WHEN THE LC Torana was released in 1969, it was met with widespread critical acclaim, not the least of which stemmed from our mates over at Wheels, who saw fit to bestow the first Aussie-designed Torry with their hallowed Car of the Year gong. The award pre-dated the 1970 release of the giant-killing GTR XU1, with the flagship at the time being the sporty GTR model.
A capable little muscle car in its own right, the GTR boasted bold, sporty styling, nimble handling and a tweaked-up 125hp 2600S red six, with a warmer camshaft, two-barrel WW Stromberg carby and two-piece cast exhaust manifold. The zippy GTR won the hearts and minds of buyers and laid the foundation for the XU1 dynasty, and has since become one of the most desirable and collectable Holdens of the era.
That’s why Simon Lumbroso’s car is so damned cool. Painstakingly restored to a standard the factory could never have conceived over the course of seven long years, Simon’s GTR is a genuine, matching-numbers car that has been ever-so-subtlety and tastefully modified, and detailed to the brink of insanity.
It was unveiled at Summernats 27, and ever since then the level of praise heaped upon the car from judges and punters alike is testament not only to the talents of everyone involved in the build, but also to the popularity of the resto-mod movement in Australia right now. Simon has personalised the car within the bounds of what he feels is appropriate, so – unique though it is – its originality remains uncompromised.
“My first plan was to get a bike, however my better half wasn’t impressed with that idea and made me a counter offer,” Simon explains. “I’d been talking about buying and restoring an old Holden for a while, and she suggested that might be a safer bet.”
Two weeks later, Simon had hunted down a genuine, matching numbers, Sebring Orange LC GTR through the NSW GTR XU1 club, and there it sat in his driveway. Thankfully, he managed to nab it just before the prices went through the roof.
It was a neat little driver, but Simon was only able to resist the urge to play with it for so long. “A few months in I decided to tidy it up a bit and before I knew it, I was looking at a huge pile of parts in the garage and an empty shell. Let the games begin!”
Simon came across a painter who stripped, repaired and painted the car, and after handing over the folding stuff, he began to reassemble it in earnest. It was only then that blisters began to materialise in the paint. Simon had been hit by the curse of the dodgy painter. “You know how the story goes – the painter closed down his shop and disappeared, leaving me high and dry,” Simon says.
It was a case of once bitten, twice shy, and he was keen to make absolutely certain he enlisted the right man for the job the second time around. “I read an article in Street Machine on Simon Bonello. I went to his workshop [Ground Level Panel & Paint] and he was working on a very tidy red HQ. After seeing the quality of Simon’s work and his obsession with achieving paint perfection, I knew he was the guy to paint my car.”
The plan was to retain the appearance of a standard GTR but take it to a whole new level in terms of quality and detail. The engine bay was seam-welded, smoothed and painted in PPG Satin Black, and bulk hours were invested in gapping the panels and smoothing all the jambs. Only then was the body file-finished and lavishly coated in Sebring Orange with GTR blackouts and stripes. The team at Ground Level then set upon the car, rubbing and buffing until they were satisfied that the paint was second-to-none. The finish has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
Also plainly evident is Simon’s uncompromising approach to the re-assembly. “Once the car arrived back home from the paint shop I began to piece it all back together, and I decided that every single nut, bolt and part on the car would either be replaced or re-finished. Even the steering column was totally disassembled down to every last nut and bolt.”
Utilising a Painless wiring harness, he shifted the battery and fuse panel to the boot and obscured all engine bay wiring from view.
Nasif at Thornleigh Cylinder Heads & Engine Reconditioning handled the engine rebuild, with the matching-numbers 2600S donk machined up and fitted with an offset-ground crankshaft, Starfire rods and Hypatec pistons. With a 30/70 cam and a ported head with oversized valves, Isky springs and Yella Terra roller rockers, the tough little mill is now fed by a set of CD Strombergs – similar in specification to a GTR XU1 donk.
The car was built as a driver from the get-go, so performance was important, but the engine also had to be detailed to a standard that befitted the rest of the car. “I spent what seemed like forever de-burring the engine and then wet-sanding high-fill until it was ready for a coat of matching Sebring Orange paint,” Simon explains. “Just about every nut and bolt used on the engine is polished stainless steel.”
Keeping regular road miles in mind, Simon opted to coat the undercarriage and all components – including the GTR-spec Opel four-speed ’box and rebuilt Banjo rear end – in a mix of satin-black paint and powdercoat.
The suspension received a birthday, with Rare Spares rubbers throughout and lowered King Springs coils and Koni shocks for improvements in the ride-height and handling departments. Stainless-steel brake and fuel lines were hand-formed by Simon, and Speedflow fittings were used throughout.
Turning his attention to the interior, Simon decked out the entire cabin in Dynamat to reduce road noise and improve the sound of the stereo. And no – we’re not talking about the original, owner-restored AM radio and single centre speaker! You’d never know it by looking, but Simon has equipped the car with quite a healthy little wireless, comprising a remote-controlled Secretaudio source unit hidden under the rear seat, an iPod connection in the glove box, Focal four-inch splits obscured from view behind the kick panels, and Focal 6x9-inch two-ways tucked underneath the parcel shelf, all powered by a boot-mounted JL Audio amp.
The plan was to make the cabin concours original, so Simon meticulously disassembled the standard instruments, cleaned the faces and lenses and hand-painted the needles, sending the instrument cluster and heater panel to Dash Original to be restored. The GTR seats were re-trimmed in original black vinyl by Pro Stitch, while the door trims were remanufactured by Cool’s Auto Trim, and original-style loop-pile carpet was used. origin
Since completion, the GTR has been a non-stop trophy magnet. It debuted at Summernats 27, where it picked up second-place Top Tudor and third-place Top Standard Paint. Simon then cruised it to the Kurnell Nationals where it won Best Engine Bay, Best Six-cylinder and runner-up Best Two-door. Then it was across the Great Dividing Range for Bathurst Autofest, scoring Top Paint, Top Restored/Authentic, Top Coupe and landing in the Top 10 Overall. Not a bad haul from three shows, eh?
“It’s been a truly rewarding experience, and the most rewarding part was the huge amount of positive feedback I received from the public at Summernats,” Simon says.
And just in case that isn’t enough of a happy ending for you, he’s since resumed negotiations with the missus, and has ended up with a bike after all.
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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