Looking back on Tony Wilkins's procharged 383-cube Holden LC Torana
This article on Tony's Holden LC Torana was originally published in the December 2008 isue of Street Machine
WHEN Tony Wilkins puts his ballsy LC Torana on show, he always gets a few people scratching their heads. It’s the pipework that catches most of them. They see the monster intercooler and that large Jake’s Performance blow-through carby hat, so they start looking for blowers or turbos. Yeah, it runs a big blower but you’ll be hard pressed to find it unless you start chasing pipework.
Look down in front of the engine you’ll spot the blower drive but to get a look at the blower itself you’ll need to be right at ground level. From there, spotting the polished F1R ProCharger is easy and then people start grabbing their mates and showing them as well. Before you know it there’s a procession of people bowing down at the front of the Torana — all hail the blower gods!
“That’s the way I wanted it,” Tony says. “I didn’t want anyone to see the blower. I didn’t build it to be a show car; I just wanted it clean so if it has an oil leak I can see it.”
What he did build the car for was to run hard at the drags while still being able to do the odd mile or two out on the road — but originally it was all just about having some good fun at Powercruise.
You know those little decisions you make that end up changing your life? Sometimes it’s that special girl (or guy) you meet, or that job offer you knock back. For Tony it was a wrong turn that had him driving past this LC Torana. The timing couldn’t have been better; the owners had lost interest and were moving so they were looking to sell. Tony, on the other hand, was on the lookout for something that he could throw together for the very first Powercruise.
So with just four weeks to go, he had himself a new project. In fact he already had a two-door HQ Monaro but he didn’t want to tub or ’cage that car. No such qualms with the Torana and Tony hooked into the little coupe with gusto.
Four weeks isn’t much time when it comes to building a rad ride, especially when most of its bits are missing.
“I got nothing,” he says. ‘Nothing’ meant a rusty bare shell with front and rear screens and some bumpers. However, thanks to the hoarding genes handed down by his grandfather who owned a wrecking yard and his father, an old-time
hot rodder, Tony had some parts stacked away.
Besides a love of hot rods and cars in general, Dad also passed on valuable skills and Tony cut out the rust from the Torana’s lower sections and welded in fresh metal himself. Then he hit the shell with a few coats of Barbados Green — performed under the new house, which didn’t impress the missus — before using a CRS kit to throw in an alloy-headed 308 that he just happened to have lying around.
“We went down and had some fun,” he says. But after smoking the tyres at Powercruise it was time to get serious about the new toy and that prompted a visit to Kavey at KV’s Race and Resto Fabrication.
Running the blower intake underneath keeps the airpath short and it almost looks like one of the polished air dams off the XU-1
We’ve seen a fair bit of Kavey’s work in Street Machine over the years; the South Queensland fabricator has earned a reputation that’s second to none. Tony wanted a rollcage, mini-tubs, and a nine-inch under the bum because he had his sights on some fast quarter-mile action. With the work done, and the 308 wound up, cracking off mid-elevens was too easy. Pretty stout for a car that was ‘thrown together’.
But 300hp at the tyres wasn’t enough so a big-budget 383 Holden stroker was commissioned — and the less said about that, the better! The new donk lunched itself on the dyno before Tony even had a chance to give it a blat in the car and that left a huge hole in his wallet.
“I saved for years for that engine and then boom — gone,” he says. Luckily, Tony’s mate Les was putting together a 400 Chev for another friend and the decision was made to give it a whirl in the Torana first. Of course the header pipes were all wrong so Tony sent the car back to Kavey for a set of Chev pipes to match the new powerplant.
With 400hp at the tyres, the little coupe screamed down the quarter in 10.5 seconds and Tony had a thirst for even more. Now that the car was set up for a Chev, the engine choice was a no-brainer: Holden was out; Chevy thunder would be leading the charge.
With only 40 litres in the tank we don’t think Tony will be making many interstate trips, but it’ll be plenty for a nine-second run. Note the adjustable sway bar linkages that extend up from underneath
With a few ProChargers around the place and Kavey playing with them on XR8 Falcons and the like, Tony thought that might be the way to go. He explained where he wanted the blower positioned and Kavey made it happen, simple as that. There’s an engine plate keeping the motor rock solid, so the blower mounts both to the engine and the chassis just ahead of the engine plate.
