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Nitrous Chev V8-powered Holden LJ Torana - flashback

By Mark Hanna | Photos: Rabbitte.com.au, 31 Jul 2019 Features

Nitrous Chev V8-powered Holden LJ Torana - flashback

Trouble with the boys in blue prompted Adam Buffett to build a real race car

ADAM Buffett bought this street-clad V8 LJ Torana as a fun machine and like many of us, he used it now and then to race other like-minded people on the streets.

This article was first published in the October 2007 issue of Street Machine

Bought from a fella in Lakemba, Sydney, it had been kept registered for 30 years. But as soon as Adam got into it, he ran into a problem.

Holden LJ Torana rearThis GTR LJ was bought as a street car but it’s now one of the classiest looking street-class racers out there. Adam has already cracked an eight — but that was down the eighth-mile

“I kind of got the car impounded,” he says. “I was racing this other guy and I came back for some more. I ended up doing this 30-metre burnout in front of some coppers hiding in a street nearby, and that was the end of that.”

For his antics, Adam was slapped with a fine and the car spent three months in the holding yard. Being impounded not only means time away from your machine but it’s also heavy on the wallet: “It cost me about three grand to get it out.”

Read next: Nitrous 622-cube Holden LH Torana

Holden LJ Torana frontBeing without a car offered time for reflection and Adam came up with a crazy plan to save some money and completely rebuild the car the minute it was released. Inspiration surfaced at the old Eastern Creek racetrack — he spent a lot of time watching while he was car-less, you see.

“In particular, I used to watch Simon Kryger in his old LJ and Michael Barbera’s LJ. I met both guys through my engine builder, John Feneck. Watching these guys race, seeing them at shows and watching them drive on the street took its toll,” Adam says. “I wanted to keep up with Kryger, so I eventually had to have one.”

Read next: Blown 383-cube Holden LJ Torana

HoldenLJ ToranaThe LJ coupe’s shape appealed to Adam and the power-to-weight aspect backs it up.

“I like LJs; they’re small, lightweight and look tough on the street,” he says.

Back from the detention centre, the LJ looked slightly more rundown than it did when it entered. That really didn’t matter, however, as Adam only had one thing on his mind at this point: a full-on rebuild incorporating dirty great tubs.

Read next: Twin-turbo Holden LC Torana GTR

Holden LJ ToranaAgenda item number one was to strip the car and have it ready for Pete Cleary at Mick’s Metal Craft. He carried out all the fabrication work like those tubs and an eight-point rollcage, as well as that smooth engine bay and interior.

It’s a killer machine, even if Adam’s a little coy with information on the build. Under-bonnet clutter has disappeared, highlighting the pipe work, with the custom headers flowing from the block through the custom sheet-metal inner guards to a 3.5-inch, HPC-coated dual system.

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Holden LJ Torana bootWhere the heater box once lived you’ll now find a sealed flat wall; out back, the wheelarches have been stretched, widened and smoothed off to squeeze bigger rubber underneath; the interior is flat-panelled and the dash now contains an array of gauges telling you exactly what you need to know when you’re living right on the edge.

Paint and panel work was carried out by Paul Cundy, of Cundy’s Smash Repairs in Armidale, and the colour is a secret. “I don’t really want to let out the exact colour,” Adam says. “Just call it Cundy Special Blue.”

Holden LJ Torana engine bayAdam would never touch a Ford donk, in case you didn’t get the hint from the plates. Feneck Race Engines is responsible for squeezing big cubes into a small-block

Adam has much praise for Paul’s handiwork. “If we’d seen the panels before they were sandblasted, we wouldn’t have gone ahead,” he says. “But Paul knows what he’s doing; the finished product is awesome.”

Less is more when it comes to weight and race cars, so the LJ runs a fibreglass bonnet and boot, and there’s little more than the basics inside: Velo Polaris seats (trimmed by McFarlane Motor Trimming), MOMO steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges, B&M Pro Ratchet shifter and five-point harnesses.

Holden LJ Torana engine bayWhen you look at the LJ as a whole you’d be thinking big horsepower, huh? Try a dyno-proven 640hp and 565ft-lb; power jumps to 715rwhp with a 350-shot of nitrous.

From the start, Adam knew what he wanted in terms of power but topping the list of priorities were competitiveness and reliability.

“I wanted big-block cubes in a small-block,” he says. His reasoning? “That way you’re not revving it hard for maximum gain.”

Holden LJ Torana engine bayAdam gave the job to engine builder John Feneck of Feneck’s Race Engines, who has 20 years’ experience building super-hot engines for race boats, sprint cars and drag racers.

“The heart is the head, camshaft, a strong bottom end, and cubic inches,” John says. “You mix that together and you’re well on your way.

“The bottom end is just for reliability, it’s only an air pump. The secrets are the cylinder heads and the camshaft. Adam’s engine carries the best rods money can buy and a good set of pistons; it’s a little heavyweight, but reliable.”

Holden LJ Torana interiorAll the torque travels to a fully worked two-speed Powerglide and back via a Mark Williams 3.5in tailshaft to a shortened and braced Ford nine-inch with Williams centre and 35-spline axles.

Braking is a mix of good ol’ Aussie know-how: XA master cylinder, with HQ discs up front and XY discs at the rear. And then there’s a parachute for those extra-special runs down the quarter. Noltec bushes mixed with King springs, 90/10 shocks and coil-overs balance everything when the power is unleashed.

Holden Torana interiorAnd finally, capping off the tough drag image, is a set of Convo Pros wrapped in super-sticky Mickey Thompson rubber.

On paper, Adam’s EAT351 Torana sounds like breakfast is served. But before we settle in to the Coco Pops we’ll have to wait for the official timeslip.

Holden LJ ToranaADAM BUFFETT
LJ TORANA

Colour: Cundy Special Blue

MOTOR
Type: Chev 410ci (Dart block)
Induction: Holley 850
Heads: Chev Bowtie 18deg
Camshaft: Custom roller
Lifters: Crower Hippo
Pistons: CP nitrous
Rings: Hell Fire
Crank: Crower 3.8in stroke
Bearings: Clevite Calico
Conrods: Oliver
Pushrods: Trend
Valve springs: Isky Gold
Valves: Ferrea Comp
Oil pump: Moroso race oil pump
Sump: Custom Hi Energy
Fuel pump: Twin Mallory 250
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator, twin thermo fans
Ignition: Holley Annihilator
Exhaust: Custom extractors through inner guards, dual 3.5in with 4in mufflers
Power: 640hp, 565ft-lb on PULP (engine); 715rwhp with 350-shot and no mufflers

TRANSMISSION
Type: Powerglide two-speed, full-manual, trans-brake
Diff: Braced nine-inch, 35-spline axles, full spool, Mark William centre
Tailshaft: Mark Williams 3.5in
Converter: Dominator 4000rpm stall

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: King Springs (f), Spax coil-overs (r)
Shocks: 90/10
Bushes: Noltec
Brakes: HQ discs (f), XY drums (r)
Master cylinder: XA Falcon
Other: Parachute

WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Convo Pro 15x3.5 (f), 15x8.5 (r)
Tyres: Michelin (f), Mickey Thompson 28/10.5 (r)

THANKS
Pete Cleary, tubs, ’cage, fabrication; Andrew, CAS, electrics; Fred, Pro Trans; Partridge Metal Fab, Moree; Phil, interior and general help; Forza; Sal, braided lines; Bill, Tamworth Muffler Man; O’Brien Glass Tamworth; Mark Hayes, Rocket Industries; Red, Craft Diffs; Motorsport Connections; Craig; and big thanks to Donna and the kids