WHEN Michael Hearn told us: “With this car I’ve done everything I ever wanted to do to a Torana,” we sure as hell believed him! There isn’t much more that could be done to this killer LX hatch.
The plan was always to keep the classic Aussie muscle car look and despite the huge list of modifications, it’s still definitely a Torana.
First published in the July 2008 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Tony Rabitte
Dragway DB100s fit the bill perfectly but getting the 18x11 boots to fit was no mean feat. A fair bit of massaging of the wheel opening and flares was required to get it just right
From go to whoa, the project only took eight months and considering he started with a car that was pulled from under a house, it’s even more amazing.
Michael says: “It was dented and rusty and had a few spots of primer over the original paint from 1976. It was just a shell and had no running gear or glass in it.”
A few weeks later he went back to the same bloke’s place and picked up another Torrie to use for parts.
When Michael starts telling us that he’s had more than 20 Toranas — including one LJ and two LXs that have won show awards — and that he knows them right down to the last nut and bolt, it starts to make sense how he could build such a high-quality car in such a short time.
Tubular control arms were initially aluminium coated. For Motorex, Michael has pulled the whole suspension and is chroming the lot
Michael also built an HQ wagon back in ’81 that he dubbed Country Classic. It was featured in Custom Vans and Trucks and was rebuilt a few years later when it was renamed Mr Rev, so he’s no newcomer to the world of quality street machines.
Although he could probably pull a Torrie apart in his sleep, when it comes to putting it all back together Michael’s got some really good blokes up in North Qld to help him out. For the tough-as-nails running gear, the boys at Rockhampton Motor Company got the nod. “Tough boys, tough car,” Michael reckons.
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The driveline is as good as it gets when it comes to bulletproof combinations. No more 308s for this girl; it’s got 350 cubes of the General’s finest stuffed full of go-fast bits like a Crane solid cam and lifters, Crow valve-gear and Speco Pro hypereutectic pistons. Topping it off are some double hump fuellie heads that get worked over by a 6/71 blower. That’s fed by a couple of 650 Mighty Demon carbs. A Turbo 350 with a 3500rpm Dominator converter sends the grunt back to a nine-inch that been filled with 4.11 gears and a mini-spool. But as tough as that combo is, that’s not what defines this car.
The engine bay also features custom fibreglass panels as well as a whole heap of airbrushing
Thanks to 10 solid weeks of work by good mate Hans Kreuzen — aka The Paint Doctor — this tough Torrie has been transformed into a rolling display of the Doctor’s amazing talents. Not only did Hans lay on the airbrushed graphics, he also created all of the fibreglass panels that feature throughout the car. Considering he doesn’t normally do ’glassing, he seems to have picked it up pretty quickly.
Michael and Hans decided on the Anaconda movie theme after discussing a few other options. Godzilla was an early choice but that’d already been done, then a design that appealed to the kiddies was discussed but that soon got canned as well. Whatever design they came up with, it had to be tough.
You want to be careful when you check the oil on this baby! Airbrushed anaconda snakes its way through the car and eventually pops out right here
In the end, the Anaconda idea stuck partly due to the obvious toughness of a snake that can swallow a human whole but also because Michael was keen to paint the car yellow.
“Yellow is a real show colour — it grabs attention and really stands out,” he says.
Custom armrests were also airbrushed in the anaconda-skin pattern
Apparently, anacondas have a lot of yellow in their colouring — we’re not going to get close enough to one to argue the point — so it worked in with Michael’s preferred colour. The fact that Hans got to airbrush Jennifer Lopez in a wet singlet had nothing to do with it.
In case you’ve noticed that the design isn’t the same on each side of the car, that was part of the plan from the start.
“Most cars you see with graphics have the same design on each side but I wanted it different so that people would walk around the whole car and see something new,” Michael says. The display Michael and Hans created for car shows goes that extra step to bring in the viewer and keep them interested.
The custom paint wasn’t the only exterior modification. It has seen a whole heap of tweaks to smooth out the body and tidy up the fit and finish of the flares and spoiler. Not many people remember but Toranas came out with 13-inch wheels, so when you go and stuff a set of 16x7 and 18x11 rims underneath, you need to make some room.
