This beloved Blue Oval rose from the ashes of disaster
There's no questioning Vicky Williams’s devotion to the mighty Blue Oval. Introduced to the world of cars by her late dad, she began her Ford-owning journey with an XT Falcon 500. A few more Coke-bottle Falcons ensued, including an XW she sold to cover her first home deposit.
The factory 302 XE Fairmont Ghia you see here was always bound to be special, given it first belonged to Vicky’s dad. “He passed on the XE before he passed away,” she explains. “I’ve had it for the past 24 years. He never would’ve imagined what it looks like now!”
Melbourne-based Vicky and her hubby Ben had already rebuilt the Fairmont once, swapping in an LPG-huffing 351 Clevo and refinishing the car in Ford Blueprint. A few years later, they approached Kilsyth’s Orger Engines (now Original Engines), to have the donk stroked to 396 cubes. “The car was fairly nice and was my daily driver, parked at the pub I managed in Oakleigh most days,” Vicky says.
But in 2016, they faced every car nut’s worst nightmare. “We had a big garage fire that destroyed all our cars,” Vicky recounts. The XE went up in flames, alongside an HSV GTO and Ben’s HQ Monaro that he’d owned since age 18.
Thankfully nobody was hurt, but it left Vicky and Ben devastated. With a $19,000 payout and salvage rights to the Fairmont, Vicky was left to take stock of her options. “We didn’t know whether to rebuild the cars at all,” she admits. “We had to rebuild the garage and replace all our tools before we could even think about starting on the cars.”
With so much history tied up in the cars, they eventually decided to resurrect both the Fairmont and the HQ, starting with what was meant to be a quick job to get the former mobile. “Once we started to strip it, we realised the amount of damage that a fire can do,” Vicky says. The flames and steam had corroded virtually every nut and bolt, all of which needed to be replaced or re-zinced.
Saving the Fairmont turned into a proper family affair, with Vicky and Ben’s kids (then 6 and 10) helping to pull the car down in late 2017. The shell was then stuck on a rotisserie while Vicky got busy with paint stripper and dry ice to remove the original sound deadening.
Vicky’s father-in-law Gilbert smoothed out the engine bay before the car was sent for panelwork in readiness for paint. But another uphill battle saw Vicky having to go to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal when that panel shop abruptly closed its doors after taking payment.
“We had to strip the car back to bare metal again due to the poor work that had been done,” she says. “Luckily my husband’s car was booked into KB Prestige & Restoration for paint, but it was nowhere near ready, so I took his booking. George Lyras [at KB Prestige] saved me – he did an awesome job and I couldn’t be happier with the end result!”
As the Blueprint paint burned in the fire, it had taken on a greenish tinge in places, giving Vicky an unlikely source of inspiration for the car’s new colour. The custom teal mix it now wears was concocted by Harry at DNA Custom Paints, which Vicky says came about after much experimentation. “I loved the blue, but I wanted something different,” she says. “I walked into Harry’s showroom in Scoresby and said, ‘I like this colour, I like that colour and I really like that one – but could you mix them together?’ One could only imagine what he thought!” she laughs. “A couple of weeks later, I went down to DNA and he had created a colour that just popped, and I knew it was the one straight away.”
Although the engine’s bolt-ons were rendered unusable, the Clevo’s block, rotating assembly and valvetrain all survived the fire. A Scat nodular iron crank spins Scat rods and SRP pistons, and the bumpstick is a Comp unit. A pair of Edelbrock Performer 2V heads sit up top, while 98 comes in via Holley Sniper EFI atop a matching Air Gap manifold. As the Fairmont was no longer assigned to daily driving, ideas of efficiency went out the window and Vicky turfed the barbecue gas system. “I didn’t know too much about the Sniper, so our good friend Mark from Gasoline Automotive came to our house for the first start-up,” she explains. “It started first crank, and the car is so much more responsive with it.
The combo is now spitting out a healthy 400hp on the engine dyno. A 3000rpm converter and Transtyle-fettled C10 handle the power, matched to a nine-inch LSD with highway-friendly 3.5 gears and Moser axles. Vicky didn’t forget about the handling side of the equation, either. Viking coil-overs sit up front, as does a BA Falcon 330mm brake kit from UPC.
The Fairmont has been cleaning up the on show scene over the past 12 months. Vicky has so far bagged Top Ford Post-1980 at Showcars Melbourne 2021 and 2022, 1st Place XD-XF at All Ford Day 2021 and 2022, and a brace of top placings at this year’s Springnats. She’s rightly proud of the car’s success, though she points out it was never really intended. “It just was built to drive and enjoy, and to make memories with the family,” she says. Aside from some minor touch-ups like fresh headrests and seatbelts, Vicky can confidently say the car is now where she wants it to be.
Ben’s aforementioned HQ is next on the list, which is shaping up to be a hardcore piece of equipment itself. It will become a tubbed pro touring beast with an LSA, full-floater rear and big three-piece wheels. It’s still a few years from completion, and is currently sitting in epoxy at NextGen Race Cars. “His was the one we were always going to go all-out on,” Vicky says. “So when it comes onto the scene, mine will play second fiddle!”
Story: Jack Houlihan
Photos: Shaun Tanner