EL Falcon XR8 'Sequential'

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EL Sequential as caught at the 2001 Street Machine Summernats...  Thanks to Paul Roman of Roman Autotek who brought it along for your enjoyment...

Above: Removed before sale, this is what earned the XR8 'Sequential' it's name - courtesy of a Harrop sequential equipped Tremec 5 speed.
Built back in 1997 to take some of the attention from GM's just released VT Commodore and to inspire a new generation of enthusiasts, the Sequential XR8 will not be new to most of you - but forms an important part of EL history as only one of  very few prototypes to ever make it out of the factory.  

- With most either meeting their fate with the crusher - and only a few retained by Ford labelled "never to be sold" - kept as museum pieces only.  And yet it didn't make it out quite intact - but for that you'll have to read on!

When you first spot this XR8 in the flesh, you immediately notice the colour - despite it's early origins there's no way you can't (unless it's dark or you're blind).  "Not bad" you say.  An XR8 with a cool colour and great wheels - but special colours are almost the norm now-a-days so you walk on to inspecting the next vehicle.  But just wait a minute - what is it about this particular XR8 that makes it so special?

Which is of course when you spot that gorgeous interior and do a double take - in fact it's the best looking interior you've seen in a long time.  - Challenging the likes of Ford's EL GT for 'wow' factor and giving many more expensive builds a thorough run for their money.  In creativity it ranks amongst the best - especially amongst the V8 bunch - but then again it should given it was designed & constructed for Ford by Australia's master of all things interior - Paul Roman of Roman Autotek.  
Above:  Snapped in 1998 at the then Tickford Open Day - fresh from it's Motor Show appearances...  Yes - that red flash is representative of the real thing!

With Recaro front seats and interior trimmed in Aniline leather in cool willow green by Eagle Ottawa.  - Featuring a mix of embossed perforations and ‘scraper board’ pearlized and ionized grey metallic overprinted panels, you can be sure this is one not repeated every day of the week.  And just in case you don't get it, a set of Fairmont wood door and dash strips are refinished in a matching willow green by Cubic of Japan. 

A historical shot at it's very best - at the 1998 Tickford Open Day...

And then there's that paint again - and once again there's a lot more than meets the eye.  - Especially when you consider that the paint job alone was worth $9000 way back in 97', something you just can't ignore.  'Tis such a pitty Ford's design team wasn't taking notice the day the Sequential's and Predator's paint was picked from the colour charts - taking until the AU3 in 2002 to start offering truly inspirational colours once again...  Called 'Mexican Fire' (from ICI Autocolour's 1997 catelog) it is one of those curious hues that changes from a simple bronze metallic through shades of candy-apple red as you change angles and lighting conditions.

Offsetting the XR8's essentially stock body work a chrome wire mesh grille backs a pair of small oval auxiliary PIAA projector lights (or FIGJAM lights as they should be known for all the help such lights typically are) with the latest chromium lens and Plasma super white bulbs.  One of the surprising and rarely talked about features of Sequential though is a specially grooved windscreen, having diamond cut grooves just above each parked wiper to clean the wiper blades before they sweep the glass - one that would have been interesting to see the effects of had it made production - a frustration many of us have had over the years.

While mild by today's standards, Sequential’s prototype 5-litre pushrod V8 was coaxed into developing a more respectable 215 kW (remember the XR8 on which it was based only made 185kW) thanks to locally worked SVO aluminium heads, a EL GT inlet manifold, more aggressive camshaft, cold air intake with functional bonnet scoop, more aggressive camshaft, low resistance K& N air filter and a pair of big bore 4-into-1 HM exhaust headers, with the biggest difference coming from a pair of fat chrome tailpipes...  All in all, seems a bit of overkill just to gain 215kW...   

Above: The original - and tucked safely away in Ford's archives having spent a motza on it's sequential conversion.

Which brings us to that name - having more to do with the gearbox than anything else - obviously!  Believe it or not, this car and it's gearbox were once prototypes for the AU series 1 T-series, giving it a very special place in history...  That was until the bean counters caught up with things, decreeing the sequential manual gearbox a no-goer due to one seriously blown budget - leaving the auto the sole recipient of Tickford's wheel mounted gear selection technology.

Never-the-less, the Sequential's gearbox made it through a fair way of it's development target, falling short by a measely $250,000 in developement costs, according to one of Tickford's engineers at the time.  Starting with the ultra tough Tremec 5-speed and adding a Harrop engineered and built sequential shift kit, there was no way 215kW was going to stress this box....

Left:  Sequential as it is now, photo taken at the 2001 Street Machine Summernats.

During testing though, this set-up was found to be way too heavy to shift unaided as it was - so the two selector shafts were extended through the top access plate and attached to two pneumatic cylinders giving it that vital bit of help when it came to the time to changing gears.  

Above:  The difference between the colours in the 1998 photos and the 2001 shots are no mistake - but demonstrate the remarkable reaction different lighting conditions bring.  

Given the gearbox's history, it was especially fitting that the Tremec 5 speed was chosen - with Ford having sold the original design rights to the legendary Top Loader to Tremec who remanufactured it with the extra gear, alloy case (replacing the heavy cast iron Top Loader design) and redesigned 3rd gear to prevent seizures.  Hooked to a digital dash display to let you know what gear you're in, all the driver has to do is to simply nudge the gearstick forward or rearward for fast and foolproof gear shifting up or down - for the ultimate in manual gear box shifting with no more missed changes due to not finding the right slott...

Of course, none of that's worth zip unless you can connect it to the road - which happens courtesy of a GT carbon fibre wrapped aluminium tail shaft joined to a Detroit Locker diff with a low 3.73:1 ratio - extending the accelarative benefits of the EL2 XR8's lower 3.45:1 diff ratio even further.  Taking it all to the streets are Roman Autotek’s 19” Speedline magnesium wheels – 8.25” wide with Pirelle P-Zero 255/40 ZRs on the rear, 8” x 235/35 ZRS on the front backed by GT spec ‘Tickford’ 4-spot calipers clamping 330mm grooved & ventilated front rotors bringing go to whoa as quick as could be expected for 1997.

Above:  A parting shot of the one that got away - now in private hands.
Making sure the 'Sequential' handles the twisty bits as well as it does the quarter mile is a thorough suspension revision with 'Ultimate Suspension' supplied coil springs matched same brand large diameter Australian made gas over oil dampers (also un-named) with adjustable ride height collars for the concentric springs. 

GT spring and damper rates were copied for these new parts with the GT’s urethane bushes helping keep everything in check.

But the icing on the cake was still to come.  Very rarely do any of Ford's show cars ever get sold - usually built from high mileage prototypes they are deamed too far past their used by date for Ford to be confident of their performance in public.  - Indeed compare the fortunes of the EA GT, Sandfire Ute, Predator, Venom and GTU - all of which now safely reside inside of Ford's Geelong based Discovery Center.  Making this particular show car all the more special is that this one escaped the fold and was sold minus the gearbox to Paul Roman of Roman Autotek who helped build it in the first place!!!  Still forming part of Paul's ever increasing collection, you can be sure this is one Proto that ain't gunna be taking that one-way trip any time soon...

All photography on this page by Doug Bevan.

Discuss the EL XR8 'Sequential' Showcar here.

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