THE one that nearly was: While all of the hardware we have revisited in our look back at Australia’s greatest home-grown concepts failed to roll out in production form, Holden’s 1970 Torana GTR-X came closer than many to feeling the showroom lights on its sexy coupe body.
Unlike the LC Torana sedan and two-door of the same year, which sported classic Aussie meat-and-two-veg styling, the GTR-X concept was an extraordinary departure, bringing an elegant and sophisticated look that could hold its own alongside some serious European metal.
We’re not one to gossip, but Maserati’s Khamsin and the Ferrari 365 GTC/4 emerged just years later wearing a similar blade-edge nose and elegant rear window profile. Could the famous design houses have gained inspiration from the Aussie black sheep?
The car started as a two-dimensional dream in 1969, sketched by the designer of the production Torana, Phil Zmood who gained inspiration from the Hurricane concept of the same year.
Zmood had no trouble convincing management to fund the next stages of concept development and a prototype brought the car to life using fibreglass for the body the following year.
In total, it is believed three or four full-size 3D versions of the car were created – the whereabouts of the fully functioning prototype is common knowledge, but the fate of up to three other GTR-X bodies including a rolling chassis version is not known, which may excite readers of our recent barn-find feature.
Under its bonnet, the drivable prototype was given the same 3.0-litre 189S six-cylinder as fitted to the LC XU-1 Torana, which also lent its platform for the concept. A four-speed manual gearbox sent power to the rear wheels.
Power peaked at 119kW and 5200rpm while torque was rated at 265Nm at 3600rpm, which may not sound like much by today’s standards but the concept weighed just 1043kg. If you want to know how much go that is, take a 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 for a blast, which has 118kW/200Nm at its disposal and weighs 1033kg - enough for a lot of fun.
Interestingly, the Mazda MX-5 provides another handy comparison for dimensions. The MX-5 is nearly 300mm shorter than the Holden coupe but its 1735mm width is almost identical to the Torana’s 1732mm and the Mazda sits 1225mm above the road, while the Holden is 1135mm high.
The 1970s were a good time to be in Australia and the rising popularity of other fibreglass bodied sports cars such as Bolwell stacked a good case in favour of the Torana GTR-X but it wasn’t quite enough and the local population of two-seater sports coupe fans was deemed to be too small to sustain demand for the little Holden.
Ironically, it was another Japanese car that was likely to have factored in the decision to keep the GTR-X in the history books and not in showrooms, with Nissan’s highly accessible 240Z revealed the year before Holden’s coupe broke cover.
The only known functional GTR-X now resides in Holden’s mouth-watering collection in Melbourne and serves as a reminder of what the car maker is capable of when it lets its hair down and rolls up its sleeves.