WHEN it comes to epic Aussie radial street cars, Tony Webb’s brown CULPRIT LJ Torana, known as ‘Leroy Brown’, is one of the sentimental favourites thanks to it winning a swag of X275 using unconventional engineering whole bunch of nous. Having run deep in the eights on Holden power, Webby’s first-gen Torry is something of an icon for fans of radial racing, particularly thanks to its sleeper appeal.
“I purchased Leroy off eBay out of Sydney with a tired 304 and T700 ’box about seven years ago, Webby explains. “Apparently it was the seller’s dad’s car, and I didn’t think I’d get it for the price I paid. Originally I just wanted something I could jump in and drive, not like some of my other cars.
For something he can hop in and take to the shops, Webby’s brown Torry is one heck of a sleeper. The list of wins Leroy has racked up in 275 racing is astounding! “We won the first round of APSA X275 at Willowbank in 2014, 2015 and 2016, won the APSA X275 Australian Championship in 2015, and was runner-up at the Holden Nationals in 2015, says Webby. “We then took 2016 and 2017 off to just enjoy the LJ as a streeter and start building our new engine combo. The previous PB is 8.20@170mph, but we’re now looking to run well into the sevens!”
The LJ used to run a 355ci four-bolt VT HSV- based combo, until it went kaboom at the end of 2016 from a few too many laps around the timing tower. This was when Webby and Kon Michaloudakis from Wollongong Automotive Services moved to an aftermarket Torque Power Little Paw block, still based on GM-H roller-cam architecture.
The new donk swings 372ci thanks to a steel crank, Diamond slugs and Oliver rods, while a custom solid-roller cam and lifter combo bashes big 3/8-inch pushrods in the Higgins VN 304-pattern heads, topped by a COME Racing twin-throttlebody intake and 2400cc injectors. Controlled by a Holley Dominator EFI set-up, the real power adder lives under the boot floor in the form of an 84mm BorgWarner snail, one of Leroy’s most controversial features.
“I saw rear-mount turbos in the USA years ago, so I bought a cheap eBay turbo to try it out on the original 304 in the LJ, explains Webby. “I wanted to do something different, plus I also wanted the stealth factor of not having turbos in the engine bay. It leaves the line on around 12psi, but it sees 20psi in the pass and ultimately it will run 35psi. Because the turbo is in the back, by the time the air gets from the turbo to the engine it doesn’t need an intercooler.
Being different and innovative in the car scene means you often have to spend plenty of time going over your theory to develop your combo, and Tony has had to do plenty of that since first racing Leroy back in 2013. However, he now feels he has a handle on what makes his turbo set-up work.
“The secret to rear-mount turbos is honestly cube-based, Webby explains. “The bigger the turbo, the more air speed required, which means more cubes are required – you need that air speed! If I’d gone for 408ci or 410ci it’d be an animal. We had some oiling issues along the way, too. You have to get the oil to the turbo, then back to the motor, and while we were developing the combo we had to change the oil drain from the heads back to the sump.
Behind the Little Paw is a Dominator converter and a manualised two-speed Powerglide packing a transbrake and all the hardware required to get the 3250lb LJ hookin’ and bookin’ out of the hole. The rear end is packed with a nine-inch using Strange Engineering 35-spline axles and centre, sitting under a pair of mini-tubs and four-link done by Matt Marsh from Pro Street Industries.
“I had that car making north of 700hp with stock tubs when I met Matt, Webby says. “We decided to make it safer with the mini-tubs, seatbelts and ’cage. We haven’t overthought the suspension or chassis, as Matty did an exceptional job of setting the rear end up originally.
One of the super-impressive features of Webby’s LJ is its ability to run deep into the eights with devastating simplicity, especially given the fact it is still a full-weight street car that gets used to drop his son Connor off to school.
