THE Torana hatchback holds a special place in Australian folklore, thanks in large part to the legendary Bathurst exploits of Peter Brock in an LX A9X. And for Dom D’Agostino, an LX hatch has been a dream of his since he was a teenager.
This article was first published in the May 2019 issue of Street Machine
“From Year 10 onwards, I would purchase Best Toranas magazines and sit there in class dreaming about how much I wanted a blue hatchback,” Dom says. “It was a shape that I never did grow tired of looking at.”
As you can see, Dom grew up to realise his dream bigtime. But as fantastic as his dark blue LX looks, the real party piece is sitting under that big reverse-cowl bonnet – a true-blue, Aussie 5.0-litre Holden V8. So why is an Australian car with an Australian engine so special? Well let me put it to you this way: How many Holdens do you know with nearly 700hp of all-motor goodness that aren’t running a small-block Chevy or new-world LS?
The car was fitted with a humble six-cylinder donk when Dom picked it up in 1996 for a measly $600, but it was in a bit of a sorry state. “The front of it had been stuffed into a stop sign, so it needed a pair of front guards, nosecone and radiator support,” he says. “The owners had thrown it into the too-hard basket, so I grabbed it.”
You won’t find any LS or small-block Chevy under the bonnet of this Holden. Dom wanted to keep the car true to its roots, so when the 360ci stroker Holden V8 let go, he decided to build up a 5.0L Holden roller-cam V8 from a VT Commodore
Being the 90s, Dom managed to track down some NOS Holden panels sitting in a loft at a dealer to replace the stuffed sheet metal, and it took around three years for him and his mates to piece the little Torry back together. The old straight-six donk was ripped out and replaced with an ex-HQ V8, stroked out to 360ci. This, teamed with a new paintjob in HSV Genesis Blue, made for a seriously fun street car, but Dom was apprehensive about taking it down the strip: “After the car had been on the road for a little while, I was talked into going racing at the Bairnsdale drags,” he says. “I recall refusing to drive the car on the track first up, so my good mate Angelo jumped in and did three or four passes in it.” After watching his car head down the strip a few times, Dom’s mindset very quickly changed. “I finally got behind the wheel, and 20 passes later I was hooked!”
Soon enough, the chase for more speed was on, and so the process of hopping-up the old 360 began. The boys started bolting more speed parts on and going quicker and quicker, running in the 12s and then the 11s, until after 12 hard years of reliable service the old 360 went rods-out on the dyno.
Dom could’ve followed the trend and dumped a small-block Chev into the Torry, but he’s a Holden man through and through and instead decided on a 5.0-litre V8 from a VT Commodore. “I thought I would start from the ground up and really build a Holden engine that was going to last and stand out from the crowd,” he says. “I have always been a fan of the Holden and not too many don’t do the SBC upgrade, so I’d rather be different.”
The new mill got the full works from the magicians at Molinari Race Engines, with tuning from Danko at Adicted Performance. It was massaged out to 383ci (6.2L) with a COME Racing billet crank, Oliver I-beam billet rods, CP forged pistons and a custom-grind Comp Cams camshaft. The top end also got a makeover; both the Yella Terra heads and Harrop intake manifold were given some love by Chris at Chris’ Porting Service, and some Crane Ultra Pro lifters were installed, before the whole shebang was topped off with a Pro Systems 1050 Dominator carby. All up, the package smashed out 693hp and 505ft-lb on the engine dyno – not the kind of stats you’d often read about from an Aussie 5.0-litre!
It’s a pretty simple affair inside the Torana, with a conversion to just two seats to make room for the much-needed six-point rollcage from Top Notch Race Cars. Simpson cam-locked harnesses are draped over RCI race seats, while the retrim was handled by Tim from Sew Fine Auto Interiors
Backing up the monster Aussie mill is a reverse-pattern Turbo 350 ’box with a transbrake, housing a 6200rpm TCE converter. The rear end is a fairly standard deal; the car still has factory tubs, rails and trailing arms, with a nine-inch sporting 4.11:1 diff gears. For street duties, Dom just runs the Torry around on 98 pump fuel, but at the track he switches to Roo16, which is when this little beast really comes to life. “It’s run a best of 9.48@142mph, and it weighs in at 3100lb!” he says. “But what’s really great about this car is the consistency. It’s not like it’ll run a nine one lap and an 11 the next; it’s always been a super-consistent car, which makes it ideal for dial-in racing,”
While Dom may be running an old-school carby, he’s still got enough new-school tech to keep an eye on all the vitals in his LX. The Haltech IQ3 Street dash monitors fuel and oil pressure, vacuum, has dual wideband inputs, logs rpm and even driveshaft speed, so Dom has most of the info he needs to keep his Torana ticking over reliably
There’s still a bit of development left to do with the new MSD ignition kit, and Dom’s hoping the car will dip into the 9.30s with some R&D. “We’re hoping to improve the 60ft with a bit of tuning, because right now it just wants to go wheels-up,” he says. “I’m yet to go over 4800rpm with the transbrake on the line, so if we can improve that, it should go faster.”
Dom plans on taking it to a few meets this year, with a bunch of street miles in between. “The whole point of cars like these is to get out and have fun, experience stuff and learn a few things,” he declares. “If it gets a stone chip or two on it in the process, then so be it; I’ll know it was worth it.”
1975 LX TORANA HATCH
Paint: PPG HSV Genesis Blue
Brand: Holden 383ci
Induction: Harrop single-plane
Carby: Pro Systems 1050 Dominator
Heads: Yella Terra Dash 9
Camshaft: Custom Comp Cam
Lifters: Crane Ultra Pro
Conrods: Oliver I-beam billet
Pistons: CP forged
Crank: COME billet
Oil pump: Modified Holden
Fuel system: MagnaFuel 500 pump
Cooling: Aluminium radiator
Exhaust: 3.5in mild steel
Gearbox: Turbo 350, transbrake
Converter: TCE, 6200rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 31-spline, 4.11:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Pedders springs, Koni shocks
Rear: Pedders springs, Afco shocks
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f), standard drums (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld AlumaStar; 17x5 (f), 15x8 (r)
Rubber: M/T DS2 (f), M/T Radial Pro 255/60R15 (r)
Ange Molinari at Molinari Race Engines; Steve and Brett at S&J Panels; Chris at Chris’ Porting Service for the head and manifold work; Mick at John Sydney Racing for the machine work; Chris at HPC for ceramic coating; Matt at MDT for the transmission; Stathi at Independent Motorsports; Marcus at Speed Pro, Tim at Sew Fine Auto Interiors; Daniel at Reidspeed; Danko at Adicted Performance for tuning; Graeme Cerini at Total Performance; my best mate James and my mates Angelo, Frank, Alexander, Garry and Tisha; my wife Tania and son Christian
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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