History of the Holden Torana

2019 marks the fortieth anniversary of the cancellation of an Aussie icon. Originally based on a small and boxy British design, the Holden Torana started as an edgy and squared off two door body shell. The HB Torana was released in 1967 and came powered by a 1.2L four cylinder, with a four speed manual attached. If you wanted a self shifter, a three speed auto was made available as an option.

The HB was very heavily based on the then Vauxhall Viva, with essentially minor cosmetic changes and differences visually. Underneath were drum brakes front and rear, and Holden offered disc brakes up front as an option.

1968 saw an engine boost, under the name of Series 70. Compression was modified, a different carbie was fitted, and power reached the heady heights of 51kW, or 69 horsepower as was measured then. The auto was deleted from the standard engine which produced a mere 42kW/56hp.

Another Aussie icon, Brabham, would be added to the Torana’s history early on. The Series 70 engine which featured a single Zenith-Stromberg carbie, was upgraded to a pair of them capped with sports air filters. Along with front disc brakes, standard with the HB’s Series 70 engine, the Brabham Torana had a low restriction exhaust, wider wheels, and some body styling. Peak power here was 59kW/79hp.

Holden and Vauxhall collaborated on developing a four door HB and September 1968 saw the release of the HB four door. This differed even further from the Viva, with the styling markedly changed from its British cousin. A new collapsible steering column was standard, a redesigned dash with instrument cluster and indicator stalk update, and a steering wheel pinched from the larger Kingswood/Monaro.

A complete redesign was given for the LC, with early versions featuring a close resemblance to the HB but from the A pillar back was completely new. Engines were upgraded to offer a six cylinder for the first time. The 2.6L or 161ci would morph into the 173ci and finishing with the legendary 186ci.

The body was modified from the HB to allow for the bigger straight six, transmissions were a three speed manual or auto, or a four speed manual. The Brabham model was discontinued here. Seats went to bucket seats as standard across the LC range and the British dionated a more powerful 1.6L four, with 60kW/80hp on tap.

But perhaps the standout for the LC was the addition of the GTR. A two barrel Stromberg WW carbie on the 161ci was standard, as were front disc brakes. This would form the basis for yet another Australian automotive icon.

The Holden Torana GTR-XU1 used the 186ci engine, fitted with three Zenith-Stromberg CD-150 carburettors. The engine breathed out via cast-iron headers through a performance cylinder head and camshaft, and a four-speed manual gearbox was sourced from Opel. The car was developed by HDT and “The Silver Fox”, Harry Firth. Visually it appealed, with front guard flutes, a rear spoiler, wider wheels, and had a Monaro like dash with sports dials.

Holden revamped the LC into the LJ. This featured a redesigned grille and three boxes for the tail lights instead of the LC’s horizontal strip. Engines changed slightly, with a 1.3L unit added to complement the 1.2L and 1.6L. The 1.2L was available in the two door body only, the new 1.3L was available in both two and four doors. The 161ci and 173ci, or 2.2L and 2.8L engines, were carried over and Holden transplanted the 3.3L, or 202ci, into the LJ.

That engine would be the heart of the LJ GTR-XU1. With 200hp or 149kW, a M20 four speed manual, and a triple CD-175 Zenith-Stromberg carbie induction, the LJ would be part of history in 1972. The Hardie-Ferodo 500 was won by the up and coming Peter Geoffrey Brock, in a drive that would become the basis for the legend that would become “Peter Perfect”.

Unfortunately, a development of the XU-1, colloquially known as the XU-2, would not see the light of showroom days. Rumoured to pack a 224kW/300hp 308ci V8, the “Supercar Scare” would see Holden, Ford, and Chrysler, bench there hi-po vehicles.

In the early-mid 1970s the Torana would change again. A limited release TA model would be seen for just eleven months. And then, in March 1974, another body change. The LH and LX Toranas were bigger, boxier, four door sedans and would also see the design feature a hatchback.

The LH kicked off with a unique engine range. A buyer could choose from a 1.9L four, the 2.8L and 3.3L sixes, and the thumping 4.2L/253ci or 5.0L/308ci V8s. However, the 308ci was reserved for the SL/R 5000 sedan, which also offered the limited run L34 option. The 263 versions built had engines with stronger internals and higher compression ratings, and the wheel arches outside to fit in even wider wheels and tyres.

