HDT's ultimate racecar
It had all the right elements. A built-fromthe-ground-up Holden Dealer Team Torana Sports Sedan powered by a mid-mounted Repco-Holden Formula 5000 5.0-litre V8, with suspension developed by one of the country’s leading open-wheeler engineers, and clothed in wild flared-guard bodywork designed by none other than Holden’s in-house stylist himself, Leo Pruneau. It would be driven by Holden’s number one factory driver, Colin Bond, who at the time was the reigning Australian Touring Car Champion.
And yet somehow all these ingredients did not combine to make a successful recipe. During the two-and-a-half years it ran as a factory Holden Dealer Team car, it did not win a single race.
“It looked a million dollars when it was finished!” Colin Bond chuckles as he recalls the HDT LH Torana SL/R 5000 Sports Sedan’s public unveiling in mid-1976.
But appearances can be deceiving. Unfortunately, the Torana’s stunning looks weren’t matched by any decent amount of actual dollars set aside to cover running costs, at least during Bond’s brief time behind the wheel. However, a lack of budget was not the only unexpected hurdle this car would face.
The LH-based HDT Sports Sedan was Bond’s idea. In a way it emerged out of the ashes of ‘The Beast’, the HDT Torana XU-1 Repco-Holden Sports Sedan, although it was to be a very different, much more technically sophisticated machine than the XU-1 ever was. The other important distinction was that it was built not by HDT boss Harry Firth in Melbourne, but by Bond’s team in Sydney. In fact, Firth had almost nothing to do with the car. Colin Bond takes up the story:
“With only the touring car races on my plate and not much else in 1975, I had some spare time to look at doing other things. Having driven ‘The Beast Mk 2’ a few times – and survived! – I reckoned it was possible to build a better Torana Sports Sedan around an LH shell, so I put the idea to Harry. When he said there wasn’t enough money in the budget to do it, I suggested we build the car in Sydney and run it separately, which was OK by Harry.”
By then Bond was already running a kind of semi-autonomous satellite HDT in Sydney, maintaining one works Torana L34 which Bond himself would run in local NSW – and sometimes Queensland – touring car races. For the bigger events Firth would fly up to oversee things; at other times Bond would be left to his own devices. To help with the Sports Sedan build, Firth sent one of his young mechanics, George Smith, to join Bond in Sydney.
“The team was still run from Melbourne, though,” Bond points out. “Harry never let us forget that.”
George Smith would later go on to form Dencar, the engineering company which for a while was responsible for most of the chassis on the V8 Supercar grid. But on the LH Sports Sedan project, Smith was very much the apprentice serving under the ‘master’, Henry Nehrybecki, then one of the country’s top racing car engineers.
“I knew Henry from my brief time with Frank Matich’s Formula 5000 team,” Bond recalls. “I talked to him about helping George and me put the car together, using the workshop at his Lamborghini dealership in Crows Nest. When I say workshop, it was really just an old shed out the back.
At the time George Smith had been working at Harry Firth’s HDT headquarters in Melbourne, but in the road car section of Firth Motors, under the direction of Frank Lowndes.
“George had come over from Launceston because he wanted to become a motor racing mechanic,” Bond explains. “It was a pretty brave thing to do: he was very young, and he came all the way from Tassie with his wife and young family, with no real prospect of a job – but I guess it turned out pretty good for him in the end!
“George ended up staying with me when I went off to join Moffat. He learned a lot when we were building up the LH Sports Sedan. He learned a lot about fabrication, and he learned a lot from working with Henry, who was a top class engineer.”
Henry Nehrybecki had learned his trade in the UK working for Lola in the late 1950s. When he returned to Australia he designed and built the first of two ‘Lolita’ sports-racing cars (Henry adopted the Lolita name not from the saucy 1955 book by Vladimir Nabokov, but rather as a distortion of ‘Lola’.) A master fabricator, he worked with Frank Matich both on the SR series sports cars and Matich’s Formula 5000s in the early ’70s. With a background like that, and at a time when the Sports Sedan scene had long since left its backyard-mechanic origins behind it, Nehrybecki was just the man for the job of designing the new HDT car. He would bring a level of engineering sophistication to the LH that had been conspicuously absent from the XU-1 Sports Sedan.