Les was given the nod to slot together a stout 383-cube combo that could handle upwards of 25 pounds boost and he delivered that in the shape of this Brodix-headed small-block. But the right intake set-up was needed.
Originally Tony planned to run the pipes underneath but Kavey convinced him to run them through the inner guards to keep the heat away from the starter and the plug wires. The footwells were moved back for header clearance
Blow-through carby set-ups have taken off in a big way and Tony bought an off-the-shelf carburettor that was supposed to do the job. It turned out that the carb wasn’t up to the task and on the advice of Mark Hayes from Rocket Industries, he got in touch with Canberra-based boost guru Jake Edwards. Jake binned most of the carb and built up a new unit, with a custom hat to suit. Tony’s now another satisfied customer.
“We spun it up on the dyno and didn’t need to change a thing,” he reckons. At just eight pounds boost the green machine is punching out 535 horses to the treads. When you consider that the same car went 10.5 with just 400rwhp then it’s pretty clear that the Torana is headed straight into the nine-second zone.
Tony sliced the top off the RCI buckets and modified some of the contours before having them trimmed. The intrusion bars and the taxi bar behind the front seats are removable for access when Tony’s not racing
It doesn’t stop there: “I’ve got a 25psi pulley sitting there but we’ll check everything and make sure it’s sweet first.”
Naturally Tony wanted the coupe looking its best with the new mill so he’s been through the whole car again since that first initial thrash. Particular attention has been paid to the interior where he went for a consistent theme from front to rear. Check out the lines in the kick and door panels; they’ve been carried right through into the boot.
Grey vinyl covers it all, including the wheel tubs and boot floor though you won’t see much of the floor thanks to the little 40-litre fuel cell that Kavey has made up.
For someone who says they didn’t aim to build a show car Tony’s done a bang-up job but the track is where he plans to cut loose.
Don’t be fooled by the sheet-metal trans tunnel — it’s a dummy panel to help dress up the shifter and the switch box behind it. The real trans tunnel is still under there
“I’d be stoked if I can get it into the top 10 of Modified Street Blown,” he says. “And eventually I want it in the top five. That’d be awesome.”
To make the top 10, Tony needs to be running eights, while for a top five spot he’ll need better than an 8.5sec run. Obviously he’s not going to do it on just 8psi boost but with 25psi on tap, it’s a different story.
“Jake reckons it’ll spin to 900hp at the rear but I’ll be happy if it goes 700hp+ easily enough.”
Then it’s just a matter of feeding that power through a 12.5in tyre. It’s going to be one wild ride.
We've said it plenty of times; big hot rodders breed little hot rodders. Tony’s boys Jesse and Corey are following in their father’s footsteps. They love nothing more than clambering into the back seat of the Torana for Powercruise laps.
“Mate, they’re always in there,” Tony says proudly. “The kids are right into cars.”
Four generations of petrolheads is a pretty special thing.
Tony’s grandfather used to own a wrecking yard, while his dad had a body shop until recently and loves getting into the old rods. Besides the Torana, Tony has an HQ Monaro and a ’35 Chev tudor to finish off and he’s thinking about making the move into building cars full time.
But how’s long-suffering wife Danielle handling it? “She gets a buzz out of seeing people’s reactions to the car. She was going to drive it the other day but it rained so we pulled the pin. But if she wants to drive, no probs I reckon.”
1971 HOLDEN LC TORANA
Colour: Barbados Green
Engine: Chev 383
Blower: Procharger F1-R
Carb: Jakes 950cfm blow through
Heads: Brodix 11X
Pistons: Arias 8.5:1
Cam: Crower solid roller
Ignition: MSD Digital 7AL with programmable BTM, Pro Billet dizzy
Exhaust: Custom extractors, 3in dual exhaust
Power: 535hp at rear (8psi)
Transmission: Full-manual Powerglide
Diff: Nine-inch, 31-spline axles & full spool, 4.11 gears
Brakes: Wilwood discs, Wilwood 4-pot calipers (f), HQ drums (r)
Springs: Pedders (f), AVO coilover (r)
Shocks: Pedders 90/10 (f), AVO coilover (r)
Rims: American Racing Trackstars, 15x4in (f), 15x10in (r)
Rubber: Moroso (f), MT Street ET 28x12.5in (r)