Holden Torana HB

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HB Torana

Holden Torana

Holden HB Torana

1967 - 1969
4 cyl.
56/69/79 bhp
4 spd. man; 3 spd. Auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
2 star
Holden HB Torana
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


In the early 1960s other car manufacturers began offering motorists a broader range of motor vehicles. The emphasis was on smaller, more economical and considerably cheaper models - particularly as this era was considered the start of the two car Australian household. GM-H realised it needed to move away from building only large cars - and their answer came in the HB Vauxhall Viva.

The Viva's were first introduced in April 1964, then as the HA Viva model, which possesed a boxy look, lots of sharp edges in its styling - and a reputation for being tinny and troublesome. In fact the first Viva's virtues were a little difficult to find. The performance was so-so at best, it being able to reach 50 mph in just under 14 seconds. It was, however, cheap to run, and the floor mounted gearbox was well above class standards of the day for its "slick" action.

GMH claimed that, after rigid tests "...in Europe, Canada and Lang-Lang, the Viva has been designed to give an inherent anti-roll characteristic". That proved to be a little wishful thinking during the 1966 Gallaher 500 (the precursor to the Bathurst 1000 enduro), when a HA Viva being driven by Gary Shoesmith and Tony Robards seemed to flip with suprising ease! The roll-over also clearly demonstrated how poor the strength of the Viva was, particularly the roof which simply flattened like a pancake.

Sales continued to be laclustre until May 1967, when the new and improved model was not only released as the HB, but also under Holden's new brand name "Torana". There were plenty of good reasons for GMH to get their hands on the little import, particularly given the continued popularity of the Volkswagen Beetle and MK. II Mini 1000, the latter being released shortly before the HB.

But unlike the competition, the Beetle with its rear mounted boxer engine, and the Mini with its transverse front wheel drive configuration, the HB Torana followed a more traditional path that was preferred by many Aussie motorists. Sure, it was the first Holden to depart from the traditional family sedan formula, but it did represent good value, particularly for families now adopting the "two car" policy.

The engine was enlarged to 1159ci and developed 56 bhp - no power house but still a marked improvment on the original Viva. The engine incorporated positive crankcase ventilation and was also far quieter, thanks largely to better sound deadening materials being used along with a double silencer system. Getting the best out of the HB Torana required the driver to use plenty of gear changes, and thankfully the 4 speed box was a real winner. Stubby, light and posessing delightfully short throws, the feel was positive and sporting. The steering was also well sorted, the precise rack-and-pinion requiring only 3.4 turns to go from lock to lock, the car having a tight 32 foot turning circle. And best of all, the three-leaf transverse spring fitted to the Viva was ditched, being replaced by coil springs.

Torana, Torana S and Torana SL

Upon release, the HB Torana was available in three models, and all of them were two-doors. There was the base "Torana", followed by the S and SL. The latter Super Luxury model boasted such creature comforts as a cigarette lighter, carpet, (very) fake wood trim on the dashboard and a heater-demister. All models were fitted with bucket seats, and Wyvern grain and Sadlon vinyls were used in the SL. Optional (for those who cared a little for their backside during the hot Aussie summers) was Castillon weave.

In 1968 Holden introduced the Series II HB Torana, the main feature being the introduction of a 4 door model. Suprisingly, the re-modelling to allow the fitment of rear doors only shaved 5 inches from the front doors (meaning entry and egress were little affected), and with the Torana offering a generous 16 cubic foot boot, it now took the fight up to the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Datsun 1000. Also with the introduction of the Series II came the Series 70 engine option, the engineers re-tuning of the 1159ci motor to enable a healthy 69bhp output. These modifications included changes to the cylinder head and a lift in compression ratio, up from 8.5 to 9.0:1, that combined with a higher lift camshaft.

The HB Brabham Torana

There was even a new exhaust sytstem that had twin branch exhaust manifolds and two seperate reverse flow mufflers. GMH claimed a 20% increase in power, important given the cars detractors would often cite the power, or lack of, as the biggest criticism of the little Holden. Engine mods aside, the Series II HB also received much improved braking system, all Series 70's being fitted with power assisted front discs. To further up the safety ante, GMH fitted low profile 6.20 x 12 tyres on super wide four inch rims. In 1968 the first "sporty" Torana was introduced, although few would have guessed that it would morph into the legendary A9X 9 years later. The new 2 door 'Brabham' Torana featured a raft of upgrades, most noteable amoung them being such go fast options as a broad centre rally GT stripe and Brabham decals. Unfortunately though, the Brabham Torana was a bit of a let down, as stripes did not a sports car make.

