MENDO Mitrevski has turned his hand to a number of street car projects in the past, including several SS Commodores and an XY GT Falcon. But in 2015, the train guard from Shellharbour set about fulfilling a vision he’d nurtured since his first Summernats at age 15: putting together a pro street-style Torana worthy of a ’Nats Top 60 finish. This time there would be no shortcuts.
This article was first published in Street Machine's 2020 Yearbook. Photos: Ben Hosking
“I needed a car that I could make my own – no more half-done project cars that I then finished off,” Mendo recounts. “The LX Torana was a car I’d always wanted to build, but it was just a matter of finding the perfect shell. When I saw this car advertised in Bathurst, I knew it was the perfect project: a one-owner car that was in storage and last registered 20 years ago.”
A deal was done the same day, with Mendo bringing the Torana home on the weekend of the Bathurst 1000. “A car located in Bathurst on the weekend of the Great Race had to be a sign,” he muses. “It was the survivor I was looking for, apart from the interior being chewed on by rats.”
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While the sedan’s shell was being stripped and sandblasted, Mendo snagged a fresh LSX 454 powerplant, screwed together in the United States by what he thought to be a reputable engine builder. But while the motor sat waiting, Mendo couldn’t help but suspect things were amiss.
Mendo envisaged the LX to be grey or orange until he visited his panel beater. “The guys saw Contessa Gold under the boot, sprayed a few samples, and the decision was made for me!” The original Holden colour was tweaked with a slightly altered silver mix, creating a lustrous shine under sunlight
“The closer it came to getting the engine into the car, the more I got the feeling that something wasn’t right,” he says.
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Mendo’s worries were confirmed when he enlisted Troy of Warspeed Industries to pull down and inspect the motor. “Troy found that the main bearing clearances were wrong, the big end bearings were installed wrong and the pistons were hitting the counterweights – the motor would’ve smashed itself apart as soon as we put it on the dyno.”
The mini-tubbed rear features beadlocked 15x9 Weld AlumaStar wheels, shod in 275-wide BFGoodrich radials. Fronts are 3.5in Alumastars with Moroso front-runners. “I bought a set of Simmons rims, but as soon as I put them on I hated it!” Mendo laughs
The LS guru quickly set to work, rebuilding the donk properly and adding a few choice extras along the way. As it now sits, the 454ci runs a Molnar crank and rod combo, hooked up to AutoTec pistons. During the overhaul, Troy fitted a set of Manton 11/32-inch pushrods actioned by LS7 lifters. Heads are CNC-ported LS3 units with stock GM valves. A Pro Systems 1050cfm carb sits atop an Edelbrock Super Victor manifold, which receives 98-octane juice from an Aeromotive Phantom in-tank pump. A Melling oil pump keeps things slippery, fed from a Holley sump.
Mendo nabbed a fully manualised TH400 from Protrans, which is backed by a 4300rpm converter and 3½-inch tailshaft. This mates to a Strange aluminium-cased nine-inch diff, packing a Truetrac diff centre with 3.55:1 gears. The rear end was changed to HQ stud pattern, with chunkier 5/8-inch studs. Stoppers are 320mm disc assemblies all ’round, courtesy of Wilwood.
Though niggling issues with the converter have so far prevented Mendo from giving the LX a proper dyno run, he and Troy estimate the set-up is good for a comfortable 500hp at the wheels.
By late 2019, Mendo’s dream build had progressed to a point where a Summernats 33 debut seemed achievable. Dave Cornford of DRC had tapped and filed away imperfections, resulting in a flawless body, and Steve of Cruz Restorations had laid down a fresh coat of Contessa Gold.
Everything around the Warspeed-tickled LSX was smoothed, with wiring and ignition coils tucked away behind the dash. The Pro Systems carb and Edelbrock manifold rest under a 4in reverse cowl
“The build went fine until a few weeks out from Summernats when I was waiting for my boot to be trimmed,” Mendo says. “My trimmer needed hand surgery and Summernats was fast approaching. Having never attempted to board and trim a custom boot before, I decided to give it a go.”
Both operations were a success, with Mendo’s handiwork drawing plenty of positive attention at the ’Nats. “The result is better than I expected,” he says. “I’ve had a number of mates making enquiries as to when I’ll be taking boot installation bookings!”
Barring a neatly integrated set of Speedhut gauges and a modified console, the interior is a mostly factory affair, right down to the stock AM radio. But with the original upholstery serving as rodent food for many years, the whole lot was given a spiffy retrim by Cane Interiors
Though the boot crisis was solved, medical woes kept on coming. While stripping back his car trailer for a fresh coat of paint a few days before the ’Nats, Mendo suffered an eye injury from metal shavings, necessitating two unsuccessful hospital visits. “Eventually an optometrist was able to get it all out,” Mendo says. “By then it was the Thursday of Summernats, so we had to leave on Friday morning.”
The last-minute rush paid off, with the LX earning a spot in the hallowed Elite Hall as a Top 60 finalist. “We didn’t win any prizes, but I was just stoked to be in there,” Mendo says. “It was worth every dollar and bruised knuckle along the way!”
Since Summernats, Mendo has been spending his time simply cruising the car. “Maybe later on I’ll send the engine back to Troy for some more power, but for now I’m enjoying it as much as I can. There’s another car in me – just don’t tell the wife!”
1976 HOLDEN LX TORANA
Paint: Contessa Gold
Brand: LSX 454ci
Induction: Edelbrock Super Victor, 1050 Pro Systems carb
Heads: CNC-ported LS3
Camshaft: 243/247@.050, 623/623 lift
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Fuel cell, Aeromotive Phantom in-tank pump
Cooling: Custom South Coast Radiators, Maradyne M122K fan
Exhaust: 17/8in extractors, twin 3in system
Ignition: LS3 coils, MSD leads, MSD ignition box
Gearbox: Manualised TH400
Converter: TCE 4300rpm
Diff: 9in, 3.55:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Rear: Strange coil-overs
Brakes: Wilwood 320mm (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld AlumaStar; 15x3.5 (f), 15x9 (r)
Rubber: Moroso Drag Special (f), BFGoodrich 275/60/15 (r)
Matt at Pro Street Industries; Dave Cornford at DRC; Steve at Cruz Restorations; Troy at Warspeed Industries; Fred at Protrans; Steve Friend’s Sandblasting; Mitch at Illawarra Towing; Phil at Fuelworx ; Kon at Wollongong Automotive Services; Rick at South Coast Radiators; Nick the auto electrician; Cane Interiors; Alamo Powder Coaters; ZG355 PRO84K and everyone else involved with the build. Special thanks to the wife for putting up with the constant Torana talk over the past four years – a Top 60 finish was only possible with all your help