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Australian Member
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone. :)

I'm not really an expert when it comes to cars, but I'm currently hunting for a first car and, well, I want it to last. Basically I'm looking to purchase something that falls under the 'basic transportation' bracket that I can do up over a number of years.

There's only one problem, I have no idea how to go about it. That's where you kind folks come in. I'm just going to spill my guts on what I think and, if you have any suggestions, hints, or want to save me from an extreme waste of money, please feel free to lay them out. Anything useful tip you can give me is great.

What I'm thinking is a 6cyl XA, XB, or XC sedan, preferably manual. Sounds drop dead boring to some of you yes? Maybe so, but hey, I admit it, I'm a muscle car fan. There are also a few solid reasons behind this choice.

Why an XA/B/C?

Cause they're cheap and parts are, from what I hear, abundant. They might not be the most fuel efficient ford, but they're built like tanks and take a beating, so yeah, the perfect l-plate to p-plate vehicle.

Why (on earth) 6 cylinders?

Well, because I'm a fairly lousy driver right now, and an 8 is sure to send me carreering into a wall sooner rather than later. Also, while it's all very well to have a p-plate legal 8, a friend of mine has told me (from good experience) that, should you get into a prang that results in a court case, your chances of coming out on top are slim at best. A p-plater with a V8 is the equivalent of a 12 year old with a bolt action. Legal, but it doesn't look very good.
But I don't plan to stick with the 6 forever. I'm told that, apart from gear box, diff, suspension and a couple of other things, dumping a 351 into an engine bay that originally housed a 250 is minimum hassle. Once I'm off my p's, I'll be considering ordering in a recoed cleve from Ford Muscle Parts. When I get the cash that is.

Why manual?

Because you can't learn how to be a good driver in an auto, I've tried, it feels like cheating. The only problem I think I'll have is finding a 6 cylinder manual sedan with 4 on the floor. I hear, but I have no first hand knowledge to back it up, that manual conversions for old falcons are worth the money if done right. Is this true? If so, what kind of box should I go with so that I can stick with it once I change engine? Who in Victoria does these kinds of conversions the best?

Why a sedan?

Because a good mate of mine had a three-on-the-tree XB wagon and it was just awful. The car is big enough without the extra bulk. As for a coupe, I've only ever seen one 6cyl advertised, and I didn't have the cash at the time.

What do I plan to DO with it?

Well, while I'm on my p's, just ironing out the more simple mech problems at first. Then a high gloss black paint job (from the bare metal, rust proofed and all), and then maybe some interior work. I'm thinking (for seating) something durable like grey suede on black vinyl. After the car looks top notch, I'd add any enhancements I can that won't have to be ditched after the engine switch. Big exhaust, 9" diff etc.

Basically I want to get a car and stick with it, but, if I'm out of my mind or being stupidly unrealistic, let me know. I'm completely open to any reasonable suggestion that fits under a $4000 starting figure.
 

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Actually I would think parts for XA/XB/XC would be starting to become a bit thin, you dont see many on the roads or wreckers any more. Most of the ones are around are either done-up V8s or a one owner, much loved and driven only on sundays etc.

I would say a XF or EA would be better in that regard. Yeah I know not many people have anything good to say about EAs, but if you find a 5 speed MPI with low kms then it will be no worse than any other older Falcon. But you get the added advantages of A/C, P/S, EFI, comfy interior, 5 speeds, decent fuel economy, much less rust, huge availability of parts, safer etc etc

I honestly cant think of any advantages an XA has over an EA, other than the option of a 351C conversion. Although with the cost of petrol it would probably be a better idea for a 302W EFI into the EA or XF, especially if it will be daily driven.


For $4k you could pick up a pretty decent EA Spack or Ghia privately, and pick up a Max Ellery workshop manual on the way home ;)
 

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damn right parts are thin ... I have either run all over melbourne trying to find stuff or paid through the backside to get parts..but if you buy one already roadworthy and looking good you wont have the same problems !!!
long live the muscle cars !!!

