Holden Torana UC

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UC Holden Torana

Holden Torana

Holden UC Torana

1978 - 1980
4 & 6 cyl.
1900cc 4cyl, 2.85 & 3.3 ltr 6 cyl.
3/4 spd. man; 3 spd. Tri-matic
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Holden UC Torana
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


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.

Fortunately 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 Four" engine. Designed and built at GM's Fishermans Bend facility, the Starfire was basically just a traditional 2.85 litre (173ci) engine with two cylinders hacked off. Yes, the engine did feature a redesigned crankshaft and "VaraJet" carburettor - 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.

Other 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 litre 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 carburettor 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.

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Torana/Sunbird UC Specifications
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Reader Reviews page 1 of 1
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Posted Recently
I owned a uc torana for 25 years it was green with black trim 3.3 four sp , 250 000 km found out it sitting in someones shed as is want to buy it back
Posted Recently
I've always hated uc toranas, i think they're totally gay.truly, who would want one,except a m3ntal gm retard.
Posted Recently
No one here has mentioned the rare dealer optioned SL/T UC Torana. They were a factory sanctioned, dealer fitted turbocharged 202 version. I bought one from Suttons in the late 70's. The car was a hatchback, fitted with hotwire mags, A9X wheel arches, 4 wheel disks, sports interior. They went about as hard as the V8 a9x torana at the time. It had a 3.08 Salisbury diff and an M20 gearbox. I would have preferred a M21 as in the xu1 toranas with taller ratios, but it pulled hard in top gear on the open road anyway. It was an interesting car. I did around 160,000km in it. It had reliability issues which were fixed through larger radiators, oil coolers and water injection. Intercoolers didn't exist in those days. Before I bought it, the car received a review in Aust playboy. I have seen a reprint of this on the net recently.
*** automotive.anobviousdistraction *** /Toran aTurbo/Torana_UC_SLT_magazines.pdf
Posted Recently
i have had more then 20 uc toranas over 20 years currently i have 6 3 sedans 3 hatchbacks these would have to be the best toranas holden ever built ther popularity is growing as pepole realise that thay are the last of the breed love it or hate it there the last toranas ever made and can be modifide very easly if thats what u want me i prefer a nice clean driver not a show boat that ur scered to drive cheers to all uc lovers and collectors
Posted Recently
A UC V8 should have been trialed for a while,but I think Holden was getting ready for Commodore production,and thats where its focus was heading. But it still dosn't explain why they couldn't have V8 in UC,VB and HZ all selling side by side.It was 1978 after all when the V8 take up rate was far greater than now. The LC and LJ should also been offered with them.
Posted Recently
the UC looked alot better the the VB Commodore!!
Posted Recently
hi does anyone know where i can get a pair of new headlights for my 1979 uc torana i have been on rare spares cant find anything
Posted Recently
I have a u.c. 3.3 which i have owned for 33 years bought 2 year old not an every day car now, but in great condition well yes probably less atractive at the back than lh or lx, but handles well i like it &will keep some one said to me recently hey you need a new car my reply to that was ive just bought this car 33 years ago.
Posted Recently
I owned a 1978 UC SL Sedan from '82 to '90. Specs were 4 wheel disc, DeLuxe pack that included,full instrumentation,cloth seats,T/Bar auto with consul that ran up to dash with the a Radio/cassette mounted in the consul,laminated w/screen,202 motor,chrome grille and semi sealed headlights with H4 globes.Also had the sports type mirror on the r/h door. I bought a l/h one and painted and fitted it myself. Good car in it's day. Did a Brisbane-Melbourne run in '83 in 18 hours. Used a lot of fuel though. Would have been cheaper to fly but not as much fun.
Posted Recently
Styling years ahead of time,engineering on par with the commindore and finally most importantly of all it is DESIGNED in OZ , unlike the dunnydoor.
