1973 XB Falcon Hardtop – Think Big


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Most car lovers believe their pride and joy is a female. Craig Murray’s Big Block 1973 XB Falcon is a girl with a lot of spunk – and one huge arse…


Craig Murray has had a passion for Falcons his whole life. He was brought up with his grandparents, his grandad being a staunch Ford man. Craig’s grandad had XA sedans and wagons as well as a couple of XBs and an XC, but having a large family meant he was never allowed to get a coupe. Craig has vivid memories of jumping in grandad’s XA one Christmas at the tender age of 10, putting the car in drive and heading off up the river bank, promptly getting it stuck and ending up in all sorts of trouble.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5053/5461473580_721f652f81.jpgDo You Believe In Fate?

Years later and all grown up, Craig was working as a rep for Resene, selling DuPont car paint. This job required Craig to frequent all the local panelbeaters. A shop that Craig visited twice a week was Perfect Autobodies, and on one such visit he spied an XB Falcon in its purest form, shoved in the corner all ugly and looking the worse for wear from a shunt up the bum.

For the next three years Craig kept an eye on the coupe, watching its progress. Evidently the guy who was doing up the Falcon was the foreman at Perfect Autobodies, and was building it as a deposit on his mortgage. As the build progressed Craig lost interest somewhat, as the foreman had decided to paint it dark blue and sit it on a set of Valiant Charger rims, making it look too ‘gangster’ for Craig.

He can’t have been the only one to have this view, because one day — on one of his regular visits to the shop — Craig noticed the XB had been sanded down and was being lavishly coated in the Red

Pepper lacquer that adorns it to this day. It must have been a top-notch paint job, because 10 years on Craig gets lots of positive comments about the paint.

Craig kept watching, now with a rekindled enthusiasm for the old girl. Then all of a sudden, one day it had a for sale sign on it.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5019/5461473630_a0a0b2b7e1.jpgDriving A Hard Bargain

The coupe was advertised for $12,000 but there was little to no interest in it (remember, this was 10 years ago — people would be climbing over each other to buy it now). A couple of months passed by and one day the owner came running up to Craig.  “Come on Craig, I see you looking at it all the time. You can have it for 10 grand.”

Craig, cool customer he is, said, “Nah mate, I’ll give you eight.” The guy can’t have been too impressed with that as no deal was done.

Another couple of months passed by with still no sale, when Craig got a phone call out of the blue. You guessed it: it was the owner of the coupe offering it to Craig for eight grand, who was very keen but had to convince the then wife that it was a good idea.

Even though eight grand was a fantastic deal, Craig wasn’t going to buy the car without getting his mate Hibby to look over the engine first. As it happened, the motor had a couple of taps and Hibby told him the cam was stuffed, so Craig rang the guy and said no, he couldn’t buy it.

How did Craig end up with the Falcon, then? The owner’s plan for the mortgage had gone bung and he was going to Aussie to live. He had two weeks before he was leaving and the coupe was the last thing he had left to sell. He rang Craig again at 7am one morning and asked: “How much will you give me for it?” Craig told him $6500. Remarkably, the owner accepted.

Even in 1999, $6500 for an XB Falcon hardtop, painted with new interior and a 429ci big block, was a pretty damn good deal, even if it had no bling and was still sitting on Valiant Charger rims.

Drive It Till You Break It

Craig drove his new purchase around for a few months exactly as he had bought it, until one night when he was giving the car a bit of stick. He parked and went about the evening’s business, but when he went to leave the coupe wouldn’t start. It eventually fired up with a horrendous metal-wrenching noise. Craig drove it around to Hibby’s, who took the heads off, and found it had bent two pushrods and that the cam had three round lobes.

They fixed the heads and Craig drove the car for five years with no problems before noticing that the oil pressure was getting a bit low. It turns out that when the heads and cam busted, all that metal went down to the bottom and sat there. When Craig pulled the engine apart the oil pump looked like 80-grit sandpaper.

By this time Craig’s mate Hibby had shut his own business and was working for someone else, so Craig was looking for a good mechanic to do up the bottom end. He was put on to Darryl Blacktopp, who is well-known in Christchurch street machine and hot rod circles. Darryl did the job and did it well, and since then Craig has struck up a very good friendship with the mechanic.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5253/5461473674_dd559d4be0.jpgIn The Winter

With the bottom end all done, Craig has had a pretty sweet run with the coupe, but he still tends to take her off the road every winter to do something to her.

When he purchased the Falcon the interior had been completed but Craig has since put in new carpet and a GT dash, and has made the centre console that houses the shiny B&M shifter. He has also installed a big stereo system — he loves his music and he loves it loud, which might explain why he’s blown up one amp already.

