Story by Nick Tuyau; Photos by Andrew Parliaros
The Torana was Holden’s mid-sized offering to the Australian (and New Zealand) car market from 1967 through to 1980. With a name apparently translating from the Aboriginal definition of “to fly,” the first generation (HB-series, 1967-1969) Toranas were based heavily on the Vauxhall Viva from the UK, even keeping the original 4-cylinder engines they were offered with in their home country.
Generation 2, the LC-series (1969-1972) and LJ-series (1972-1974), kept the 4-cylinder engines in the base cars, but buyers now had the option of a 6-cylinder in a chassis that had been stretched to make way for the longer engine. The larger-engined cars also had a few style changes to differentiate them from the “lesser” cars, and soon after, Holden released a sporty offering, the Torana GTR. As a special run intended to be taken to race tracks around Australia (and right at the end of the LC’s run), a 186ci (3,049cc) version was released in the fabled GTR XU-1. The LJ GTR XU-1 was uprated with a race-honed 202ci (3,300cc) engine with triple carburettors and a close-ratio gearbox. It was this car with its excellent power-to-weight ratio that brought Holden the success it was chasing at the 1972 Bathurst 500, a first time win for its soon-to-be-famous driver, a young Peter Brock. This was also the last year that the race was run over a distance of 500 miles (800kms), and also the last time anyone would be allowed to do the whole race as a solo driver (as Brocky did that year).
Generation 3 brought a whole new body design to the market, and the LH-series was released in March of 1974. For the first time, as well as the 4- and 6-cylinder versions previously available, Holden offered a pair of V8s, in either 253ci (4.2-litre) or 308ci (5.0-litre) capacities. As its sporty offering, Holden released the SL/R 5000, which was the only way buyers could option the 5.0-litre V8 engine. For those wanting to get a bit more serious and take it to the track (especially Bathurst), the L34 Option pack meant a higher-compression, tougher engine better able to deal with more power and the required durability to conquer the longer races over the season. The biggest external give-away for those cars with the L34 Option pack was those bolt-on wheelarch flares, which were needed to cover the bigger wheel and tyre combinations intended (and required) for the track.
This, humble reader, is where I thank you for your patience if you read all of that, and we introduce you to Mark and his Barbados green 1975 SL/R 5000.
Having previously owned a VL Calais LE Turbo, Mark had already been bitten by the fast car bug, and needed to keep that hunger satisfied. Mark’s LH might have left the factory fitted with a Holden 5.0-litre, but the engine bay is now filled with Chevrolet’s tried-and-trusty 5.7-litre LS1 small block. As the owner of Petersham Service Centre, there was no way that Mark would just drop in the newer engine and leave it at that. Internally, these are pretty stout units, so the only change Mark thought was necessary in that regard is a set of Pac Racing double valve springs. All of the fun was to come from the bits and pieces bolted onto this engine, and it all starts with an 80mm Precision turbo mounted on a custom-built exhaust manifold.
The compressor side of the turbo feeds into a custom front-mount intercooler, and this leads into the standard intake manifold. A set of 60 pound injectors take care of the fuelling, and the 98-octane juice is sent to the engine bay by a Magnafuel 750 fuel pump, all handled by an LSX Tune. A standard Torana radiator keeps engine cooling in check, and a Spal 16″ thermo fan in a custom shroud fires up when required to keep the engine from cooking.
With 540rwhp at 15psi, a reliable transmission was needed to get the car moving, so a Turbo 400 was chosen. Strengthening measures here included billet input and output shafts, an aluminium drum, a deep pan, and a TCE 3,200rpm stall converter to help bring that turbo on boost at the line. Chromoly 3″ bearings in the tailshaft help connect the gearbox to the Ford 9″ diff, which is filled with a Strange centre, billet 35-spline axles and 5/8″ studs. A Precision shifter takes care of gear changes, which Mark installed backwards to suit the reverse-pattern box.
Suspension is by Pedders all ’round, with both shocks and (standard height) springs being complemented by Pedders bushes in all the right places. A custom rear sway bar, chromoly lower trailing arms and adjustable top arms are also part of the mix. Braking is done by A9X-specification Girlock alloy calipers on the front, and Commodore calipers on the rear. The wheels are Centreline Trigons, 16″ x 6″ on the front and 16″ x 10″ at the back end. The tyres are constantly being changed, so Mark no longer keeps track!
Surprisingly, Mark tells us that the body and paint were in this condition when he started the project, and the only changes are the modifications to the front apron for that huge intercooler, and some inner guard work on the passenger’s side to make way for the 4″ dump pipe off the turbo.
Inside, the seats have been retrimmed to match the exterior, the roof lining has been re-done. The carpets and door trims are all new, too. A 4-point harness holds the driver in place, and there’s also a half-cage in the rear, just-in-case. A full Kenwood stereo keeps the tunes coming in, and a full complement of Autometer guages help to monitor the vital signs of the engine.
So, how does that translate on the drag strip? Mark ran a 10.08sec @ 136mph when the car was running only 11psi and putting out 480rwhp, getting him kicked off the track straight away!
A number of awards have come his way too, including “Best Australian Muscle Car” at Supernats and “Best Custom” at Need For Speed drive-ins, as well as attending a lot of Sydney events over the past 3 years. The car is still going strong, and as an added bonus, Mark tells us his Mrs loves it – it doesn’t get much better than that! Whatever project Mark chooses next, he’s keen to continue with the turbocharged LS theme, and once again it will probably all be handled in-house at Petersham Service Centre.