I always enjoy ‘talking shit’ with owners at photo shoots – you can get a real insight into their character and what has led them into the world of modified cars. I reckon I had spoken to Jonathon Clarke for around an hour before I even picked up the the camera. Perched high on a mound of sand, surveying the surrounding location and admiring his high quality, ’65 XP Falcon, I began to get a good feel for the build on the car and what Jono was all about.
Growing up in New Zealand, the laidback Jono was surrounded by cool cars, old bikes and farm machinery from a young age: “My old man and grandfather were right into vintage cars like Model Ts and Rileys. Whenever I went to my grandfather’s place on Sundays, I always made sure to check out his workshop. He always had a project on the go or had recently bought a new part or ornament.”
That all sort of kicked things off and from then on, I was always into cars. Where I lived there was plenty of cool Aussie and US stuff getting around. When I got older, I would cruise the main street with the boys and have a good time with our cars. We didn’t cause much trouble but we always had a good laugh and got our fair bit of attention. When I made the move to Australia I had the chance to build some better cars and create a whole new crew of mates who were into the same stuff too,” said Jono.
His first car over here was a street-sweet XR Falcon wagon slammed on some deep dish wheels and with a surfboard up on the roof. It was hard to miss it out on the road and even harder to miss with his trick old school Caravan in tow. With an itch to build something with some decent power, a few years back Jono went on the lookout for a new project.
He did have his heart set on a ’40 Ford pickup but the timing was all wrong so the next best thing was sourced – a Ford ute of course. A workmate spotted a decent looking XP on eBay: “The car was from Melbourne and it had a little Weiand top-mount blower on it with a bonnet scoop. It was bright orange, wore cheap looking wheels and to be honest, it didn’t really appeal to me as I was after more of a sleeper.
It did however have a 9-inch with a McDonald Bros 4-link, QA1 coil-overs under the rear and it looked like it could handle a big tyre. It also had all the running gear I needed to be able to run the 363ci engine. The auction ran out after my $15,000 bid and I won it. I don’t think he was too happy that I scored it considering he wanted 20K,” laughed Jono. “Another guy who missed the car offered me 20 for it straight after the auction ended but I wasn’t interested.”
Jono punted it around for a while, but it wasn’t long before he found the limits of the engine and ’box: “I gave it some herbs one night and it popped a couple of the lifters and burnt the transmission out pretty badly as well. Paul at Keas Transmissions had a look at it and said it was stuffed. He gave me the option to build another C4 or a Powerglide. It was kind of a no-brainer, I went for the Powerglide as I knew it would handle the power I was going to throw at it.”
After the soul searching that comes after damaging the car, Jono arrived at the conclusion that the ute really did need a hell of a lot of work: “I bought it thinking it was the cheapest option because it already had all the running gear, but in hindsight, I’ve had to upgrade everything on it anyway as far as the driveline goes. It was alright stuff but just not for the amount of power I was chasing. I decided it was the right time to strip the car and do things properly.”
First on the list was to get rid of the awful orange paint and make the package more tasteful and more in-keeping with Jono’s style: “I have always liked simple colour combinations and timeless colours. My wagon is white with red wheels and looks smart and classy, so I decided to run the same wheels on the ute but paint them white and then have the car finished in a 60s style colour.” The PPG Custom Mixed Turquoise looks like the ideal choice for the car, and just like his wagon, Jono created the checkered sun visor. “You either love or hate that part. It is like my trademark now and I like it that way,” said Jono. It was the team at Extreme Panel & Paint who handled the panel and paint stuff.
The interior looks pretty original, but it’s not at all. A split-bench seat out of a coupe, an extra-large Lokar shifter and XA electric window switches are all subtle changes but fit with the theme perfectly. The stock dash cluster has been filled with Ford Racing classic gauges and the factory wheel finishes it all off perfectly along with the white trim work.
Now, one look over the engine bay photos and you can tell the car is not all about looks, far from it in fact. Nestled between the notched strut tops is a 363-cube Windsor. The Man O’ War block is filled with an Eagle crank and rods combo that wear a Diamond piston and ring set. The Trickflow 170cc heads have had a bit of a massage to increase their efficiency. The blow-through carby set up is matched to twin Precision 5862 turbos with 46mm ’gates.
Good mate, Steve Lundy did all the ace fab work for the turbos, including the 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system too. It was the team at Streetbuilt who got the car up and running before handing it over to Wayne at Performance Carb Tuning. With some E85 in the tank and the boost wound up to 15psi, there should be anywhere between 650-700hp at the treads. “The motor is good for 25psi, I don’t want to push it too hard, I just built it as a street car, not a drag car. For the moment, we have 8.5psi in it which netted 505hp at the rears. Not too bad for the soft tune,” Jono said.
With the car finally completed after an extensive three-and-a-bit year build, Jono has had the car out and about to rack up some running-in miles. Some of those miles just happened to be at Motorvation earlier this year where the car was seriously killing some tyres. “I had a great time there and thoroughly enjoyed the car. I can’t wait to turn the power up and go looking for a number now.”