Holden LC Torana
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The HB Torana
was replaced by the LC (which stood for "Light Car") in October 1969
. A much better car than its predecessor, it did however share the same floorpan - although on 6 cylinder models the wheelbase was lengthened. Its timing could not have been better, particuarly as Australia at the time was dominated by six cylinder Holden, Falcon and Valiant family sedans.
Sure, there were some "big four" sedans on offer too, such as the Hillman Hunter
, Datsun 1600
, Mazda 1500
etc. But only the Datsun 1600 offered performance anything like the larger Aussie six cylinder sedans, and without the lazy torque that Australian's had come to enjoy, these cars were never going to usurp the traditional family car from the best seller list.
The GM designers knew the HB Torana was never a real family car, but a larger six cylinder Torana would be a different proposition altogther. The concept of a car that offered the compact size of the fours, and the easy torque and power of the Holden six was sure to be a showroom floor winner.
The two most important aspects to the LC were the all new body - vastly more handsome than the humble HB, and the addition of Australian content - most importantly the 6 cylinder engine. In fact, only a handful of underbody parts were carried over from the HB. The existing HB Torana was put on the rack, and acquired an additional 10 inches (254mm) in overall length, most of which was ahead of the front doors.
A close inspection of the angles used by the designers gave a reasonably good insight into what the yet un-released HQ Holden
would look like. From every angle the LC looked fantastic, the rear-end treatment of particular note for its longer wrap-around tail lights and fuel-filler cap conveniently located between the tail lights. To many it seemed the perfect alternative to the large family sedan, particularly given the HK Holdens
had grown somewhat in size. When compared to the ever popular EH Holden
, the HK was shown up to be overweight and rather lethargic.
EH Holden handled well and encouraged drivers to hurl it into bends - the HK on the other hand had lots of extra sheet metal that did little for the occupants, as most of it went into place ahead of the front doors. Coke-bottle hip styling, a long bonnet, short boot and lots of curvature may have looked the part, but it served no practical purpose, except to somewhat reduce rearward visability. Jump out of the HK and into the LC Torana six, and the driving experience was a revelation. The lighter, more nimble Torana was better balanced, just as quiet, more economical and equally as comfortable. Its rack and pinion steering
offered a precision and directness undreamt of on previous Holden sixes.
There were eight models available in the LC lineup, including both two and four-door models. In its cheapest form, the LC six was a two-door model equipped with drum brakes
all round and a three-speed "on the tree" column shift, as was fitted to the Belmont/Kingswood/Premier and base Monaro. That may not have sounded all that inspiring, but what is important to remember is that the Torana's integrity was not being compromised by fitting light-weight parts. Sure, the main reason was that it was cheaper to raid the existing parts bin, but the result was the Torana had stonger componentary than was actually needed.
The 4-Cylinder 1600 LC Torana
GM-H made little fuss about its then new overhead cam 1600cc Torana - so much so that it took motoring journalists by surprise when they got behind the wheel. The 1600 replaced the old two-and-four-door SL 1200 Torana, and was powered by a 1599cc oversquare OHC mill from the English HC Vauxhall Viv
a. It developed 80 bhp at a reasonable 5500 rpm and 96 lb/ft of torque at 3200 to make the Torana 1600 an entirely new force in the four-cylinder market.
The 1599cc engine
turned out to be exactly what the Torana needed - it had plenty of power, flexibility and weight, and was a perfect match for the body, suspension
, making the car a superbly balanced little machine. It had real "go" with none of the heavy front end disadvantages of the six cylinder Torana's so that the handling was better than ever, and, with new high-rating front springs
the ride was also improved. The engine
was remarkably flexible by any standards. Enough torque to have the Torana
pulling away from one or two mph in second was proof for most, and smooth pulling in 3rd from very low speeds was the icing on the cake. In fact, some road testers dropped the Torana
into 3rd, slowed to an unbelievable three miles per hour and, while not snapping the throttle wide open, were able to pull away without fuss or undue strain. Remarkable.
This useable torque made the 4 cylinder Torana a brilliant city car, especially for women in an era before power steering
. It had excellent gearing (35 in first, 55 in second, 75 in third) and would wind up for very brisk off the line performance and with such a useable third was capable of putting down very quick point-to-point times on twisty roads. Inside, the Torana 1600 had redesigned seats with higher backs for greater comfort and better looks. And there was also a lift-up tab lock-out on the gearstick for reverse. The old 1159cc basic Torana continued to be sold alongside the 1600, however according to press releases of the time, Holden were determined to put the emphasis on the 1600 - and given it was such a capable car, it was a sound decision.
The 1600 arrived just in time too, as the competition was quickly catching up, particularly from the Ford camp with their Cortina
. The smooth, attractive styling was to give Ford another big success in the light car field, so the 1600 had its work cut out against Ford's dynamic new TC Cortina
, which was launched onto the local market with a 1600 cross-flow pushrod engine and storming overhead cam two-litre mill.
The Holden Red Engine
A 138ci version of the 161 Red Engine
was used, the reduction in capacity being achieved by de-sleeving. The Bore and Stroke were 3.125 inches by 3.0, so that it was barely an oversquare unit. GMH
never referred to the base LC engine as a 138, instead making an early adoption of metric measurement and dubbing the engine the 2250. The 138 developed 95 bhp @ 4600 rpm, and 120 lb. ft @ 1600 rpm - similar figures to the EH Holden
. Next came the 161 2600 engine, as was fitted as standard equipment to the HT Holden
sedans. Power output was up to 114 bhp @ 4400 rpm, and torque up to 157 lb. ft at 2000 rpm. Carburetion was via a lowly single throat Bendix-Stromberg.
As all Torana models were fitted with bucket seats, it made sense to option the Opel floor mounted four speed manual. Those that did found their new steed could cover the standing quarter in less than 19 seconds, running on to a little over 90 mph. If you could afford the extra money, then the GTR represented great value. At just $2778 the two-door only GTR gave you the larger (re-worked) 161 engine and Opel box as standard, along with front disc brakes, heavy duty suspension
(firmer springs, shock absorbers and an front anti-roll bar
), full instrumentation, striking stylistic details which included louvres on the front fenders, handsome two-piece wheel covers and bold paint colours.
The LC torana took out the prestigous Wheels "Car Of The Year Award" in 1969. The advent of the GTR
and GTR XU-1 models saw Australian police use these as pursuit vehicles, building a reputation that helped the LC Torana become the best selling light car in Australia both in 1970
The manual tansmission for the GTR was borrowed from the GTS Monaro, as was the Monaro wood rimmed steering
wheel. The Torana had quickly matured into an enthusiasts dream, and represented a much more affordable one at that, with the GTHO costing a little over the $4K mark, and even the Valiant Pacer
The 6 cylinder LC models are keenly sought after today, as obviously are the GTR and XU-1 models. It is important for would be restorers to ensure they start with a 6 cylinder vehicle as the wheelbase, as mentioned above, was lengthened.