Anyone who wants to learn how to be American needs to talk to an Australian. It sounds weird, but let's examine the facts, shall we? Sure, Americans popularized the muscle car formula, but the only way we can build a proper V-8, rear-drive sedan these days is by invading the land Down Under, heisting the Holden parts bin, and rebadging Monaros and Commodores as Pontiac GTOs and G8s. Likewise, the closest thing you can get to 1960s Trans-Am racing is the Australian V8 Supercar series. Worse yet, the street Chevy SS's that NASCAR stockers are supposed to resemble are actually rebadged Holden Commodores. Perhaps the biggest shocker is that while the American muscle car era came to a screeching halt in the early 1970s, Australians kept cranking out some truly badass machinery. Craig Goldberg's 1976 Ford XC Falcon is one of those cars, packing a 540hp Cleveland small-block, a three-link suspension, and a Tremec TKO 600 that you shift with your left hand. It's a rare bird that doesn't just smoke the competition, but also leaves the competition scratching their heads as to what they just got smoked by.
To uninformed Americans, the Australian XC Falcon looks like a cross between a Torino and a Clydesdale Mustang, only prettier. Although Australian Falcons were based on their American counterparts until 1971, Ford's Australian engineers designed a Falcon of their own after the model got scrapped in the U.S. market. "The XC Falcon isn't based on any American car, and it's built on its own unique Australian platform. It uses the same control arms as in a 1969-71 Mustang and Torino, but no other parts are interchangeable with any American Ford," Craig explains. Precise figures are hard to come by, but Craig estimates that there are only 10 to 15 two-door XC Falcons in the United States. That makes for some interesting conversation at shows, and an incessant barrage of questions from bystanders whenever the car rolls down the street. "Everyone who sees this car for the first time has no idea what it is, and they usually guess that it's an AMX, a Mustang, a Torino, or some kind of Dodge. Once they find out it's an Australian Falcon, they want to know how I got the car to the United States. When I tell people that I drove it here, and everything went great until I got to the end of the pier, the look on their faces is priceless."
In truth, Craig didn't have to monkey around with any of the importing duties. He was merely in the right place at the right time. "When I saw Mad Max as a 15-year-old kid in 1980, I fell in love with the Falcon in that movie and always wanted to own one since then. Since it's an Australian car, however, I figured it wasn't realistic and I never thought I'd ever have the chance to find one," he says. "I'm always looking at old cars for sale just to see what's out there, and I saw a XC Falcon listed in AutoTrader in 2005. I flipped the page, said 'no way,' and flipped the page back. It was totally by chance, and after checking the car out in person that evening, it was sitting in my garage the next day."
Since no one in their right mind would spend big bucks transporting a rust heap nearly 9,000 miles from Australia to San Antonio, the Falcon was in great shape as expected. It still had the factory 351 Cleveland and original suspension, and the car's former owner had just sprayed it in a fresh coat of Cayenne Pepper red paint. Craig was content to drive the Falcon in stock trim for a while, but an impromptu street race with a BMW M1—the company's rare and ill-fated mid-engine supercar—changed his plans in a hurry. "The M1 pulled up to me on the freeway, so I dropped it down to Third gear and beat it badly. Since they were both such oddball cars on the road at the same time, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to race," he quips. Unfortunately for Craig, the victory proved costly. "Shortly after that race, the motor started going out on me. That's when the transformation began. I wanted to build something that I could go open road racing in at Big Bend, but also drive around town."