I HAD plans to fit up an injected five-litre but then my mates started talking about an LS1, and that’s when things began to get side-tracked,” Adam Burnett explains of how his surgically clean LX Torana came to be.
This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Street Machine
Back in the late 70s, Holden’s LX was an all-conquering machine. With a 308 between the rails, it ruled Aussie racetracks with an iron fist. So the argument was, if a five-litre was good, a 5.7-litre must be better.
Powerless to argue in the face of such logic, Adam pensioned off the V8 VP Commodore he’d bought as a donor car, and readjusted the scope of the project to include an LS1 conversion. He’d already been to see Powerhouse Engines about a rebuild on the old Holden V8, and they’d pointed him in the direction of a bloke by the name of John Watson. He would prove to be an invaluable ally throughout the process, contributing skills and advice for the whole six-year duration.
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Adam always intended to keep the exterior clean and simple, without A9X-style add-ons or bonnet protrusions. Aside from the front-mounted air-to-air intercooler tucked behind the grille, there’s precious little that hints at the car’s capabilities
Adam stripped his Torana — a chamois-coloured, 202-powered nanna-pack in excellent, rust-free condition — before relocating it to John’s backyard shed where the pair carried out the LS1 conversion.
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“It was a prick of a job; there was nothing easy about it!” Adam says. It was made all the more complex by the fact that he wanted to keep the LX’s factory heater box. Both it and the engine wanted to occupy the same real estate, which meant whipping up a custom transmission tunnel to allow the two to coexist. A customised Camaro sump was also used, along with a modified steering shaft to clear the bespoke extractors.
“I reckon we had the engine in and out about 25 times, and each time we found something that needed to be modified. In the meantime, I was scouring the ’net for someone who’d done the conversion already. But eventually we got it sorted.”
And the clearance woes didn’t end there.
Adam wanted his Torrie to be truly different and reasoned that it’d be more interesting if the LS1 happened to be full of boost. But the clean exterior styling he wanted meant that scoops or any type of hardware poking through the bonnet was a no-no.
After scoping out a number of valley-mounted positive-displacement pumps, it became clear that a side-mounted centrifugal charger would be the best option — a D1SC ProCharger, to be specific.
Hanging in an off-the-shelf bracket, the pump fouled on the bonnet so the mounting hardware had to be cut and modified to suit.
“My stomach dropped when the bonnet wouldn’t close, but once the bracket had been modified we had 6mm of clearance,” Adam says.
With the engine conversion in the bag, the shell went to D-Line Smash Repairs for a host of subtle body mods. The door locks were deleted, and all excess engine bay holes were welded and smoothed, while the rear guards were stretched to accommodate the big 18x10 Foose billets Adam had planned. New door skins were used and the rest of the body was straightened to perfection before the boys laid on the Mazda Blue paint.
Then the car returned to Adam’s suburban garage, where he took care of the fit-up single-handedly.
“Honestly, that part of the build was a real challenge. Doing everything by myself in a badly lit shed while trying not to scratch anything was a nightmare; even simple things like fitting the bumpers ended up being painful and everything seemed to take forever. At one point I tripped over an extension lead, hit my head on the car on the way down and nearly knocked myself out!”
Black leather cabin features modified VU SS front seats and custom door cards but Adam kept the dash faithful, with an SL/R cluster supplemented by a selection of Auto Meter dials. The B&M shifter fits neatly in the console
Meanwhile, Green Upholstery was toiling on the interior. VU SS seats had their brackets modified to mate to the original Torana holes. Their headrests were then lopped off, before they were trimmed in black leather with gathered inserts. The rear bench was modified to match, along with the custom door trims and suede parcel shelf. The dash, on the other hand, remains stock though decorated with Auto Meter dials so Adam can monitor engine vitals. A SAAS wheel and B&M Quicksilver shifter give him somewhere to rest his hands.
FITTING 18x10 Foose wheels wearing 265/35-18 hoops under an untubbed Torana was a mission in itself but careful measuring to ensure a spot-on relationship between diff length and wheel offset means it’s never so much as scrubbed a tyre. The lip on the seatbelt mount brackets had to be radiused and the outer guards were stretched, and while Kings Springs and Pedders shocks suspend the diff, its position is adjustable via McDonald Bros trailing arms.
Up front, fitting 330mm VE Commodore brakes under 18x7 wheels created untold dramas, with extensive machining and modifications required. For 215/35-18 tyres the track had to be narrowed by 8mm either side to prevent the tyres from fouling the guards. This meant customising a raft of components inboard of the rim faces. The calipers had to be modified with new brackets and custom hubs had to be made, but the Torana now turns lock-to-lock without a worry in the world.
1977 HOLDEN LX TORANA
Colour: Mazda Blue
Brand: Chevrolet 5.7L LS1
Induction: ProCharger D1SC supercharger, front-mount intercooler, LS1 inlet manifold
Camshaft: Comp cam, 0.614in lift, 227deg duration, 114deg lobe separation
Sump: Modified Camaro
Fuel: Unleaded, 98 octane
Fuel system: Twin Bosch 044 fuel pumps, Aeroflow rails, 60lb Siemens injectors
Cooling: Race Radiators custom alloy; intercooler
Exhaust: Custom 1¾in extractors, twin three-inch HPC-treated system, Supercat stainless mufflers
Ignition: MSD coilpacks and ’plug leads
Gearbox: 4L60E auto, shift kit, TCT 3500rpm converter
Diff: Nine-inch, 31-spline billet axles, 3.89:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Kings Springs coils (f), custom Kings Springs coils (r)
Shocks: Pedders (f & r)
Brakes: Drilled and slotted 330mm VE Commodore rotors, polished two-piston calipers (f), VE Commodore 315mm rotors, polished single-piston calipers (r)
Master cylinder: One-inch hot rod
Steering: Reconditioned rack, modified shaft
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Foose billets, 18x7 (f) 18x10 (r)
Rubber: Milanza 215/35-18 (f) 265/35-18 (r)
John Watson at WOT Automotive (03 5623 3351), Clint and the boys from D-Line Smash Repairs (03 5623 2996), Dave Green at Green Upholstery (0429 134 934), Phonsy and Wayne at GM Motorsport (03 9746 6646), ATS Transmissions Bendigo, Powerhouse Engines, Tony Schena the diff guru, my wife and mate Dean for their support