“We called the LJ Leroy Brown because it’s the baddest thing in town, but everyone loves it, Webby says. “I ran my first pass back in 2013-14 and there weren’t eight-second street cars around then, so it was pretty wild. I’ve got unfinished business to run a seven in
Paint: GM-H factory Chocolate
Brand: 372ci Torque Power Holden
Induction: COME Racing twinthrottlebody
ECU: Holley Dominator EFI
Turbo: BorgWarner 84mm
Heads: Higgins VN 304 EFI Holden
Camshaft: Custom solid-roller
Crank: Steel OE
Oil pump; Peterson
Fuel system: 2400cc injectors,
Enderle fuel pump
Exhaust: Pro Street Industries
Gearbox: Powerglide, Reid case
Tiff: Sin, 35-spline Strange axles
Front: Pedders springs,
Rear: Pedders springs, four-link,
mini-tubs, radial shocks
Brakes; Commodore discs and
calipers (f), Strange Engineering
discs and calipers (r)
Master cylinder; Wllwood
Rims: Weld Racing AlumaStar;
15x4.5 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: M/T front-runner (f), M/T
Radial Pro 275/60 (r)
1: “It didn’t take long before the first turbo put on the 304 had it pumping oil out like the Exxon Valdez, so knew it was time to build the engine. We got the 355 done, then went bigger on the turbo and it kept stepping up from there. There was also the issue of heat in the engine bay to think about,” says Webby on how the rear-mount turbo came about
2: Leroy Brown runs 15in Weld AlumaStars – 4.5in up front and 10in out back, wrapped in Mickey Thompson front-runners and 275 Radial Pros respectively. The suspension is deceptively simple, with Pedders front springs and shocks and radial shocks in the rear it, and it’ll do it if the track is there. Remember, it’s still doing all this with a 275 tyre and in a street car with no aero!”
But Leroy’s lack of tyre and aero was holding Webby back from fulfilling his need for speed, and he realised he was standing at a crossroads with his beloved LJ. “I wanted to go faster, so I started talking to Kon about putting a wing and big tyres on Leroy, he says. “But I couldn’t cut that car up, so we started looking at other options, and decided to build a ratty old Volvo station wagon with a twinturbo LS in it.
“Then Kon told me an LX hatch was for sale as a roller, and it included heaps of spares I could sell off. It had already run 200mph, was really well-built and proven, it was brown, and it could be built how we want.
With such a great foundation, the huge issue facing Webby and Kon was what gruntmaking goodies they’d stuff into the Torana’s awesome, clean engine bay.
“I’m not a mechanic or a tuner, so I said to Kon: ‘Here’s a budget, so build the car you’d build for yourself, Webby says. “It’s been a joint venture between the two of us, and have to say Kon and the Wollongong Automotive Services team have built an amazing car!”
Dubbed James Brown, the LX hatch had previously run both turbo and nitrous bigblock Radial Outlaw set-ups before ending up in Webby’s hands. While it was a genuine glamour in Aussie drag racing, Tony didn’t waste any time in getting it freshened up.
“The body was in pretty good condition when we bought the car, but Michael from The Works Detailing in Brendale gave it a new lease on life, fixing all the paint imperfections, Webby says. “Because it was a radial car we changed the rear end, rear shocks and their settings, added more rollcage to it, and we also had to change the steering totally, as we’ve got a dry sump in it and the extra weight over the nose needed sorting.
Kon put together a serious fat-block, based on a 565ci Brodix block, stuffed with a billet Callies crank, custom alloy rods, pistons and solid-roller cam, and topped by a pair of Dart Pro 1 CNC alloy cylinder heads. The bigblock sucks boost from the front-mounted 88mm Garrett turbos through a Holley intake manifold and 110mm Wilson throttlebody, without requiring an intercooler thanks to the use of methanol fuel, which is hosed in by 16 injectors.
“It should make 3000hp comfortably on close to 40psi, Webby reckons. “We use Holley Dominator Pro System EFI set-ups on both cars, but the hatch has a lot more sensors in it, including a gyro to measure G-force. This system is like nothing else, as it can adjust itself during the run if it sees something is wrong and outside the parameters we have dialled in. If the front wheels come up off the ground, the shock sensors read that and the ECU knows to pull boost or timing.
