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? Unlike the previous models that owed their heritage to the English Vauxhall Viva
(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.
Then 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. LH is 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".
Not one body panel was carried over from the the same and the result of this complete re-tooling was a longer and wider car of dimensions very close to the extremely successful EH Holden
introduced little more than 10 years earlier. The engine line-up, too, had not escaped the sweeping change. Of the five engines offered in LH, four were from the HQ
range and only two, the 2850 and 3300, were used in the LJ.
While the LH sported an international look - perhaps borrowing from the Opel Kadett
and Vauxhall Ventora
, the local stylists made the Torana both cleaner and less cluttered in appearance. The LH Torana came in three models - S and SL, with the designation SL/R replacing the GTR. All models had identical bodies with varying trim and interiors marking the difference. The S was distinguished by black vertical and silver horizontal bars on the rectangular grille.
A Wider Torana
The most important change was in the width. It was now 67.1 inches wide, an improvement of 4.1 inches over the LJ
. And all of it went into extra shoulder room in front and 3.6 inches of it into extra shoulder room in the back. The added room meant the Torana got a bench seat in front for the first time (standard on the S) with SL and SL/R getting then newly designed bucket seats with integral tombstone head restraints.
Rather than use up valuable seat space with a handbrake beside the driver's door HQ-style, GMH engineers opted for the Rambler Matador-Ford LTD approach of a foot-operated parking brake with a dashboard release. Not our preferred style, but this type is still used today, notably in the Lexus IS250. We were never fans, but perhaps others were. Inside changes were considerable. The steering wheel was repositioned and was lower with less forward tilt for a more comfortable driving position. The dash was broad, surrounded by safety padding and finished with a wood-grain or grained vinyl. Face-level fresh air vents were housed at each end of the dash. The air/heater controls were to the right of the driver as on the HQ and heater outlets slung under the centre of the dash.
The LH Torana Engine Lineup
The LH grew 4.3 inches longer than the LJ
with wheelbase up by 1.8 inches. However two inches of the extra length were lost to passengers with legroom in front up by a marginal 0.7 inch, although back seat passengers got another 1.6 inches. In terms of its only serious competitor in the light six market, the LH was now eight inches longer and as wide as the Cortina
. Track was increased by more than three inches, ground clearance was down two inches and an inch was trimmed from the overall height. The top of the line engine was the 240 bhp, 308 cubic inch V8. Run under the metric designation of "5000", it was the heart of the performance option SL/R 5000
- the XU-1
replacement and no doubt a factor in Ford's retirement from motor sport.
Next was the 253
cubic inch, 185 bhp, V8 - designated in LH as the 4.2 litre. The 4.2 brought the Torana up to (and beyond) the 250 cubic inch six in the Cortina
and was the perfect workhorse option for towing and driving the bolt-on equipment such as the integrated air-conditioning
which was, for the first time, a Torana option. Despite the rising cost of petrol, the V8s availability right through the LH Torana range ensured GMH had a better chance of protecting its $25 million investment in the V8 engine plant.
The inclusion of the V8s meant the 3300cc six cylinder engine, the power plant for the "all conquering" XU-1
, was relegated to third place in the engine lineup. The 2850cc engine remained but the 2250 cc engine was dropped to make way for a 1900cc four to introduced into the LH in May - which was a little while after the initial launch. The 1900 was the German-built Opel engine, which, by the time the LH was released, some 1.2 million had been sold in Europe. It developed 102 bhp, seven bhp more than the 2250. The 1900 engine was available on the S and SL models with four-speed manual and Trimatic gearboxes, but the initial LH's standard engine was the 2850 with three speed manual. The 3300 and 4.2 litre were also available on the S. Optional transmissions were the four-speed manual and Trimatic.
Standard power train on the SL was the 3300 with three-speed manuai. The SL had the same engine-transmission options as the S. Special hubcaps, an SL badge on the left of the grille (both horizontal and vertical bars in silver) and a full length anti-knock moulding along the side, mark the SL. The SL/R had the 3300 with four-speed manual as standard with the 4.2 and 5000 engines as options. The SL/R had black paintouts below the boot lid, around the side windows (running into a stripe along the front wings) and under the doors, blacked-out grille and sports wheel covers. The SL/R 5000 had front air dam spoiler with air scoops for brake cooling and a rear spoiler in addition to the paint-outs. The 5000 also had a dual-exhaust
Cheaper Repair Costs
Weight was up, with a six cylinder LH Torana S tipping the scales at about 180 lbs more than the equivalent LJ
and the V8 models, of course, were considerably heavier again. Turning circle was six inches better at 36 feet and fuel capacity was increased by two gallons, to 12 gallons. The Holden engineers increased the glass area by 35 per cent, put in slender front pillars, and did away with the quarter vent windows in the interests of better vision.
The age of soaring knock-repair costs and creeping insurance premiums was also taken into account on LH. The bumper bars had the then popular "square" section with full-width rubber minor bump inserts on the SL and SL/R (optional on S). The bumper bars were said to be a heavier construction with stronger mounting brackets and the clearance between bumper bars and sheet metal panels increased. The front
panels were bolted on rather than simply welded.
Like the HQ
, the nose of the Torana was now separate. This made front-end repairs less expensive and facelifting a less complicated, less costly affair. Rectangular headlights (7.5 inches by 5.5 inches) incorporating the parking lights, replaced the round lenses in square bezels on the LJ. Suspension
was the same with only revisions to the spring specification and shock absorber valving. The SL/R and V8 option models were fitted with front and rear stabiliser bars. Power assisted, 10 inch disc brakes
were standard on the SL and SL/R but unfortunately four-wheel drums remained on the S with six or four engines.
The LH Torana in Motorsport
The SL/R 5000 was undoubtedly the most desirable and collectable of the LH Torana range. The "5000" designation was only placed on the vehicle when the purchaser optioned the 5.0 litre 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-litre (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 Bathurst Classic
, 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.