticked off the front, back and chassis, paint was next on the list. Pat handled all the bodywork and prep in Tom’s shed before he borrowed a booth from a mate to coat those long and curvy panels in Arancio Atlas. It’s a colour normally found on the Lamborghini Murcielago but Tom and Pat gave it a bit more punch by spraying over a white base.

Tom kept the interior styling mostly original, with just a couple of performance-orientated mods. The lack of a rollcage has cut the hardtop’s drag racing career tragically short

“I’ve always liked the colour but another guy I know has a Torana painted the same so I was going to steer clear of it,” Tom says. Still, after seeing the finished result we’d bet he was glad he ditched the gunmetal grey. Throw in some freshly chromed bumpers, a bit of polished stainless, and here’s a car that really jumps out at you.

Inside, Tom has gone with something a little more understated.

“We wanted to keep it looking like it had some sort of originality,” he says. “That’s why I kept the louvres in the back too.”

Dingo from Southside Marine Trimming tricked up the original bench seats with a mix of tan and off-white vinyl, plus a factory-style pearl steering wheel. Of course there are a couple of nods to the performance industry, with an Auto Meter tacho, extra gauges and a B&M Pro Ratchet to shift the heavily massaged C4 transmission.

“I was going to put a rollcage in it but it’s a coupe so once you put a ’cage in you can’t use the back seat,” Tom says.

Which is probably why the XP’s had a very short drag racing career.

“I did two half-passes to just get a feel for the car and went 11.60 at about 80mph. Then I went out and did a full run and got asked to leave.”

On its one and only full pass — running nine-inch slicks and pump fuel — the XP went 10.52@128mph. Those are some serious numbers for a naturally aspirated pump gas combo, especially with almost zero track time.

The Kenwood head unit sits just behind the dash. “The hole is for the standard radio — I didn’t want to wreck the dash”

Despite the performance, Tom is happy just cruising the streets with his wife, Michelle. While he admits it doesn’t get out as much as he’d like, he tries to go for a cruise at least once a month. “I’d rather be driving it than looking at it,” he says.

With a bub on the way, however, the XP might score a few changes.

“It’s pretty loud — Michelle keeps asking when the crate engine is coming with the quiet exhaust so we can put the baby seat in the back.”

Even if the XP does get a lobotomy, Tom still has his ’55 Cusso and its 516ci big-block stroker to play with. And the early Falcon hardtop isn’t going anywhere — it’s part of the family.

“Michelle loves it. She’s seen how much time and effort went into it, so she appreciates it.

“The day I proposed to her, we went for a drive down the coast, grabbed a couple of kilos of prawns off the trawlers, pulled up on the rocks, and that’s where I popped the question. That was funny because the car had to be there.”

TOM HASTINGS
1966 FORD XP HARDTOP

Colour: Arancio Atlas
GRUNT
Engine: Windsor 364ci stroker
Block: SVO big-bore
Carb: Pro Systems 950cfm
Intake: Edelbrock Super Victor
Heads: AFR alloy
Pistons: JE, 4.125in bore AFR alloy
Crank: Scat 4340, 3.400in stroke
Rods: Scat H-beam
Cam: Custom roller
Ignition: Accel dizzy, Crane coil
Exhaust: Custom extractors, Borla Mufflers, twin 3.5-inch system
SHIFT
Transmission: C4
Converter: 4500rpm stall
Diff: Nine-inch, 3.9 gears, Strange alloy centre, 35-spline MW axles
BENEATH
Brakes: Wilwood (f&r)
Springs: King (f), reset (r)
Shocks: 60/40 (f), Rancho (r)
ROLLING
Rims: Weld Pro Stars, 15×6 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson, 26×7.5 (f), 275/60 (r)
INTERIOR
Wheel: XP, pearl-wrapped 26×7.5 (f), 275/60 (r)
Seats: Stock, retrimmed (f&r)
Gauges: Standard, plus Auto Meter
Stereo: Kenwood CD
Shifter: B&M Pro Ratchet

THANKSTony, TOCA Performance; Pat O’Shea, paint & panel; Dingo, Southside Marine Trimming; Gav, fibreglass work; Dad & Michelle

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