As martin says, an EA 3.9 MP EFI is not a bad option too .. it will go faster and be more fuel efficient but lacks the personality ( or is that rust ??:D :D :D )

jeff
 

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gruntly

Yep, go the six definately. If you have some time to hunt try to find a little old ladies car or deceased estate. If you find a GS in the XA/B/C model then your a step ahead already: eg. worked 6 cyl, factory fitted toploader (possibly), better suspension and cool stripes and bonnet. Good one to drop v8 into later or just keep stock as 6cyl. (also GS's hold their value too:D )

Have you considered an XW or XY???? (being biast here)
 

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Australian Member
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Discussion Starter #5
This is all great stuff, thanks for the input. :)

Martin: parts are kind of rare huh? damn, that's a pain, but still one I'd be prepared to live with if the end result is a decent car. As for the EA option, well, my Dad owned what was probably the most overworked EA ever. EA series 2, 3 speed Auto Fairmont. The tacho had clicked over, twice, and it was already up to yet another 200,000 when some bastard in a truck smacked into the back of it while it was parked and bent the chasis so that the left hand rear was higher than the drivers side bonnet. A real mess. It had gone through 2 engines, 3 power steering pumps, 2 head gaskets, and a nasty, nasty, nasty brake fluid spill. Not to mention the typical EA a/c woes. But hey, for the amount of mileage it did VERY well. I don't think I could ever bring myself to own one though, too many bad memories. :(

I spose that an advantage would be that Herrod's still work on EA's. :) What exactly is the MPI? Little rusty on my terminology I'm afraid. Is the EFI V8 any chop?

As for XF? I'm afraid if I see another badly done up XF with an illfitted longreach grill on the road, my head will implode. I like a little individuality in cars, not that I don't apreciate the suggestion, but, well, you know, xf's a a dime a dozen car. :)

XA coupe; you're right on the personality stakes. :) I mean, if I can find a rust free straight body, even if the inards have had the crap flogged out of them, I'll be willing to give it a try. I suppose the one advantage of muscle cars is that, in good nick, they appreciate in value, whereas EA's are forever stooping to new lows.

botch; Xw or xy? Well, I _have_ considered it, but I just wouldn't be happy with anything less than an HO! (or at the very least replica Gt engine and a shaker) Heheh. Seriously, I just like the XA/b/c shape better. Would you say Xw's or Xy's are easier to find in good condition? If so I'm definitely willing to consider it. I just assumed the more recent models have more parts available . . .
 

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Australian Ford Member
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I agree entirely with Martin.

I've got a 4.1 carb 4sp man XF in good nick with 289,000k which is about to go on the market for $3,450 after I bought EA S 3.9 mpi 5 sp with 117,000k and showroom interior and excellent body for $3,800 from a dealer. There's no comparison between the two cars and, regardless of what I eventually get for the XF, the EA is tons better value for money and an all round much better and nicer car. And XF's weren't necessarily trouble free either - it's not like Ford invented head gasket and oil leak problems with the EA.

If you have your heart set on XB etc, you might be better buying one that someone has already done up, as a full rebuild, respray and retrim doesn't add all that much to the basic market price of most mainstream cars. People who do it never get their money back. Have a look at modified cars in the Trading Post and Auto Trader and see how many mugs have cars with receipts for three or four times what they're trying to get for the car. Or, despite what you say about reasons for not having a V8, look at XB coupe that's becoming collectable (can't remember proper designation - XB GT or maybe GS Botch mentioned) which will hold value better, although I've got a feeling a halfway decent one might be around $10,000 to $12,000 now, but if you're going to do it up you might get a good base in your price range and you'll have a fair chance of geting back the money you put into it if you spend wisely, which you won't with any basic car.

