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! 

Aussie Classics go for Record Prices

19. November 2018 09:47 by Rare Spares in   //  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)
“Everyone’s a winner, baby” goes the refrain in that song from Hot Chocolate, and there were two winners at a recent Lloyd’s classic car auction. Showing that taste and money can combine well, two absolute Australian classic car rarities were sold for two million dollars or more. One of these is possibly amongst the rarest cars the planet has seen, the other a car attached to a name that is synonymous with Australian motorsport. In the early 1970s Ford Australia had produced the world’s fastest four door sedan. The Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III was powered by a 5.8L, 351 cubic inch pushrod V8.Top speed just shy of 230 kph and would see the Phase III reach one hundred kilometers per hour in a then astonishing six and a half seconds. Development was underway on its replacement. Based on the slimmer, sleeker, less angular, XA Falcon, the Phase IV would have been the next chapter in Ford’s already illustrious muscle car history. Prototype cars had been engineered and built, however a media frenzy erupted. In 1972 two journalists had discussed the planned release of the XA Phase IV. A story was printed and this quickly attracted the ire of politicians around the country. Just as quickly as the fire erupted, the program from Ford, with Holden and Chrysler also in similar development situations, was cancelled. Journalist Harvey Grennan, the man said to be the catalyst for the cancellation, says there were four cars built, of which three were Brambles Red in colour were destined for the race track. The other was a production built Calypso Green and the only Phase IV to be fitted with a compliance plate. Extra work was performed on the cars, such as changing the seat material to cloth instead of vinyl, and removing the radios. When the balloon went up, the cars were, as Grennan put it, “…quietly sold out the back door for as little as $3500…”. Two of the red cars were destined for Fred Gibson and Allan Moffat, with the third being a spare. Moffat’s machine was sold to a rally driver and from there to the Bowden family collection. Another was sold to a rally driver, who on-sold it, with that car destroyed in a crash, said Grennan. The third car, and the one sold at Lloyd’s, was bought by collector Paul Carthew in 2000. The Calypso Green road car was sold via Jack Brabham Ford in Sydney, and after a handful of owners has enjoyed a mostly pampered life since the mid 1980s Moffat was in attendance at the auction and was the person that “dropped the hammer” to conclude the bidding, with the Phase IV going for two million dollars. Chief Marketing Officer for Lloyd’s, Brett Mudie, said: “It didn’t surprise me that the car sold for this amount. We were expecting it to smash the last record quite easily, with bidding already at $1.5 million 3 days before the auction. The Phase IV’s limited number, immaculate condition, celebrity affiliation (with links to Fred Gibson and Allan Moffat) along with its chrome bumper all contributed to the car selling at this price and will underpin its value into the future.” The other vehicle sold was born of the factory that was Ford’s biggest rival, and developed by Moffat’s friend and racing sparring partner, Peter Brock. The 1982 HDT VH Commodore was sold for $2.1 million, with its own piece of history being the first car to win the Bathurst 1000 twice in a row. In this car, “Peter Perfect” was King of the Mountain in 1982 and 1983. HDT itself goes back to the 1960s and was a racing arm of Holden put together by Harry Firth. Drivers included Brock, and Colin Bond, with Firth seeing Brock’s potential as a race driver then. In 1979 Brock bought the HDT name and commenced an aftermarket company in 1980 called HDT-SV. Their first road car was based on the VC Commodore, the second model in the relatively new to market Commodore range. One of Brock’s best mates, another Peter and with a surname related to motorsport, Peter Champion, took over the company after Brock’s tragic death in 2006. A wealthy business man in his own right, Champion had put together Australia’s largest collection of Brock cars, including the VH up for auction. Of the car and Brock himself, Champion says: “This result shows that Peter’s legacy lives on, and that people valued him not only as one of the best drivers in motorsport, but as a person.” Champion had put most of the collection up for sale in 2013, with the proviso the cars remain together. The “Champion’s Brock Experience” was relocated to the DreamWorld theme park in Queensland from Champion’s Yeppoon base in 2015, where an anonymous collector bought the cars The queues of people at motorsport events before Brock’s passing are testament to that, as are the immense amount of items signed by the legendary driver.        

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

HDT’s Forgotten Heros

23. May 2016 11:50 by Rare Spares in General, Rare Spares  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)
Australia has had a lot to offer the world over the years: Vegemite, Fosters, Paul Hogan and perhaps the most iconic of them all, the Holden Commodore. Holden’s hero has seen many revisions since its creation in 1978 as advancements in technology, emissions and safety standards continually drove innovation and improvement. Of course we love the comfort and build quality of the modern, well refined models but there is something nostalgic about the wild styling and brutish performance from Holden’s glory days. The Holden dealer team or HDT began producing vehicle enhancements after a string of motorsport successes in 1980. Here we will take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of HDT’s finest offerings that have flown under the radar and in some cases have been forgotten.                                                                                                  VL NitronReleased in 1986, the Nitron package was essentially a limited edition VL Commodore sold from select regional Victorian dealerships. The ‘Brigade Red’ painted car was offered with both a naturally aspirated and a turbo charged engine, sports suspension, a full body kit, HDT Aero wheels and interestingly enough, fitted with Peter Brocks controversial energy polarizer. The number of Nitrons produced is a mystery; however some suggest it to be under 150, making these cars incredibly rare. So rare in fact that most of us didn’t even know it existed! VL LE Whilst Peter Brock was riding the wave of super stardom, there was little that he didn’t put his name to. The VL LE was a luxury cross performance sedan that featured a number of Brock enhancements, including a Brock interior, Brock premium sound system and you guessed it, an energy polarizer. The car was a hit, with many high-end features as standard and the option of a naturally aspirated six, a turbocharged edition and a V8. It’s easy to see why models such as this made the VL a household name. VK LM 5000This edition of the Commodore was a temporary model that was released before the main VK series and commemorated HDT competing in Le Mans. The car was released with only a V8 option available, making them popular within the muscle car crowd and although the extras offered were limited, buyers could get an optional Borg Warner transmission and Scheel seats. The VK LM took the title of the most ‘Australian’ car ever built with the model featuring an Aussie flag and Brocky’s signature as standard. VH Australian Dealer Pack Once the VC commodore ended, HDT dealers were after the next high performance alternative. The result was the Australian Dealer Pack or ADP, and gave the common Commodore a degree of exclusivity. With any HDT offering at the time, all signs pointed to V8, with either a 4.2 or 5L option available. Those who wanted a little more above the deluxe FM/AM radio and larger fuel tank were treated to VC style flares, Stratos seats and 16 inch wheels, a wild option back in the day. HDT established itself over the years as the go to company for Holden fans looking at an up spec’d machine and even today their magic is being applied to newer commodores, like the ‘Blue Meanie’. But with the Commodore soon to be extinct, you can expect these quirky cars to start fetching big figures at auction, so if you have been thinking of buying back your teenage hero, you better start saving!