July 1, 2013

For all the creativity found in the modified car scene, it's really not that often you find a vehicle that truly stirs things up. Every now and then, a car comes along that's so full of clever ideas that it shakes your perception of what you thought a muscle car could be.

Australian Mick Fabar's '67 XR Falcon sedan hit the show circuit down under last July like a bomb. Outwardly Pro Touring in appearance, his creation bristled with smart ideas and a strong environmental concept that saw the car officially certified carbon neutral, despite boasting 480 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque!

"My original inspiration for the project was that I was sick of watching all these young blokes speeding around housing estates and getting their cars impounded for doing burnouts and having the general public believe that their actions were representative of real car enthusiasts," Mick says. "That's not us. That's not anyone I know, but it makes it all believable when this kind of thing is constantly getting onto TV shows like A Current Affair (trashy tabloid news program)."

No stranger to building top-shelf show cars, Mick has built a handful of incredible machines, including a blown ZA Fairlane than earned Top 60 spots at the annual Summernats a few years in a row, a Model A pickup that took out top honors at MotorEx (Australia's premier indoor car show) in 2005, and a 557ci '33 coupe that floored spectators with its comprehensive Pro Touring vibe—something that hadn't been seen in the Australian scene up to that point.

Despite all the accolades and trophies, Mick's new project is far and away his most innovative, mixing the classic lines of the '67-vintage Falcon with Pro Touring aesthetics and modern hardware. However, instead of spending a fortune on new gear, the car has been built almost entirely using second-hand and recycled parts—a large part of the eco-friendly direction of the build.

"The ultimate goal was to build a reasonably stock-looking car from 50 meters away," Mick says, "but with a carbon-neutral foot print and being a top-shelf elite street machine."

It all started with a $1,000 pile of parts. But, before a single wrench was turned, Mick and his dedicated crew of like-minded builders spent around 12 months working on the build plan and learning a lot about the processes required to achieve their objective. With the plan in place, it took the team of eight a mere seven and half months to complete the build, in between their regular day jobs.

What makes the project and its timeline all the more impressive is the fact that very little of the original Falcon remains. Running a new pair of chassis rails from front to back to help facilitate the one-piece front clip, the car also features an all-new floorpan and firewall that uses entirely reclaimed sheetmetal.

"The whole lot, from the windscreen to the rear of the car has been built from car panels and other floor systems," Mick says. "There are probably 20 different cars inside this one Falcon. The exterior bodywork is about the only original Falcon DNA left."

He isn't kidding. The areas around the base of the windscreens use panels from a 1980s Holden Commodore and the rear wheeltubs were created piecemeal from the tubs of three different Datsuns salvaged from a wrecking yard. "They had almost exactly the right type of curve to them to make our design work," he says. "The cars were just going to be crushed anyway."

As impressive as the jigsaw puzzle use of other makes and models is, the new floor pan itself is a work of functional art. Boasting complete symmetry in design, the new floor incorporates voids for things like the airbag tanks, with a tunnel running the length of the car that feeds air to the remotely mounted radiator. Squeezed under the trunk floor on a 22-degree angle, the radiator also uses twin electric fans to keep the engine cool.

"It runs back, over the diff' to the radiator. Then the air flows out of the car through the rear bumper," Mick says. "To test that it would work, we mocked up the design with plastic panels and fed air along the tunnel with a smoke machine."

A large piece of the Falcon's environmental cred is the choice of a turbo diesel power plant. Sourced from a '97 F-truck, the 7.3L Powerstroke V-8 is no small engine, weighing in at around 1,100-pounds more than your typical 351ci/Powerglide combo. However, Mick helped offset the difference by setting the engine 6 inches back, leaving plenty of room for the custom PWR intercooler.

"It had around 150,000 miles on the clock. We pulled the heads off of it and gave it a quick freshen up. We didn't do a full rebuild," he says. "Then we just ‘chipped' it up and got 490 horsepower at the crank. It's a piece of cake with those things. That's with 900 lb-ft of torque! We just used stock replacement parts."

The Powerstroke is backed by the stock Allison four-speed auto, and Mick sourced a '67-vintage 28-spline 9-inch rearend on eBay—he modified it to suit the four-link architecture and Watt's link setup and left it at that: open center, 2.75:1 gears, and everything.

"The reality is that this car wasn't built as a burnout car, or a drag car. It's just a classic street machine and the old differential should handle the duties that go along with that, no problem," Mick says.

Mick runs the Powerstroke on B20 biodiesel, which is regularly available at his local service station. However, the car has been built with all the necessary hardware to run on 100-percent biodiesel, including the special fuel filters and fuel heating device, all mounted behind the rear seat.

"There are people in the USA who have been running their vehicles and farm machinery on homemade, 100-percent bio diesel for 10 to 15 years," Mick says. "Even on the B20, we're achieving a 69.8-percent reduction in emissions and that's a fuel that's available at petrol stations everywhere."

