When the opportunity arises to rescue a car that just about fits in your collection, and you are Bryan Menefy, you jump at it
By Shane Wishnowsky
Photography: Aaron Mai
Manawatu’s Bryan Menefy is passionate about his Fords. A shed full of them proves he’s serious.
It has mostly been newer GT Falcons or special edition models that Bryan and Lorraine have homed in their impressive shed, but a couple of examples from the ’70s have sneaked in along the way. A 1974 XBGT, resplendent in Pepper Red, Bryan bought on a whim. He spied it for sale one day and thought, “Bugger it. I’ll have it!”. The other one is a fully restored 1973 XA Falcon 500 Coupe, the subject of this feature.
Motor vehicles in almost every form have always played a part in Bryan’s busy life. First it was motorcycles. The hairy-chested XR500 was what he wanted, but that was out of reach for a young feller like Bryan, so he settled for a more sensible XR185. He didn’t give up his dream of owning a 500, though. It took him a while, but now he has one, sitting in the corner of his shed, right next to the 185 he had to settle for all those years ago. He says seeing the two of them, side by side, reminds him that hard work pays off and not to give up on your dreams.
Bryan also had a soft spot for Fords, especially Capris, but it was the fire- breathing Aussie V8s hurtling around Mount Panorama in Bathurst, being wheeled within inches of the concrete walls by Dick Johnson and John Bowe, that really grabbed his attention. But they too were well out of reach at that age.
Not wanting to give up on his dream, Bryan set about working his backside off to fulfil his desire to surround himself with the things he loved — trucks, music, and a shed full of Fords!
His hard work paid off. His trucking business, Menefy Trucking, was successful, and in time he began looking for some tough Falcons. An EL GT was found, and then an EB GT. A BF GT was also located and purchased, then a white 2014 GTF found its way inside, too. The collection was growing along with Bryan’s smile.
One day, Bryan found himself chatting to long-time friend Jimmy, who also bleeds Ford Blue. As it happens, Jimmy’s dad used to work at the Ford Motor Company in Seaview, and Jimmy’s old man knew a guy, Jess Harlem, who had bought a brand new bright yellow 1973 XA Falcon 500 Coupe off the assembly line in Lower Hutt. As far as he knew, the one-owner coupe was still parked in the shed of Harlem’s old man and was looking for some love and attention — and possibly a new owner. Jimmy thought that it would be a perfect addition to Bryan’s collection.
Over time, phone calls were made, conversations were had, photos were transmitted, and finally a price was agreed upon. The XA was to have its second owner — and Bryan needed a bigger shed.
When they arrived to pick up the big Aussie two-door, it became apparent that Jess was a bit of a hoarder. The photos Bryan had seen of the coupe had suggested this, but seeing it in situ brought it home. The coupe hadn’t been moved since it was poked into a corner 35 years earlier. ‘Parked’ probably isn’t the right word to describe the Falcon’s predicament. ‘Entombed’ is probably closer to the mark. Not daunted, however, Bryan began removing decades worth of accumulated stuff that sat around, on top of, and inside the coupe so that it could be dragged outside into the sunlight. It was loaded onto the trailer, strapped down nice and tight, and whisked away to a new and dramatically different home.
Fine and not fine
Bryan planned to fully restore this one to “better than factory”. Once he had blown off the cobwebs, he discovered the Falcon, last registered in 1983 with 106,000 miles on the clock, was pretty much complete and in fairly good condition. Not bad, all things considered. Jess had begun the process of pulling it apart for a bit of TLC some years ago but had lost interest, which was when it was stuffed in the corner and mothballed.
Bryan and his son pulled the car apart in the Menefy shed. They carefully catalogued the removed parts into “this is fine” and “not fine” piles and set about doing as much as they could to bring the coupe back to its former glory.
Once the car was little more than a shell, it was shipped off to Palmerston North’s Viper Classics where it would spend the next eight months getting sliced, beaten, rubbed, and caressed back into shape. The shell was in fairly good nick. Time had been kind to the Aussie sheet metal, as most of the usual weak spots were refreshingly clear of rust — a nice surprise.
The bottoms of the doors were replaced, but the sills themselves were okay. Structurally, the Falcon was sound and, once all the paint had been removed, they found no dents, little rust, and no scary surprises. Viper took the time to remove the rear quarters to gain access to the inner shell and perform any necessary repairs, but they were minimal.
While Viper was taking care of the big stuff, Bryan was handling the rest. The engine was sent off for Palmerston North Engine Rebuilders’ Phil Blumont to give it the once over and make sure the 250 cubic-inch Aussie six would be fresh and reliable once it was time to slap it back into the engine bay. The alternator was sent off for a rebuild, and all the running gear and suspension was either replaced or rebuilt to be better than new.
Big yellow queen bee
During the time the shell was away, Bryan came to the realization that he may have bitten off a bit more than he could chew. He would need a bit of help piecing the Australian jigsaw back together. Giving up is not in his vocabulary, so, with a few like-minded friends on call, he set up the first of four working bees in May 2019.
Bryan and friends began putting all the cleaned, rebuilt, or replaced parts back onto, or into, the immaculately finished, eye-watering yellow, bare shell. Bryan’s wife, Lorraine, made sure that the assembly was suitably fed and watered. If you look closely, you can see a well-worn path between the house and the shed that she made ferrying beer and hot cheese toasties to the troops.
There were a few minor setbacks during the rebuilding process over the next few months. The list of items missing or misplaced began to grow, but Bryan pushed through, as usual, and eventually everything he needed to finish the build was either found or replaced. Four working bees later, the car was finished. Bryan confesses that the push to finish the car as quickly as possible had less to do with the fact it had already taken too long, and more that his mates were thirsty workers and the bar tab for the working bees was mounting up.
The end result is nothing short of astounding. From the bright yellow paint, to the cleaner-than-clean, better-than-new engine, to the period-correct Magnum wheels — it is perfect. The Magnums were already on the car when Bryan purchased it and, other than a clean, he felt no need to replace them. Finishing off the renewed standard interior, is another period piece: a rather antique-looking radar detector. It would have been easier to chuck it in the bin, but Bryan didn’t have the heart to do that. He decided to keep it glued to the windscreen, but he did take the time to pull it apart and rip the insides out, so he could plug it into the cigarette lighter without risking burning the car to the ground.
Back to black
The final piece of the puzzle was to get the newly reborn coupe back on the road. Bryan wanted to keep the old black plates but as the Falcon hadn’t been in the system since it was ten years old, that proved a little difficult. Once he had proven who he was, proven that he hadn’t stolen the car, and proven that he did actually own it — having the original ownership papers was a huge help — the Aussie coupe was finally ready to hit the road again.
The goal all along was to make it better than it was when it rolled off the production line way back when men wore their hair long and trousers with funny legs. Bryan and a group of his close friends have achieved this. Hopefully his determination in this, and in many other aspects of his life, will inspire others to push through on their own projects and, also hopefully, they will offer as much reward as this fabulous bright yellow Ford.