THE STORY of Ayden Batchelor and his LX Torana hatch is a bit like a fairy tale. It starts off pretty normal, then there’s a dark patch for a while before you get to the happy ending where – hopefully – you’ve figured out the moral of the story.
This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Street Machine
The wheels are a custom design by Intro and measure up at 17x7 and 17x10 and wear 215 and 275 40-series rubber from Maxxis. The whitewalls are painted on and give the illusion of the wheels being slightly larger
By the time Ayden got hold of this particular Torrie, he’d already been driving around Fremantle in an LX four-door on his P-plates for a year or so. “It was a nice car for a P-plater,” Ayden says. “Just a six-cylinder with a set of 14-inch rims, white and black with a flare kit. I used to spend every weekend doing bog laps in Freo – as most P-platers do.”
Like many street machiners, Ayden was lucky enough to have a dad that was also into cars: “My dad had a hatch from when I was about 12 or 13 and that’s how I got into it. I helped him rebuild his in the shed and then I wanted one and it grew from there.”
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Ayden does admit that he may have built his hatch back-to-front. The first thing he did was to get Gas 78 Industries to lay on the Electric Orange and Sparkling Black paint, which meant that he ended up with a flash-looking bodyshell that everyone else had to work around. Chalk it up to youthful exuberance and a bit of inexperience!
At the time, Ayden was in the navy working as an electronics technician (he’s since joined the fly in, fly out crowd doing GPS installations on mining vehicles), which meant he effectively built the car via remote control, communicating via email and digital photos.
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The car was originally a 253 auto, but with the bodywork looking all flash, the engine was going to need a makeover too. Ayden had Carlo at Romcol Automotive build him a warmed-over 308 with a Crane solid cam, ported and polished L34 heads and a Torker intake topped with a Demon 750 double-pumper.
Most of the engine-bay work was carried out by Cronic Customs and is about as sanitary as you can get. A CSR electric water pump tidies up the front of the engine, while twin breather tanks, some ceramic coating and a splash of chrome add some shine to the engine bay.
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When it came to the interior, Ayden thought it would be great to let his partner Candice pick the colour. “I’ve been with Candice for quite a long time and she’s very understanding of my passion for cars, so I said she could choose the interior colour,” he says. “Yep, that will not be happening again – white is a nightmare! Some people tried to talk me into white carpet, but Trimcare talked me out of that quick smart!” So, black carpet it was. “I believe Trimcare have said they’ll never do a white interior again,” Ayden laughs.
Pretty much everything else in the interior is white and customised. The door panels and the rear panels in the luggage area feature a tribal pattern. A custom centre console was created to house the stereo equipment and a DVD player for the rear passengers, while Cronic Customs fabricated the custom dash panel for the Auto Meter gauges.
That tribal-pattern-and-white theme was carried over to the exterior, with the custom-made Intro billets wrapped in low-profile tyres that have been whitewalled by Proshine. “I did the whitewalls because the rims are only 17s, and everyone is out there already with 18s and 19s and the strip of whitewall just makes them look a little bit bigger,” Ayden says. “It’s not a really far-out built car, it was just meant to be a nice streeter that got out of hand.”
The bay has been smoothed out a little and a few of the pieces were chucked in the chrome tank. The old 253 was turfed and a warmed-over 308 now takes its place
So, after Ayden had enjoyed the car for a few years, this fairy tale took a turn to the dark side late last year. “I was getting the car ready to take it for a bit of a drive later that day,” Ayden relates. “It was in a locked garage and I headed off to the gym and came back about an hour later. Our house is at the end of a T-intersection, so as I drive up the road I can see it. I saw that the roller door was open, which I thought was a bit strange, but I just figured I must have left it open.
“As I got closer I could see my car cover was on the floor and that’s when my heart stopped. I just didn’t know what to do.”