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Look inside the Falcon and you'd be forgiven for thinking that compromises had been made for the show-quality finish of the trim. Incredibly, Mick says he was able to achieve the look for about one quarter the price by having the trimmer use second-quality leather and suede that would have otherwise gone to waste or been used as packaging. Even the hardware like the Speed Hut gauges and billet steering wheel were found on eBay, second hand. Interestingly, the dash itself continues on with the old-tin theme, using a '56 F100 dash panel and '57 Chevrolet instrument fascia to get the desired look.

Only a few new parts feature in the build, including the Intro billet wheels, Wilwood four-piston brakes and the glass. But even in these cases, environmental concerns were taken into account.

"The Intro factory in California practices a number of green initiatives like recycling all its water," Mick says. "We had companies like Intro and House of Kolor (whose Earth green paint uses low-emissions base stocks) supply us with all the technical information on the products and its manufacturing processes along the way so we could accurately document it."

One element of the project Mick initially thought insurmountable was the tires. Right up until the end of the project, no environmentally-friendly option seemed to exist until he found that Federal had begun manufacturing its tire range free from the ‘highly aromatic (HA)' oils almost all other tire makers use in their production processes. Sadly, when conventional tires break down, these oils are left on the road surface and wash into waterways, killing plant and animal species. Federal says its new compounds do not.

The Falcon build boasted a reduced impact on the environment in other areas, too. Project manager Des Knight from Knight's Body Works had his workshop switched onto renewable energy sources like wind and solar by his power company. If that weren't enough, the team went so far as to use a more eco-friendly gas in the oxy-acetylene torch during the fabrication stage.

Despite the complexity of the build, which includes a modified '76 Jaguar XJ6 front end and airbag suspension system using pieces from multiple kits, Mick says the car almost built itself.

"When I think about the other cars that I've built, there have always been problems with tradespeople or contractors and those sorts of things; this was just one of those cars that just wanted to be built," he says. "We had the car finished two weeks ahead of our deadline."

While a few "eco-friendly" muscle cars have been built in the past, Mick is confident that his Falcon is the first to have been officially documented as being carbon neutral. This was achieved through the 84-page report put together by students at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, who followed the build project for a full 12 months.

"One of the things that I wanted to be able to do at the end of the project was say, ‘This is what we've achieved,' not just be something that I'm claiming to have done," Mick says. "Bond University has a sister university over in Ohio who were involved in quite a few aspects of the report and the algorithms on how to achieve a neutral carbon footprint. They also confirmed that there was nothing else in the world that they were aware of that had been done like this and been documented and confirmed. We didn't pay the university, they're not receiving any endorsement from us; it was purely a mutual interest and the outcome is the outcome."

Mick says he is completely happy with the finished product, and has been enjoying almost total positive feedback from all who see it.

"It's really pushed all the right buttons for car enthusiasts, which is exactly what I wanted it to do," he says. "It's not just about building an elite-level car; it's about applying some environmental principles that make it a better build at the end. I'm not talking about the judging process, but on an environmental scale. I thought that would be harder for most people to swallow or appreciate, but I've been astounded by the fact that 99 out of 100 people have understood what it was we were trying to achieve."

The Details
Mick Fabar's '67 XR Falcon

'97 7.3L Ford Powerstroke turbo-diesel V-8
Modified sump and oil pickup
Custom PWR front-mounted air-to-air intercooler
Custom fuel tank, fuel heating system, and computer tune
490 hp/900 lb-ft on B20 biodiesel

'97 Ford/Allison four-speed automatic
Stock converter

Ford 9-Inch
Open differential
2.75 gears
28-spline axles

Custom fabricated manifolds
Dual 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system

Front: Modified '76 Jaguar XJ6, airbags, relocated shock mounts, VK Holden Commodore rack-and-pinion, new chassis rails
Rear: Four-link, airbags, custom cantilever design, Watt's link

Front: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers, Wilwood two-piece rotors
Rear: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers, Wilwood two-piece rotors

Front: Intro Custom Wheels Saltster, 20x8
Rear: Intro Custom Wheels Saltster, 20x10

Front: Federal 595EVO, P245/35ZR20
Rear: Federal 595EVO, P285/30ZR20

Black leather and suede, custom door trims, billet steering wheel, custom front and rear seat frames, '56 Ford F-100 dash, '57 Chevrolet instrument fascia, Speed Hut instruments w/GPS speedo, digital airbag controls, custom transmission tunnel, floorpans and wheeltubs, ididit steering column

House of Kolor Earth green, molded bumpers, flush windscreens, full front clip, extended sills, deleted driprails, shaved door handles, modified hood, custom radiator support panel, painted grille, custom mirrors, custom flat firewall


Build Period
Seven months


www.MotorActive.com.au House of Kolor, Knight's Panel Works, Custom Trim Works