Car Restoration Projects
Torana – the second time around
This superb example of Holden’s 1973 Torana GTR XU-1, hued in classic ‘Lone Oranger’, is the second that Alan May has owned. The first was a 1970 ‘Dolly Yellow’ LC, when he was 19 years of age and an apprentice technician at the Holden dealership in Blayney, NSW.
“I obtained a loan through GM Credit,” said Alan May. “And my father said – ‘son you’ll never afford to pay it off’.
“I went to the GM-H plant at Pagewood in Sydney to pick it up and there it was: my Dolly Yellow XU-1 and I drove it home to Blayney.
“I just can’t explain how good that was, but unfortunately after 18 months I was called up for National Service.”
Alan thought it best to sell the Torana, as he wouldn’t be able use it for at least a year or more. So sadly, it was good bye Dolly!
Forty-eight years passed before Alan was able to relive the Torana dream and that happened when fellow car club member Roger Guest was downsizing to smaller digs. His Torana was regrettably surplus to his new requirements.
Roger had found this Torana in Sydney’s west in the mid-eighties, from an ad in the Trading Post. He was a keen collector of Holdens, but didn’t own a Torana and wished to add an LJ GTR XU-1 to his ‘Lion’s Den’.
It needed refurbishing, however and with full-time work commitments it was some years before he was able to strike a blow. It was the early nineties by the time a full rotisserie restoration started.
There were some minor rust repairs needed and the front floor required replacement. Also, a previous badly-repaired, accident-damaged rear quarter panel required some surgery. So, it was off to local panel beaters at Phillips Smash Repairs in Ulladulla, whom Roger had used with great satisfaction in the past.
“It had only 40,000 plus miles on the odometer, so the mechanicals were in quite good nick,’ said Alan.
“We put a kit through the gearbox and pulled the cylinder head to replace a couple of valves.
“It had non-standard wheels, so I replaced them with the Globes that were the originals when the cars were new.”
“The front seats had been covered in a cloth material, but I was lucky enough to find some of the original vinyl and had them re-trimmed.”
Alan took it along to a car show at Sussex Inlet and said that was awarded ‘Best Muscle Car’ of the show – he was stoked!
“Driving it takes me back to my youth,’ Alan reckoned.
“I remember driving my Dolly Yellow XU-1 to Tech College in Orange late one afternoon from my hometown of Blayney.
“I’d just passed through the hamlet of Lucknow, when I spotted a police GTR Torana some distance behind me.
“I reckon he must have been hiding somewhere in Lucknow and I thought my luck may have run out.
“With the exuberance of youth, the red mist came over me – thinking ‘he’s only driving a standard GTR and my XU-1 has a bonnet-load more ponies under it and should gallop away with ease’.
“I was streaking away and thought I’d given him the slip, when I turned into a side road and – to my dismay – I had a slow-travelling car in front of me and an oncoming one almost level with it, so I had nowhere to go.
“I had to slow down and it wasn’t long before the long arm of the law was pulling up behind me, so I pulled over – bugger!”
Alan told the officer that he was running late for an important exam at the Tech College, but that didn’t help. He then copped (no pun intended) a firm lecture and a healthy fine, considering himself lucky that it was all that he received.
Now a solid sexagenarian citizen he added with a smile: “The things you do when you’re young.”
How it all began
In our mate Dr John Wright’s book Heart of the Lion he quotes some interesting facts about the birth of Holden’s six-cylinder Torana.
John Wright had interviewed John Bagshaw over lunch in June 1997, after Bagshaw had been with GM-H for over 40 years, ending his career in 1990 as the managing director. He recalled:
Colin Bond with co-driver Tony Roberts won the 1969 Bathurst Mt Panorama 500-mile race. However, the days of the Monaro were almost over and a replacement was required.
The cost of developing an engine for the bigger car was going to be horrendous and we didn’t think we’d be competitive anyway.
So, over a few cold beers on a Sunday morning, with our chief engineer Bill Steinhagen and Max Wilson, we thought if we could strap a six-cylinder engine into a Torana it could become a real little pocket rocket and would cure any problem of over capitalising a product that was not going to be competitive…
This was the genesis: an impromptu decision spawned the long-nose, six-cylinder LC Torana, late in 1969 and for many years it was the third-best-selling model range in Australia; behind the Kingswood/Premier and the Falcon/Fairmont.
The production figures were: LC GTRs 6570 (on sale for 28 months); LC XU-1s 1405 (on sale for 18 months); LJ GTRs 3594 (on sale for 24 months) and LJ XU-1s 2181 (on sale for 24 months).
Alan’s engine is basically similar to the 202 XU-1 six-cylinder fitted to 1972 Bathurst model:
- Capacity: 201.9cid (3.3-litre) six cylinder
- Configuration: Front mounted, longitudinal, in-line
- Pushrod and rocker actuated OHV, high performance ‘HX’ camshaft, exhaust valves and springs, plus free-flow exhaust headers
- Triple 175 CD2-S Stromberg side-draught carburettors and low-restriction air cleaners
- Bore and Stroke: 3.625 x 3.25 inches (92.1 x 82.5mm)
- Power: 190bhp (142kW) at 5600rpm
- Torque: 194lb ft (270Nm) at 4000rpm
- Compression Ratio: 10.3:1
- Note that the Bathurst cars produced 285bhp, thanks to different tuning and triple Weber carburettors (although Bathurst regs insisted on only three carbie throats, so the Webers each had one throat blanked off.)
The 1972 LJ Torana GTR XU-1 carried Peter Brock to his first victory at Mt Panorama
The 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500 was an endurance motor race open to Group E Series Production Touring Cars. The race was held on 1st October 1972 at the Bathurst Mount Panorama Circuit.
Cars competed in four classes defined by Capacity Price Units that were arrived at by calculating the engine capacity, expressed in litres (to three decimal places), multiplied by the purchase price in Australian dollars to arrive at a CP value for each vehicle.
It was the 13th running of the Bathurst 500 race and the last to be held over the original distance of 500 miles. It was also the last to allow drivers to compete for the full distance without a relief driver. The race was the third round of the 1972 Australian Manufacturers’ Championship.
The race was memorable for being the first time rain had significantly affected it. It was won by Peter Brock, driving a Holden Dealer Team prepared LJ Torana GTR XU-1 and the first of Brock’s record nine victories.
Brockie drove the entire race, finishing a lap ahead of Queensland racer John French, who was driving a Ford XY Falcon GT-HO Phase 3. The victory was made sweeter by the fact that Brock was penalised one minute at his last pit stop, for starting his car while the HDT crew were still re-fuelling. (Under the ARDC’s race regulations of the day, car engines had to be switched off during pit stops and could only be restarted once the re-fuelling had been completed). A further lap behind was the Chrysler Valiant Charger of Doug Chivas.
This was the only time at Bathurst that the big three Australian manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s all had vehicles in the top three finishers.
Alan May is a red-blooded Holden tragic
Alan spent his entire career under the Holden umbrella. As a teenager he started on the workshop floor as an apprentice motor mechanic (called a technician today), furthering his career in the service department, spare parts division and the sales arena. He completed the journey by owning his own Holden dealership.
Alan may is now retired, but just can’t help himself. He has collected a selection of Holdens from different years, all in pristine condition, as you would expect.
Below is his meticulously restored first Australian model 48-215. The red ute is the last Australian built model, a VF-II and the end of the line in 2017.
Models in between these Aussie icons are: a 1958 FC; a WB Statesman; a WB Caprice; a HJ Kingswood; a VN HSV (in SV racing green); a GTS Monaro; a WB ute; a Gemini too … and of course, not forgetting the LJ Torana!