JUST as the 28C GTR XU-1 of Peter Brock revelled in the wet conditions of the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500, Toranafest 2015 soldiered on in the face of some pretty miserable weather and ended up having a win.
Hosted by the Hunter Valley Torana Club, the weekendlong event had some serious pulling power, with a total of 339 Toranas in attendance, representing every Australian state and territory except the NT. A bunch of diehard Torry disciples from the Apple Isle even made the pilgrimage across the creek with their cars aboard the Spirit of Tasmania!
For me and my wife Kirsten, travelling to the íFest meant a much less daunting two-hour commute north from Sydney, but the fact that we were making the trip in her freshly completed LC Torana, MINTY, meant it would still be an adventure of sorts. Weíd performed the obligatory pre-trip checks and ditched the 3.9:1 diff gears in favour of far more highway-friendly 3.08:1 jobbies, but the car was yet to leave the city limits under its own steam, and as we all know, road trips have a way of coaxing underlying bugs out of hiding at the most inopportune moments.
Past visits to Toranafest have left us with a real fondness for Newcastle and surrounds, so we decided to make a weekend of it and head up on the Friday before the event. We loaded the Torry up with camera gear, fuelled up and set off, leaving plenty of time to take the scenic route up the coast through Swansea, reel off a couple of tough laps through Newyís CBD, and visit our mate Ryan at United Speed Shop at Waratah on the way.
Like the many hundreds of other Torry fans making the trek, we were particularly keen to hit up Toranafest this year. The worldís premier Torana shindig was set to make a triumphant return in 2015 after the HVTC took a one-year hiatus from running it, and the club had made some wholesale changes Ė most notably shifting the epicentre of the event from Newcastleís foreshore district to the Maitland Showground. As event frontman Pete Morris explained, the new venue was better from a logistical perspective, and allowed greater scope for long-term growth.
ďThe foreshore was a really picturesque site, but with the railway now terminating at Hamilton and very limited car parking available, it makes it really hard for spectators and sponsors to get to the show,Ē he said. ďMaitland Council has welcomed us with open arms, and they already want to meet with a view to making the district the permanent home of Toranafest.Ē
Most entrants crashed at the Motto Farm Motel in Heatherbrae for the duration of the event, and Saturdayís cruise from the motel to historic Morpeth and back took in some great roads and some typically stunning Hunter Valley scenery. The townsfolk were out in droves, waving, smiling and taking photos as a seemingly endless array of Toranas rumbled through the streets like a multi-coloured freight train. The weather gods were kind to us during the cruise,
Tell us about your rig.
Originally it was a Sunbird, so it had the fourcylinder.
Now itís got a 253 in it with a cam and shit like that; nothing major. I recently got a T5 gearbox and a BorgWarner LSD diff put in. Itís HQ stud pattern with some Hotwires, and thatís pretty much it. Iím going to put flares and a front lip spoiler on at some point.
Youíre a bit of a Ned Kelly fan by the looks of things!
Big Ned Kelly fan! Iíve got the full body armour and all that; Iíve got Ned Kelly on my bonnet scoop, and a Ned Kelly gear-shifter.
How long have you had the Torry?
Iíve had it about two years. Iíd had it about a month when a P-plater did a U-turn in front of me and wrote it off. It was a repairable write-off and her insurance covered it. Itís ratty and I plan on keeping it that way ícause I drive it every day. I drive it to and from work.
Is it your only car?
No, but Iíve got to fix the other ones up. Iíve got an HJ Kingswood, a Brougham, an FX Holden and to throw a spanner in the works, an XJS V12 Jaguar. Itís a bit of a shitter, but it gets the job done.
Thatís a bit more ĎHunters Hillí than a Torana!
Mate, [my neighbours] hate me! I leave for work at five in the morning and Iíve got no choke, so I have to sit there holding the throttle. I always get them ringing the cops on me!
Hereís a Torana we donít see too many of!
There were only 33 UC SL/Ts made, and it was a factory-sanctioned dealer option.
Whatís the history of this particular example?
Iím the second owner of the car and I know the first owner well. Iíve owned it for the past two years, and itís been sitting in a shed for the last 14 years.
They were pretty strong performers in their day.
These were better than the A9X over the standing quarter-mile. They run a Strata 2A turbo kit.
Is this your first Toranafest?
Itís my first Toranafest with this car, and Iím enjoying it a lot; itís been terrific.
Yours is probably one of the rarest Toranas here.
Itís good to be here and itís good for people to see this car. Itís the only one I know of that even exists. Itís a very unique car and very fast.
