MOTORING: PSYCHO - 1986 Ford XF Falcon
Story Elias Velis. Photography Michael Marsellos
Once a humble, mild-mannered family sedan, this incredible Ford XF Falcon has evolved into a crazy, show-stopping two-door coupe.
"Our daughter Shelbii wants it for her car and considering she's only five years old, it'll take her a while to drive it," laughed Leisa Chinnock. During the last three months of the build, the young lass hardly saw her father Shane, who split his time between working his job in Hobart and going back to Shepparton to lend a hand where he could during the epic build process of their Ford XF Falcon.
The Chinnocks are very much a dedicated, automotive-loving family.
"We've had an interest in cars for well over 20 years. Shane restored his dad's 1970 Mini Cooper S more than 15 years ago. He also had another XF project that didn't get finished," Leisa explained, "I've always loved being around cars, especially older street machines and V8s."
It was a trip to the iconic Summernats festival in 2000 that inspired Leisa and Shane to embark on a build-up that was rather unique: "The ideas just kept flowing," Leisa explained.
The man entrusted to manage this mammoth task was Greg Maskell of Revhed Restorations, which has since changed its name to Maskell's Customs and Classics. He began tinkering with his mates' cars at the age of 17. When he bought his first ride — an LC Torana — Greg pulled it apart, re-trimmed it, painted it and built a hot 186. Before he knew it, he had rebuilt five of his own cars. Greg was then commissioned to build engines, and do bodywork, paint jobs, wiring and brakes, before eventually moving onto full restorations.
"I left my full time job to start my business. I had three full restorations on the books and that was enough to keep me busy. That grew to four jobs, then six…" Greg said. "Now we're working on 11 different cars at once, from engine rebuilds and detail work, to full concourse restorations and custom rebuilds, on everything from street drivers to elite show cars."
"The brief for the XF was to build an elite show car with a lot of 'wow' factor." Proceedings got underway in Hobart, where the Falcon's roof was chopped and the two-door conversion executed. It was taken back to Maskell's Customs and Classics to finish all the modifications, fitment and assembly, including bodywork, paint, interior and drivetrain.
"There was literally an obstacle every day," Greg explained. "This car was extremely hard to build because of the amount of modifications and quality of the finish."
Leisa shared the frustration: "There was a time there that felt like it was taking forever to get things finished and Shane said he'd just take it to the rubbish tip. I said to him that was fine but everything had to go: motor, wheels, the lot... Then we just looked at each other and said 'nah!'"
Dubbed 'PSYCHO', this vehicle is truly insane, with amazing build quality that's second to none, from the dramatically altered body to the unique, flowing interior and everything that lurks beneath the surface.
Perhaps the single most impressive aspect of the Falcon's 'insides' is the fact that the entire car is controlled by an industrial-quality Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). The system is linked to a colour touch-screen via an Ethernet connection, replacing all of the switches and buttons needed to control the car.
From this command centre, Leisa and Shane can start the motor, open and close doors and windows, raise or lower the airbag suspension, and control the volume on the stereo. They can also individually control different engine systems, including ignition, water pump and thermo fans. And because both the screen and PLC can be programmed and monitored via a wireless link from a laptop, the Chinnocks can even log in from the other side of the world, download engine diagnostics and re-tune the ECU. Such innovation can only come from teamwork built upon trust and commitment.
"I'm proud of the relationship that I have with Shane and Leisa; They let me do what was needed to accomplish the project," Greg said, "and I'm proud of the guys that worked on the car - it was an awesome team."
Leisa shared similar sentiments: "Our family and friends have been there for the journey and really understood what this all meant. We had a huge crew at MotorEx as they deserved to be there just as much as we did."
"MotorEx is awesome! Shane's been to every show since it began. I missed the first one but have been to all the others. The way the show is run for entrants and spectators is great," Leisa declared. "We could've had the car finished for Summernats but wanted to wait and take our time as we believe MotorEx is the show to be at first."
"Most people did like what we've done – lots of positive reactions!" continued Leisa, "it was very humbling to have people speak to us about the car. Looking at their faces, especially at the unveiling, was unbelievable."
It wasn't just the punters who thought PSYCHO was crazy-good. The Meguiar's MotorEx judges bestowed upon the Falcon, two Champion Awards: old for 'Bodywork' and bronze for 'Interior & Rear Compartment'. You can add to that the fact that the Ford sedan-cum-coupe is also a Top 20 Summernats car.
"We'll just do the show scene for 18 months or so and then enjoy it. PSYCHO was built to be driven on the street when we finished, so hopefully it will drive as good as it looks," said Leisa. "There'll be some people that don't like the concept of what we've done but the world would be a boring place if we all built cars that were the same."
Leisa and Shane Chinnock
1986 Ford XF Falcon
351 Cleveland: Venolia pistons; Carrillo rods; Crower solid roller cam; BDS 871 supercharger; Enderle hat converted to EFI; Airflow Dynamics aluminium heads; ignition (EMS crank trigger converted to flywheel); Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
C4 gearbox; fabricated bell-housing and inspection plate; large capacity aluminium sump (with smooth casing); full floating 9-inch Detroit locker with 31 spline axles; pinion extension housing
Custom-made mono-construction space frame chassis; custom-made front and rear suspension; Shockwave front and rear airbags
Wilwood calipers and rotors
Billet Specialities 'Psycho 69' wheels (17x8-inch front, 17x13-inch rear) with Pirelli P Zero tyres (225/45/17 front, 335/35/17 rear)
Paint & Body
Custom House of Kolor Purple Passion Pearl paint; two-door conversion; chopped roof; full flat-pan seamless floor; fabricated metal front and rear bumpers, and metal grille; extended bonnet; modified wiper panel; one-piece tail-light panel; custom hand-made glass
Custom interior: hand-made seats; custom metal dash; fully programmable touch-screen PC computer; Dakota Digital instrumentation
Greg, Julie and the team at Maskell's Customs and Classics (formerly Revhed Restorations); Beau, Tim, Lou, Michael at Mick's Custom Interiors; Bluewire Motorsports; Spectrum Car Paints; Stramit; Mick at Harkrome Electroplaters; Adam at Tremalon Engineering; Gary at Lomatic Control; Antony at Kezletrics; Anthony Wilkins; our family and friends; and a special thanks to our daughter Shelbii; (RIP Brad, Scott and Nev).
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