Don't fall into commmon trap of thinking that older cars are more solid and therefore safer in a crash. There's lots of things that aren't obvious, like dashboard separation and crumple zones, that are a lot better in newer cars and make them a lot safer. Then again, if you're going to T bone a Hyundai Excel, the XB will clean it up a treat, but so will the XF and EA. All other things being equal, the best protection you've got in a crash is to be in the biggest car, which is why people are better off in big cars when they start driving. Injury rates in small cars are three or four times higher than Falcon size cars, so that's where you're safe. But hit a tree and you're in trouble.
 

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Gruntly,
you may have trouble finding a decent 6 cyl maunal XA/B/C especially in a GS. A 302 is more powerful, but if left stock is not that powerful. My 2nd car was a 6cyl XA .. the third was a 302 john Goss special. As an auto the coupe was nothing special.. both 6 and 8 are capable of breaking the speed limit by a large margin so it's really up to your right foot.
BTW, it's good to see a young bloke into classics !!!
 

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Australian Member
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Discussion Starter #8
EA S: I'm not so sure I'd want to sell the car after doing it up, not immediately anyway. You're right though, there's no way I'd get my money back. I guess the main reason I want to start from scratch is because I don't like not knowing everything about the car. If it isn't stock, it might have all kinds of dodgy crap thrown in it. There are a number of very bad bakyard mechanic jobbies out there.

You're EA sounds great by the way, and not a bad price either. The amount of 200,000+ Auto EA's you see dealers flogging off for upwards of 6 grand is just criminal. What dealer did you get it from?

XA; yeah, I had that figured about manuals. :( Which is why I'm toying with the manual conversion idea. I mean, I've seen column shifts converted with no problems, so why not an auto with the hardware already on the same line of latitude? Sure, it's not authentic, but I don't think I want to restore a car to it's original spec. I want it to be Gruntly Spec. Which eventually means a BOSS 351, which in turn means a big wad of cash. I know I'm dreaming, but you gotta have dreams. :)

Oh, and as for the classics, well, when I was a little tacker my neighbours used to drive me to school. They had a white XB 500. Even though it was completely standard material and nothing even so much as deserving a second glance, I always thought it had style.
 

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Having done a auto to manual conversion myself they aren't that hard ... .but bloody time consuming under the dash!
Technically you are supposed to get an engineers report if you change an auto to a manual but if it's done properly there is no way of telling unless you can read compliance plates.
Have a peek at my car .. it's a fairmont not a GT ( I just like the guards and bonnet! ) so it's all been done to my specs. When I had a XB GT I was always worried about originality with parts .. with this I worry about if I can afford it and thats all !!!


http://members.ozemail.com.au/~bourman/xa coupe.html
 

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Gruntly

Wren Road Autos, Wren Road, Moorabbin. Pure bloody luck. Just happened to be passing and went in to look at something else and it caught my eye and was too good to pass up and bought it 20 mins later. The body and interior alone justified the price. Up to that point I was looking at doing up the XF to decent specs, which would have cost $6,000 easy and wouldn't go as well as EA, so I figured even if I had to drop a new donk into the EA I'd still end up streets ahead. Done 4,000k and only problem is dodgy starter motor, but that's just a service item. Timing case and maybe head gasket were done before I got it and no leaks. You won't get same deal out of the dealer. Half a dozen people left their names after me in case I didn't complete purchase and dealer realized it was priced way too low, obviously on basis of lousy EA reputation, but for once the customer beat the dealer.

I know what you mean about the peace of mind of doing it up yourself. "Respray" worries me because you don't know what's under it, and likewise "rebuilt engine". But there's some cars that you look at and you just know that the owner's been careful about everything, and they're the ones I have in mind, and there's usually big dollars more then you pay in them.

I've got it fixed in my mind that the collectible XB I'm thinking of had 351 decal on front 1/4 panel and was XB GT, but I can't pull it out of my memory clearly.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
XA; now THAT is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Great, now I have car envy! While you said on your page that you wont disclose the respray and rust removal price 'cause it was mates rates, could you give me some idea of what the retail price would have been? I get the feeling it's going to easily out-cost the car itself. :(

You've done a manual coversion yourself? That's pretty impressive to someone like me, not having much mechanical know how, not yet anyway. Need to find one of those 'How to maintain you XA falcon' books, get some skills.