A NOS Sniper system – disconnected of course – takes pride of place in the rear. Keeping it company is the relocated battery, a pair of Hertz 6x9s and an Audison four-channel amp
Ayden ended up ringing his dad for advice, then his girlfriend, the police and finally his insurance company. While Ayden was dealing with the police, Candice got the word out via Facebook and then spent the rest of the day replying to questions and gathering information.
A lot of info on social media is not exactly gospel, but Ayden couldn’t believe the response, even from people he didn’t know. “Facebook was great for getting the story out there and it provided a lot of legitimate information as to where the car was last seen. We even knew which streets it drove down when it was taken.”
In case you’re wondering, yes, it is hard to keep clean. Everything is covered in white vinyl, including the flat dash panel and custom-built centre console. Scheel seats keep bums firmly planted in place
The car was spotted doing a few burnouts in a new housing estate about 20km from where it was stolen. “We know that for sure because we went down and had a look and I could tell they were definitely my tyres that had left the marks,” Ayden says.
Despite all of the buzz on social media, the sightings and the police having a fair idea of who took the car, it didn’t show up. “My insurance company has a policy that they pay out 14 days from the date you make the claim and you have to take the money – you can’t extend it,” Ayden says.
But thankfully – like most fairy tales, except for those horrible gruesome ones – we have a happy ending. It took over three months, but police finally found where the low-life thieves had been keeping the car. One search warrant and a police raid later and Ayden had his car back – well, almost.
The car wasn’t quite as pristine as when it was taken. The hatch was now wearing a satin-black jam job and anything that was easily removed had been sold off.
The insurance people informed Ayden that he didn’t have first rights to get the car back. Initially Ayden was very unimpressed with the situation, but he kept a cool head and came to an agreement where he would get three quotes on the value of the car in its current state and they would settle on a price so he could buy the car back.
“If the car is stolen and you get paid out, you have no rights to buy the car back,” Ayden says. “But I was told by insurance company staff that I could buy it back. I got the PDS read to me about 14 times.
“In the end it all worked out okay. The car ended up at a Pickles auction yard but my insurance people took it to their secure storage area, which was something they didn’t have to do and I really appreciated that. They’re not going to change the policy, but in situations like this, they’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis. They actually agreed to the lowest quote and the car is reinsured with them now.”
The other good news is, that dodgy paint job came off pretty easily with a few litres of thinner and a couple of kilos of rags. While the thieves had taken the time to remove the bumpers and headlights and mask up all the windows, they didn’t scuff back the clearcoat at all.
With the expertise of Proshine Detailing and lots of elbow grease, the car is looking pretty respectable again. It’s not a perfect outcome, but it’s a lot better than finding it burnt out in a pine plantation somewhere.
Ayden would like thank everyone that helped search for the car and spread the word that it was stolen, and those who offered services to help get it looking good again.
This is how the car looked when Ayden got it back. Not too much damage, but a not-so-lovely coat of satin black. Most of the stereo equipment had been pulled out and sold off to other dodgy characters.
The thieves sprayed straight over the clear without any scuffing, and the paint came off relatively easily with thinners. The thieves had even gone to the trouble to remove the bumpers and headlights and mask up to the black paint-outs
1976 LX TORANA HATCH
Paint: Electric Orange and Sparkling Black
Type: 308 Holden
Inlet: Edelbrock Torker
Carb: Demon 750DP
Heads: Ported and polished L34 B castings
Cam: Crane solid
Radiator: PWR crossflow
Exhaust: Twin 2.5in stainless
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Converter: 3000rpm high-stall
Diff: 9in, 31-spline axles, LSD 3.55 gears
Shocks: Koni Red shocks
Brakes: 290mm discs with PBR two-spot calipers (f), 300mm discs with Camaro calipers (r)
Rims: Intro 17x7 (f), 17x10 (r)
Rubber: Maxxis 215/40R17 (f), Maxxis 275/40R17 (r)
My partner Candice; Nathan at QuadsMods; Adam at Cronic Customs; Dave at Gas 78 Industries; Carlo at Romcol; Chris and the team at Trimcare; James from Proshine Detailing; Fabian at Westside Sound & Image