It looks like an immaculately restored Red Pepper XA GT - but there is 670hp hidden under the stock air cleaner
When he had to part with his 1972 XA GT some 20 years ago, Bill Kaglatzis promised himself he’d eventually get another one. “It was identical to this car,” says Bill of the one that got away. “Red Pepper, black interior, 351, auto. I sold it to start my business, BK Race Engines.”
Bill vividly remembers what eventually motivated him to fulfil that promise. “I was out getting an ice cream with my wife Dina and son Kosta,” he says. “A convoy of hotted-up cars drove past our Mazda 6: Monaros, Camaros and GT Falcons – it was instant depression! I decided then and there that I needed something that I could the take the whole family cruising in.”
Following a futile two-year search for a suitable donor car, Bill decided to approach good mate Nick Sutic about parting with his completely original XA GT.
“It was exactly the same as my old car,” says Bill. “Nick had owned it for 20 years, but it’d been parked for a long time. It was tough for Nick to sell – it took a mountain of persuasion to convince him to let it go. It was an honest car in pretty reasonable condition, and the build date is only two months apart [from my old one].
“I took it for a drive and stood on the throttle: Nothing! No tyre-chirp, no pinning me into the seat – just Bat-signals blowing out the exhaust. There was no way I could drive it like it was.”
Plan A called for a quick tidy-up and a new driveline, but Shane from S&K Auto Restorations in Gundagai changed all that. “I build a lot of engines for S&K,” says Bill, “and I think Shane wanted to impress me. It looks this nice because of him; he went way beyond with a full-concours rotisserie restoration. It has all the correct factory decals, as well as all the production paint and chalk markings.”
Being a genuine GT, the build team preserved as much of the original car as possible, including most of the interior. Wherever possible, genuine replacement parts were used as opposed to repro stuff. Chris and Spiro from Falcon GT Restorations spent countless hours tracking down all the necessary bits. Where aftermarket gear had to be substituted, the original stuff was carefully stashed away to allow this Grand Tourer to one day be returned to its showroom-correct state.
The biggest departure is the solid roller-cammed, 406ci stroker between the front rails. “We’ve built a number of this style of engine,” Bill says. “Many of our customers are building GTs and are after that factory look.”
To get 406 cubes, BK punched the block out 20thou to 4.020in, before dropping in a 4.00in Callies Magnum crank, which spins custom Diamond pistons to make the combo work with the factory block. Up top there’s a pair of Scott Cook (SCM Engine Developments) heads and one of his dual-plane manifolds. While Bill concedes these heads are SCM’s smallest, he did get them flowing over 700cfm after adding his own unique tweaks. Another key to the engine’s stock looks is the SCM HO intake. It’s a convincing copy of the heavy cast-iron factory 4V unit, but it works a whole lot better. Making the most of all this airflow capability is a Bullet solid-roller cam teamed with BAM DLC-bushed lifters.
Hiding under the 351 High Performance air cleaner is a 1000cfm APD Billet Enforcer carby. RaceMAX Direct (the go-fast parts business that Bill and George Bukureshliev are partners in) not only supplied a host of engine components, but also worked hand-in-hand with APD to develop the custom finish on this HO-series carby. It mimics the texture and gold colour of the factory FoMoCo unit.
Another clever piece of camouflaging is the distributor. “It’s a special order from Mich Pyle at Pylec Electricals – he put the ICE guts in the factory Autolite housing,” says Bill. “Mich ran the wiring for the external ICE control box into the glovebox. The factory-coloured wires were used at the dizzy and coil as well – you’d never tell! Mich did a ripper job restoring the original loom.”
Spent gases exit through Gonzo Pipes tri-Ys, dumping into a JT Performance three-inch system. To keep temps under control, there’s a massive three-core radiator – it was factory-fitment in the a/c-equipped Fairlanes and LTDs and is considerably larger than the standard Falcon unit. To maintain critical oil pressure, the ‘winged’ Phase IV sump runs a windage tray and has been fully baffled with trapdoors.
Considering BK’s reputation for building some of the toughest motors in the land, it must have been difficult to fight the urge to go crazy. “I could have easily built something way wilder – 800, 900hp,” says Bill. “I just kept reminding myself that the wife and kids had to go in this car.”
In keeping with the GT theme, the driveline comprises a Protrans-built FMX fronted by a 5200-stall SDE converter and a factory-looking nine-inch, filled with 31-spline axles, 3.50:1 gears and Truetrac centre. As with the front suspension and brakes, the reset factory leaf springs and rear end have all been painted factory-perfect. However, Bill did opt for Bilstein shocks all ’round to enhance the XA’s handling prowess.
In the end, it took a big push by a lot of people to get the car ready for Summernats 33 – especially Chris and Spiro. “They took it upon themselves to get the car finished for Summernats,” says Bill. “I can’t thank them enough, as well as everyone who helped along the way.
“It was never meant to be a show car; I built it as a weekender,” Bill continues. “About two Sundays after the photoshoot I loaded up the three boys and the baby seats [Bill added two sons to the family during the build] and we all headed out for breakfast, then on to the Eastern Creek charity show in support of bushfire relief. It’s funny; my boys have been hearing about dad’s big red car for years – now it’s real! And by not going too insane, we can take it out whenever and wherever we want.”
Story: Craig Parker
Photos: Matt Everingham