Come February 1976 and the updated LX was released. Headlights were back to round after the LH’s squarish style. Prototype hatchbacks from the LH body saw production in the LX, and performance was hobbled somewhat by the introduction of emissions reduction equipment. Power outputs were starting to be officially presented as kiloWatts, not horsepower. The four cylinder engine would see life under the name of the LX Sunbird, with the sixes and eights badged as Torana.

Holden’s then revolutionary RTS, or Radial Tuned Suspension, would also be marketed alongside the Sunbird and Torana. 1977 and a three letter/numerical option would become yet another part of the car’s legend. A9X. The engines were largely untouched but it was the handling and braking packages, and the addition of the huge bonnet mounted air scoop, that made the option a standout. The racing version in the hands of Brock and Jim Richards would win The Great Race at Bathurst in 1978 and 1979.

March 1978 saw the final update, with the UC Torana losing the V8, softening the appearance externally, and revamping the interior. The hatchback didn’t last either, deleted a year after release. The UC revamp also had the Sunbird updated to fit the UC spec. However, Holden saw the VB Commodore in competition with the Torana and the nameplate was retired in late 1980.

Which Torana was your favourite and why? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below this article! 

Classic Australian Touring Cars

Brand loyalty. It’s a “thing” that companies spend a lot of money on in research and making it happening. Perhaps the best example of this is in the world of cars and there’s nothing more stronger nor more divisive than the love a man hath for the brand of car.

That’s why any list of Australia’s top touring cars will always be subjective, sure to cause discussion, and will be debated at length. Agreed, there are the drivers and team to consider but tell that to the marketing teams.

1. Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III

1971 and Bathurst see this car linked permanently in our motorsport history. Lap 43 of The Great Race saw Bill Brown and his yellow XY roll along the Armco after his front right tyre blew at over 100mph coming into McPhillamy Park. Three and a half rolls later Brown and his XY became part of folklore. Though it wasn’t the first time Bill had put a GT-HO on its lid, but that is a story for another day.

However there is the car itself. In qualifying for 1971’s race the top seven grid spots would be occupied by this racing machine from the Blue Oval factory. The top two cars were factory backed, the other five from privateers, and just 1.1 seconds separated fourth through to seven. Pole sitter Allan Moffat would take pole by three seconds ahead of John French.

Moffat and his Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III would go on to win the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500 and would fill in five of the top ten positions at race finish.

2. TWR Jaguar XJ-S

Jaguar is one of those brands that is either a love, or it’s a ummm, no thanks. And whilst it may not instantly be recognized as a classic Australian touring car, it did win a Bathurst 1000. The Jaguar’s Bathurst story started when Tom Walkinshaw Racing took the long and elegantly designed V12 from one of Britain’s oldest brands, and turned a grand touring car into a race oriented touring car.

The car itself took over from the legendary E-Type in 1975 and in racing trim would be entered into the then Group C category. This was for cars with engines of over three litres in capacity and placed the near five metre long “Jag” against Holden’s VK Commodore with a 5.0L V8.

In the hands of TWR and Tom himself, three XJ-S machines would be in the top ten for the 1985 James Hardie 1000. Entitled “Hardies Heroes” grid spots 6, 2, and 1 would have the JRA Ltd backed cars in place. John Goss piloted the number 10 badged car for sixth in the shootout, with Jeff Allam and Walkinshaw himself taking second and pole.

Come race time and it was the German/Australian pairing of Armin Hahne and John Goss that would greet the chequered flag after 163 laps and a race time of six hours forty one minutes. Goss would also set the fastest lap with a 2:21.86.

3. Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback.

Regarded as possibly one of the prettiest yet aggressive looking cars on Australian roads, the Holden Torana hatchback of the mid 1970s would be powered by a choice of six and V8 engines. With the tag of A9X giving the car a stronger differential and rear disc brakes plus slightly modified suspension and a Borg-Warner T10 manual four speed transmission.

Powered by the L34 spec 5.0L V8, Holden entered the LX into the Class A category for the 1978 Hardie-Ferodo 1000. That years was the introduction of the Hardies Heroes shootout, where drivers literally would draw the top ten running order for qualifying from a hat.