Compared to the old car, the LH was, Bond recalls, in a whole different league: “It was built better, it looked better, and it went better.”
Of course, it needed to be all those things, because by the mid-’70s Sports Sedan racing had just about reached its competitive peak. Amid a string of serious contenders – V8powered heavy hitters such as the McCormack/ Edmondson Valiant Charger Repco-Holden, Ian Geoghegan’s Craven-Mild HJ Monaro, Allan Moffat’s Chev Monza and Jim Richards’ Sidchrome Mustang – the target car identified by Bond and Nehrybecki was Bob Jane’s HQ Monaro GTS 350.
In fact, the LH was consciously designed with beating Jane in mind. Part of the reason for this was that the main focus for the car would be the rich Marlboro Sports Sedan Series at Calder, where Jane was especially dominant. This was an important consideration: since there was nothing allocated from Firth’s HDT budget to actually run the car, Bond hoped to cover costs with prizemoney won at the big-dollar events such as Calder’s.
Conceptually, the new car wasn’t so different from the old XU-1 V8. Like the XU-1, it had Repco-Holden F5000 power, although in this case a flat-plane crank version pumping out around 370kW.
“The exhaust note was more of a howl instead of the rumble big V8 engines usually have,” says Bond of the flat-plane crank. (For an idea of how it would’ve sounded compared to its conventional V8 opposition, think of the distinctive note of the 5.0-litre flat-plane crank engine in today’s Volvo S60 V8 Supercars.)
Like the XU-1 ‘Beast’, the LH’s 5.0-litre V8 would be mounted well back in the chassis – by about 30cm. Interestingly, the XU-1’s engine had been mounted even further back.
“We learned with the original Sports Sedan that to have the engine back too far upsets the braking potential,” Bond told Racing Car News when the car had its first public showing in May, 1976. “We’ll mainly be running the car at Calder, and that’s an acceleration and braking exercise.”
The Repco-Holden V8 drove through a Borg & Beck F5000 clutch and GM-Muncie four-speed gearbox. A short fabricated tailshaft connected the Muncie to what might be called the car’s centrepiece, the CAE quick-change differential.
The CAE rear end, basically a NASCAR and drag racing item, had a drop gear arrangement that allowed for final-drive gear ratios to be changed quickly at the track. As the only Sports Sedan to feature this type of quick-change rear end, Bond and Nehrybecki believed it would give them a crucial advantage when setting the car up at each circuit.
The diff served a stress-bearing member, connected to the chassis by a tube-frame section. All of this was Nehrybecki’s work, along with the Formula 5000 style rose-jointed, double wishbone suspension and specially fabricated uprights. As was the fashion at the time, the car featured inboard rear disc brakes, with big 295mm F5000-type rotors. On the front, it ran Lockheed four-spot calipers on 305mm rotors.
The rear track was 50mm wider than standard, while the front track was unchanged. Unusually, so also was much of the rest of the front end. In its original form, the car used the standard Torana front crossmember, while the wishbones and front hubs were also in virtually standard trim.
It seems surprising that an engineer of the quality of Nehrybecki would elect not to redesign the front suspension along proper racing car principles, just as he had done on the rear. When quizzed by Racing Car News about this, he said his thinking was influenced by what had happened on the Jane Monaro. When Jane’s team had converted the HQ from its original Improved Production Touring specs to Sports Sedan rules, they took advantage of the freer rules and changed a lot of things. However, Nehrybecki told the magazine, since then a lot of the car had been altered back to more or less the standard specification and, he noted, in this form it was the fastest Sports Sedan in the country.
The new HDT Torana might have been deceptively standard around the front but, thanks to the creativity of Holden’s style guru Leo Pruneau, it was certainly no plain-Jane LH fourdoor on the outside.
