MIANUAL transmissions are an endangered species in the modern era, particularly in pro street applications. So for all the many and varied merits of Jason McGrath’s awe-inspiring LC Torana, it’s the fact that it retains a four-speed manual trans (aka millennial anti-theft device) that we think is coolest.
“There were a few reasons behind wanting to stick with the manual,” says Jason. “For one, I wanted the car to have an old-school theme, and the manual ’box makes it different from most of the other Toranas out there. But more importantly, I run my own diff and manual gearbox workshop, so if the Top Loader breaks, I can fix it myself. It also means the car acts as a rolling business card for Gear Exchange.”
Jason developed an insatiable need for an LC coupe as a school kid, leafing through the pages of Street Machine and drooling over all the Torries that prowled the streets of Western Sydney in his youth. When he was old enough to buy one of his very own, he began a statewide search via the Trading Post, but every car he looked at was too far gone.
“Then I heard through the grapevine about a car for sale locally,” Jason says. “I bought it as an almost-finished project, and I drove it home with no interior – just a driver’s seat and a windscreen – with a mate in a ute behind me carrying all the spares.”
The paint colour is off a VF HSV, and so too are the front seats - a Maloo to be exact, so they hinge forward to allow access to the rear seat. Alltrim covered it all in beige, while a colourcoded GTR cluster plays host to a set of Auto Meter gauges
The car had already been mini-tubbed when Jason bought it, but he went bigger as part of the latest rebuild, and had Aaron Gregory from Memphis Hell Custom Vehicle Builders stretch the rear arches by 50mm to ensure hassle-free fitment of the 275/50/15 Mickey Ts. Other body mods include a fibreglass bonnet with a four-inch reverse cowl, and shaved scuttle panel vents
The car had been treated to a fresh lick of yellow paint and was already engineered with the Holden V8, Top Loader and nineinch. Jay finished piecing it together and happily cruised it as a street-neat, 11-second car for the next decade or so. Then one day he brought it into the workshop for a service, and a passing comment from his dad set one hell of a snowball effect in motion.
“My old man popped the bonnet and said that the black engine bay really let the car down, and that it really should be yellow,” Jay says. “Soon afterwards we pulled it apart to paint the engine bay yellow, then reasoned that we might as well flow-coat the rest of the car to freshen it up. Then we figured that if we were going to paint the whole car we might as well change the colour, otherwise no one would notice.”
After getting done over with some dodgy rust repairs, Jason enlisted the guys at Exclusive Customs to get the car rust-free, arrow-straight and ready for paint. Choosing a colour was an agonising decision, but just how Jason came to settle on Spitfire Green could almost be considered fate. “I was looking for different colours and had been focussing on oranges, then one day I was taking the kids to swimming lessons and a bright green VF HSV cut me off. There was a sticker on the back window for a mate’s workshop, so I called him up and asked him to find out what the colour was. It turns out it was Spitfire Green, so I went with that with a bit of gold pearl added in.”
The paint application was handled by Dave O’Brien of Merv Shipp Smash Repairs in Kingswood, NSW, and when Jason first laid eyes on the finished product, the snowball gained momentum. “When the car came back from paint the quality was way beyond what I was expecting, and all of a sudden the chrome, glass and wheels that came off it weren’t up to the same standard,” he says.
It was a good problem to have, but an expensive one, as the build escalated and Jay set about replacing or reconditioning parts in order to do the rest of the car justice. All the brightwork was re-chromed and polished, and every piece of glass in the car was replaced with brand new parts. A tasty set of Weld AlumaStar bigs ’n’ littles was also ordered – 15x8s on the rear with beadlocks and meaty 275/50/15 Mickey Thompson ET Streets.
All the while, the guys at Macri Motors had been working away on a stout 355ci Holden V8 combo for the car. A Scat crank and rods were teamed with SRP forged pistons, while the heads are factory VN cast-iron jobbies that have been treated to the regular porting and machining processes, along with a set of roller rockers and Manley valves and springs. The cam is a solid-roller item, which offers considerable thump at idle (hence the RUMBLS number plates), and the intake manifold is Torque Power’s high-rise dual-plane, topped with a 750cfm AED carby. When hung on the dyno and spun to 6900rpm, the tough little plastic motor spat out a willing 548hp.
