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Ford Chicken ‘Coop’ restoration begins

Practical Motoring logo Practical Motoring 9/05/2021 Mike Ryan
© Provided by Practical Motoring

Finch Restorations commence ground-up restoration for new owner.

After making headlines around Australia last year when it emerged from a Queensland farm and sold at auction for over $300,000, the ‘Chicken Coupe’ 1973 XA Falcon GT hardtop is now being restored.

a car parked in front of a grill: Storing the XA Falcon GT RPO 83 hardtop in a shed fronted with chicken wire kept the birds out, but not the rats. © Provided by Practical Motoring Storing the XA Falcon GT RPO 83 hardtop in a shed fronted with chicken wire kept the birds out, but not the rats.

Rare Bird

Gaining its nickname for the decades it spent in a shed fronted by chicken wire, the Chicken Coupe was no ordinary Falcon GT. For starters, it was RPO 83 equipped, meaning it carried performance parts originally intended for Ford’s abandoned GT-HO Phase IV programme, like extractors and a 780cfm Holley carburettor. This was on top of the standard GT gear that included a 351 Cleveland V8, Toploader four-speed manual gearbox and 9-inch diff.

This car was also heavily optioned from the factory, fitted with electric windows, power steering, intermittent wipers and tinted windows, while mag wheels, body stripes and orange fabric inserts on the white vinyl seats were added at the dealership.

Finally, the Chicken Coupe is one of only three XA GT hardtops (and one of only two RPO 83 hardtops) painted in ‘MacRobertson’s Old Gold’.

a car parked in a parking lot: Chicken Coupe created a sensation when it was consigned for auction with Grays last year. © Provided by Practical Motoring Chicken Coupe created a sensation when it was consigned for auction with Grays last year.

One Owner

The first, and until recently, the only private owner of the car, ‘Gordon,’ purchased it in 1973 as a low mileage demonstrator from Metro Ford in the Brisbane suburb Spring Hill. It served as his wedding car a year later and was driven regularly until 1988, when rising fuel costs and excessive insurance premiums led him to take it off the road and store it in a shed where it stayed for the next 32 years. 

Following Gordon’s passing in 2019, his family consigned the car for auction in July, 2020, with Grays. Despite obvious rust and accident damage, the ‘barn find’ XA Flacon GT hardtop attracted fevered bidding at the Grays online auction, ultimately selling for $300,909.  

The winning bidder, an anonymous enthusiast in South Australia, faced the decision to preserve or restore the car. Recently, that decision was revealed when Finch Restorations announced they had been commissioned by the new owner to undertake a full restoration of the rare car.

a truck is parked in front of a building: XA Falcon GT as it arrived at Finch Restorations earlier this year. © Provided by Practical Motoring XA Falcon GT as it arrived at Finch Restorations earlier this year.

Finch gets the Gig

Established in 1965, Finch Restorations have a long history in repair, restoration and servicing of not only classic, but also vintage- and veteran-era vehicles. Cars restored by the Adelaide Hills business have gone on to win trophies and feature at some of the world’s major classic car events, including the Goodwood Revival and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

As well as restorations, Finch Restorations also build recreations of iconic classics like the Ferrari 250 GTO and SS Jaguar 100.

a close up of a car: Worst of the panel damage was on the driver’s side door and rear quarter. © Provided by Practical Motoring Worst of the panel damage was on the driver’s side door and rear quarter.

Molly Spalding, project manager on the restoration of the Chicken Coupe, says that the XA’s owner chose Finch Restorations based on his awareness of the quality of the company’s work. This admiration increased when he visited the Mount Barker facility to examine Finch’s restoration processes, view current projects and discuss the Chicken Coupe project in detail.

Before any cleaning and tear down, the Finch Restorations team started by documenting the car’s engine and VIN numbers. © Provided by Practical Motoring Before any cleaning and tear down, the Finch Restorations team started by documenting the car’s engine and VIN numbers.

With paint, panel, fabrication, metal coachwork, timber coachwork, motor trimming and mechanical refurbishment all on site, Finch Restorations is a one-stop shop. Additionally, they have a site at Woodside (north of Mount Barker), the ‘Finch Powerhouse,’ which maintains customer cars and performs engine re-builds, auto electrical, carburettor servicing, dyno testing and historic race car preparation.

Rust in the roof gutters was evident even before cleaning. © Provided by Practical Motoring Rust in the roof gutters was evident even before cleaning.

Rust and Rats

When the Chicken Coupe arrived at Finch Restorations earlier this year, it was still covered in dust and hiding what was later found to be the remains of a considerable rat infestation, with Molly adding the car had a very strong aroma due to the latter!

The first job for the Finch team was to confirm the car’s ID and take a detailed look - inside, outside and underneath - before a thorough clean of the exterior.

a close up of a car: Major rats nest was hiding behind the rear seat. © Provided by Practical Motoring Major rats nest was hiding behind the rear seat.

That clean made the car look better than it actually is, but Molly explained that a detailed examination showed considerable rust in the boot, roof gutters, A-pillars and leading edge of the bonnet.

At time of writing, disassembly of the Chicken Coupe had commenced, after which the body will be stripped to bare metal, giving the Finch team a more accurate picture of exactly how much body repair and replacement metal will be required.

a truck cake sitting on top of a car: Serious rust was found in the boot floor and tail. © Provided by Practical Motoring Serious rust was found in the boot floor and tail.

While no specific timeframe has been set for the restoration, and the owner is in no rush, Molly expects Finch to make good progress on the car in the coming months as they return it to as-new condition.

Keep up to date with the progress on the project with our network partner, Just Cars.

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