This article on Aaron Gregory's LX Torana was originally published in Street Machine's LSX Tuner #8 magazine
MENTION Torana hatch and many of us will picture the Bathurst-bred track cars that were the pinnacle of Holden performance in the 1970s. The late Peter Brock’s factory-backed red-with-white A9X hatch dominated at Bathurst in 1978, and especially in 1979, when it led the race from start to finish, won by six laps, and reset the lap record on the last lap.
Launched in the LX series, the Torana hatch lasted only a few years in Holden showrooms, so it had one of the shortest production runs of any GM-H model. The later UC hatch didn’t have a V8, so the LX hatch remains an immortal and important model in Holden’s history
While the Torana hatch’s race record is cool, Queensland’s Aaron Gregory took that history lesson and built a stout machine that forgoes the guard flares and packs a twin-turbo LS. It’s something Aaron has done in the past, does a lot now, and will continue to do in the future, because he’s the boss man at ASG Motorsports on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Just because Aaron’s LX doesn’t have rivet-on flares doesn’t mean he can’t fit some serious meats under the little hatch. Those wheels are 15in Weld AlumaStars wrapped in Mickey Thompson ET Fronts and 275/60/15 Radial Pros. They hide a quartet of Wilwood disc brakes and Strange adjustable coil-overs
The story of the build of this Torana begins sadly. The previous owners, brothers Ricky and Colin Fender, were good customers of Aaron’s when he lived and worked in Perth. Colin was tragically killed in an industrial accident and, to cut a longer story short, Aaron was given the family’s blessing to buy the yet-to-be-started hatch project.
Although Aaron has a great crew around him, he has owned several Toranas and did just about all the work on the car at home in his garage with the help of mates. The three-door Torry is a research tool and a flag-waver for his company’s LS street engine package. This is working well, as it has so far run a best of 8.1@171mph!
The Torana had its fair share of rust when Aaron started on it in Perth, before it was shipped to the Gold Coast when he relocated there five years ago. The fix-it list included beaver panels, driver’s floor, rear lower quarters and a few spots in the firewall. Aaron’s plans were to keep the car streetable but stretch the quarter-mile numbers into single figures.
To ensure he had enough grip, he fitted a set of mini-tubs in the rear, retaining the Torana’s standard suspension pick-up points. Other metal tweaks include abbreviated chassis rails in the engine bay and a notched radiator support panel to provide better space for the intake plumbing. Aaron fabricated the extensive rollcage, too.
On the outside, the Torana’s skin is very close to factory, with just a little tweaking of the lower edges to suit the 275-wide M/T Radial Pro rear tyres, and it’s bathed in a simple stark white that Aaron applied himself.
How about some typical Torana flares, Aaron?
“None of my Toranas have ever had flares,” he says. “But for this one I bought a set of flares and dummy-fitted them into place. I stood back to look at it and I thought it looked pretty good!
“Then I had a beer with my good mates Dan, Dave, Jamie and Jason and we sat back and had another look and we decided: ‘Yeah, nah,’ so I took the bodykit off and sold it. I’m a no-flare Torana bloke!”
Up front there is no red six or iron lion; it’s running a 408ci LS now, although Aaron initially powered the car with a twin-turbo 338ci Buick-headed small-block Chev that pushed the car well into the eights. The turbos, a pair of Precision 71/75s, are what Aaron describes as “old” and have a story, too. “I ordered them for a customer who never went through with a project, so I was stuck with them,” he says.
To prevent hazing the tyres on the strip, Aaron leaves the line with just 6psi in his 408ci stroker but, later in the run, ramps it up to a full 20psi. With that much boost, the engine is developing approximately 1200hp at the treads, yet Aaron says it’s a docile street driver, too
Those snails are in-your-face, braced to the body and dumped through the Torana’s inner guards. The new 408ci LS easily slid into place between them once Aaron decided to replace the previous small-block. The new powerplant is built on a brand-new LQ9 iron block with a Lunati stroker crank and rods and Clevite H-Series bearings. The heads are a source of pride for Aaron: They’re ASG’s customer-grade locally CNC-ported units based on L98 rectangle-port castings.
“We’ve remodelled the combustion chambers,” Aaron says, “so they breathe better with standard valves and each chamber is identical.”
The cam remains a hydraulic-roller and is also an ASG design working off standard rocker gear. Despite making 1200rwhp and knocking on the door of a seven-second slip, Aaron reckons the engine doesn’t have much rocket science behind it.
Aaron has learned a few tricks over the years, and one of them is to lay-over the chassis rails to allow more space in the Torana’s notoriously tight bay. The turbos are tabbed to the body, the exhaust is an ASG-fabbed 3.5in system, and don’t bother looking for an intercooler as there isn’t one!
Those two turbos and a tankful of methanol means the 408-cuber will swallow up to 20psi without intercooling. The ethanol cocktails are managed by the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU and fed by a big fuel system: a custom fuel cell, two MagnaFuel 750 pumps and a set of 2200cc injectors. For convenience, Aaron can also run the car on E85.
Behind the twin-turbocharged LS is a Dominator torque converter and 2000hp-rated two-speed Powerglide built by Transmission Specialities in the USA. The last link in the driveline is a Final Drive Engineering sheet-metal nine-inch mounted between mini-tubs and connected by a Final Drive Engineering driveshaft.
Although the rear suspension uses standard pick-up points, it has a full suite of Nolathane bushes. The front suspension retains its Torana basics but is now tuneable with adjustable Camaro coil-overs.
With most of the car done DIY-style, including such mundane tasks as the wiring, one of the few things that Aaron bought in was the trim to cover the fixed-back, strip-spec composite seats sourced from VPW. Stitched by his good mate Jam, they’re a simple but classic burgundy that look great against the white paint.
Aaron’s good mate Jam did the simple but classy trim job around the composite seats and drag-spec ’cage. The LX Torana’s flat dash has been replaced with a milled alloy panel that hosts the Haltech ECU and Racepak instruments. The shifter is a B&M
“It’s a difficult story to tell,” says Aaron, alluding to the tragedy that led to him owning the car. “But the beauty of it is the car is now finished. I’m glad we acquired it and I’m glad it’s back on the road.
“It has now become something that it may never have been.”
1977 HOLDEN LX TORANA HATCH
Brand: GM LQ9 iron block
Turbo: 2 x Precision 71/75
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Heads: ASG Motorsports CNC-ported L98 Gen IV
Camshaft: ASG turbo-grind
Crank: Lunati stroker
Fuel system: 2 x MagnaFuel pumps
Cooling: PWR radiator
Exhaust: 3.5in dump pipes
Gearbox: Transmission Specialities Powerglide-based two-speed
Converter: Dominator 4800rpm
Diff: Final Drive sheet-metal housing, Strange full spool, Mark Williams 35-spline axles, 3.5:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs/dampers: Strange adjustable coil-overs (f & r)
Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld AlumaStar; 15x4 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson; ET Front (f), Radial Pro 275/60 (r)
My partner Cleo Hancock; my daughter Charlie Jean and son Mitchell; my mates Dave Banard, Jamie and Mark Allen, Jason Moon and Dan Pinnington; Jam (the trim man)
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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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