Jay teamed the Top Loader with a 10.5-inch heavy-duty clutch and billet flywheel, while the nine-inch rear end – built by Gear Exchange, of course – boasts a Strange alloy centre with 3.89:1 gears, Truetrac and 31-spline axles. It’s located by adjustable tubular arms from McDonald Bros Racing and sprung by a set of Viking coil-over shocks.
The temptation was never there for Jason to go down the replica route with his Torana. “I didn’t want to do the GTR or XU-1 blackouts or even the flutes, because that look has been done to death,” he says. “I didn’t want to try and make it look like a GTR or XU-1; it’s a two-door S”
There are a lot of subtle changes in the engine bay that only a Torana fan would pick. The factory humps from the inner guards have been smoothed out, the heater box holes have been deleted and all the unused holes are long gone, while the factory seam along the top edge of the chassis rails has been smoothed. Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe knocked up the billet caps for the front crossmember mounting bolts and the mirrored stainless blanking plate for the firewall. There’s also billet rocker covers, timing cover, alternator bracket and thermostat housing from Lowe Fabrications, and billet bonnet hinges from Aeroflow
The interior re-trim was carried out by Steve Maiolo from Alltrim. “We put the VF Maloo front seats in it, and the rear seat is still standard, but it’s been modified for the tubs,” Jason says. “Steve did the interior when the car was yellow, so I knew he’d do a good job and I gave him free rein on it. I was tossing up between grey or beige, and he told me that it was going beige or I was taking it elsewhere!”
Sadly, as the build neared completion, Jason’s right-hand-man – his dad Peter – passed away. Jay regrets that his dad never got to see the car finished, but it motivated him to get it ready to debut it at Summernats 31. With plenty of help from his good mate John Spinks, he pulled it off with stellar results. The Torana made the Elite Hall, cracked the Top 20 and scored runner-up Elite Top Tudor. Jay’s next goal is to hit the track and row through the gears for a 10-second pass. After that he’s going to hook into the resto on his SL/R 5000, because if one kick-arse Torana is good, then two must be better, right?
Paint: Spitfire Green with gold pearl
Brand: 355ci Holden V8
Intake manifold: Torque Power high-rise dual-plane
Carby: AED 750cfm
Heads: VN cast-iron, Manley valves and springs
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Holley Black pump
Cooling: PWR alloy radiator, Davies Craig thermo fans
Exhaust: Custom headers and twin 2.5in into single exhaust system
Gearbox: Top Loader
Clutch: 10.5in heavy-duty clutch, billet flywheel
Diff: Ford 9in, Strange alloy centre, 3.89:1 gears, Truetrac, 31-spline axles
Front: LH V8 springs, Monroe shocks
Rear: Viking coil-overs, McDonald Bros adjustable upper and lower trailing arms
Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers (f), XY drums (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Weld AlumaStar 15x3.5 (f), 15x8 with beadlocks (r)
Rubber: Hankook 155/80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/50/15 (r)
John Spinks for finding the car, being with the build 100 per cent of the time and being available 24/7 – the guy is a machine that never stops; Vince Macri, Adrian Macri, Tony Land and all the boys from Macri Motors at Austral; Steve Maiolo from Alltrim; Ricky Parker from Ricky’s Driveshafts; Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe and Jason Lowe from Lowe Fabrications for powdercoating, billet machining and the alloy radiator; Mark Hinson from EZE-10s; David O’Brien from Merv Shipp Smash Repairs for the killer paintjob; Jason and Glenn Coburn of Exclusive Customs; Aaron Brookes from VPW for the wheels and brakes; my late dad Peter McGrath; Mainalign suspension; Kevin Bartlett; my wife Anne Marie and kids Joel and Cameron