This Sydney bloke missed his old SL/R 5000 and decided to build a replacement tribute car
For owner Carmine Vescio, this 1975 LH Torana closes a chapter of unfinished business. You see he’s always had a thing for SL/R 5000 Toranas. "I had one about 10 years ago and I sold it, and I regretted it," he explains. "I needed something to keep me going and occupied."
And anyone with even half an interest in Australian muscle cars will see the attraction. The mid-sized sedan has real presence in this form.
As those of you who have done a top-to-toe resto will know, sometimes the smart thing to do is buy a part-completed project. One where the previous owner has run out of money/time/whatever. There are savings to be had and it just might shorten the whole process by years.
Carmine had the good fortune to stumble across just such a car. One with a body already painted in a hard-to-miss black and white scheme. It may not have been his first choice of colour, but was a great starting point. However, like many in the muscle and classic car game, Carmine has clearly been bitten by the perfectionist bug.
"Believe it or not when I first got it, there was a little spot on top of the front window and one on the back as well. Toranas are known to have a couple of spots. As soon as I saw that I thought, ‘Ah, this ain’t going to happen’. So we stripped it back to bare metal.
"The body overall was as straight as an arrow."
Okay, that’s courageous. But you can see his point – if you’re going to spend time and money on a build, you want it to be spot-on.
So the rolling body was given to a panel shop to sort it out and that’s where the trouble began. He subsequently discovered that parts were being taken off his car to finish another project and the business started showing signs of going to hell in a hand basket. "We burned $15,000," says Carmine. "I then approached some good friends of mine, John and Nick Rocca. They don’t really do other people’s cars, but they saw I got burned and started on mine."
The whole trajectory of the project seemed to improve from there, though Covid-related lockdowns must have made the task a whole lot more challenging.
Meanwhile, the rolling chassis needed a driveline and the job was kicked off by Jason at JK Performance. Overall the plan was to have a good street engine with, as you’d expect, significantly more life in it than the originals. The starting point was a late 5.0lt block, running 10.8:1 compression with forged flat-top pistons, Camtech cams and VN heads. Sitting atop that lot is a Harrop manifold with a 650 Holley and Bosch ignition. Jason reckons that lot should make about 360 horses at the back tyres – more than enough to make it lively.
He pointed out that one of the key aspects is to make sure the engine builder is across the entire drive line. "With this build, I recommended the spec for the torque converter (in a Turbo 350 auto) and diff ratios. You need them all working together to get a good result." The rear end is a 9-inch LSD.
Suspension and brakes are to all intents and purposes new. According to the owner, there isn’t a single nut or washer that hasn’t been replaced. We’re running discs up front and drum rears at the moment, though it’s likely the latter will be changed over to discs.
Wheels were the subject of much discussion and a little experimentation. The GTS wheels that were on it were an option, then came a set of Simmons. In the end, they went for Hotwires: 15 x 8 on the front and 15 x 10 on the rear.
As for trim, that was pretty much a blank canvas from Carmine’s point of view. Sure there were seats in the car, but the whole lot got stripped out and redone, right down to the springs. Though the host car is an LH, "It’s been done as an LX – I like the look of an LX," says Carmine. Fair enough – it’s his car!
Another twist in the plot was the paint. "Believe it or not we picked up a blue and we mucked around with it and fell in love with it. There’s not a factory colour out there like that – not that I know of. I just wanted to be different."
You get the sense that Carmine may yet tweak a few things on the car before he’s entirely happy with it, but for the time being he has an absolute stunner of a result. So what’s he going to do with it? "Take it to shows and enjoy it." Yep, that will do.