Sports Car Road Test - 1971
Its a very bullish little motor car, this Holden Torana GTR-XU1 - squat and brutal, with a stance like an angry bulldog and more power than it really needs. It shakes off such adjectives as "sleek" and "refined" and "sophisticated" with one gruff snarl from its none too quiet exhaust
. And yet it remains one of the most pleasing small performance cars we've driven, despite a large number of immensely irritating rattles throughout the body and trim.
Our test car was of the violent lime green shade described in the sales brochures as "Lima-Mint", edged and decorated with black across the boot, along the sill panels and around the windows. For sheer power and straight-line acceleration, there's nothing in its market segment to touch it - the 3048cc GM-H six-cylinder engine with triple Strombergs and tricky camshaft sees to that.
It has already garnered for itself a racing reputation in both Series Production and Improved Production very nearly parallel to that of its bigger and more brutal opponent, the Falcon GT
, showing itself to be slightly down on power but quite a bit better under brakes
and through the corners.
While it is light and easy to drive in comparison to that big, bad opponent, it still feels solid and purposeful when stacked up againsi other more sophisticated small performance cars - but they, of course, can't catch it. Its ready power is claimed by the makers to be in the vicinity of 160bhp at 5200rpm, but is now common knowledge that the General has another cam for the motor which injects it with a further 20bhp, The exact function of that cam is still shrouded in mystery, but it is within the framework of :he regulations for Series Production racing.
For acceleration, it's not as quick as its two main market-place and track opponents, the Falcon GT and the Valiant Charger R/T. Over the standing quarter mile it comes in third, too, but when you consider factors like tyre wear, fuel consumption, braking, etc, it comes off pretty well. And by the boy-racer's criterion - top speed - it trails the Big Three again ... but that is obviously quite a deal less important in a road car than factors like manoeuvrability, economy, driving ease, handling and braking, in which departments the XU-1 scores exceptionally well.
You may remember that the XU-1 was preceded on to the market by the original Torana GTR
, with the 2600 motor and "street" suspension. The XU-1 has revised suspension
, and in this case there is no compromise - it is for racing. The ride is hard - very hard - and devoid of the GTR's short wheelbase pitching, but still inclined to make a mountain out of every road surface irregularity. While we're on the subject of criticism, let's get a few more things off our chest.
wheel needs to be smaller in diameter and thicker in the rim, and the seats need at least some provision for rake adjustment. They are comfortable enough in terms of squab and cushion length and width, but they could also be a little more thickly padded. Instrumentation is as near to perfect as it would be possible to get within the price category and structure of the car, but switchgear could be improved by the replacement of the floor-mounted dipper switch with one of those blinker stalk mounted ones.
The XU-1 is a delightfully responsive car, although its bullish nature means that it requires more than a subtle hint of what you require from it. In combination, the lack of self-centring on the steering and the wide boots can bring on an anxious moment or two when coming out of tight corners - you have to point it, but its light and responsive in that sphere. The limited slip diff helps in keeping the car aimed straight - at least, it would if it worked. Our test car's diff was behaving like your ordinary rear-end, and that's a bit tricky sometimes.
Lighting, horn and standard of finish leave nothing to be desired, but those seat-belts are awkward to use, with the top mounting below the rear side windows - they tend to get horribly tangled under the seats, and we can imagine a lot of people saying "Oh, to hell with it!" and driving away unstrapped . . . and that's not good! The gearbox is a delight to use, with a first-gear synchromesh that allows that gear to be selected at some surprisingly high speeds. The shift itself is positive, without being notchy, and requires a reasonably firm hand ... into which, incidentally, it falls readily.
The power-assisted disc/drum braking set-up is magnificent, as it should be, and is equally happy to be used for washing off a bit of speed or bringing the car to a quick, sure, straight and sudden stop in panicky moments. We found that despite the manufacturer's recommendation of 34-32psi for tyre
pressures, the car handled much better at high speeds on 40-35psi ... which, of course, did nothing to improve the ride but you can't have everything.
Of course, there is no question in any mind but those at GM-H that the XU-1 was built for the Bathurst 500 Series Production race
- in which it proved its worth once again and justified the faith of those who fought to bring it into being, as it has done on occasions innumerable since then. And, being basically race-bred, it also stands to reason that the car should be extremely critical to tyre
pressures, which explains why low pressures induce diabolical understeer, wallow and bounce.
Comparing the XU-1 to its predecessor, the GTR (which is probably an unkind thing to do), we find the 186 Holden engine in place of the 161, air dam under the front and spoiler on the rear, triple Strombergs, GTS 350 Monaro front end with disc brakes
and boosted spring rates, 17 gallon fuel tank and 3.36 diff (3.08 optional). The Holden Torana GTR XU-1 is an easy car to drive (if you let it know who's boss) and the tremendous low-down torque and acceleration make it a lot of fun in traffic carve-ups.
But now, the NSW Police have caught on to it, and they're using XU-l's in ordinary old GTR bodies with a couple of driving lights. Dead sneaky, but if you can't lick 'em you've just got to join 'em. And despite that depressing thought, the XU-1 is a great, if bullish, little road car, and at $3214 it represents excellent value for money in small performance cars.