1972 LJ Torana XU-1: Project Purple part 1

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen

Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1
Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1
Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1
Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1
Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1 Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1

Look Ma, it followed me home - can I keep it?

1972 LJ Torana XU-1: Project Purple part 1
Project Purple: Torana XU-1 part 1


1972 LJ Torana XU-1

Those of you who are old enough, cast your mind back to 1972. It was the year Gough Whitlam beat Billy McMahon at the polls to become Prime Minister, under the "It’s Time" campaign slogan. Ford GT-HOs roamed the earth and pretty much dominated the manufacturer championships on our racetracks, while Holden was desperately trying to knock off the big bent eights at Mount Panorama with its compact little Torana.

At the opening of 1972, Holden quietly announced an upgrade for the sharp end of its XU-1: the installation of the mighty 202ci six. With triple 175 Stromberg carbs hanging off it, the ‘stock’ car claimed a healthy 190 horses at 5600rpm, enough to punt the 1048 kilo package to a claimed 201km/h.

If you were lucky enough to get your hands on a Bathurst-spec car, you scored an extra 12 horses (or at least that’s what they admitted to) 400rpm higher and a 222km/h terminal speed.

Ford’s race crews had good reason to be worried. While the XU-1s had, up till now, been snapping at the heels of the GT Falcons, they opened the ’72 race season with a 1-2-3 podium finish at Adelaide for the first round of the Manufacturers Championship. Colin Bond, Peter Brock and Stuart McLeod did the honours, leading home the first GT-HO, driven by Fred Gibson.

It was an unthinkable whitewash, and the Fords returned the 1-2-3 favour in the next round, at Sandown, with John Goss, Fred Gibson and Murray Carter restoring Henry’s corporate honour.

A rain-soaked Bathurst hosted the 1972 Hardie Ferodo 500. Falcons filled the front two rows of the grid, with a young Peter Brock holding fifth spot in his XU-1. It was a race filled with controversy over penalties, but Brock held out to take his first Bathurst trophy.

After months of trying, we’ve managed to get our hands on an example of the car that launched the legend. Now is not a bad time to mention that you could end up owning it…




Search for a Star

As always, project manager Uncle Phil took on the job of hunting down a decent LJ XU-1. His initial tour of the possibilities revealed a weird and wonderful menu of machines varying from the tidy but fake, to the real and in poor condition.

We’ve taken on some big rebuilds in the past – the Ford GT-HO Phase III paddock-find we did two years ago is a classic example – but this time around Phil was in the mood to get something that was a little less intimidating in terms of turning it into UC’s usual high-standard giveaway car.

Two possibilities emerged as clear front runners. The first was a car that had been stripped, with the basic body restoration completed, but needed reassembly from the bare shell.

That had some appeal, as we would know exactly what we were getting as an end product. In the end, the combination of an uncooperative vendor, plus another car with less work needed, killed the deal.

The second car is the one you see here. It’s an XU-1 brought up to ‘Bathurst’ spec, which means it’s running the hot cam, the big fuel tank, plus a 3.36:1 diff ratio behind the M21 four-speed gearbox.

It cost a lot more than the first serious option, but the restoration needs are lower. In fact, you could drive it for many years without touching it. This, however, is where you hit the Phil Factor – he’s a perfectionist and there is no way he’s letting a reader prize car out of his mitts until it’s in show condition.

So we’re now looking at paint, a clean up of the engine bay, plus a tidy up of the interior and exterior detail.

We’ve already raided the Rare Spares parts bin and loaded the boot up with goodies, so watch this space…

Rare Spares top 45 buying tips

01. Correct ID numbers on the original tags are everything. There is plenty of info out there and a huge difference between the value of a real XU-1 and a replica.

02.Given their race history, it’s likely you won’t get the original 1972 JP-numbered engine block, however the replacement NP is acceptable.

03.Again, given the race history, it’s likely to have had a few hits – so check over the body carefully. They’re prone to rust in the rear window and under the front sills.

04. Engine parts are plentiful, so the mechanical condition is less of a concern than the state of the bodywork. Rare Spares sells repair panels, so check what’s on offer before you make a decision.

05. They’re fast but crude by today’s standards, with a very firm ride and lots of noise, so don’t expect limousine smoothness.

Fast Facts

1972 LJ Torana XU-1

ENGINE 3298cc 6cyl, OHV, 12v

POWER 151kW @ 6000rpm

TORQUE 302Nm @ 4000rpm

GEARBOX 4-speed manual

WEIGHT 1048kg

0-100KM/H 7.0sec (estimated)

TOP SPEED 222km/h

PRICE $3455 (1972)


Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here


Get your monthly fix of news, reviews and stories on the greatest cars and minds in the automotive world.