Posted Recently
In my opinion the UC is a far better looking car than the LX and certainly has much better handling. I owned a 6 cyclinder LX for 11 years from 1984. Only recently, I purchased a good clean UC, it had the undeniably gutless 1900 engine. It now has a recond 350 Chev and turbo 350 trans, with toyota hilux rearend, best thing I ever did to it. Now a truly exciting performance classic car!
Posted Recently
I have never liked the look of the UC Torana inside and out no styl. Undeniably a ugly car that is why sales were bad. The only people that buy the UC are the ones that can not buy LH or LX Torana.
Posted Recently
people that want to fit mags to there uc volvo mage fit there stud width is 108 x5
Posted Recently
I have just recently bought a 1979 Uc Torana. The previous owner said its been sitting for a while according to old rego stickers a while is actually 5 yrs got it off the trailer and it started first go! talk about reliable Yes its a sunbord my best mate a mopar lover makes fun of it but we'll see who is laughing. I t came completely standard having a lil difficult getting front seats out. minimal rust anywhere and straight body cant say i could have done etter i love it regardless. My first torana.
To all you Torana and holden lovers out there ROCK ON!!!!
Posted Recently
It was 1989 and my first car was a 4-door UC with only 69,000km on the clock, straight and totally stock. But it was a Starfire 4 cylinder. Still it was a fantastic car to drive. I grafted on a Corona carby and intake, electronic ignition, and fitted extractors which improved the banger quite a bit. Fast forward 4 years to 1993 and despite a couple of dings that were fixed the UC was in for a makeover. I fitted it with a 253 on straight gas with a Gas Research carby, good (at the time) audio system, mag wheels and tinting. Passed engineers approval and became even more of a pleasure to drive. In 1994 I got a job that came with a company car so I mothballed the UC in the garage where it has been ever since. My son is now 5 and asks what is under the covers and I promised him that one day we would restore the old girl for show and weekend cruising. I love the UC and proud to have one. Many memories in it and more to come :)
Posted Recently
I'm 18 and I'v got a UC its a cute little roller. problem im having is trying to find headlights for it.
Posted Recently
im seventeen and i own a 4 door uc i love it its my first legal car but its also a project it has a 161 cubic inch with a aussie four on the floor its awesome and gorgeous little car does anyone know is there any other holden rim that fits it>
Keith Delmar
Posted Recently
Don't like the UC much. Had all the hallmarks of an 'end of the line' model. Where was the V8? I'm guessing a lot of people now are fitting out UC's with 253's and 308's,but they should have been available when new.They certainly fitted! I'd rather an LX any day.
Posted Recently
I have a UC torana.... It still needs alot of work to be done to it but the 308 was a great fit and loving the grunt it gives to my boy. Its a 5spd manual so its even bettr haha
Its hard to find parts and people that would make certain adjustments it needs to it....
But as with every thing in life all good things come in good time.
Being a 24yr old female with a old schoold ryde like a UC holden torana is awsome. The comments and looks i get, it cant get any better ;)
Posted Recently
I have reciently bought a UC torana painted in HDT red and White. was reciently used as a relly car, have just converted it back to road use and am considering replacing the 202 with a V8 plus other mods, Pity GMH never put the UC on the track. She turns heads on the road.
Posted Recently
i have one too hehe.
Posted Recently
Hi. i think the uc torana is a grait car with heaps of potental and far more atractive than a lot of new cars to day each to there own but id hafto say that with a bit of maintnenc there realy raliable never let me dawn i feel like every torana haz its own soul actualy i know thay do haw meny other cars do you know that have that mutch presence
Posted Recently
Oh my gosh. I have a UC Torana :) It's a six seater!! AND it has auto on the column. I love it :) It's special. It's awesome. I love the UC range. They're awesome. I'm only 16... and I have a UC TORANA!! Yep, I'm lucky. And you're all jelous, haha. Joking. But really, I DO have a UC :) Anyways...
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