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Group C-inspired 1977 Holden LX Torana

By Ben Nightingdale | Photos: Ben Hosking, 01 Feb 2019 Features

Group C-inspired 1977 Holden LX Torana

John Sandner's mint Holden LX Torana sedan harks back to a simpler time, with a killer modern twist

This article on Jason's Torana was first published in the November 2018 issue of Street Machine

MULLETS. Acid-washed denim. Shoulder pads. Fluoro. All things that we’re very glad didn’t make it past the end of the 80s. But fat-tyred, flared and drop-tanked Toranas? Thankfully, they’ll never go out of style.

Holden LX Torana“I always liked the way, to this day, Toranas were done in the 1980s,” says Jason Sandner, owner of this tough LX sedan. “You know – the half-’cage, the Recaro-type seats, the Simmons rims and all that. I just thought that it’s a look doesn’t age, so we took it and put a modern twist on it.”

When you take in this Opaline Blue beauty, it’s clear that there’s plenty of old-school racing influence, with many nods to modernity. If it’s giving you Group C vibes, that’s no coincidence. “I always loved Group C touring cars, and that was the whole inspiration around the build: to get the car as close as possible to a Group C car in road-going form, but with a modern look.”

Read next: Elite 1976 Holden LX Torana hatch

Holden LX ToranaHolden Opaline Blue has been sprayed over the top and bottom of the Torana, including colour-coded wheels. It’s a bold choice, and it works brilliantly

The inspiration for the paint colour comes from an old Street Machine feature car – Warren White’s LX hatch, WW192, a star of the show scene back in the day. The car featured in SM in the early 90s. “Warren is a good friend of mine; our fathers raced speedway with each other,” Jason says. “I was doing a bit of work on Warren’s car, and the colour just suited the car so much. I never saw that colour on another Torana, but I always thought that if I were to build my own car, I’d do it in Opaline Blue. It’s not a popular colour, but it works.”

Read next: 413hp LS2-powered Holden LX Torana

Holden LX ToranaThere’d be few arguments with that. Being a spray painter by trade, Jason did the work himself in-house at Abel’s Smash Repairs in Queanbeyan, NSW. “The car was really straight when we got it. It had come out of a deceased estate, and I don’t reckon it’d left Sydney in its life,” Jason says. “We measured it up, and it was all perfectly square. Never taken a hit in its life, so it was a good starting point.”

Read next: Turbo LS1-powered Holden LX Torana hatch

Holden LX Torana wheelWith the look and feel of the build sorted, and old-school racing influence the key factor, the car needed to have a serious powerplant. But popping the bonnet reveals not your usual late-model LS conversion, or even a tried-and-true Holden stroker. This Torry is packing small-block Chev power – an aluminium Donovan, no less. Jason explains: “I talked to Russell Stenhouse at Racecraft Specialities about which way I should go. I was thinking about putting a 308 in it. He suggested building the Chev, as you can build a better motor for less money.

Read next: Holden 355 stroker-powered LX Torana

Holden LX Torana undersideThe underside of the car is clinically clean, and obviously race-inspired. Check out the Group C-spec side-exit megaphone exhaust

“A couple of weeks later he comes back to me to tell me he’d been having a clean-out and had come across the Donovan aluminium block! We used to race sprint cars, so when he offered me the Donovan I knew it would be awesome, as I knew what those motors were like internally, strength-wise with the girdle for the crank and all that.”

Holden LX Torana undersideThe race theme is evident in the front suspension, with tubular upper and lower arms, blade-style swaybar and coil-over shocks

The 378-cube mill features some seriously top-notch internals, with a COLA steel crank, Manley forged pistons and Eagle six-inch H-beam rods. It’s also got a nasty roller camshaft, an 830cfm Mighty Demon carb, Dominator manifold and big-flowing Brownfield (now AFR) alloy heads.

Holden LX Torana boot

While it hasn’t hit the dyno yet, Russell at Racecraft, who’s got a long history of building motors for competition, has built plenty of combos similar and reckons it’s making big mumbo.

“Russell ran a very similar combination in his Sports Sedan, just with a solid flat-tappet camshaft, and he was making about 600hp,” Jason says. “With the roller camshaft in this engine, he expects it’s making around 630-640hp. It’s got no problems frying those 10-inch tyres, that’s for sure!”

Holden LX ToranaWith a stout Chev, the drivetrain needed to match, and Jason spared no expense. It’s got a TransGo-equipped Turbo 350 fitted with a 3200rpm Slingshot converter sending the power to a Richmond-geared, Strange-cased, Moser-axled nine-inch rear end. A 3.5:1 final drive keeps the car highway-friendly.

The outlay on top-quality parts continues through the suspension and braking systems. The car is held up by Viking coil-over shocks, while race-spec adjustable tubular upper and lower arms are joined by a K-MAC adjustable sway-bars, Harrop steering arms and shot-peened A9X stub axles. Brakes are by Harrop, with four-piston calipers biting 365mm rotors up front and 335mm rotors at the rear.