Pruneau’s bodywork design was influenced by the 1974 Cologne Capri (such as the one Allan Moffat imported for the start of the ’75 Sports Sedan season) and in particular its dramatic boxshaped flared guards. Originally the idea with the Torana was to house twin radiators inside the box sections of the rear guards, in front of the rear wheels. In the end, though, they opted for the simplicity of a conventional front-mounted (stock Holden Statesman) radiator.
The bodywork came in two main sections, made of fibreglass (by GS Motor Bodies in Sydney – Bond had to get moulds taken off Pruneau’s clay model prototype in Melbourne, which were then sent to Sydney), for the front and back. They were designed to lift off the chassis to make working on the car easier, and of course they weighed a lot less than the original sheet metal panels. Aluminium doors continued the weight-loss theme, and the original Torana chassis sections were holed out like Swiss cheese where ever they could without it affecting structural integrity.
To complete the picture, Bond asked Globe Wheels to do a special order of wheels in the same style as those on the HDT Group C Torana L34s – only wider (13 inches wide and 15-inches in diameter).
Weighing in at 1000kg, the Torana was, compared to most of its opposition, a lightweight machine. But it needed to be, because under a particular quirk of the Sports Sedan rules, the LH was limited to a maximum engine size of 5.0-litres – while its Monaro/Mustang/Monza opposition could (and most did) run up to 6.0-litres.
Even though Allan Moffat had some years earlier shown it was possible for a good 5.0-litre Boss Mustang to beat a 7.0-litre Camaro, it was going to be a tough ask for the smaller capacity LH in a field as top-heavy field as this.
What Bond could not have known it at the time, however, was that it was all about to get even tougher.
Little time to Bond
Today Colin Bond doesn’t remember all that much about his time driving the HDT LH Torana Sports Sedan. That’s perhaps not surprising, because it was truly a whirlwind campaign, with Bond racing the car at six meetings across four states, over a frantic sevenweek period.
The car wasn’t ready in time for the opening round of the inaugural Australian Sports Sedan Championship at Surfers Paradise in May, 1976, but it made round two at Sandown in July. And what a debut – Bond put the car on pole with a whole 1.1 seconds to spare over the next best, Ian Geoghegan.
In the first of Sunday’s two heats, Bond battled with Moffat for the lead but went down to the Monza, the two cars separated by less than two seconds at the end. Heat two went to Geoghegan, with Moffat second and then the HDT Torana.
A good start, then, but things soured two weeks later at Amaroo Park, where the car’s chief Achilles Heel – the diff – was exposed for the first time.
“The diff just wasn’t strong enough,” Bond says. “It was rated to about 1000bhp (745kW), but the problem was that it wasn’t designed to take a sudden load from a standing start, because they use rolling starts in the US. The drop gears had holes in them to make them light, and they just kept breaking off the start line. I had to let in the clutch really gently, but even then half the field usually went past before the first corner!” Top: Colin Bond fires the new LH Sports Sedan through Oran Park’s Esses. Above, below right: At Amaroo Park, Bond’s Torana and Geoghegan ‘s Monaro are locked in battle trying to put all that V8 power to the road. Below right: The new Torana made a big splash on debut at Sandown, taking pole and leading the race for a while - and also providing inspiration for cartoonist John ‘Stonie’ Stoneham (inset top). Left: Bond with Harry Firth. A disagreement between the two over finances left Bond with no funds to run the car...
The diff failed again at the car’s next outing, Oran Park’s championship round. Bond finished fourth in the opening heat, and until the diff intervened he’d looked a real chance in the final heat. Even so, Bond was only in a potentially winning position because Frank Gardner’s new Chev Corvair had been black flagged, and front row starters Richards and Moffat had both retired with mechanical issues.
Above, right: Front chassis detail shows how far back the Repco-Holden 5.0-litre V8 is mounted – almost flush with the original Torana firewall! Original Torana chassis sections have where possible been ‘Swiss cheesed’ to reduce weight.