This era was also the sweet-spot for the Holden v Ford rivalry, as the top ten would see six Holdens and four Ford XC Falcon hardtops. Driven by Peter Brock, it would be the Marlboro-HDT Torana that would take pole by 8/10ths ahead of the Moffat Ford Dealers pairing of Colin Bond, a long time friend of Brock, and Allan Moffat.

History shows that the Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback would fill four of the top ten finishing positions, with another two being the A9X four door versions. Brock and co-driver Jim Richards would be the only car to complete the full 163 laps, finishing a full lap ahead of another A9X hatchback driven by Allan Grice and John Leffler.

And then there was the legendary performance at Mount Panorama in 1979, where Brock and Richards would finish a staggering 6-laps ahead of everyone else – the next seven placed cars were also A9X Toranas.

4. Ford Falcon XC GS Hardtop

Ford Australia had resurrected a two door design for its legendary Falcon nameplate with the “coke bottle” XA Falcon in 1972. A slender nose would be offset by a somewhat heavy tail, with the rear flanks seemingly overwhelming the 14 inch diameter wheels. Subsequent redesigns would see subtle changes at the rear and with the blunter XB and XC noses adding an assertive presence.

Although perhaps of itself not a car that imprints itself into racing consciousness, it was the 1977 one-two finish of the big machines that has the XC Falcon two-doors in this list of classic Aussie touring cars.

Although Allan Moffat, the Canadian born driver that had made Australia his home, had qualified third, behind team mate Colin Bond, he would subsequently lay down the quickest lap of the 1977 race. Finishing a lap ahead of Peter Janson and Larry Perkins in their A9X hatchback, team orders had Moffat lead Bond into the final turn and across the line by a half car length in vision that brings tears to the eyes of Ford fans.

5. Volkswagen Beetle 1200.

1963 and the Volkswagen Beetle is finding love and homes throughout the world. It also found success on Australian racetracks. Entered into Class A, a category for cars costing less than nine hundred pounds, the “Dak-dak” would be amongst the list of cars racing at Mount Panorama for the Armstrong 500. The race had moved from Victoria’s Phillip Island and with the Australian Racing Drivers Club the new organizers.

In Class A, four VW 1200s would be in the top 5, with the winners of the class, Barry Ferguson and Bill Ford completing 116 laps of the new venue, and completing this list of the top five Australian Touring Cars.

What do you think is the greatest classic Australian Touring Car?
Tell us below or join the conversation on our Facebook page!

Picture Credit: www.autopics.com.au

When Records are Smashed, Australia’s Most Expensive Torana

The year is 1977, the first Star Wars movie, ‘A New Hope’ had just hit the screens, and a trip down to the local Holden Dealership for a shiny new Torana SS A9X would set you back $10,800. Fast forward 40 years and a savvy car enthusiast just hit the jackpot, selling his iconic Aussie hatch in original paint with only 120,000k’s on the clock for a cool $260,000.

In front of a record crowd of classic car enthusiasts at Lloyds Auctioneers and Valuers auction on the Gold Coast in January, bidding was short and sweet, an un-named online bidder was victorious less than 5 minutes after the car was rolled into the auction house, purchasing the car and able to bask in rare Holden glory.

So what makes this Torana so special, you may be asking? The A9X was an option available for the SL/R 5000 sedan and SS hatchback LX. Only 405 were produced for sale, 305 four-door and only 100 two-door hatches between August and December 1977.

The idea behind the A9X Torana was to homologate the model for racing in the Australian Touring Car Championship, where Holden was in need of a car that could keep them at the top of the podium. And successful they were; the A9X dominated the ATCC from the get-go with wins throughout the tail-end of the 1977 season, and a complete domination of both the 1978 and 1979 series. Not to mention huge wins in the 1978 and 1979 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, including a mammoth 6-lap win by Peter Brock and Jim Richards in ’79 capped off with a then lap record on the final lap of the race.

Features such as a 10-bolt Salisbury diff, rear disc brakes, the option of a Borg Warner Super T10 four-speed transmission and approximately 100 other differences to the regular LX Torana ensured the A9X was special enough to justify its racing pedigree.

