MEET THE OWNER
He may have got his motorbike licence before his car licence, but there’s no denying Chris Oliver’s passion is for anything on four wheels.
Particularly, anything that goes quick — a trait which the mechanic can blame on his peers during his early working years.
‘‘I did my apprenticeship at George Harvey Motors alongside Scott Hore and Peter Holmfield,’’ Chris said.
‘‘We all go racing together. As soon as I had my licence Scott and I were going to Heathcote (dragstrip) and we’ve been doing that for 30 years.’’
Chris’ first car was a 1948 Prefect. It was a hot rod with a V8 in it.
‘‘It was different,’’ he recalls. ‘‘It was ahead of its time.
‘‘I always liked hot rods. It was only when I started working I got tangled up with Scott and got interested in them.
‘‘I’m working on a hot rod at the moment which I haven’t finished yet.
‘‘This one,’’ he says, pointing to his 1968 XT Ford Falcon, ‘‘takes up my time. I get sidetracked doing this.’’
Chris is prepping his XT for the Ford-Powered Nationals on Saturday, September 22 at, as it happens, Heathcote Park Raceway.
More than 100 muscled-up Fords from around Australia are expected to hit the Heathcote strip for a day of high octane-fuelled action.
Readers of EM Auto will be familiar with Chris’ 1968 XT Ford Falcon after it appeared in these pages two years ago ahead of its appearance at the 2017 Summernats in Canberra.
WHERE DID YOUR CAR COME FROM?
IThe XT was in pretty good condition when Chris got hold of it and has only been modified enough to suit his need for speed.
‘‘It was originally a six-cylinder, but converted it to a V8,’’ he said.
The XT now has a 351 Cleveland engine and C10 transmission with a 4000 converter, a B&M shifter and a nine-inch diff with 4.11 gear ratio in it.
‘‘The body was pretty good when I got it and most of the car is pretty original,’’ Chris said. ‘‘I virtually put all the running gear in it. ‘‘The interior is original with the bench seats. It used to have a vinyl floor but I put carpet in it and a new dash pad,’’ he said.
He also added the bonnet scoop and the Centreline wheels.
His wife Lisa was influential in him not pulling the car apart too much.
‘‘If you start pulling it apart it may never go again,’’ he said.
‘‘Lisa said I’m not allowed to cut it up. If I do, it has to go back to standard.’’
His fastest time in the car was 11.15 seconds at a Swan Hill race meeting in May.
‘‘It goes about 120mph over the quarter mile,’’ Chris said.
He said the XT was a fairly popular car in its day. ‘‘They were pretty flash back then,’’ he said. ‘‘This one doesn’t have a heater or radio. It’s the poverty pack model.’’ Chris bought the car about 10 years ago off a ‘‘little old lady’s nephew’’ in Ballarat.
‘‘He was going to do it up but ran out of time and money,’’ Chris said.
‘‘My wife Lisa found it on eBay and we went down and picked it up.’’
The timing of the car’s availability was perfect. ‘‘I was looking for a car,’’ Chris said. ‘‘I had a Mitsubishi Scorpion which was a two-door and the kids were getting bigger and we wanted a four-door.’’
Chris has owned a few early model Falcons in his time, including a 1964 XM.
‘‘I’ve had a lot of different cars over the years,’’ he said, but is not keen on following the path of other car owners.
‘‘Everyone had an XW or an XY but this (the XT) was something a bit different,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s not many of them around. ‘‘You can’t be the same as everyone else’’
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE CAR?
‘‘I like the shape of them,’’ Chris said. ‘‘And how good it goes, the acceleration of it.’’
SO WHAT’S YOUR PERFECT CAR?
For Chris, it would be an A model coupe from the 1928-1931 era.
‘‘You don’t see many of them around,’’ he said.
‘‘You see the 34s but not a lot of the A model coupes.’’
‘‘I’m building a 1928 A model roadster at the moment with a Windsor in it.’’
That build has been going on for five years come Christmas, but Chris is confident an end is in sight.
‘‘Some time next year is the plan,’’ he said in reference to an end date, ‘‘when I stop playing around with this (the XT).’’
AND WHAT’S NEXT?
What’s next is the Ford-Powered Nationals next week at Heathcote, but there are more plans for the car a bit beyond that.
Along with three mates — Clive Polidano, Scott Hore and Matt Robinson — he intends to take the XT on the Street Machine Drag Challenge in November.
The challenge involves driving a car to a drag track and run a fast quarter mile on the strip before driving it to the next venue and repeat the process.
Chris was part of last year’s challenge which ventured into South Australia but this year’s event is contained within Victoria.
‘‘We start at Calder Park (on the Sunday), then drive to Swan Hill, Mildura, back to Swan Hill and finish up back at Calder on the Friday,’’ Chris said.
‘‘There’s a lot more cars in it this year so it’s going to be busy.’’
He has spent the last six months prepping the XT for the hectic two months ahead.
‘‘I just need new cylinder heads and a new set of slicks on it,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a fairly reliable car. To do 1000ks during drag week it’s got to be.
‘‘Heathcote is a test run for that.’’
READY TO RUMBLE: Chris Oliver and his 1968 XT Ford Falcon he is taking to the Ford-Powered Nationals at Heathcote Park Raceway next week.