Youíre a long way from home!
Yep, it was a six-day trip, but itís definitely been worth it having all these beautiful cars here. Getting to take Bev Brock in the car on the cruise today gave me goosebumps and it was a great tribute to [Brocky].
Youíre obviously a big fan based on the mural on your hood scoop.
That was done by Stewart Parris in Perth, and itís had a lot of comments today. He did an awesome job.
Tell us about the build.
I bought the car three years ago as a painted shell in the HDT colours. It only took me about four months to get it on the road because I was excited to get the car finished. I put all the Marlboro signage on it. Itís a mild 308 with an M21 fourspeed and a 9in differential, with 10in Hotwires on the rear and 8in Hotwires on the front, and a custom interior. Itís been finished for two years now.
Is this your first Toranafest?
Itís my first Toranafest with the car. I flew to Newcastle in 2013 to view how good it was as Iíd heard a lot of good comments. I decided to make this my year to bring the car over, and weíre taking it to Bathurst afterwards to do a parade lap at the 1000.
Thatís a great tatt!
I had a tattoo of Peter Brockís GTR XU-1 done when he passed away in 2006, and I was at the Mountain in 2012 for XU-1s On The Mountain and Harry Firth was there. I got him to sign my arm above the Torana, then went straight to the tattoo shop and got it tattooed. I showed him the next day and the look on his face was priceless!
How long has the car been finished?
Iíve had it going on the street for two weeks now, so Iím going through the tiresome process of getting rid of the little gremlins and making things run right. Iíve put about 70 or 80km on it so far, and this is its first show.
It seems like a pretty stout mechanical package.
It is. Essentially itís still the same engine [as it was before the rebuild]. The only difference is that Iíve put a twin-throttlebody injection sheet-metal manifold on it.
Looks like itís built to go íround corners, too.
It has a Magnum six-speed and a Strange aluminium 9in in it. The suspension is all fully adjustable with heim joints everywhere and holes to change pinion angles and sway-bar angles. It has coil-overs, and everything thatís heavy has been replaced with aluminium. The car weighs just over 1350kg, and the full aluminium big-block weighs about as much as a 308.
It goes around corners beautifully. It was legally engineered with the big-block in the 80s and Iíve kept it that way ever since. Every five years or so I just give it a colour change.
You Canberra Torana Club guys have some pretty serious cars.
All it takes is one good car and everyone else wants to build a good car, so the bar in our club is set pretty damn high. There are about six or seven cars that didnít make it to this event, too. Thereís some beautiful cars in the club.
but the heavens opened in a big way that evening and the outlook for Sundayís show íní shine at Maitland was bleak.
It took until mid-morning on Sunday for the rain to hit, but when it did it hit hard. Entrants and spectators ran for cover, but the foul weather eventually dispersed and Toranafest resumed, business as usual.
A brilliant array of 1970s hues made the show a real sight to behold, and the amazing variety of cars meant there was something to appeal to punters of all persuasions. For every concours factory muscle car, there seemed to be a tough streeter, a balls-out competition weapon, an elite-level show car and a well-worn, daily-driven survivor. For a single-model car show, Toranafest is nothing if not inclusive.
Itís also an event that has long maintained a strong social conscience, doing great things for deserving Hunter Valley charities. ďThis year we raised funds for Ronald McDonald House in Newcastle and Riding for the Disabled at Port Stephens. We also asked entrants and spectators to bring cans of dog food to donate to Dog Rescue Newcastle, who were blown away by the amount of support they received,Ē Pete said.
You can always spot a famous face at Toranafest, too. Bev Brock has become a regular, and this year her son James was also in attendance. Motorsport legends such as Ron Harrop, Jim Richards, Ian Tate and Bruce Nowacki were on hand to sign autographs and regale those present with war stories from the heyday of the Generalís giant-killer.
ďWe take a lot of pride in Toranafest, and while Iím the spokesman, a lot of people put in a lot of effort to make it happen,Ē Pete said. Itís now been declared a biennial event, and while the exact arrangements are yet to be finalised, itís a safe bet that itíll be held on the third weekend of September 2017 in and around Maitland. If Toranas are your thing, youíll probably have a pretty beaut time.
I can tell you that the missus and I had already decided weíd be back by the time we rolled off the throttle at the southern end of the M1 Motorway on Sunday afternoon. Weíd had a killer weekend and the little Torry had left us smiling, racking up over 500km without skipping a beat. Like I was ever worried! s