1976 Holden Torana LX SL ex-HDT promo car

By: Guy Allen - Words & Photos

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When this Griffith, NSW, family took on a Torana they got a whole lot more than they bargained for


Holden Torana ex-HDT promo car

Every now and then you trip over a car that looks like a nice example of the breed and, under the lairy seventies paint, lurks a very special story. This is one of them, and the weird part is the owners had no idea how special it was until decades after they’d first got their hands on the thing. 

Stephen Brown’s family has known this late 1976-build LX Torana more or less since it first turned up in the NSW town of Leeton. A former Holden demo car, it was rolled into the showroom by the local dealer, Leeton Motors, some time in 1977 and was promptly bought by Stan and June Dunn. The latter was a local school teacher and she used it as her daily driver for a few years.

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Its current owner was going to school in Leeton at the time and remembers the car running around. A few years down the track, in 1980, Stephen’s eldest brother Mark had a job as an apprentice mechanic at Leeton Motors, and got wind of the car being traded in. It looked like a good buy, and their youngest sibling Peter promptly stumped up the cash. It was his first car.

Sadly, Peter passed away suddenly in 1982. The family couldn’t bear to sell the Torana and it has remained in their hands ever since. "It’s never going to be sold," explains Stephen. "Dad used to take it to the football on Sundays and now I’m looking after it."

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Stephen and crew were perfectly content with the car and its sentimental attachment to the family, but were in for a bit of a shock. Things started getting a little weird when they decided to refresh a few things on the old bus, which was getting a bit tired.

You may recall the LX series was the second-last generation of the Torana and the last to run V8 engines. Holden’s Commodore was not all that far away from hitting the roads (1978), but in the meantime the release of the hatchback two-door version of this car breathed some new life into the now mature mid-sized Torana series.

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While it was the SL/R performance models that were the flagships, most people went for the more modest and budget-conscious S or SL versions. This example is an SL, albeit an up-spec version with an L32 (high compression) 4.2lt V8 and four-speed manual. One quirk was the SL/R-style dash, which is badged SL but has a tacho and the four-gauge cluster for battery charge, fuel, temp and oil.

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holden-torana-wheel.jpgFlash wheels for the day

There’s your first clue that this was something a little different. Still, it didn’t necessarily mean a great deal – maybe someone managed to slip through a special order.

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The next hint that something was up emerged when Stephen got a call from the local mechanic, who was refreshing the brakes. He’d ordered in an SL master cylinder and it was the wrong part. They ordered an SL/R unit instead, and it was a match. Righto, that’s weird. Something similar happened when they went through the suspension.

What’s an SL doing with SL/R bits in it? The car had a pretty simple local history, so something must have happened before it arrived in Leeton as a factory demo.


Finally, the mystery was unravelled when the clan bundled into the car and attended a Torana Legends event in Kyabram. On site was Joe Felice, former Holden marketing guru and HDT race manager from the early days who wandered up, stroked the vinyl roof and unwrapped the car’s history.

holden-torana-interior-3.jpgSlick interior is typical seventies. Instrumentation is SL/R spec

Holden in its wisdom decided it wanted a handful of special show versions of the then new LX Torana to generate a bit of chatter and interest. So Joe and his team grabbed six SLs – a mix of autos and manuals – off the production line, ferried them down to HDT and went to work. It seems no two were the same, but vinyl roofs were a common theme as were SL/R upgrades including the instrumentation, front ends, diffs and brakes.

brown-family.jpgThe car has become a family affair, with a couple of generations involved

"They piled them into a truck and took them to Albury for a demonstration day with Peter Brock and Colin Bond," explains Stephen. "It was a dealer promo and at the end of the show they offered them to the dealers instead of trucking them back. This one was picked up by the general manager of Leeton Motors."

Sadly, the survival rate for those cars is pretty low, with just two left running around.

holden-books.jpgOriginal sales docket and books reveal some of the history

These days it lives the life of a well-travelled family classic. Stephen reckons he and wife Sharon, and the kids, often jump in the thing and head off to events, belying the fact it looks close to showroom condition. You have to admire anyone who gets out and uses these things.


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