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.
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