EA; was this the xb with the GT351 stenciled on the driver's side skirting? I've seen one for sale at a dealers near burwood once, blood orange & black, as new, for a LOT of money. Don't know where the hell it'd been sitting all these years.

It's about time the customer got the upper hand. Congrats on the great buy. Anything been done to it since you bought it?

Unfortunately I don't have the know how to spot the difference between a good reco job and a not so good one. That's where I get a professional to check it out. The problem with me buying a suped up car is that they're all V8s, and all barely legal for me to drive, at this stage. It's a very annoying restriction, but at the same time I don't think driving a car over 125kw per tonne is wise for me, given my lack of driving skills.

I don't think I'd ever buy a car that's advertised as 'recent respray'. I mean, why would someone give a car a repray and then sell it directly afterwards? It's very suss.
 

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Gruntly, good to see that you're eyeing off the classic models, and I'd advise you to stick to your guns here.

If you end up being persuaded to get a model that you're not entirely happy with at the time, then in the long run, you'll never be happy and always wonder "what if?"...

I have spent the last 3-4 weeks looking at Falcons ranging from XR through to XB. Nearly all of which were 6 cyl cars including 2 coupes. I didn't end up looking at anything advertised higher than $4500 and I did see some good cars (and some junk).

The best cars I saw were an XA sedan with a 302 and auto in totally originial condition with a little rust for $3500, an XB coupe for $2000 which had a 250 auto and an ordinary but repairable body, and the XY I picked up just last week.

I bought the car off the original owner and the car is absolutely original and has a near perfect body and interior. Has only done a little over 70,000 miles from new and was picked up for a bargain price.

The moral of the story is, if you stick to your plans and go look at nearly everything for sale, you'll be surprised that eventually you will run across what you're looking for. Believe it or not there are still some very original cars out there in very good condition for cheap if you look hard and are patient.

Good luck...
 

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Two SC 61's = trouble
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E/A's are not trading in for much say $1000 trade.I would go e/a can be done up with latter model motor etc latter on.They are not as bad as the media say they are.There are some high milage e/a's around still going strong,heaps of spare parts too..From e/a to e/d then some.. Fuel consumption is o/k too.
 

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Gruntly

Can't get the picture clear in my mind - I'm not sure if I'm confusing the XB 351 with a Cobra, or whatever the blue and white thing was. I think the decal was outline, that is black lines on the outer sides of the numbers rather than solid numbers. I'm pretty sure I've seen them around the $10,000 upwards mark in Unique Cars for decent ones. Haven't seen one on the road for yonks.

Haven't done anything in way of mods since I got it a few months back. Just working through methodically for time being, changing fuel filter, cleaning oil system, new mounts, new ignition bits, timing, base idle, rubber rocker cover gasket, brakes, suspension just that sort of basic all over checking and replacing service items and getting it right.

I'm not confident about spotting faults in cars, so I bought this one subject to mechanic's check, which didn't find anything major. Report said lifters were stuffed and they're fine since cleaned oil system so that methodical checking, although tedious and time consuming, saved close to $400 just in parts. There's evidence of repairs along left, which I knew before I bought it because of respray and other signs, but no sign of frame or structural damage and a panel beater couldn't pick up what's been done, so I couldn't care less if it's been repaired that well.

Might help you when you're buying that I got a Repco check because they were the only ones to do a proper compression check (i.e. stick a gauge in the plug hole) as standard, which is best indicator of engine's internal health. RACV have some flash electronic doover which reads off starter motor somehow and picks up differences between cylinders, but doesn't give actual kpa / psi readings and VACC charges extra for compression test.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
XY; Sounds like people in WA take better care of their cars than they do over here in Vic. Or maybe you're right, perhaps I just need to look harder. My main worry, to tell the truth, is rust. I'm deathly afraid of how much it costs to fix, and equally afraid of it spreading throughout the vehicle.

