PASSION: Thomas Carlton knew he had to have a Ford XY GT the moment he sat in a family friend's during his high school formal. More than ten years later, the dream has come true, with his project 'GT' almost finished.
PASSION: Thomas Carlton knew he had to have a Ford XY GT the moment he sat in a family friend's during his high school formal. More than ten years later, the dream has come true, with his project 'GT' almost finished. Dominic Elsome

Thomas' dream has come true a decade on

IT WAS love at first sight for Thomas Carlton at his school graduation - only it wasn't a girl he was falling in love with, it was the 1971 Ford XY GT he was arriving at his formal in.

"Soon as I got in it (I knew),” Mr Carlton said.

"Ever since then I've loved them. I had to wait 10 years after I graduated school to finally have enough money to go and get one.”

While his own XY might not be a genuine Phase III, having been built as a replica from the body of '71 XY Fairmont, it is still his pride and joy.

"It's the same month, same year. The body work is all the same pretty well, just obviously the shaker in the bonnet, which is the GT style,” he said.

"I'm just sort of starting to get towards the end of the build, so I'm starting to take it out a bit and enjoy it now.”

Mr Carlton began the project a little more than two years ago, and has since completed a huge retrofit to the near 50-year-old car.

"An all new interior - the seats are the same, but it's got a new steering wheel, dash, instrument cluster, all new gauges, new roof liner, new lights,” he explained.

"It's had the wiring fully ripped out and rewired with a full wire tuck done.

"We had to gearbox pulled out and rebuilt, so it's fully manualised now - reverse pattern.”

The original six-cylinder engine was also replaced with a V8 393 Cleveland engine producing 460 horsepower at the wheels and making a throaty roar through the exhaust.

The beast is by no means an everyday car, using more than 20 litres of fuel every 100km, but Mr Carlton has started to take it to the drag strip.

Despite being more than 40-years-old, the XY can hold it's own at strip, running a solid 11.4 sec down the quarter mile on street tyres and hitting 11.1 sec on slicks.

Mr Carlton said he reached a top speed of 122mph or 196kmh on his run.

But Mr Carlton isn't one to rest on his laurels, and wants to push the car further.

"I'd love to bust into a 10 - and I'm very close, it's got it in it, it's just a matter of getting it off the line and getting it up there,” he said.

With much of the work already completed, it was just a matter of final touch ups for Mr Carlton.

"A little bit of paint and body work, there's just a few little things I've got to touch up,” he said.

"It's got a bit of an oil leak at the rear-main so the motors coming out, and when that's out I'm going to see if I can tidy up the engine bay a little bit more, fill in some holes.”

The Ford XY GTHO Phase III that Mr Carlton fell in love with has become one of the most sought after muscle cars in Australian history.

Only 300 Phase IIIs were built and less than half are believed to have survived.

While most now hover around the $500,000 mark, a pristine example once owned by Australian cricketer Jeff Thomson broke the million-dollar barrier - the first Australian production car to do so - at Lloyds Auctions in June this year, selling for $1,030,000.


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