While it is true that Harry Firth
alone was not responsible for the GTR XU-1, he certainly played a very big part in the vehicles development. At the time GM were supposedly not interested in racing, and the brave souls who wrestled the likes of the S4 EH Holden
and HK GTS 327 Monaro around the racing circuits of Australia did so as privateers.
But things were changing in the Australian automotive landscape, and bean counters at all manufacturers were realising that track success had a very direct bearing on showroom sales. Firth, who had left the role as Ford's Team Manager to lead the newly formed Holden Dealer Team, was given the job of preperaing a car suitable to take the coveted Hardie Ferodo 1000
The obvious choice was the 350 Chev equipped Monaro, but getting it to handle and brake with enough finesse through the twisty stuff on the Mount was always going to be difficult. Besides, development of the Monaro was certainly not going to be cheap. Instead, the "Silver Fox" turned his attention to the LC Torana GTR
, and given the warmed 161 made the little Torana something quite special, a 186 version looked the goods, at least on paper.
David Bennett of Perfectune had already demonstrated to GMH what his cylinder head could do to improve performance, having demonstrated that his "Sprint GT" version of the HR 186S could beat the stock XR Falcon GT
to 100 mph by almost 2 seconds. Many Torana aficionado's believe this is why Firth believed the 186 could be taken to a much higher state of tune.
Officially launched in August 1970, the XU-1 blew the socks off much of the motoring press. The XU-1 (and to a lesser extent the GTR) represented a complete depature with traditional Aussie performance car thinking, which always included two things in the formula, a V8 engine and a large car shell to put it in.
At this stage, it is probably best to simply quote the GMH press bulletin, which read..."GMH Today announced the Torana GTR XU-1, an additional model too the LC Torana range introduced in October last year.
Fitted with a three carburetor 186 cu. in. engine, the XU-1 is in fact a higher performance version of the successful GTR sports sedan. The XU-1 has been developed to meet strong demand for such a vehicle from motoring enthusiasts.
An initial batch of 700 cars will be built to meet immediate demand, to be followed by further production if subsequent demand re-warrants. The increased engine capacity of the XU-1 has resulted in numerous engineering refinements designed to improve overall handling and performance.
Front and rear suspension modifications, larger disc brakes with an increased capacity booster, front and rear spoilers and a greater radiator cooling capacity
are the major items. The XU-1 is fitted with a 17 gallon fuel tank to increase the car's touring range. Principal external distinguishing features are the rear spoiler, GTR XU-1 decals and exclusive bold color range".
After reading the press release there were no doubt many journalists and motoring enthusiasts alike who were left scratching their collective heads wondering why there was no mention of Bathurst. By the time the XU-1 hit the market everyone knew the intent, and no doubt the people over at the blue oval were wondering where the chink was in the XU-1's armour was. They didn't have to look far. As GMH didn't have their own 4 speed transmission, they had to stick with the Opel sourced unit, and its dislike for long hard track work was already well known.
But if the gearbox issues could be sorted, then they were in for some pretty stiff competition. The XU-1 could make 36 mph in first, 58 in second and 93 in third, all the way to a maximum of 125 mph (and even then, it remained 400 rpm shy of the red line). The power was due in no small part to the wonderful Zenith triple 1.5 inch sidedraught carbys, which made the 186 good for 160 bhp @ 5200 rpm, and a torque figure of 190 lb. ft @ 3600 rpm. Don Holland proved they were on the right track making the podium at the Bathurst 1970 Hardie-Ferodo
with a first up third and a win in Class
For the 1971 Hardie Ferodo
Harry masterminded some mods for the LC XU-1, which included a heavier duty clutch and thicker front discs. A reworked head, new pistons and trickier bumpstick gave the Bathurst Special an extra 20 horsepower, at the unbelievably high (for a Holden six) 6000 rpm mark. Alan Moffat
was to rain on the parade, taking out the '71 event and the HO's filling all top three positions. Nevertheless the XU-1 was on track to become a legend, along with the person who drove it. The year was 1972
, the driver Peter Brock
, and the vehicle the LJ Torana GTR XU-1