I'll definitley try and find exactly what I'm looking for though. I'm very picky. :)

Good work picking up the XY by the way, sounds like a bargain. :)

ebxr8240; I'm not opposed to EA's as such, but with the amount of work most of them need to get up to decent performance level, you could have bought a V8 EB series 2 and gone from there. Really, the only ultimate advantage I see in buying an EA is that, unlike older fords, you can take it to a high performance place like Herrod's and they'll make it better than you could ever hope to make it on your own. With older cars there isn't the quite as many new fangled gadgets you can add, no unichips etc. :(

Decisions, decisions. Probably good I don't quite have the cash together yet. Gives me time to think about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Whoops, missed you there EA.

I think the Cobra had the same stenciling carried over from the xb in question, I think.

What you're doing in terms of replacing and refining things sounds like the right thing to be doing, something I was more or less considering myself. No point droping in a new engine when the transmission is dead huh?

Repco, hmm, I'll keep that in mind. I was just going to go straight ahead with an RACV check (parents are both members of 20 + years, so it seemed logical) but I might think again.
 

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Gruntly

Regardless of which car you decide on, Botch's advice to look for deceased estates etc is good. There's cars coming on the market all the time from people who bought a brand new one with their retirement money and a lot of them haven't done any hard work, and they've been well cared for. You'll find some with service books and always dealer serviced and generally immaculate. Takes a while to find one, and think in terms of months not weeks, but stick at it and you'll probably get lucky. Country cars are a good bet if they're out of town because they usually get fully warmed up each run, unlike city cars running down to shops a couple of minutes away and filling up the donk with crap. Country cars often go for a fair bit below city prices, because the market is a lot smaller and it can pay you to travel a few hours. Only problem is that some deceased estate sellers think that anything built before 1980 (or later if it's an ESP) is a national treasure and worth squillions. If you're not doing it already and are going with XA etc, start looking in Unique Cars and Collectible Cars as well as the usual places.
 

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Gruntly, yes you do need to look hard and everywhere possible.

Always keep an eye on all your local classifieds, and even Unique Cars, or even better still that cheaper version caller Just Cars always has an excellent range of Fords to choose from.

I think people all over the place take car of cars as well as anywhere else, I was just patient. Like you I was most interested in a good rust free body, and saw some real shockers out there. But fortunately for me, the XY I found was a very dry country car from the outback.

But still, keep a fridge magnet handy when you go looking so you can quickly and easily search for bog under shiny new paint jobs. If the magenet sticks to the body it is metal, if not it must be something else like bog. Most cheap cars that have new paint jobs on them just before sale, are done specifically to hide the rust and bog. Beware!!!

Mechanicals can easily be bolted out and replaced, body work can't....

Don't worry about performance modifications on these old cars. Whilst there are no computer chips etc to swap you can easily swap on different carbs, extractors, heads etc. And the big bonus is that if you buy an early enough car you don't have to worry about pollution/smog controls which means more power, more flexibility with modifications, cleaner looking engine bay.
 

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FIRST CAR

Hey, I know what it's like looking for a first car...bought my first Ford magazine at 6 years of age and 12 years later got my first (registered) car...I had a bit of time to think about it...:D

I know you want an older muscle car (personsally I love XB coupes + utes) but have you considered other cars + makes (hey I know its a Ford site but other makes do make good cars...except Holden of course;) ). Do you REALLY need a rear-wheel drive? I know its not a muscle car (at all) but have you considered a Ford Telsta (yes not muscle- most are 4 cyclinder...) but they are quite economical, the 2.2L motors have a bit of go (better than 2.oL) and the "GHIA"s aren't too shabby inside. I sort of wish I got a Telsta (mid-90's model) rather than my EL (or otherwise a Mondeo). Yes a 4 cyclinder doesn't have v8 or six burble and they aren't as common 'done-up' but with a good quality exhaust, chip and some nice wheels and you would have a pretty smick car. They are a roomier car than you think...I'm 6'1 and I can fit in one quite comfortably (not with the seat right back).