Holden LX Torana engine bayAwesome to see an old-school SBC taking residence in the bay of this tough Torry. The speccie alloy Donovan block is filled with a smorgasbord of the world’s best speed parts, while the cold-air tray is a very Group C racer touch

Those colour-coded FR18 Simmons wheels measure in at eight inches wide up front and a beefy 10 inches in the rear, with both ends wrapped in sticky Pirelli P-Zero rubber.

The race theme continues big-time into the interior of the car, with lashings of carbonfibre throughout. The alloy half-’cage is another throwback to the 80s, when a tough street car wasn’t complete without one.

Holden LX Torana engine bayWhile it’s racy, there’s plenty of show going on too. False floors, Mercedes carpets, suede rooflining, billet highlights and a custom retrim by Robert at Pegg’s Auto Trim mean it’s got oodles of class.

Given the quality of the build, it happened reasonably quickly. “We purchased the car in 2010, commenced the build at the beginning of 2011 and it was unveiled at Summernats 26 in 2013,” Jason says. “We made the Top 20 there.”

Holden LX Torana engine baySince then, it’s won a swag of trophies, but its show days may soon be ending. “It is a show car, but I certainly have no fear of driving it,” Jason says. “I’m not scared of getting stone chips or whatever. You can only show them for so many years before that side of things expires, anyway.”

There’s more to come, too. “They’re never really finished, are they?” Jason laughs. “There’s always rooms for improvement, and it’s kind of ongoing.

Holden LX Torana interior“After the Torana Nationals, I’m pulling the motor out of it and we’re going to dry-sump it. I should have done it when we built it in the first place.”

Built with a goal and a vision, Jason has created his dream car, a spectacular Torana that ticks all his boxes. Stayed tuned, ’cos it’s only getting better.

HIGH IN CARBONFIBRE

Holden LX Torana dashThere's plenty of high-end carbonfibre bits and pieces on Jason’s Torana, and it all stems from his desire to have a race car look and feel in all aspects of the build. Jason had the parts made by Mike at Superleggera Carbon Fibre, based in Southport on the Gold Coast, who deals in high-end custom carbon for motorsport, marine and industrial use.

Holden LX Torana consoleThe console and dash were made through a process called ‘skinning’, where the carbon is laid over the top of the original part, in a process similar to fibreglassing. The carbon is then ‘vacuumed’ onto the original part, creating a carbonfibre ‘skin’ that forms the new part. The part then needs to be resin-cleared to get a smooth finish.

Holden LX Torana door trimsThe door trims and parcel tray were made using the more sophisticated infusion process, where carbon is dry-laid into a mould and then inserted into a vacuum bag. The air is removed, and clear resin is drawn into the part under vacuum. This infuses – hence the name – the carbonfibre weave and resin into a light, strong and visually stunning finished part.

Jason SandnerJASON SANDNER
1977 HOLDEN TORANA

Paint: Sikkens Holden Opaline Blue

ENGINE
Brand: 378ci alloy Donovan SBC
Induction: BG Mighty Demon, high-rise Holley Dominator manifold
Heads: Brownfield alloy, flowed to 315cfm at 28in
Camshaft: Wade solid-roller
Conrods: Eagle 6in H-beam
Pistons: Manley forged racing pistons with ceramic-coated skirts
Crank: COLA steel billet, hollow journals
Oil pump: Melling high-volume
Fuel system: Custom alloy drop-tank, MagnaFuel QuickStar 275 pump, 98RON fuel
Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler, twin Davies Craig fans
Exhaust: 1.875in tri-Y headers, twin 3in system, merging into Edelbrock straight-through muffler
Ignition: MSD Blaster coil, 6AH amplifier, 9mm super-conductor leads, billet distributor with advanced curve to suit roller cam

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: Turbo 350, TransGo clutch and valvebody, high-capacity B&M pan
Converter: 9.5in 3200rpm Slingshot
Diff: 9in, 31-spline Moser axles, Detroit Truetrac, Strange alloy case, billet caps and adjusters, Richmond 3.5:1 gears, Ford Motorsport Daytona large-bearing pinion retainer

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Viking coil-over with 1140lb springs, tubular top and bottom arms, shot-peened A9X stub axles, Harrop steering arms, 27mm K-MAC sway-bar
Rear: Bilstein shocks, King 280lb springs, 22mm K-MAC sway-bar
Brakes: Harrop four-piston calipers (f & r); 365mm rotors (f), 335mm rotors (r)
Master cylinder: PBR 1in

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Simmons FR; 18x8 (f), 18x10 (r)
Rubber: Pirelli P-Zero; 225/35ZR18 (f), 285/30ZR18 (r)