When Holden’s larger and more aggressive LC Torana range appeared in October 1969 it included a model aimed squarely at buyers in the under-30 age range. This Torana not only offered bright colours and eye-catching stripes; its 2.6-litre, 161 cubic inch engine added a dual-throat carburettor, revised cam and dual-outlet exhaust system to boost power from 86 to 93kW.
Four-speed manual transmission was mandatory and thanks to clever gearing allied to light weight the LC Torana GTR would reach 170km/h and 96km/h from rest in 10 seconds. The GTR dash was modified to make space for a tachometer and extra gauges and the seats had specially-made covers.
Suspension changes meant that the GTR sat lower and rode harder than other six-cylinder cars in the Torana range. Front disc brakes were standard, as were sports wheels clad in red-wall cross-plies that were speed rated to 190km/h.
With affordability crucial to the success of models aimed at younger motorists Holden worked some magic in order to bring the GTR to market for $2766 – just $190 more than a six-cylinder Torana SL – undercutting Chrysler’s new VF Valiant Pacer by $30.
Road testers complained quite bitterly about the nose-heavy Torana’s inclination to understeer. The steering was heavy and a little slow and could get tiring. Changing technique and even adjusting tyre pressures to ‘dial in’ a bit of oversteer made sporty GTRs considerably more enjoyable than the conservative suspension designers down at GM-H thought they should be.
Advances in spring, shock absorber and suspension bush technology allowed people who raced or rallied Toranas to modify most of the cars’ inherent bad habits. A Bathurst 500 win, Australian Touring Car title and several national and State-level rally championships by XU-1 versions confirmed how well the various tweaks worked.
March 1972 brought the updated, more civilised and powerful LJ Torana range. The GTR’s presentation lost some of its brashness but there were even more new colours and contrasting black-out panels. Under the bonnet a 3.3-litre ‘202’ motor had been further tweaked to produce 101kW. Also new was a stronger M21 four-speed gearbox, Monaro-type steering wheel and redesigned seats that didn’t bounce occupants into the hood-lining.
GTR Toranas sold in significant numbers, Reliable sources suggest over 10,000 combined LC/LJ sales with hundreds as traffic cars for NSW Police. These and ‘civilian’ versions kept the market well supplied for many years but few owners bothered to retain or repair cheap Toranas when they went rusty. Some GTRs were also sacrificed to become ‘clones’ of written-off XU-1s, diminishing the numbers of original cars even further.
Authentic GTRs can be identified in the first instance by the build code 82911 in their serial number. After that the process of confirming the correct body is still attached to the ID plate and the correct engine is there as well becomes more difficult. If everything checks out the next number to consider is the price.
Recent movements have seen GTR values maintain their relativity with the cost of tri-carb XU-1s. Finding cars to track price movement patterns has been difficult, however it should be possible to buy an a good, unmodified LC or LJ for between $50,000 and $60,000.
GTRs restored in the days when they had little value may be harbouring serious defects that will cost a new owner plenty to rectify. Look at door apertures and the bonnet for consistency and around the windscreen for excessive sealant. Areas to check for shoddy repairs and recurrent rust include the firewall, inner mudguards and sills, rear quarter panels, turret, suspension mounting points and floors. New panels are virtually impossible to find and anything secondhand and in decent condition will be expensive. Reproduction panels including front mudguards, sills, door skins, floor pans and the radiator support panel are available. So are repro bumpers at $400-550 each but check the quality. New rear lights cost close to $1000 per pair.
‘Red’ Holden engines haven’t been made in over 40 years but new parts still exist in abundance. Collectors will be interested only in cars with engine numbers matching the Build Plate but there is still demand for cars with replacement motors. Worn nonoriginal engines can be cheaply replaced using any ‘red’ block. Dirty oil makes valve lifters rattle and cars that haven’t been used for a while will blow smoke at start-up. If it continues once the engine is warm then a rebuild is due. Some cars will have triple-carb conversions which might not work too well unless linkages match the factory set-up. The original ‘Opel’ fourspeed gearbox was barely adequate for the power of a stock GTR engine – most broke and were replaced by the later M21 gearbox or even a Japanese five-speed.
NUMBER BUILT: 6610 (LC) 3639 (LJ)
BODY: Integrated body/chassis two-door sedan
ENGINE: 2600cc, 2834cc or 3048cc in-line six cylinder with overhead valves and dual throat downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 101kW @ 4400rpm, 262Nm @ 2000rpm (LJ)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h: 9.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.8 seconds (LJ)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual
SUSPENSION: Independent with wishbones and coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar (f); live axle with coil springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: Front disc, rear drums with power assistance
TYRES: BR70H13 crossply
Everything underneath an LC-LJ is pretty simple, cheap to replace and usually available. Complete steering racks are being offered at $800 exchange, with replacement LJ steering wheels an extra $500-650. Rerated coil springs with bushings and shock absorbers to match are best supplied and installed by a suspension specialist. New brake boosters are selling for around $400, rebuilds from $250. Check if the rear brakes are warm after a decent test drive as some hardly work at all and put added stress on the front discs. Handbrakes even when firmly applied may not work.
Seat springing is an issue and the vinyl after many years may be brittle. Some cars now have cloth or velour inserts which make for greater summer comfort but might look a bit tacky. The standard headlights were terrible and many have been fitted with halogen inserts or separate driving lights. Make sure the demister fan works well enough to clear the windscreen, although there isn’t any effective way to get hot air out of a Torana cabin. Replacing original seat belts with new inertia-reel units costs a few hundred dollars per pair and is a sensible move in a car with no other passenger protection devices at all.
(Note: concours cars will demand more)