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Golden Holden Oldies - The Holden Torana (1967-78) - A Bathurst Legacy

4 November, 1998

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It is fitting that the name of one of Holden's most popular compact cars - Torana - means 'to fly' in some aboriginal dialects. As one of the most outstanding race performers of the seventies, the Holden Torana lived right up to its name in a ten-year racing reign that included five Bathurst victories.

Manufactured from 1967 to 1978, the locally built Torana went through a series of model changes, starting with the original HB through LC, LJ, LH, TA, LX and UC models. The various body choices offered during Torana's 11-year life span included four-and two-door versions, powered by four, six and eight cylinder engines. However, it was the highly-specified sporting versions - the X-U1, L34 and A9X - that made their mark on Mount Panorama. In the hands of such talented drivers as Bob Morris, Colin Bond, Allan Grice, Jim Richards and Peter Brock, these cars hurtled over the Bathurst bitumen at speeds of up 260 km/h, claiming five Bathurst endurance titles and twelve placings in ten years of racing. It was in a LJ Torana XU-1 that Brock took out his famous first win on the Mountain in 1972, earning himself the nickname that became a part of motorsport folklore: 'Peter Perfect'.


Holden LC-LJ Torana GTR XU-1 (1970-1974)

The LC Torana GTR XU-1 was launched in July 1970. Destined to take over the mantle as Holden's motorsport champion, it bucked the trend towards larger racing machines like the Monaro GTS 350 it replaced on the track. The GTR-XU1 was also the first Holden to make use of aerodynamic spoilers, fitted front and rear.

Along with a bigger 3.05 litre six-cylinder engine, the LC XU-1 performance package included a revised camshaft, larger inlet and exhaust valves, triple side draught Stromberg carburettors, twin manifold exhaust system, larger fuel tank and radiator, all synchro gearbox with limited slip differential and thicker front disc and rear drum brakes. Quoted power output was 119kW \@ 5200rpm and 257Nm of torque \@ 3600rpm. The Torana weighed in at just 1103kg giving it a power-to-weight ratio that made for one mighty race car.

Piloted skilfully by Don Holland, the LC XU-1 Torana secured outright third place and a class victory in its first Bathurst appearance in 1970. Two years later, the race-ready XU-1 - now in LJ form - sported a more powerful 158kW engine, better suspension, new 6"x13" alloy wheels and a special camshaft. Only 200 variants were produced, to satisfy homologation requirements and qualify the car for the'72 Bathurst enduro. The Torana's improved handling and power proved decisive in a race best remembered for Peter Brock's inspirational drive to victory in treacherous wet conditions.

Drama surrounded the XU-1 in the 1973 event. After hitting the front, driver Doug Chivas attempted to stretch fuel reserves to the limit, but the Torana's tank ran dry as he raced across the top of the mountain. Co-driver Brock could only watch from the pits as Chivas rolled to within 100 metres of the waiting pit crew before coming to a halt. He then pushed the car in unaided, as the rules required, losing three minutes - and the race - in the process. Second place was small consolation. Other XU-1 Toranas came in 3rd, 4th and 5th position.


Holden LH Torana SLR/5000 L34 (1974-1976)

The all-new LH Torana was Holden's first all-Australian medium-sized car. It was also the first model to be offered with a complete range of four, six and eight cylinder engine options. The series, characterised by a bigger, roomier, more modern design, capitalised on Torana's strong points: good power-to-weight ratio, excellent handling, solid build and reliability. On the racetrack, it was the highly developed SL/R 5000 L34 version of the LH that forged a formidable racing reputation.

Externally, the L34 was identified by bolt-on flared wheel arches, front air dam, rear spoiler and steel rally wheels. Under the bonnet was a punchy 5 litre V8 powerplant (originally planned for the LG GTR XU-1) with improved mechanical components. It proved a great successor to the XU-1's straight six, propelling the L34 Torana to the front of the Bathurst pack and into the record books.

First out, the L34 took second and third placings in 1974's Bathurst classic, then went on to dominate the Mountain for the next two years, scoring back-to-back top three placings. The first all-Holden winner's podium was headed by Peter Brock and Brian Sampson in 1975, ahead of privateers Bob Morris and Frank Gardner, with the Holden Dealer Team's Colin Bond and John Walker coming in third.