Another winter project was covering the entire floor with squares of sound deadening, which had to be heated with a hair dryer and moulded into every crevice. It took 36 of the 300mm square sheets to cover the whole floor, but they made a huge difference to road noise inside the car.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5094/5461473712_d13f246ee2.jpgMetal Mountain

The car’s most immediately identifiable feature is surely the Bill’s Shotgun scoop towering out of the bonnet, which seems to flow with the curves of the coupe’s roof and massive rear end perfectly. Craig always wanted a tunnel ram, and was working on a friend’s car when he spotted one sitting on the floor of the garage. He walked over, picked it up, put it under his arm and said, “Right, let’s make a deal.” Craig came home with his new tunnel ram; his understanding new lady just shook her head. Craig said she is very accepting, and it helps that she is a huge Ford fan too.

Craig is very happy with his tunnel ram and shotgun scoop, even if it took a while to get used to the mountain of metal protruding from the bonnet.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5300/5460870667_17b8c0e612.jpgWide Load

So what’s the story behind the name Big Bum? Craig explained that a couple of years after purchasing the coupe someone asked him what he would want on a personalised plate. Craig says he thought about this for a couple of months before coming up with his answer. “With 295 by 15 tyres under the factory rear guards with room to go to a 315 — now that’s a big bum.” Moreover, the previous owner had put BB429 stickers on the side of the car instead of the normal GT ones — they stood for big block 429, but were also perfect for Big Bum. Craig mentioned this to a friend of his who told him that wasn’t going to happen as he actually knew the guy who already had that plate, and it was destined for an XA coupe.

There seems to be a pattern forming here, because all of a sudden Craig got a phone call saying the plate was for sale. The guy had bought the plate but never got it made, so Craig snared it for the $380 the previous owner had paid. Some people seem to have all the luck.

Addicted To That Rush

Ten years on, has any of the passion gone? Hell no. “It’s my dream car. It’s what I wanted as a kid and I’ve got it,” Craig says. “I get a thrill and get adrenaline running through me every time I drive it.” It’s not the most powerful or scary car out there, but it gets Craig’s blood pumping and he really enjoys driving it — that’s if he’s not sitting in the garage for hours on end just watching it, or looking at all the trophies it has accumulated over the years. Now that’s what it’s all about. Fat-bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round.

1973 XB Falcon Hardtop – Specifications


Engine: 1979 429ci (7.0-litre) Thunderjet big block, stock rods, 8.5:1 compression, Mellings HV oil pump, billet Comp Cam, ported heads, heavy-duty double valve springs, Procoated custom-ported Weiand tunnel ram, MSD 6AL, Pro Billet distributor, Master Blaster 2 coil, 8.5mm MSD leads, Procoated Hurricane headers, single three-inch system, Flowmaster 40 series Delta Flow muffler, three-core GT radiator with twin electric fans, stainless cap screws, custom built stainless carb linkages and regulator brackets, custom shock tower covers
Driveline: C6 Ridgeback gearbox shift kitted, Cobra Jet flexi plate, Chrysler 8.75-inch diff
Brakes: DBA gold slotted and drilled rotors, polished XF callipers, Bendix Ultimate pads (front) stock drum rear
Suspension: Progressive Pedders (rear) and Gabriel Gas (front) shocks, modified leaf spring rear, super-low King Springs in the front, Nolathane bushes throughout, 27mm chromed Whiteline sway bar
Wheels/tyres: 15×8 and 15×10-inch Centreline rims, 225/60R15 and 295/50R15 tyres
Exterior: Fibreglass rear wing, rear louvre, aftermarket bonnet pins, genuine GT front grille, side scoops and rear honeycomb trims, bonnet hole cut by Burkes Metalworks, heaps of coats of Red Pepper paint and clear lacquer by Perfect Autobodies
Interior: Re-upholstered seats, Wildcat steering wheel, B&M shifter, new carpet, GT dash, custom centre console, custom boot detailing, Kenwood head unit, Kenwood amp, two 12-inch Kenwood subs, Alpine amp running Alpine 6x9s and Kenwood six-inch components
Performance: Untested

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5297/5460870941_458d532485.jpgCraig and Ally Murray – Owner Profile

Age: 42 (Craig)
Occupation: Business owner
Previously owned cars: 1979 XC GS panel van, 1955 VW Kombi
Dream car: I own it
Length of ownership: 10 years
Craig thanks: Darryl Blacktopp @ Blacktopp Motors, Wayne ‘Hibby’ Hibbs @ Mustang Centre, Glen ‘Fluffy’ Fry, Jason Burke @ Burkes Metalworks, Daniel ‘Sparky Dan’ Brice

Words: Barry Lorimer Photos: Sean Craig

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