1977 Holden LX Sunbird: Our Shed

By: Sam McLaughlin, Photography by: Sam McLaughlin

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Holden LX Sunbird Holden LX Sunbird Holden LX Sunbird
Where's an engine crane when you want one? Where's an engine crane when you want one? Where's an engine crane when you want one?
Bare metal can lay very deep at times Bare metal can lay very deep at times Bare metal can lay very deep at times

Sam McLaughlin despairs over what the bog fairy has done to his LX Sunbird



For the 37th time, I once again found myself alone in my shed, staring at my ‘Dream Project’ and wondering if I should really be allowed anywhere near a car re-build. It’s my fourth Torana, but my first full re-build of anything – and the rookie errors were beginning to mount up.

I had just attempted to weld in a rear quarter rust repair panel, but gotten too hasty and warped it thanks to too much heat - just one of many acts that have made my personal Dumb Stuff List.

I’ve been stuck underneath it with my arms above my head and unable to reverse. I installed the crossmember outrigger bushes the wrong way. I knocked a finished guard onto the floor, denting and scratching it. And on and on and on…

The car is a 1977 LX Sunbudgie, or Sunbird as it’s better known. It was originally Persian Sand, ran a fire-breathing Opel four-cylinder with a four-slot box and essentially has no historical value whatsoever – perfect for a first build, I had figured.

The new project certainly looked straight enough when I bought it, in a time when even Torana wrecks were worth a bomb (2008). It lived in Young (NSW), so rust looked a non-issue and it was pretty straight. I figured I had bought a good value, rust-free, straight roller for a good price. Oh, how I laugh now.

To be fair, the rust issues were pretty minor compared to a lot of Torries I see in re-build stage – Toranas certainly like to eat themselves with rust. The reason it was so straight was that the Bog Fairy had gone to town on it – kilos of the stuff!

Initial plans were to sling a dirty old 308/M21 combo in it – they were so cheap back in 2008 – standard everything else, rub back the old paint and spray it myself in the shed. Then a panel beater mate walked in, and decided for me that it should be a bare metal build. Easy for him to say…

I had no money or time to spend on this build, it was to be done all by myself – with zero bodywork experience or skills – down in my tiny shed at night, with Aldi tools and lots of skill development. I luckily had two good mates, including the bloke who started the whole bare metal thing, who were happy to show me the skills I needed to develop for the bodywork, and to do the bits I couldn’t work out myself.

So after four years of stuffing around and doing it all wrong, I came up with a new plan and started the build again. I sold the nine-inch diff I had sourced and bought an entire crashed VN HSV SV LE Commodore as a donor. I bought flares, needed a custom drop tank to suit EFI, fat wheels and rubber and I wanted it as straight as I could possibly make it and to finish it in two years. That was four years ago. Next time around I’ll explain what went wrong next.


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