1974 Holden LH Torana - Reader Ride

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holden torana front holden torana front

Torry tinkering can be the start of a slippery slope

Most enthusiasts have a special relationship with their first car. Ask Eric Bana about The Beast.

That how it is for Victorian Wally O’Hea. His ’74 LH Torana was his first love and 28 years on, still is.

He bought it when he was 18 and living in country Victoria. It was yellow, with a black vinyl interior, a Red 308 V8 and a little rust.

"I drove it around for about 12 months before I decided to have the rust cut out and that’s when things got out of control," explained Wally. "Once I started, I just couldn’t stop!"

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When the rust repairs were done, a lot of the car needed repainting, but because the original yellow was a bit tired, he decided to give it a colour change, but to do that properly meant removing all mechanical components and sandblasting the shell back to metal.

For its new hue he chose a Holden Statesman colour, Deauville blue and it’s a credit to the Dulux 2-Pack and the prep carried out in Swan Hill that the car still looks pristine today, 25 years later.

New rubbers, brightwork and tail-lights went in, while the interior got a total makeover with all-new carpets, tailor-made floor mats, plus new roof lining, door handles and window winders from Rare Spares.

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Then came the trim, with blue velour inserts to Wally’s design adding comfort and style to the Torana’s original seats.

But to keep it understated like he wanted, he left off all the badges in the re-fit.

Then, after he moved to Melbourne in 1993, came decision time with the motor. Rather than re-fit the old 308, which was a bit cantankerous when it wasn’t used regularly, Wally slipped in a new 304 V8 from a 1994 VR Commodore after first treating it to a Perkins race-series kit installed by Darryl Speers.

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It came back fully-balanced with roller rockers, HSV injection, a Crane cam, and a Peter Starr 90mm throttle body manifold, while Starr also supplied and fitted a full stainless steel exhaust that Wally says is a work of art, along with a Bathurst-style 140-litre drop tank.

But when he took it to the dyno to check the results, Wally found he still had more work to do.

"The good news was that it now had 240kW at the rear wheels, but they told me I’d soon blow up the original four-speed box with that much power," he said, "So I bit the bullet again) and installed a five-speed Tremec in its place.

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At this stage he couldn’t stop, so kept going to do the rest properly. This meant a Ford 9-inch diff, with a brand new diff cage and axles and then he turned to the suspension and brakes.

It’s got Pedders springs, shocks and sway bars all round, while for stopping there are A9X discs fitted with Wilwood four-piston calipers up front and HQ drums at the rear.

Finally he fitted it with stylish but simple Centreline Convo Pro 7-inch front and 8-inch rear alloys, shod with Yokohama A539s and B.F.Goodrich T/A rubber respectively.

In its now-finished state, Wally’s LH is a real stealth machine that glides, impressively bling-free below the usual Street Machine radar.

In a way it parallels his work as the Victorian rep for leading Australian marine and RV Lithium power supplier Enerdrive, as like the new-age battery systems he sells and services, the best things about his Torana are unseen.

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"I really love its understated look, which I guess is a reflection on my personality," said Wally. "It also makes it a real standout at the shows I take it to."

As proof, the LH was judged ‘Best Modified LH’ at last October’s Victorian Torana Club Birthday Run to Healesville out of 90-100 Toranas present.

And now that it’s an instant key starter and reliable weekend warrior, Wally’s plans are to take it to more shows and club events in future.

Would he ever sell it? "No way!

"It’s like my first child," he said, although he has three more. "My wife Lisa always jokes that the LH was my first love before her! But our kids think it’s pretty cool."

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Not surprisingly given his LH love, Wally O’Hea is a V8 Supercar enthusiast who hasn’t missed a Bathurst enduro since 1995.

"We have the same spot on Conrod Straight where a group of us camp each year," he said. "It’s a great boys’ weekend."

He’s also a serious Brock fan, proudly wearing his icon’s tee-shirt and recalls the day when Peter the Great saw his car.

"I think he was impressed," he said. "It’s so understated it really stands out."


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