If the threat posed by Gardner’s radical midengined Corvair hadn’t been obvious at Oran Park, then it was hammered home a week later at Calder. Along with most of the other cars, the HDT Torana was simply outgunned, with Bond claiming a fifth and third place respectively. But the Corvair had completely changed the Sports Sedan game.
At the following week’s Wanneroo round, Bond qualified fourth behind Geoghegan, Richards and poleman Moffat, this time driving the Cologne Capri (the Corvair was absent). But it was all for naught, oil pressure issues causing the LH to retire from both heats. That was the last time Bond raced it. “It took longer to finish than everyone hoped – like most new racing cars! – and the year was half over by the time it was actually up and running,” Bond remembers. “And of course the touring cars had top priority. Still, I think we would have given them a real shake if we’d been allowed to use a six-litre engine – and if we’d used a better diff!”
Not that there’d have been the resources to do any further upgrades – because Colin’s plan to fund the car on prizemoney had hit an unexpected snag.
“Originally Henry was going to be a partner with me in the project,” Bond says, “but it didn’t quite work out that way after a misunderstanding over the financial arrangements with Harry (Firth).
“We all agreed that the car would be paid for by the HDT, but they didn’t pay for me building it on the condition that we got all the prizemoney. But then Harry went and did a deal with all the circuit promoters that they pay him appearance money, so in return they didn’t have to pay prizemoney. So we lost out on that one!
“Looking back, yes, the diff was a problem initially but… the real problem was that we didn’t have a budget to run it.”
A month or so after Bond’s last start in the LH Sports Sedan, came the news that he was leaving the HDT and Holden to join Moffat and Ford for 1977. Bond says the appearance money issue with Firth wasn’t what caused him to jump ship, but with Moffat offering a more attractive deal, the LH Sports Sedan saga surely can’t have helped dissuade him from the decision.
Harrop engineered and driven
Colin Bond’s ‘defection’ to Ford at the end of 1976 was a cause of some upheaval at the Holden Dealer Team. Suddenly there was an LH Sports Sedan sitting in Firth’s Hawthorn workshop that not only needed someone to prepare it, but also someone to drive it. More pressingly, a replacement for Bond was needed in the team’s touring car racing effort, which was expanding to two cars for the new season.
Firth acted quickly to fill the driver void. John Harvey and Charlie O’Brien were immediately resigned, along with Wayne Negus, who would run a HDT L34 in Western Australian events before joining the others at Bathurst. The final enduro drive seat would be filled by Ron Harrop.
Firth and Harrop were already well acquainted – Harrop’s engineering shop had been making special-order parts for Firth for some years (he had, for instance, designed and manufactured the brake callipers for the Torana L34 performance upgrade). But just as Harrop was a skilled fabricator
it had been.
Harrop ran five of the seven rounds that made up the championship. The campaign began in farcical circumstances at Surfers Paradise, where he qualified on the front row, even if an ominous 2.1 seconds slower than the Corvair, now with Allan Grice at the wheel.
But Harrop never got the chance to test himself against the mid-engined Chev in race conditions, because by race morning he’d been disqualified. The penalty related to the car’s entrant, the HDT, whose CAMS entrants’ licence had been suspended. The issue had nothing to do with Harrop, but rather was over a sway bar irregularity on the HDT’s Torana A9X touring cars. The HDT’s appeal was dismissed on the Friday before the Surfers weekend, and so the HDT’s entrants’ four-week licence suspension was immediately reimposed.
A bemused Harrop was left to pack his things and return to Melbourne, prevented from racing by an issue that had nothing to do with him, and one of which he was only vaguely aware even as the Stewards told him the bad news…
Meanwhile, the competition was getting even hotter. As if things weren’t being made hard enough by the dominance of the Gardner/Grice Corvair, which had rendered the HDT LH and every other car obsolete, the series had just received a new and potent addition in the form of Jim Richards’ lightweight Falcon.
