Holden Torana A9X: World's Greatest Cars

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Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
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Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X
Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X Holden Torana A9X

WGC series - two-door category: Torana A9X

Holden Torana A9X: World's Greatest Cars
World's Greatest Cars: Holden Torana A9X

 

World's Greatest Cars Two-Door Category:

Holden Torana A9X

> WATCH THE VIDEO - Holden Torana A9X

 

AUSSIE RULER

Accepted as the best two-door car to ever come from a local manufacturer and quickly becoming the most sought after purpose-built muscle car in the land.

WHY IS IT HERE?

The A9X is a perennial favourite around the Unique Cars bunker. It is to Aussie muscle what the ZL1 Camaro is to the Yanks; an all-conquering race homologation car that just happens to look and sound tough as nails.

That alone would be enough to get it on the dance floor in this company, but let us not forget for a moment the defining moment in the A9X’s career: In October 1979, when P. Brock took the A9X to not only a flag-to-flag victory at Bathurst, but also won by an astounding six laps and smashed the lap record on the last lap. Domination does not seem a strong enough term.

But what’s less well remembered is that A9Xs filled the first eight outright spots and nine of the first 10. Only the Cooper S Mini in 1966 with the first nine outright places can beat the A9X on that score.

Throw in the fact that the A9X with its hatchback body is still one of the best looking locally-made cars ever and you have yourself a real contender when the topic turns to the best in the business.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

‘Crude but effective’ is a phrase that could have been tailor-made for the A9X. There’s absolutely nothing sophisticated about the suspension or the ride quality it produces, and the obviously live rear axle could well do with a Panhard rod to control the lateral movement that seems pretty prevalent here.

But there’s no doubting the car’s abilities with those fat tyres (on too-cool Hotwire mags) providing more grip than you might imagine and giving the steering a chunky, permanent feel. The engine, too, is super fit and, although it’s clearly not a standard mill, it makes oodles of power and torque and provides a great backing track for the moving-scenery floor show.

The long-throw shifter is typical of Aussie four-speeds, but it’s accurate enough and the four ratios seem to be entirely adequate given the tidal wave of torque available.

But what attracts me to the A9X most is the look of the thing. While the Torana sedan was a garden-shed with headlights, the hatchback is cooler than dry ice. Say hi to your inner bogan for me. I like to think I looked the part stepping from it; Robbo, meanwhile, looked like an archbishop leaving a brothel via the back stairs.

THE OWNERSHIP EXPERIENCE

Mick Cameron is a Holden nut and a homologation car super-nut. So it’s no surprise to learn he spent years busting his chops trying to find an A9X Hatch for his collection.

"I wanted a white or red one," he told us, "but since they’re so rare (only 95 were made) when a car comes up for sale, you don’t get too fussy."

"At least in green, everybody knows it’s an original car. I mean, do you think I deliberately painted it that colour?"

Even so, Mick reckons the colour has grown on him in the years since 2004 when he finally tracked it down and made an offer the then-owner couldn’t refuse.

The car is a genuine road-going version and has never been raced although it does now wear the 15X10 inch magnesium Hotwires from the Roadways Group C Torana that raced at Bathurst in the day.

"Other than that, though," says Mick, "it’s still in original nick."

And what does he love about it?

"It’s the racing heritage. I’m mad for homologation specials and that’s what has always done it for me."


THE RACER'S VIEW: JOHN BOWE

If Ford has the GT-HO Phase 3 as its iconic pin up, then Holden has the A9X hatch.

Of course, the A9X is more modern, but it’s no less Australian. They were made so that Holden could enter the racing game, despite GM not being in the industry.

The A9X has a special floor pan so it can use a Salisbury differential with a nice super T10 gearbox. The rack and pinion set-up provides steering feel and accuracy, something that the Ford boys could only dream of.

The 308 engine is a match for any period Chevy and the whole car feels alive and quick thanks to its relatively light weight – most people don’t understand how much weight gains hurt car performance. Apart from a tiny bit of rear steer from the live axle, it’s a very user-friendly car.

Driving the car around country roads demonstrates how right Holden actually got it. It feels almost modern, with a raw edge. Other than the rear steer – my pet bugbear – it deserves the legend moniker it has attained.