The rear seat was completely custom made
With the fender openings modified, the flares also had to be cut and shut to clear the wheels with their 205/50 and 275/40 rubber. The areas where the flares meet the front spoiler were also tidied up and they are now joined by two clips on each side. This allows easy removal of the spoiler if and when the car needs to be trailered.
But if you think the outside is pretty wild, wait until you open the door! Created by Michael and Hans and beautifully upholstered by Will Baker, we’re pretty sure you’ve never seen a Torana interior like this. Entirely covered in Caprice-coloured vinyl and custom-dyed yellow ostrich leather, the almost organic shapes and curves of the dash and seats seem to swallow the driver. That could be more of the Anaconda theme coming into play.
Even the fire extinguisher got a custom paint-job
As wild as the trim is, it has been designed in such a way that it can be removed from the car in a matter of minutes and will fit any other LH/LX Torana — now that’s clever. It also means that a stock interior could be put back in this Torana, though we doubt that will ever happen.
The amount of fibreglass work inside the car is amazing. Not only the dashboard but the full-length console, arm rests — which are airbrushed with the snakeskin pattern — and the complete rear section of the cargo area. There is also a full neon lighting system inside the car which glows green when the car is on display.
The entire rear cargo section is enclosed in fibreglass that houses the speakers and sub-woofer. The amp is located underneath and is lit by neon lights when on show
The previously mentioned armrests are part of the snake that winds its way through the car. It starts in the driver’s foot well where you can see the tail, then coils in and out of the car, bursting out through the fuel tank cover and again in the engine bay.
There’s no denying that this car stands out in a crowd but it’s also a stand-out car at show time. First time out the LX earned Best Two-Door, Best Interior, Top 10, Top Street Machine and a spot in the Meguiar’s Showcar Superstars final.
Airbrushing even extends to the vinyl floor mats. The driver’s side features the tail of the snake; passengers step all over the lovely Miss Lopez
DISPLAYING your car at a show is a chance to really go to town and present it at its best. This doesn’t just mean jacking it up, ripping off a wheel and chucking some mirrors underneath. If you want the people to come in for a closer look, having a theme for your display is a sure-fire winner.
Michael’s gone that extra step by building the car to a theme but that means when he’s got it on show, the whole display becomes part of it. Of course, you’ve still got to show off the car, so Michael still puts mirrors under it but only on one side. The other side is arranged with jungle plants and vines, and green lighting under and inside the car.
While Anaconda plays on the built-in DVD system, at the front of the car another screen runs a slide-show of photos taken during the car’s build up.
The driver has a funky dashboard with a full complement of Auto Meter gauges offset to the centre
The overall effect draws people to the display so that they spend a lot more time looking at the car and tend to go right around it as there’s always something else to catch their eye.
1976 LX TORANA COUPE
Colour: Protec Devil Yellow COB
Brand: Chev 350ci
Induction: Supercharged, twin 650 Mighty Demons
Heads: Double hump fuellie
Valves: Ferrea 1.95in/1.60ex, Crow springs
Lifters: Crane solid
Pistons: Speco Pro hypereutectic 60-thou, gapless rings
Crank: Eagle H-beam Oil pump: Mellings high volume
Fuel pumps: Twin Holley Blues
Exhaust: Custom 2½-inch X-pipe
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Gearbox: Turbo 350
Converter: 3500 Dominator
Diff: Nine-inch, 4.11 mini-spool
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: King Spring (f&r)
Shocks: Monroe (f&r)
Mods: Tubular control arms (f&r)
Brakes: Four-wheel discs
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Dragway DB100 16x7 (f), 18x11 (r)
Tyres: Falken 205/50 (f), 275/40 (r)
Seats: Custom Torana (f), custom lounge (r)
Mods: Fibreglass dash and console
Trim: Caprice vinyl and ostrich leather
Instruments: Auto Meter
Seatbelts: Custom, yellow
ICE: US Audio Power stereo, Vision DVD, 2 x DVD screens
Buddy’s Fire Sales and Service; Hans Kreuzen, The Paint Doctor; Rockhampton Motor Company, engine, diff and fabrication; Aaron Smithwick, wiring; Will Baker, upholstery; Steve at Pine Rivers Electroplating; Perry at Repco Rockhampton; most importantly, Leesa, Samantha, Trudie and Aaron for all the support