Build Of The WeekFeaturing the most fascinating projects out there: wild engine swaps, show cars, race cars, rare cars, and even meticulously well-preserved regular cars no one else has the guts to love. Send in your build via email to [Stef Schrader](mailto:stef.schrader@jalopnik.com) with “Build of the Week” in the subject line so we can find it.  

The Nissan RB straight-six is one of the most desirable engines of all time, and America’s Gran Turismo generation fights to get parts for these forbidden fruit motors. That’s what makes Dillon Merkl’s Skyline-powered 1962 Ford Falcon so funny, since he basically it built out of spares and parts other people were throwing away.

Surprise!

Merkl began his quest to snap every neck that does a double-take at his Falcon’s engine bay not with a grand plan, but with a 1961 Ford Ranchero. The Ranchero needed a new door, and the sheetmetal on a 1962 Falcon being sold through an estate sale looked pristine. Its original owner had named the car “Apple” and drove it all through college, but parked it in 1983.

Normally, this might involve the simple use of a winch to retrieve, or even some determined pushing, but Merkl lives in Canada, and Canada has Real Winter.

“So picture this: end of December in Alberta, Canada, -30° C [-22° F] with a solid foot or two of snow on the ground and four flat tires,” Merkl told Jalopnik via email. “Took a good buddy and I four hours to move cars around and get it on to the trailer.”

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Freeing “Apple” from its icy longtime home.
Photo: Dillon Merkl
The mismatched fender, as it looks after Dillon finished the build.
Photo: Dillon Merkl

But Apple was just too nice, with perfect patina and the original dealership stickers still intact on the car. It had a mismatched early 1960-1961 driver’s-side fender on it that added to what he calls the “Frankenstein” look. So, Merkl set to restoring that body and stuffed an RB straight-six into it.

The completed engine swap. It’s GLORIOUS.
Photo: Dillon Merkl

“I have always been a ran of high-revving inline sixes and the RB sounds like nothing else,” Merkl explained. “I have a rather negative friend who told me it was a stupid idea, so I knew it would be good.”

Fitting the Nissan five-speed transmission into the car.
Photo: Dillon Merkl

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Widening the transmission tunnel to fit a Nissan Skyline five-speed.
Photo: Dillon Merkl
Rebuilding the floor.
Photo: Dillon Merkl

Originally, he had gotten an RB20 engine and five-speed manual transmission from a Nissan Skyline part-out. Canada may have actual winter to contend with, but they certainly seem to make up for this with easier to acquire available Skyline parts. (Curse you, U.S. 25-year import rule!)

The body, naturally, needed some work after sitting outside in Canada for a few decades. Everything aside from the exterior paint was sanded down to the bare metal. It received new floors, suspension and brakes. The transmission tunnel, too, was reshaped to accommodate the Nissan transmission.

There wasn’t a lot of support for modifying Falcons when Merkl started building Apple five years ago, so he used first-generation Mustang lower control arms in the front, and modified the Falcon’s spindles to fit the taper of the Mustang ball joints. It rides on RideTech Shockwave air shocks meant for a 1965-1966 car, so he had to modify the Falcon’s shock towers to include a two-inch-lower shock mounting point to use them. Likewise, the rear also rides on RideTech’s air-over-leaf springs setup, with the leaf setup slightly modified to work with the Falcon.

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However, the original RB20 in Apple’s engine bay didn’t last long, after a fuel pump crapped out on 28 psi of boost. He had been eying the larger RB25 engine to swap into Apple anyway, so, he acquired some RB25 parts that were originally throwaways bound for the scrap pile.

Apple awaiting a new engine.
Photo: Dillon Merkl
Just a little (huge) turbo peeking through the front.
Photo: Dillon Merkl
A new fuel cell to feed the RB.
Photo: Dillon Merkl

After hours of porting and valve seat work in Merkl’s garage, that RB25 head came back to life. It went onto a re-ringed, low-mileage short block that had came off a Skyline whose previous owner thought had bottom end issues, but was actually fine. The block was re-ringed and received new bearings and was ready to go.

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The final engine was Frankensteined together from the RB25 and RB20 parts, using the RB25 short block, freshly ported RB25DET head and RB20 Tomei ProCams. The RB20 cams were used to delete the variable exhaust cam timing to save some space. Additionally, the current build list includes a Freddy intake, GT3071R turbo, LS coils, 90-mm throttle body, Cometic head gaskets, new head studs and dual-nozzle methanol injection.

There was one other substantial snag in this engine swap, however: wiring. When Merkl made the swap, English ECU pin-outs and wiring diagrams weren’t available, and somehow he had to make the Falcon components talk to the Nissan bits. The way he got it to work was to use an aftermarket Greddy engine management system to piggyback onto the RB20 ECU, but that was tough. Merkl mentioned “tricking the RB20 ECO [into] running a motor 0.5 liters [larger].” He is currently looking into getting a new standalone setup with an MS3Pro that will make everything simpler and give him a better new gauge cluster. Unsurprisingly, he plans on getting one “from abandoned customer builds,” as Merkl explained.

There’s also what Merkl describes as a a “big ol’ waste gate” that dumps straight into the Zoomy pipe that pops out right ahead of the driver’s side door.

A quick snapshot of the sound deadening going into the car as it was being installed.
Photo: Dillon Merkl
Newly reupholstered seats.
Photo: Dillon Merkl

Merkl’s Falcon now runs with over 23 psi of boost, which means that the rear end isn’t quite adequate for the amount of power the car now makes. Next winter, he plans to install a four-link rear suspension with a Ford 8.8 rear end, just in case.

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Inside, the car received two to three layers of sound deadening on the floors, roof, door and elsewhere to isolate the interior from heat and noise. The front bench seat received new memory foam and a heating element, and was reupholstered using a kit from Dearborn Classics. A RetroSound radio was added for the right look, along with surrounding speakers for Merkl’s listening pleasure.

Finishing it all off was new LED or HID lighting, with fake patina added to the HID driving lights to make them match. The entire car rides on OEM steelies—13-inch in front, and 14-inch in the rear—with factory Falcon dog dish hubcaps. These, too, got a layer of faux patina.

Even then, Apple has become a rad daily driver built out of spare parts, build to be comfy enough to spend time in and get a shockingly reasonable 28 MPG on the highway. His wife now claims it as the “Apple of her eye.”

Photo: Dillon Merkl

“Basically the car and everything was once someone’s garbage,” Merkl explained. His side-pipe may support a jokey “I Support Global Warming” sticker, but he’s clearly a true believer in recycling. Aside from the shock of seeing a Skyline engine in an old Falcon, that’s perhaps the best part of this build: none of it was supposed to happen, if Merkl had just left thrown-away parts alone.

You can follow along on Merkl Motorsport’s Instagram and Facebook pages for further updates on this build (and many others Dillon’s tinkering with lately).

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Photo: Dillon Merkl
Photo: Dillon Merkl
Photo: Dillon Merkl
Photo: Dillon Merkl
Photo: Dillon Merkl

We’re featuring the coolest project cars from across the internet on Build of the Week. What insane build have you been wrenching on lately? Drop me a line at stef dot schrader at jalopnik dot com with “Build of the Week” somewhere in the subject line if you’d like to be featured here.

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