If there is a better looking Aussie muscle car, I have yet to see it.

VALUE GUIDE

Holden LX Torana A9X Hatch

$175,000-210,000
Summary: The best production racing car ever made in Australia with a huge collector profile. Authentic Hatchbacks are scarce but prices, for the moment, stay lower than Phase 3s.

SPECIFICATIONS

Holden Torana A9X

Years of production: 1977
Body: Unitary
Engine: 5.0 V8
Power: 186kW @ 4800rpm
Torque: 434Nm @ 3400rpm
0-100km/h: 7.2
400m: 15.4
Gearbox: 4-manual
Suspension: Wishbones, coils (f); live axle, coils, trailing arms (r)
Brakes: Disc/disc

 

ROBBO'S REAR-VIEW MIRROR...

If the LH Torana SL/R 5000 was one of the great disappointments of the 1970s, Holden redeemed itself with the late-’70s LX SL/R 5000 A9X. Completely overshadowed at launch by the HZ Kingswood’s conversion to Holden’s much-hyped (and effective) Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS), the "A9X Option" on the LX Torana was Holden’s newest attempt at a limited-build performance model capable of winning Bathurst.

There was no official launch and, for months, no test car despite the A9X being the first Holden with four-wheel disc brakes. A reticent Holden acknowledged only that A9X was the name given to the "performance… equipment… package" that allowed homologation for the Holden Dealer Team (HDT) and others of what was potentially seen as a Bathurst winner. The modifications included the new brakes, a more rugged Salisbury rear axle (which forced a new rear floor pan and relocated control arms), modified front and rear suspension, the option of a BorgWarner T10 gearbox and L31 V8. Externally, the only obvious change was the addition of a massive rear facing bonnet scoop to improve efficiency. Holden quoted 216bhp (161kW) at 4800rpm and 295lbft (400Nm) at 3100rpm, though you can be sure the blueprinted racer significantly exceeded those numbers.

Skinny (DR70HR14) tyres aside, the SS Hatchback A9X I tested for Wheels (February, 1978) was identical to the HDT car raced at Bathurst by John Harvey and Wayne Negus, complete with sponsorship signage. Soundly beaten by the Falcons of Allan Moffat and Colin Bond in 1977, the A9X restored its image with Peter Brock and Jim Richards taking victory on The Mountain in both 1978 and 1979.

Most of the early road cars – like the tester – came with GM’s standard M21 gearbox tied to a 2.6 final drive ratio which replaced the previous 2.78 diff and delivered 44.8km/h per 100rpm, then incredibly high gearing. Designed to allow the A9X a higher top speed down Conrod Straight, where the really quick cars were expected to top 260km/h, it meant road cars topped out at 206km/h or just 4600rpm, well shy of the 5500rpm redline. The last batch, of what was intended to be a total run of 380-odd A9Xs, were fitted with Holden’s 3.08 final drive which may have improved on the test car’s 15.8-second 400-metre (quarter-mile) time. The only things which spoiled the A9X’s ability as a brilliant high speed touring car were wind noise from the long frame surrounds and a pathetically small 55-litre fuel tank. This, combined with 14.6l/100km consumption, gave a realistic range of less than 250km.

Driving the car today I stand by my words of 35 years ago, "…the result is a taut, neutral handling sports sedan that can outrun virtually any similar car from Europe. It has the brakes and the roadholding to back up the power and is astonishingly quick point to point.

"The handling is nothing short of brilliant. The A9X goes where it is pointed, and there is neither under nor oversteer in the normally accepted senses of the words. Under power the tail comes out first but only on tight corners and always with the knowledge that it is completely controllable by throttle openings. You change the car’s attitude on the road by slight movements of the right foot. No Holden has ever been so precise, so accurate or so much fun to drive."

I see no reason to change from my view that "The A9X deserves to take its place at the very top of the supercar pile along with the Phase 3 GT-HO."



*****


More reviews:

> Video: WGC - Holden Torana A9X

> Allan Grice's Torana A9X

> Bathurst legends: Holden Torana A9X


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