This article on Shannon's Torana was originally published in the October 2018 issue of Street Machine
THERE is not too much that beats the look of a classic Torana hatch. Douse it in black paint, sling it low over a set of shiny wheels, and you’re talking one tough machine. Then add a blower through the bonnet – now we’re talking bucket-list stuff!
Shannon Longhurst is the lucky owner of this magnificent LX Torana hatchback, and she’s had the hot car disease since her early teens. “I was always into V8 Supercars, and my bedroom had pictures of Torana and V8s,” Shannon says. “But my family wasn’t into it, just me.”
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Fast-forward to 13 years ago and Shannon’s husband Graham was all set to build a V8-powered LJ Torana that Shannon could call her own, when this LX came up for sale. “It was neat, tidy, had no rust and was engineered, so I thought: ‘Why not?’” Shannon says.
“We bought it from a friend’s brother for $13,000,” Graham adds. “It was blue, with a small-block Chev, six-speed manual, nine-inch and updated brakes. It was all right, but nothing flash.”
For nine years Shannon piloted the Torry in this guise, with Graham later bolting on a blower for Summernats cruise duties.
“It doesn’t have a full exhaust yet,” Graham says of the car’s current 11/4in four-into-one extractors. “They sure heard her coming at the ’Nats!”
“Then about four years ago I had a little accident in it,” Graham says. “I was always going to do it up for her, so after denting the front I said I’d rebuild the whole thing the way she wanted. Shannon picked everything – the black on black on black, the lot.”
“My friends were saying not to do it black and plain,” Shannon says. “But I stuck to my guns and did it how I wanted it.”
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To start proceedings Graham popped out the motor and ’box, then shipped the rolling body off to mates Joey Tyler and Warren Bleakley. The pair tackled the fender-bender, then shaved the locks and smoothed the engine bay before drenching the unforgiving PPG black hue on every panel, bumper and chrome piece.
“It was meant to be a quick tidy-up, but you know how it goes!” Shannon says. “It’s harder to achieve that simple look, but it’s what I was after. Maybe it went a little too far, but I’m happy.”
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“There’s not many places to put the fuel tank in the hatchbacks, so we didn’t have much say in the matter, as I didn’t want a drop tank in it,” Graham says of the fuel cell’s filler hole, surrounded by leather. And no, it’s not tubbed. “I didn’t want to cut it up too much, as they’re worth too much money now”
And what good is a sweet ’bay without an equally impressive donk residing between the rails? Graham had mate Craig McDonald twiddle the 350ci Chev, adding Dart Pro 1 heads, a custom-ground bumpstick, JE slugs and a Scat crank. Poking through the bonnet hole is The Blower Shop 8/71, juiced by EFI and controlled by a Haltech ECU. Tuned on E85, she’s good for a tidy 550rwhp.
Behind, the stick-shift has been relieved of its duties, replaced with a Powerglide and a TCI 3500rpm stally. This feeds along a three-inch tailshaft to a nine-inch diff filled with an LSD centre, 4.11:1 gears and 31-spline axles.
Underneath has remained fairly much how the General intended, other than the upgraded VZ Commodore calipers and slotted rotors on all four corners, fed by a Wilwood master cylinder. Intro billet rims complete the look – 18x7 up front and 18x9 at the rear.
The engine bay is spick and span, helped along by the relocated wiper motor and brake booster. If it’s not black then it’s polished or chromed, all to further highlight the polished 8/71 blower. “I love how the engine bay looks,” Shannon says. Graham adds: “It’s a bit OCD, but Joey and Warren worked with me. I’ll get it all back under the bonnet down the track so that Shannon can drive it around”
The interior also reflects Shannon’s minimalist bent. “I didn’t want some big pattern through my interior; I just kept it simple,” she says. Trims By Shaun swathed a pair of VE ClubSport pews – sans headrests – in black leather, then created a one-piece back seat to replace the previous forward-folding item. The dash is now a single flat panel that runs from door to door, with only a set of Auto Meter gauges peeking through to provide the need-to-knows. A Billet Specialties tiller and trim pieces offer a little bling.
The VE ClubSport seats move both vertically and horizontally, allowing both Shannon and Graham to easily drive without their differing heights hindering matters. “And they’re comfy-as,” says Graham. “The car used to have race seats in it – they’re as uncomfortable as anything!”
“All of the boys who build my cars are friends, and they were just brilliant,” Graham says. “It took about 12 months – maybe two years tops. It was pretty quick, but most of it was already there.”
“Now my daughter Iesha wants to steal it; I just need to keep Graham out of it,” Shannon laughs. Yet the icing on the cake is not her family’s appreciation, nor the big ol’ blower – it’s having automotive royalty appreciate Shannon’s vision.
“At Summernats, Charley Hutton said to me: ‘It’s simple and elegant but tough,” Shannon says of her LX being judged the Vibrance PPG Supreme Entrant at ’Nats 31. “Winning the PPG trophy was so unexpected. I made Top 10 and was rapt; then when they called my name as the winner I couldn’t believe it. And to think our friends pushed me to go to the Summernats in the first place!”
Yet you probably won’t see the LX at any upcoming shows; that’s just not up Shannon’s alley. But she just might get the car down the track: “Graham is into burnouts, but I prefer the drags,” she says.
“It’s not set up for it at the moment, but I wouldn’t mind racing.”
We wouldn’t mind seeing it, Shannon!
If you recognise Graham Longhurst’s name, it’s because he owns both the Summernats 24 Horsepower Heroes-winning SMOKEU HZ Kingswood, as well as ITSON, an HZ One Tonner burnout car that he competes in along the east coast.
“SMOKEU has been in the shed for a few years now,” Graham says of the 891rwhp Kinger. “I had the rings done and a freshen-up, but it’s the same combo. I’m looking at entering Summernats 32 and maybe Shepparton. Now it’s a Powercruise car, so it’s fun without trashing it as much.
“I’ve got ITSON for burnouts; we’ve done Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney in the past month. We do a fair bit of travelling with that one.”
So, do Graham and Shannon have a cruiser that’s all under-bonnet? “Not really,” Graham laughs. “But we do have an SL/R 5000 that I’m doing up, as well as an HQ four-door that I’ll put an LS in as a cruise car.”
1978 LX TORANA HATCH
Colour: PPG Black
Brand: 350ci Chev, built by Craig McDonald
Induction: The Blower Shop 8/71, with EFI, 1600cc injectors, bird catcher
Heads: Dart Pro 1
Springs and valves: COMP Cams
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Holley EFI in-line pump
Radiator: Natrad custom alloy three-core
Exhaust: 1¼in 4-into-1 extractors, HPC-coated (3in exhaust to come)
Ignition: MSD dizzy
Trans: Powerglide two-speed
Converter: TCI 3500rpm
Tailshaft: Custom 3in
Diff: 9in, LSD, 4.11:1 gears, 31-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Suspension: LX Torana (f & r)
Brakes: VZ Commodore discs, slotted rotors (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Intro; 18x7 (f), 18x9 (r)
Rubber: 215/35/18 (f), 255/35/18 (r)
Seats: VE ClubSport in black leather (headrests removed); one-piece rear seat
Steering wheel: Billet Specialties
Gauges: Auto Meter
Shifter: B&M Pro Stick