Holden LH Torana SL/R 5000 Automatic
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Take a few moments to go back through the archives and, strange as it may seem to Holden fans today, there were plenty of motoring journalists that thought the performance minded Torana's were best suited to the track, and not the road.
Touring car racing was (in our humble opinions) at its apex in the mid 1970's - but the fuel crisis was beginning to bite. Some predicted the end of the V8, and questioned the sense in any manufacturer releasing a mid-size sedan so equipped.
Things seemed simpler in the 1970's too. If you rallied you went Japanese, and there were none better than the Datsun's. If you wanted a more refined ride you went European. And for performance the Aussie V8 ruled.
Attempts to change the natural order had the predictable results - best seen in the abortive attempt to race a Mercedes during the 1975 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 at Bathurst
. For Tom Naughton and Ross Wemyss the Mercedes entry probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It's failure didn't make it any less of a great touring car - just not a great race car.
And the theory of some was that the same rule could be applied to the V8 Torana. That it was a great race car was not questioned - but did track success make it a good touring car? The Torana SL/ R 5000 was built princiaplly to knock the big Falcon GT off its pedestal, the SL/ R just had to be no good for the type of suburban and country driving that a real enthusiast enjoyed.
Historically (and we are talking about cars built prior to the SL/R) the adapting of race-bred machinery to normal and functional road use had rarely been successful. Imagine the enthusiasts' horror when the General fitted the SL/R with automatic transmission
The LH Torana
, in basic road going form, had already displayed much improvement in the General's attitude to the driving public. The instruments were well located (although still not perfect), the driving position was suprisingly good, vision was very much improved, as was the suspension
, and thus the ride, handling
All in all, the basic 4 or 6 cylinder LH Torana offered motorists a whole new deal as far as Torana motoring was concerned. When you combined all this with SL/ R 5000 running gear, automatic transmission
many were tempted to quickly forget previous loyalties to the European bred touring cars. The SL/ R still suffered from somewhat inferior seating and the controls and switch gear was not up to European standards, but in SL/R guise the Torana had spanned the vast casm that had previously existed. No longer were great touring cars the domain of the Europeans.
As as a day-to-day proposition, the SL/R was an even better bet. Overlooking cheaper servicing, parts and arguably better reliability, the V8 sure made driving around town much easier, compared to the continual gear changing required of European sports cars. As you would expect, the instant throttle response by all eight purring cylinders made suburban driving a pleasure. There were no worries about slipping into the kerbside lane at traffic lights because even a small tap of the gas pedal would see you first off the mark - unless of course you picked on a GT Falcon
The Argument For Performance Cars On The Road
In fact, for a powerful brute, the SL/ R Automatic was remarkably agile. It inspired confidence by eliminating the doubt often involved in overtaking slower cars. You would know that if you put your boot into it you would be past in double quick time, safely. Unique Cars and Parts
do not condone hoon behaviour, but nor do we believe the draconian measures touted by some politicians in having performance cars banned. Driven correctly, they are just as safe, if not more so, than underpowered pus-boxes.
In a European vs. Australian comparison, a Mercedes 250 was pitted against an SL/R in highway and freeway conditions. Surprisingly (or should we say, not so suprisingly), the SL/R came out on top, being less affected by cross winds, easier to point at speed and generally more controllable than the Merc.
It seemed the achillies heel was only in the braking department, where the Torana tended to suffer brake fade due to overheating under continued fast stop testing. The suspension
, LSD and power made up for many of the deficiencies noticeable in the SL/R's lesser powered brothers. The enormous reserve of power and the LSD combined to make it a largely throttle-steer situation with pin point accuracy at quite brisk speeds.
We have written plenty of articles on Torana's before, but what the hec, we thought it time for another. After all, re-visiting one of the greatest Australian cars to have ever been built is no bad thing. Chances are, we will do it again...and again...