At last Australians could enjoy an Australian designed
medium sized car from Holden - the LH Torana. Most agreed
it was a big improvement over its predecessor, but was
the LH a replacement or a different class of car?
the previous models that owed their heritage to the English
Vauxhall (from its entirity in the HB to the chassis
in the TA), the LH Torana series could best be described
as a scaled down Kingswood.
Managing Director of GMH, Mr. Damon Martin, said the
design and sizing of the LH was a direct response to
the major evolutionary changes in demand for passenger
cars in Australia. "Its keynote is versatility.
designed for those buyers who want an alternative to
full-size vehicles but whose needs would not be satisfied
by a small car".
At the time, Martin claimed the demand for the full size
HQ Holden models remained strong and that market research
convinced GMH that the demand for the larger HQ (available
as a 'six' or V8) would exceed Torana sales by a ratio
of three to one.
Martin added: "I think the LH will stand
with other groundbreaking GMH cars such as the 48/215,
the EH and the HQ - all of which have significantly influenced
local car design"'.
The European heritage or the Torana was not, however,
entirely forgotten with the 1900cc four cylinder engine
still being sourced from Opel in Germany. More importantly
for performance car enthusiasts was the new box on
the 'options' list that read "V8".
The LH's new and contemporary body offered increased interior
room over its predecessors, and was built to be a stronger
more Australian car. To achieve this, the body size was
increased, stronger bumpers were installed and the front
panels were bolted on rather than simply welded.
The LH was offered in 3 different trim levels S, SL and
the SL/R - the latter model not offered in 4 cylinder
but fitted with a six as standard. The S and SL could
be optioned with the smaller 4.2 liter V8, while the SL/R
could be optioned with the 4.2 and 5.0 V8's.
The Holden enthusiast will probably have noticed by
now that we have not mentioned the SL/R 5000 - the
most desirable and collectable of the LH Torana range.
designation was only placed on the vehicle when the purchaser
optioned the 5.0 liter V8. These cars were then suitably
badged, and rather large front and rear air spoilers
were fitted. We are often asked what exactly SL/R stood
for, the answer is "Sports Luxury/Racing"
For touring car racing, (and of course Bathurst), Holden
released the Torana SL/R 5000 L34 option package which
incorporated even more body armour such as bolt-on wheel-arch
flares and bigger 14 x 6 steel rally wheels. Although
the motor was based on the standard 5.0-liter (308) block,
stronger rods and pistons were installed, along with heads
with modified ports and bigger valves, roller rockers,
two-piece tubular exhaust headers, a modified inlet manifold
and a twin-coil / twin-point ignition. This was all fed
through a high pressure fuel pump utilizing the standard
Rochester Q-jet carb modified with a manual choke.
First out, the L34 took second and third placings in 1974's
, then went on to dominate the Mountain
for the next two years, scoring back-to-back top three
placings. The first all-Holden winner's podium was headed
by Peter Brock
and Brian Sampson in 1975, ahead of privateers
Bob Morris and Frank Gardner, with the Holden Dealer Team's
Colin Bond and John Walker coming in third.
The L34 returned to Bathurst in 1976 for another Torana
trifecta. TV viewers nationwide saw an emotional Bob Morris
willing team-mate John Fitzpatrick to nurse their battle-weary
car across the line in first place. The Holden Dealer
Team pairing of Colin Bond and John Harvey took second
and a flying Peter Brock, who was lapping seconds faster
than anyone else after overcoming mechanical problems,
snatched third. The event was a Holden whitewash, with
Torana's filling the first seven positions.
With such success at the racetrack, and as you would
expect, Aussies much preferred the 6 cylinder and V8
engined Torana's over the 4 cylinder models. To try
and stimulate interest, GMH introduced a "Plus 4" pack,
garishly painted in red, green or yellow. While the large SL/R 5000 decals could be worn with pride,
the 'Plus 4' decals probably drew far too much attention
to the fact that you had the smallest engine in the range.
Admittedly GM did make the Plus 4 more appealing by adding
features such as front bucket seats, full carpeting, a
clock and power front disc brakes - options that would
be carried over to the Sunbird in later models.