1971 Torana LC XU-1 vs 1975 BMW 2002tii: Oz vs Euro #4

By: Scott Newman

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Big donk, small-car magic

1971 Torana LC XU-1 vs 1975 BMW 2002tii: Oz vs Euro #4
Oz vs Euro #5: '75 BMW 2002tii vs '71 Torana XU-1


1971 Torana LC XU-1 vs 1975 BMW 2002 tii

> Watch the video here

For the Holden LC Torana GTR XU-1, this match-up is a bit strange. Not because of its competitor – both the Torana and the BMW 2002 showed the world that compacts could possess most of the performance of large cars while handling a damn sight better into the bargain. It’s because of the Torana’s role within this comparison.

Let me explain. In the annals of Australian muscle-car folklore, the GTR XU-1 is the giant-killer, the underdog, the David to the GT-HO’s Goliath. With Holden increasingly nervous about going toe-to-toe with Ford in a power war, that wily old fox Harry Firth adjusted his thinking cap and said, "there’s a better way".

Installing a hot six in the light Torana body still wasn’t enough to match the Falcons and Chargers in a straight line, but under brakes and in corners, the smaller car more than made up for it.

The Torana’s compact dimensions also made it a mean rally car, winning four straight Australian Rally Championships from 1971-74.

But here’s the weird bit – against the lithe 2002, it’s the Torana that’s the grunty muscle car. Even though we chose the smaller-engined 3.0-litre LC XU-1 for this test (the later LJ XU-1 upgraded to a 3.3-litre), it still has well over a litre in hand over its Bavarian challenger.

Swapping between the two on the road, this translates into a feeling of huge power in the Torana. Despite being the larger car, it’s only around 50kg heavier than the BMW, at just over a tonne, so 134kW/257Nm make a big impression. This sensation is exaggerated by the extremely light throttle pedal on this example as every slight twitch of the toe sends you surging forward, regardless of which of the four gears is selected, accompanied by a rich six-cylinder rumble.

The BMW may lack the outright firepower of the Aussie, but the adoption of Kugelfischer fuel injection for the tii Questioning owner Doug Read provides the answer: his 2002tii is fitted with an E46 3-Series rack with slight assistance provided by an E36 power steering pump. It may not be original, but when the results are this good, it’s hard to argue.

By comparison, the Torana is rather outclassed. It feels much rawer than the BMW, but that’s not necessarily a criticism. At $3148, it was almost $2000 less than a 1971 2002, and by the time the tii appeared in April ’73, you were looking at a substantial $7575. That puts the Torana in a different light, as driven by the same driver on the same road, I don’t reckon there’d be much between them.

The Torana might even be quicker, but you’d have to work harder for it. It requires more lock for any given corner and you don’t feel as intimately engaged as you do in the German sedan.

This isn’t helped by a driving position best described as comical. All three pedals are to the right of the steering column, so if your torso is facing the dash, your legs tend to point towards oncoming traffic. Those who have spent considerable time in XU-1s, though, assure me that you get used to it. And as an aside, while Bathurst success means that the later LJ gets most of the adulation, I prefer the looks of the LC – especially with the chrome-ringed steelies of our feature car. It looks purposeful.

Both of these cars changed the way their respective markets looked at compact cars. In Australia, the Torana XU-1 showed that race success didn’t depend on who had the most ponies, while on the other side of the world, the 2002 proved that ‘small’ and ‘prestige’ weren’t mutually exclusive concepts. For me, though, the BMW wasn’t just my favourite of this group – it’s probably the car I’d choose to park in my own garage (if I had one) out of all 10.



1971 Torana LC GTR XU-1

Produced: 1970-71
Body: 2-door coupe
Engine: 3048cc 6cyl, OHV, 12v
Power: 134kW @ 5200rpm
Torque: 257Nm @ 3600rpm
Weight: 1030kg
Gearbox: 4-speed manual
Suspension: wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); live axle, coil springs (r)
Brakes: discs (f), drums (r)
0-97km/h: 7.8sec*
0-400m: 16.0sec*
Top Speed: 200km/h*
Price new: $3148

* estimated


1975 BMW 2002tii

Produced: 1973-75
Body: 2-door sedan
Engine: 1991cc 4cyl, SOHC, 8v
Power: 97kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 178Nm @ 4500rpm
Weight: 973kg
Gearbox: 4-speed manual
Suspension: MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar (f); semi-trailing arms, coil springs (r)
Brakes: discs (f), drums (r)
0-97km/h: 9.0sec*
0-400m: 16.5sec*
Top Speed: 192km/h*
Price new: $7920 (1975)

* Wheels November 1971


Our owners:

1971 Torana LC XU-1:

Chas & Stuart

Father-and-son team Chas and Stuart are Torana mad. Son Stuart estimates he's had 200 of the compact Holdens over his lifetime and counts three XU-1s and two V8 race cars among his current tally of six. Chas bought our feature car in the late-'90s as a "driveable wreck" before Stuart spent two years doing a nut-and-bolt restoration.


1975 BMW 2002tii:


Like many of our Oz versus Euro owners, Doug has been a life-long fan of his model - he bought a 2002 brand new in 1970 from Grand Prix Motors in Melbourne. Now retired, Doug's speciality is restoring the compact Beemers. In additiion to the tii featured, he owns a 1970, round-taillight model that is "as close to factory as I can get it."


>> Watch the video here


The contenders:


> Oz v Euro homepage



Search used:

>> Search for a used Holden here

>> Search for a used BMW here


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