Serious power requires top-notch valvetrain components like Jesel lifters, PAC valve springs and Jet pushrods. “We’ll be creeping up on the power; there is no point trashing a big-dollar engine combo early on before we have a handle on it,” Webby says. “We’re waiting on a set of new custom solid cast heads from Dart in the USA, then we’ll get back into racing the hatch”
My wife Yvette; my crew chief, best mate and son Connor; Kon and Joanne from Wollongong Automotive Services; Matt Marsh from Pro Street Industries; Todd and DCR Auto Electrics; Aaron McCabe for all the tows; Dave Gregson for all his help crewing, cooking and drinking; Malcolm McIntosh who has just joined our crazy bunch;
“The great thing about rear-mount turbos is that people look in the engine bay and think it is just an injected 5.0L. They can’t believe the times Leroy does as they never look under the back,” Webby says. Leroy drinks a diet of E85, while a custom ASR sump lives under the 372ci aftermarket block
Shantelle from Light ’Em Up Electrical; Michael Lloyd from The Works Detailing; Mick Cole Auto West Paint Supplies; Fred Soleiman from Protrans; Dario Cardamone from each and every person that comes to say g’day at cruise nights and race meets
1: Matt Marsh from Pro Street Industries added some new bars to the rollcage to comply with current regs. A Holley EFI digital dash replaces the stock gauges, while Webby holds a Woodward tiller and bangs both ratios with a Precision airassisted shifter
2: James Brown rides on Santhuff struts up front with PMJ coil springs, while Menscer two-way shocks live out back with a PMJ four-link rear end. Braking is handled by Strange Engineering discs all ’round, with a Wilwood master cylinder holding pressure
Paint: Custom Brown
Brand: 565ci Brodix big-block Chev
Induction; Holley manifold, 110mm
ECU: Holley Dominator EFI
Turbos: 88mm Pro Mod
Heads: Dart Dash-One CMC
Camshaft: Custom solid-roller
Conrods: Alloy custom
Crank: Cables billet
Oil pump: Dailey Engineering
Fuel system: 16 Injectors,
Waterman fuel pump
Exhaust: Pro Street Industries
Ignition: Holley Smart colls
Gearbox: TH400, Reid bellhousing
Converter: M&M Pullapart
Diff: Gin, Roman floater, 40-spline
Front: Santhuff strut, PMJ springs
Rear: PMJ four-link, Menscer twoway
Brakes: Strange discs and calipers
Master cylinder; Wilwood
Rims: Weld Racing; 15x4 (f),
Rubber: Moroso front-runner (f),
M/T ET Pro (r)
Pro Street Industries made a custom exhaust system with the bullhorns poking out the front, while Holley smart coils handle ignition duties. An air-shifted two-speed TH400 auto was built by Fred at Protrans, working an M&M Pullapart converter and sending the four-digit power to a nine-inch stuffed with a Romac floater and 40-spline axles.
Such exotic hardware, along with double the horsepower compared to his LJ, has meant Webby has a learning curve ahead of him. “It is a big adjustment to move up to driving James Brown, he says. “We had to even step up the trailer to a tri-axle just to fit the spares we need! The maintenance side is also different as we have valve and rocker checking, puke tank checking and all that on the hatch. As for driving the car itself, I enjoy it more than the LJ as it feels more comfortable to drive compared to Leroy. James Brown is designed for the purpose!”
That purpose is to have the hatchback live up to its number plates by running in the sixes, ideally at over 200mph!
“Kon has promised me we’ll run 6.60@220mph, and I have every faith that we’ll do it, says Webby. “I have done three passes to half-track, not at full power, and it has run a best of 4.63@160mph with a very soft set-up.
“I’ll just keep chopping away learning the car and developing it. You don’t need to be the fastest guy out there – I actually don’t want to be out there running threes, as those guys are burning up parts scarily fast.
“Championships are all about consistently getting it down the track and logging points. And I’ve always got Leroy there if I want an analogue experience.
Analogue or digital, we’re sure that both of fans Webby’s the nation brown over. Toranas s will continue to make fans the nation over.