Handling was significantly improved with a steering rack mounted solidly to the front crossmember and radial tuned suspension. A9X’s were clearly identified by their rear facing, bonnet-mounting carburetor induction scoop.

The A9X has gone down in history as one of Australia’s greatest muscle cars, and with scarce few produced, it’s fantastic to see an example in such pristine condition go to a new home!

Have you ever owned an A9X Torana? Or perhaps you’ve owned a different Australian Classic that’s appreciated in value over the years? Head on over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comment section below!

Toranafest 2015

19. October 2015 11:46 by Rare Spares in Rare Spares  //  Tags: , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Toranafest, proudly sponsored by Rare Spares, was recently held at the Maitland Showground, north-west of Newcastle. Taking place over the weekend from the 19th and 20th of September and billed as “the largest Torana only car show in Australia”, it has become one of the highlights on the car show calendar.

From its humble beginnings in 1994 when 183 Toranas attended at Bar Beach to its recent record breaking year in 2013, when that number had grown to a massive 354, Toranafest has gone from strength to strength. And with entrants coming for the event from as far afield as Queensland, Tasmania and even Western Australia, Toranafest enjoys a truly national following.

After having a year off in 2014, Toranafest 2015 promised to be massive and in spite of less than ideal weather, still managed to attract over 330 cars worth a staggering $16milion. First generation HBs to final generation UCs were on display in every possible guise, from just left the factory originals to street machine show cars and everything in between.

Saturday kicked off with the Toranafest Cruise to Morpeth, where 150 cars took part. "We had a great cruise. The regular Saturday shopping crowd was blown away by the sights, the smells and the sounds of all these beautiful cars," said organiser Peter Morris.

Sunday was the Toranafest Show and Shine, which also involved bringing these glorious cars to life so spectators could not only see these classics but also hear and feel them. Everything from A9Xs, L34s and XU-1s showed the crowd what they are really made of!

The Club has always donated the proceeds to a nominated local charity or community group. Over the years the groups who have benefited from Toranafest included Neonatal Intensive Care Ward at JHH, Delando Cresent Special School and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter with this year’s proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House Newcastle, Riding for the Disabled and Dog Rescue Newcastle.

With Toranafest turning to a bi-annual event, Torana lovers will have to wait until September 2017 for their next fix of Torana Nirvana. Let the countdown begin! And with Rare Spares being able to supply 1000s of parts for your Torana restoration, there’s no excuse for not seeing you and your Torana at Toranafest 2017. For all your Torana resoration needs, head to www.rarespares.net.au

The Rarest Parts

25. September 2014 15:57 by Rare Spares in Rare Spares  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

The Rarest Part

As cars age and slowly dwindle from the roads manufacturer support eventually stops producing parts for these vehicles and this is where Rare Spares steps in, providing thousands of parts for all manner of vehicles without part support.

Although rare parts are a speciality of Rare Spares it was time to explore deeper into the world of the Australian parts market. What are some of the rarest parts that exist in Australia?  We asked Rare Spares Director’s to find out some of the extremely rare parts they know of within the market.

A few years back, Director David Ryan remembers looking everywhere for a rubber seal that is at the base of the windscreen divider bar on the FJ Holden.  

“It was a very obscure part and we just couldn’t get hold of one, so we ended up producing one ourselves.” Said Ryan.

Torana A9X ash trays are another random item that are available from time to time, but are at a huge premium.

“An A9X ash tray could go from anywhere up to $1,000.”

According to Managing Director Les McVeigh, FC front fenders and EH bonnets are another two items that are very hard to come by.

“They are not in high demand, but if you were after one, it could be hard to track one down” said McVeigh.

For Rare Spares, some of the most difficult spares to produce are the more modern vehicle body panels.

“The HQ front panel that the grille fits onto was a challenge to get right” said Ryan.

As for the most popular parts, they are often the newly released items that have been produced based on demand from customers.

“Monaro GTS steering wheels have proven to be a popular item as has the GTS rear vision mirrors” said Ryan.   

Rare Spares is happy to look into producing parts as long as there is demand. If you have a query about a part please add your details to the Rare Spares ‘Wish List’.

http://www.rarespares.net.au/Wishlist/Wishlist.aspx