The L34 returned to Bathurst in 1976 for another Torana trifecta. TV viewers nationwide saw an emotional Bob Morris willing team-mate John Fitzpatrick to nurse their battle-weary car across the line in first place. The Holden Dealer Team pairing of Colin Bond and John Harvey took second and a flying Peter Brock, who was lapping seconds faster than anyone else after overcoming mechanical problems, snatched third. The event was a Holden whitewash, with Toranas filling the first seven positions.


LX Torana A9X (1977-1978)

Introduced in 1977, Holden's A9X Torana was perhaps the most famous and revered of them all. With a standard 5 litre 308 V8 engine, the A9X was the top-specified model in the updated LX Torana range and was the first Holden to feature four-wheel disc brakes. Radial Tuned Suspension improved handling and steering, adding to the car's impressive acceleration and braking characteristics. Buyers could choose between a four-door sedan and a two-door hatch, both of which had a front spoiler fitted with brake cooling ducts and a functional rear-facing air scoop on the front bonnet.

Following the tyre tracks of its predecessors, the A9X driven by Larry Perkins and Peter Janson teased fans with a third placing in its '77 Bathurst debut. Twelve months later, Peter Brock returned to the Holden Dealer Team after three years as a privateer. Partnered by Jim Richards, he qualified their A9X on pole with an awesome 2 minute 20 second lap. A fog-delayed start saw Brock lose the '78 race lead, but the Torana charged back through the pack. Rivals slowly dropped away, leaving Brock and Richards to claim the title a lap clear of Allan Grice and John Leffler, also racing an A9X.

The Brock/Richards Torana pairing proved to be one of the strongest ever, as they returned the following year to re-conquer Mount Panorama. Brock's dominance of the 1979 race was such that he broke the circuit record on the last lap. In yet another Holden avalanche, Toranas filled the first eight positions.

Today, Toranas are prized by purists and street machine modifiers alike. Many modern-day owners are too young to remember Peter Brock punting his GTR XU-1 to Torana's first Bathurst title, but there are plenty who recall when the mighty A9X crossed the finish line at the head of the field for the last time in '79, a jubilant Brock at the wheel, capping a decade of Torana triumphs. Witness to the victories or not, the Holden faithful keep the Torana legend very much alive.


HOLDEN TORANA FACTS

LC Torana GTR XU-1
(1970 - 1972)
Price at LC introduction:$3150
Total number built:1,633
Engines:186 six-cylinder
Transmission:Four speed manual
Dimensions:Length - 4387mm
Width - 1600mm
Wheelbase - 2540mm
Fuel Tank:77 litres
Weight:1103kg
Performance:119kW \@ 5200rpm
257Nm \@ 3600rpm
 
LH Torana SL/R 5000 L34
(1974 - 1976)
Price at LH introduction:$7700
Total number built:Around 260
Engines:5 litre V8
Transmission:Four-speed manual
Dimensions:Length - 4493mm
Width - 1704mm
Wheelbase - 2586mm
Fuel Tank:55 litres
Weight:1183kg
Performance:260kW \@ 6000rpm
380Nm \@ 3000rpm

LJ Torana GTR XU-1
(1972 - 1974)
Price at LJ introduction:$3455
Total number built:1,667
Engines:202 six-cylinder
Transmission:Four-speed manual
Dimensions:Length - 4387mm
Width - 1543mm
Wheelbase - 2540mm
Fuel Tank:77 litres
Weight:1103mm
Performance:142kW \@ 5600rpm
270Nm \@ 4000rpm
 
LX Torana A9X
(1977 - 1978)
Price at LX introduction:$12500
Total number built:380 - 500
Engines:5 litre V8
Transmission:Four-speed manual
Dimensions:Length - 4509mm
Width - 1704mm
Wheelbase - 2586mm
Fuel Tank:55 litres
Weight:1183mm
Performance:186kW \@ 5000rpm
434Nm \@ 3400rpm


*All figures stated are for road-going production models only. Figures for racing variants may differ. Years of manufacture in parenthesis are for specific model variants ie. GTR-XU1 only.

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