A few months after the Brabham's release (on September 24) there was another revision which included round instruments, while a broad and narrow stripe around the nose replaced the previous single broad decal. There were also black paint-outs under the front bumper and between the tail lights, and another stripe was added, which ran the length of the car below the doors. The Series 70 engine was used, however it was fitted with a twin Stromberg carby, which helped the little engine to a (less than overwhelming) 79 bhp.
HB Torana Top Speeds
Standard Torana
80 mph
Series 70
85 mph
Brabham Torana
89 mph
That may not sound much, but it was 10 more than the Series 70 had to offer, and was a whopping 23 more than the standard Torana possessed. The Brabham Torana was also fitted with twin oversize exhaust pipes, although they produced far more bark than bite, particularly when you compare top speeds. In standard guise, the HB was good for around 80 mph.

The Series 70 engine lifted top end performance by around 5 miles per hour, however the Brabham modifications managed to only extract another rather wheezy 4, and this was going down hill with a strong tail wind. Despite all the Brabham's sporting pretentions, far more humble cars such as the Morris 1100, which layed no claim to any sporting ability, had the measure of the car. Perhaps the fact that GMH still shod the little Brabham with red line nylon 6.20 x 12 tyres, the same as fitted to the regular Series 70, was evidence enough that the car was not a serious sports car proposition.

The facelifted 1969 model Brabham received a far better interior treatment than the lesser Torana's. Upgrades included a new dished simulated woodgrain sports steering wheel, along with a proper set of sports instruments which included tacho, oil pressure, amp, temperature and fuel gauges. Interestingly enough, the word Torana is an aboriginal word meaning "fly" - something the much underpowered HB was incapable of, even in Brabham guise. But the Brabham is still very much an important car, and deserves a high place in Australian automotive history. It marked the desire by GMH to not only supply the Australian domestic car market with a small car, but a sporting one at that.

For now the honours would fall to the Monaro, but there were some industrious engineers who obviously felt a good old Aussie six could lift the performance bar far higher. They were right, and the Brabham set the scene for future Torana models, cars so formidable they would quickly take the greatest prize in Australia, honours at Mount Panorama.
HB Torana
HB Torana Brabham

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Reader Reviews page 1 of 1
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Posted Recently
I like the picture of the girl. She looks "loving"!!!
Posted Recently
Mk 2 cortinas were way better! They looked better , & had much better engines.
Bill White
Posted Recently
I had a standard S series Torana, bought in 1968. My dad was a racing mechanic but all we did was look after the little girl well, never modified it.
She did 50 mph in 2nd gear and going up the hill out of the Barossa Valley between Nuriootpa and Truro, with 4 young (then) blokes in it, it got up to 90 mph before the bend at the top of the valley made me slow down.
I didn't ever drive it faster than that but it would have got to over 100 mph. So much for the 80 mph top speed.
I loved that little car and it handled quite well. I now have an Alfa Gtv V6 and an Alfa 156. They are great cars but I have fond memories of my little 56 hp Torana. It was pretty, too.
Posted Recently
i owned a 74 ta torana as my 1st car and it was a piece of *** breaking down all the time and it looked vile also i spent more money fixing it then a brand new car would have cost i would recomend gmh never to build toranas ever again
Posted Recently
My second car was a Brabham Torana. It was a piece of utter crap.
Posted Recently
I'm an old geezer, but I was proud as when my dad got the 1st HB SL. We could fit all the stuff fro our EJ wagon into the boot of the 'rana, the only condition the old man would buy it. Would like to own it now
Posted Recently
They are so cool
Lachy white
Posted Recently
I have a 67' 2 door, i'm planing to put her back on the road but it will take some time as i'm only a frist year apprentice and it's rusted in a few places, it's starts and runs fine it's only the body thats letting me down.
jimmy capo
Posted Recently
i have a 4 door HB 69. i'm the second owner, i've had it for 19 years and i've started to rebuild it, found no rust in the body so it should make it easy. i'm going to restore it back to original, i am a motor trimmer by trade and am going to do the interior back to it's original state because i changed it years ago. when it's finished i'll put a picture on this site
Posted Recently
I had a series 70, 4 door, white S from 1971 till my wife made me sell it some 20 years later. KDC423 was its number plate!! I miss that car. It was no chic puller and my mates gave me buggary for driving a Holden Bomb (HB) They were great cars to work on and hugged the road, and off road better than most of their day. I think the manual gear box was under enginerred for the series 70 motor as I was always doing a rebuld,,the main rear bearing in particular. Though with that said I did have lumpy cam, CD ignition and a fancy exhaust and drove it hard. I want to find another one as I just found a head gasket set in my shed and time to relive the past...Stew.. email [email protected] *** ***
Todd toza boy
Posted Recently
i bought my first torana 16 years ago and stil have it my passion for the torana started when i saw brocky drive one around bathurst im now building a 69 hb\sl 2 door back to its glory something about the shape that sets them apart from all the other models i hope to pass my toranas to my son when hes old enough r.i.p brocky we miss u
ken king
Posted Recently
My first car was a series 70 HB brabham torana. I hated it! It didn't pull chics, it was left standing by fully laden trams, my triumph bonneville mates are still laughing. It was the worst marriage of my life and the reason I now drive a benz!
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