AUSTRALIA’S motoring landscape was changing rapidly in the mid- Chrysler, but buyers began looking to a new breed of Japanese four-cylinder cars. quick to react, beginning local production of the British HA-series Vauxhall Viva in 1964, featuring steering and suspension technology well ahead of the full-size Holdens of the time. Local design and content increased with the new-generation HB in 1967, and a new name was introduced: Torana.
In late ’69, the HB’s platform underpinned the substantially new LC-series Torana. Holden developed two- and four-door versions of the Australian-designed body, and with two wheelbases allowing four- and six-cylinder versions, the latter with more aggressive front bodywork.
It didn’t take punters long to realise that a six-cylinder, two-door Torana was effectively a mini-Monaro – perhaps even better, given the plumpness of the HK Holdens. They were rewarded with the 2.6-litre LC Torana GTR, fitted with an Opel four-speed manual gearbox.
The pocket-rocket Torana was quickly in the sights of racing legend Harry Firth, who had been poached from Ford to head the new factorybacked Holden Dealer Team.
The HT Monaro GTS 350 won Bathurst in ’69, but Firth had already 1960s. Holden was barely troubled by new local rivals Ford and Ch f Holden was q i k calculated that the smaller, lighter Torana could be quicker over the 500-mile race distance.
Thus was born the LC GTR XU-1 homologation special. Class dominance and a cult following would be its legacy as Torana transitioned, in 1972, to the facelifted LJ series, inheriting mechanical and interior upgrades from the new HQ Holdens.
Mechanically, the GTR stepped up to the torquey 3.3-litre engine – from which the XU-1, now a full production model, was hot-rodded further with camshaft, triple carburettors and an Australian four-speed gearbox in place of the Opel unit.
It was the right car for the times. In June ’72 the ‘supercar scare’ forced the axing of Bathurst-bound monsters including a Phase IV version of the Falcon GT-HO and a V8-engined Chrysler Charger. Peter Brock, driving solo in the final year of the (pre-metric) Bathurst 500, took his Holden Dealer Team GTR XU-1 to an easy victory.
Constant development meant the XU-1 remained a giantkiller on the track, and the homologation Bathurst version of 1972 a race-tough weapon – if correspondingly even more lumpy, noisy and unforgiving as a road car. That, plus a stellar record of racing success spanning circuit, rally and rallycross, ensured the XU-1’s legend. th t
Original XU-1 Globe Sprintmaster alloy wheels now fetch thousands for a set; even original Globe centre caps go for hundreds
Both NSW and Victorian police forces used XU-1s (LC pictured) for pursuit work, often in GTR ‘plain clothes’ and with front driving lights
THE LC XU-1 debuted in 1970 with a 3.0-litre six offering 119kW. The LJ XU-1 of ’72 boasted 3.3 litres, 142kW at 5600rpm and 270Nm at 4000rpm. XU-1’s gains over the more useable GTR (101kW/262Nm) came via camshaft, big-valve head, higher compression ratio and triple (versus single) Stromberg carbs. Bathurst ’72 special scored a tougher engine block and drivetrain, plus a 3.08:1 diff ratio.
LC/LJ Torana was based on the Vauxhall Viva, but six-cylinder versions required a stretch of 267mm. Good hardware included rack-and-pinion steering and allcoil suspension, four-link at the rear. GTRs and XU-1s featured front quarter-panel louvres and larger (254mm) front discs, but still drums out back. Hero Bathurst versions swapped steelies for 13x6-inch Globe alloys.
THE Torana was at home in tight and twisty environments, and drivers got used to the same. The steering wheel is offset to the left, the pedals offset to the right, the wheel touches your thighs and your head touches the roof lining.
But the sporty three-spoke wheel, houndstooth seats and “safetypadded” black vinyl dash were redline-on-Conrod stuff in ’72.
Torana reputedly came from an Aboriginal word meaning “to fly”, and was Holden’s first Aboriginal name, pre-dating Monaro by a year cam f
Holden only released the Torana VIN code microfiches in the mid-2000s. It’s believed that LC and LJ XU-1 production totalled about 1650 units each
XU-1s won the Australian Rally Championship in 1971 and ’72 (Colin Bond/George Shepheard) and the Rallycross title in ’71 (Peter Brock)