Holden Torana LC GTR XU-1 memories

By: Mark Higgins

Presented by

holden torana lx gtr xu 1 holden torana lx gtr xu 1

From showroom to circuit

For a young motorsport-loving Higgo, the late-60s and early-70s were the best, as race meetings were held every month at either Sandown, Calder, Winton or Phillip Island and all offering a huge variety of categories.

While the Australian Touring Car Championship was contested by highly modified Mustangs, Camaros, Porsches, Minis and run over a number of sprint races, the Ford-Holden-Chrysler rivalry was born through Series Production endurance races featuring cars that looked like the ones sitting in showrooms around Australia.

For the 1970 season Holden changed tack, dumping the GTS350 V8 Monaro that won at Bathurst the previous year for the lighter, nimbler 186ci six-cylinder LC Torana GTR XU-1. Joining the fray was Chrysler, with its 245ci Hemi-Six-powered Valiant Pacer with either a two or four-barrel carburettor. At this time I was earning pocket money at Booran Holden in Caulfield, sweeping the workshop floor, cleaning bench tops and tools, tidying the mechanics lunchroom and ogling the cars on the showroom floor and in the workshop.

| 50 years of Torana XU-1

In August 1970 Holden launched the LC Torana GTR XU-1 and I remember walking into the showroom and seeing one in lime green. What a beauty!

A fortnight later it was in the workshop, fitted with a very basic roll bar, a fire extinguisher, racing harness, louder exhaust and a few decals. Overnight the showroom Torana had become a race car and looking back, it was amazing how little work, money and few components that entailed.

Running in the race car consisted of the service manager taking it on a few blasts at night and it being driven to Bathurst.

By now it was early October and I watched the XU-1 drive out of Booran Holden, its numbers covered up, its interior and boot full of spares, a jack, tool kit, fuel churns and a sole mechanic behind the wheel. It still wore its number plates.

For the record, the late Brian Reed and rally ace Bob Watson took this dealer-funded almost stock Torana to fifth in class and it was the third GTR XU-1 home.

No surprise that I sat glued to the telly for the whole race, waiting to catch every glimpse of the lime green Booran Holden racer.

The week after Bathurst it sat proudly in the showroom once more, exactly as it had finished the race – covered in muck and bugs.

After milking its run at Bathurst for a few weeks, it made way for a Kingswood or Premier and I helped pull the stickers off it. I don’t know what happened to it, but I remember people pressing their noses against the showroom glass to see it.

Glory days.

Many years later I was lucky enough to buy an XU-1 (pictured). It started life as an LC model but after a minor accident and with tired running gear the owner took it off the road and rebuilt it.

A repaint in original orange was applied along with an LJ snout, front guards and rear lights. Inside it retained the twin peak dash of the LC model. Dropped into the engine bay as part of the rebuild was a potent 186ci Holden six bored out to 192ci.

It produced well over 220 horsepower and the lumpy cam shook the car at idle. It was quick enough to run the speedo needle way past the 120mph marker. Oil changes were every 3000 miles carburettor tunes more often than that. I loved that car and wished I had it today.

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