Adam LeBrese's Ford XC Falcon carries a tag that any car owner and builder in the industry would envy and rightfully so: this is 'Australia's Most Impressive Custom Car'.
The mega-remarkable '78-model coupe scored this grand title at Meguiar's MotorEx 2011, in front of thousands of gob-smacked show-goers. Out of 15 outstanding contenders, a highly respected judging panel of motoring industry luminaries consisting of: Simon Telford – Street Machine Magazine, Liam Quirk – Express Publications, Gavin Kelso – Cruzin Magazine, Nathan Ponchard – Unique Cars Magazine and Tony O'Donnell - Shannons pronounced Adam's effort the most impressive of the lot.
"MotorEx is the pinnacle of the car scene in this country; it's where the elite cars are displayed", Adam said, "So it's a massive buzz to be on that level. MotorEx is the first show the XC has been to and the reaction was very positive".
As epic as the title bestowed upon 'Australia's Most Impressive Custom Car' is the prize awarded to it: two tickets, including transportation of the vehicle, to SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the XC Coupe will be on display at one of the Meguiar's trade stands as part of the International Showcase. "It's an honour to be displaying the XC at SEMA - I'm nervous and excited", Adam enthused, "We're looking forward to a first drive very soon, maybe down the Las Vegas Boulevard".
Adam admits that the encouragement he received during the build was humbling. "My wife Alisha and closest friends were very supportive", he said, "And Owen Webb is 'Mr Show Cars'. He knows so much about quality and has years of experience. I trust his advice and it's paid off".
The big, bad Ford was six years in the making: "The initial plan was to build an XC that was race-inspired, to incorporate a race theme throughout", said Adam. This automotive movement is known as 'pro-touring', where a classic muscle car's aesthetics and performance are purposefully upgraded, always with the aim to be driven, rather than just displayed.
Painted in House of Kolor Orion Silver, Adam's Falcon appears as if it was hand-carved from a single piece of billet steel. It's beautifully minimalist, in keeping with its owner-builder's philosophy of "less is more". The spotlight is shone on the vehicle's inherent design, using customisation to emphasise it, rather than alter it. In Adam's mind, maintaining a car's identity and integrity throughout the rebuild process is paramount: "Just because a modification can be done, doesn't mean it should".
Adam's underlying inspiration for the XC Coupe was to build a better car than his EH Holden. That's no mean feat, considering the old school wagon recently won Street Machine magazine's 30-year anniversary award for the 'Ultimate Street Machine of All Time', as well as "Street Machine of the Year" in 2003.
"The EH was my first build. It was a four-door station wagon that I converted to a two-door Sedan Delivery — a panel van minus the rear side windows — with a 308 and two-speed Powerglide combo", Adam explained, "It's an all-round good driver. We've driven it quite a bit and had lots of fun in it. We've pulled it off the road at the moment and are looking forward to refreshing it in the near future. I have to work on my wife's car first though – that's the deal".
Not to be outdone by her husband, Alisha pedals a very cool, old school ride herself: a 1964 Austin Healey Mark III convertible. "The electrics have been playing up, so we've taken it off the road to do an overhaul on it", she said, "I want to take it on hill climbs after its rebuild. It's also my daily driver".
Considering the couple's mutual love of motoring, it comes as little surprise that Adam makes a living as a custom car builder. He runs his own shop LeBrese Custom Division — check it out at www.lebresecustomdivision.com — which prides itself on innovation, creativity and what Adam dubs "automotive art".
So, what's Adam's driving force? What is it that propels him? "When I was 13 years old, we had a family friend with a one-tonne Holden Ute that he took to car shows. This was my introduction to the car scene", he said, "Today, I'm inspired to learn more as a builder and increase my skills. You never stop learning."
Canter-levered F1-inspired aero-tube suspension; canter-levered 4-link rear-end; airbags (front) and air cans (rear)
Intro billet wheels (20-inch front and 22-inch rear)
Paint & Body
House of Kolor Orion Silver (with gloss and satin clear); handmade tube chassis, sheet metal inner guards, radiator panel and fire wall; suicide doors (with handmade hinges); flared front fenders; custom bumper bars; steel billet logos welded into car; custom door handles incorporated into cowl in front of windscreen; handmade bonnet and boot hinges; sheet metal floor into rear diffuser
Billet steering column and custom cast steering wheel; sheet metal dash, back seat and parcel shelf; handmade roll cage, custom alloy interior panels
Owen Webb at House of Kolor; James at Foden Designs; Brent, Lincoln and Aiden at iCandy Custom Resprays; Chris at Showwheels; PWR; Aeroflow; Adam Laird (trim); Craig Rose, Anthony Carmody, Steve Malcolm, Mark Rimon, Chris MaGrath and Rodney Collis; Bruce Morrison and the crew at MotorActive for the chance to represent Australia at SEMA Show; my wife Alisha and son Seth; and everyone else who was involved.