The UC was unfortunately the last model in the Torana
lineup. The most obvious changes over the previous model
LX were in the front end re-styling, which featured
a new grille and rectangular headlights. Modifications
were also made to the tail-lights and interior, the
latter offering increased room and superior appointments.
Undeniably a more handsome car than the model it replaced,
Holden decided that the UC would never be fitted with
a V8. While many were left mourning the demise of the
LX, the decision to drop the V8 from the options list
enabled Holden engineers to make structual modifications
significantly reducing body weight. This in turn led
to improved performance and economy.
Holden's relatively new "Radial Tuned Suspension"
was further refined, and for the first time you could
option your Torana with 4 wheel disc brakes.
Those that purchased the UC model gained a much better
"traditional" hand brake mechanism, floor
mounted between the driver and passenger seats.
the dreadful pedal operated under dash hand-brake was
all but dropped in this model, except for the limited
six seat version. (The six seat versions used a pedal
to apply the handbrake, and lever to release). These
six seaters were rare and even rarer today, but are
not as rare as the LC and LJ sixes - and were intended for fleet sales.
Strangely, the Torana "S" 6 cylinder model
was fitted with a column shift 3 speed manual rather
than the four speed floor mounted units that were being
fitted to all other models. The six-cylinder range was
available in S sedan and SL sedan/hatch.
The "Sunbird" 4 cylinder
range at first retained the Opel 1900, but this was
soon replaced with the much maligned "Starfire
Designed and built at GM's Fishermans
Bend facility, the Starfire was basically just a traditional
2.85 liter (173ci) engine with two cylinders hacked off. Yes, the engine did feature a redesigned crankshaft
carburetor - but it was considered coarse and lost
12kW in power (from 72kW for the Opel to 60kW) and
quickly gained a poor reputation.
But Starfire engine aside - many today wonder why the UC struggled to sell. The answer was the VB Commodore
, the General's second real "World Car" following the Isuzu/Holden Gemini
. Only eight months after launch, the UC Torana was joined by the VB Commodore - it now having to sell itself along side the newcomer, and the HZ Kingswood and Premier. There was arguably more difference between the Commodore and HZ, the latter being bigger, wider and having more road presence.
The same, however, could not be said for the UC. For example, the base model UC carried over a column mounted three speed transmission (3 on-the-tree), while the base model Commodore, for only $200 more, gave you a 4 speed floor mounted gearchange. There was also plenty of marketing hype surrounding the new Commodore, and not much for the Torana. Given the UC was an update of a design dating back to 1974
, while the Commodore was an entirely new clean-sheet design, it was understandable that most punters selected the newcomer.
Many wondered why the General even bothered in the first place, it seeming that the desired outcome would be that the Torana would quickly depart the showroom, followed some time later by the now aging Kingswood and Premier. It came as no suprise then that the UC Torana would be one of the shortest lived Holden models ever, running from March 1978 until about mid 1979. But claiming it was the intent to kill off the Torana flies in the face of the considerable technical innovation introduced in the model.
Radial Tuned Suspension - Phase 2
As mentioned above the Radial Tuned Suspension was improved,
and with the revised front and rear springs that made up part of an extensive upgrading of the suspension the UC Torana was the match for the Commodore in the handling stakes at least. This 2nd generation RTS included the re-design of the sway bars to reduce body roll even further, the rear bar being mounted directly on the body rather than on the lower control arm.
New suspension bushes were fitted front and rear, while spring rates were increased by eight percent for susperior load carrying, and the front rates were dropped by 11 percent. The shocks were recalibrated all-round, and increased in diameter. By increasing spring heights the engineers gained additional ground clearance - 11mm at the front and 18mm at the rear. These modification alone do not sound particularly expensive, but it cost GMH approximately $250,000 to relocate the upper control arms in much the same manner as was done on the HZ Holden
- not the sort of money you would spend on a car you intended to kill off.
While phase one of the RTS program
was basically a matter of making the old suspension work better, phase 2 brought the really big changes that required more time, and money. Joe Whitesell's team of engineers, headed by Peter Hanenberger, managed to transform the car's road behaviour. Most improved was the steering. As detailed on our information on the Torana A9X
, the steering gear was mounted solidly to the crossmember, ensuring much better road feel through the steering wheel. The engineers also lowered the gearing a little to make parking even easier.
mechanical changes included the use of a new GMH designed Salisbury rear axle instead of the old Banjo type. A new lighter M26 four-speed gearbox was introduced, however unfortunately the old three speed remained standard on the base S model. For the first time ever GMH offered rear disc brakes as an option on the Torana line-up, available across the range.
The Decision To Drop The V8 Torana
At launch, Chuck Chapman stated "At present, V8 sales account for a very small percentage of Torana volume. This level of sales does not justify either the weight penalty or suspension design compromises required to accommodate V8 Powerplants".
We have already mentioned that, in making this decision, it allowed the engineers to make structural modification to allow the UC to be lighter and, in effect, better suited to the 4 and 6 pot engines. Some savvy dealers realised the desirability for any V8 LX Torana's
they had in stock, and unlike the normal model run-out pricing the LX Torana's sold out quickly at full retail (we are sure if the dealers had of been allowed to charge more, they would have).
Inside the UC was fitted with a stylish new two-spoke steering wheel and new instrument clusters. SL Torana's were finally equipped with front bucket seats as standard kit, and the spare wheel was relocated to an upright position on the left hand side of the boot, which provided an increase in usable space and allowed GMH to fit a slightly larger fuel tank. The model line-up was also rationalised, in view of the Commodore's impending release. There were now just three basic versions, the S Sedan, SL Sedan and SL Hatchback. The Sunbird came in four versions, the Sedan, Hatchback, SL Sedan and SL Hatchback.
With the exception of the SL Hatchback all Torana's came with the 2850 six as standard, while the SL Hatchback was fitted with the 3.3 liter donk. Fortunately the sixes as fitted to the UC were marginally better than those fitted to the LX, where ADR27A regulations had taken a severe toll on performance and drivability. For the UC the distributor and carburetor were recalibrated for smoother running, while the emission hoses were re-routed and there was a new muffler.
V8 engines aside, the UC Torana was the best handling Torana ever, and in most respects was a better car than the competition, such as the Cortina six and Chrysler Sigma. It had the style, presentation and ergonomics to make it a winner, and if it had of been in different showrooms and not sharing floor space with the Commodore it probably would have been. Of course the performance was an issue, even the four speed 3.3 couldn't manage a genuine 100 miles per hour, and the gearbox ratios (despite the switch to the MC6 unit) were still too low.
But it was inevitable that people would make comparisons with previous generations of Torana, and to many the new model was bland and uninspiring. Without a V8 option the Torana desperately needed a better performing six cylinder engine to ignite the passion instilled by previous models. Today we can only wonder as to what would/could have been, should the UC have had a 253 or 308 under the bonnet. In the end it stood little chance of swaying buyers its way
instead of the Commodore.