I know that you REALLY want muscle but I thought I could just give you some options...(obviously) Mazda's are the go as well, + Camrys are a pretty good (reliable) car with plenty of parts available.

I'll have to say that it really depends if you want your car for (obviously to drive it) Do you want it for a little show as well (most do!) Do you need to carry 5 people (ie. big back seat)?

I don't know HEAPS about cars but I have been 'researching' them for the past few years and have come to realise that (unless you have a great wad of cash) it is rather expensive to run old + powerful cars (insurance:eek: ). But hey, if you can afford the petrol + insurance costs why not!!

...just thought I would pass on some ideas
 

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XYFalcon said:
Gruntly, yes you do need to look hard and everywhere possible.

But still, keep a fridge magnet handy when you go looking so you can quickly and easily search for bog under shiny new paint jobs. If the magenet sticks to the body it is metal, if not it must be something else like bog. Most cheap cars that have new paint jobs on them just before sale, are done specifically to hide the rust and bog. Beware!!!

Don't worry about performance modifications on these old cars. Whilst there are no computer chips etc to swap you can easily swap on different carbs, extractors, heads etc. And the big bonus is that if you buy an early enough car you don't have to worry about pollution/smog controls which means more power, more flexibility with modifications, cleaner looking engine bay.
Put a hankie over magnet before running it over car or you might scratch it and piss owner off badly. Run you flat hand over the body or suspect parts - you can feel often lumps and bumps and different paint finishes better than you can see them. Stand back from front and rear of car and sight along at a bit of an angle and you'll see if panels are straight. NEVER check a only car at night or under artificial light, although artificial light can show up some defects on horizontal surfaces that aren't too obvious in daylight. Check lines around doors, boot, bonnet and see if straight all around, e.g if bonnet gap is even and is straight along guards but uneven across the gap under the windscreen and even across the front, then there's a fair chance it's had a belt in the snout and is a touch shorter on one side after the repair, so you want to look more closely underneath, because it might mean the suspension/steering alignment is affected. Look for overspray, both paint and primer, in engine bay, boot, and around door openings and wheel arches and underbody - the only sign of respray on my EA is that door hinges on left have paint in gap between body and hinge where on right the hinge doesn't and there's some primer overspray in a couple of small parts on the radiator cowl and paint overspray under bonnet. Find out what colour engine bay and interior were when car left factory - a nice black boot might be wrong colour hiding a lot of rust (I know the three year old Gemini I did that to after a fair part the boot floor rusted out wasn't picked up by the dealer who gave my wife a great trade in). Lift carpets/mats and rear seat. Get in the boot and have a good look with a torch under windscreen and all around and in all wells. Get under with a torch and have a good look. Prod suspect bits with a screwdriver (or your finger - I once surprised myself and upset a dealer by pushing my thumb and a fair part of my hand through the top of the front guard of an FB-EK Holden, which were a notorious rust bomb). Use your nose - if a car smells musty and damp it'll have bad leaks and pass it by unless you want to a lot of work finding and fixing them.

The first pollution controls came in on cars made (& sold?) after 1/1/76 and for the next few years a lot of crap was just bolted on and strangled them, although cars with US parents were better as California had had same controls ten years earlier. You can easily remove the gear, but there's big fines if you're caught. Unfortunately the old iron heads aren't as good as, and don't have the same performance potential, as the later (1980's) 4.1 alloy head cross flow. You'd be better off getting a good six and running it stock and saving your money until you drop in the V8. If you want a bit more punch relatively cheaply, swap the diff. Watch out for insurance problems if you do any mods. Some insurers will allow you to do some mods, other won't, particularly for younger drivers, and if you get caught after the prang they'll deny you cover.
 
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