In the second round at Adelaide, Harrop qualified third behind Richards and Grice. The Corvair’s day was done after it suffered a rear end failure in the first race, leaving Harrop to chase Richards home in both heats. It was a near
identical story at Wanneroo, with Grice and Richards sharing the spoils, with the HDT LH trailing in their wake. This was to be the LH’s lot: faster than most, slower than the two dominant cars.
Sandown was the scene of the celebrated ‘sandbag’ episode, in which the rear of Grice’s Corvair was laden with 100kg of sand in an effort to improve its traction on the wet track. Perhaps the HDT Torana could have done with similar treatment, because it was well off the pace in the wet, finishing a distant fifth in race one (behind Garry Rogers in the ex-Geoghegan Monaro) and claiming second later in the day.
This was Harrop’s last start, because HDT boss John Sheppard decided that Peter Brock would drive in the Calder round in August. This was also its last start as a Holden Dealer Team car.
As to the reason for the Brock cameo, Harrop says: “I think they wanted a second opinion as to the car’s potential. But I don’t really remember: maybe it was because Peter exerted a bit of influence and said that he wouldn’t mind having a drive.”
That Brock only qualified fourth behind Grice, Richards and Jane suggested that maybe Harrop hadn’t been doing too bad a job. But Brock looked a strong chance in the 40-lap race, having taken an early lead after Grice had a flat tyre and Jane slid off and bogged in the mud. Nothing came of it, though, with Brock having to retire the car barely 10 laps in with a broken half-shaft.
Looking back, Harrop, like Colin Bond before him, wonders how the car might have gone had it been allowed to run a 6.0-litre engine.
“It wasn’t too bad, and it definitely got better, but whether it was ever going to be good enough as a five-litre, in that configuration, I don’t know.
“It wasn’t better than the other cars, as the results show, but it was unique in that had a better weight distribution than most of the other vehicles, plus it was a lot lighter than many.
“But it was a five-litre engine, and the others, apart from the Corvair, were six-litres. But the Corvair was really just better in most areas. In reality the LH probably lacked torque, in relation to the weight of the car. That’s probably the area where it was most deficient. It was interesting, in its time, though.”
Wall to Wall
The HDT LH Sports Sedan was sold to Queensland Holden dealer/racer Barry NixonSmith in 1979. Nixon-Smith drove it for a while under his South Coast Motors banner before it was taken over by Geoff Russell, father of current V8 Supercar/GT driver David Russell.
It was during this period that the car scored its first wins, although not at championship level, but rather in local Queensland Sports Sedan races (including the State Sports Sedan title) and also the Comalco-Wunderlich series at Amaroo Park. Nixon-Smith sold it to fellow Queenslander Dave Watson, who had Greg Wright drive it during 1982 and ’83.
The car was advertised for sale again, in the December 30 issue of Auto Action in 1983.
At the time Des Wall and his family were enjoying a summer holiday in the Sunshine State. David Wall doesn’t personally remember it, because he was barely a year old, but, as he tells the story today:
“We drove up there in the family car for the holidays – and came back with a racecar.
“Dad was sitting there reading the paper one morning, and he saw this car was advertised for sale. It happened to be an hour or so from where we were staying, so we all jumped in the car to go and have a look at it. We ended up buying it and towing it home – and it’s been part of the family ever since.”
Des Wall had at the time been looking for a car to replace the EH Holden Sports Sedan he’d been racing. The LH ticked all the boxes.
“At the time it was just a car which the team before us had finished with,” David Wall says. “Probably neither us nor they would have known what it would become today. For my father, at the time it was just a step up in buying a faster car, and doing something different from what he was doing. He was going from the six-cylinder EH to the V8, which was what he was after, and he was a Torana fan through and through.
“He did the Australian Hillclimb Championship in it and won, and did what racing he could afford while he was starting up a business and looking after two kids.”
One of the racing adventures with the LH, which David remembers vividly, was their trip to New Zealand.
“There was an opportunity for a group of Sports Sedan guys to go and race their cars in New Zealand. So we stuck the car on a jumbo on a pallet, and we went over there and holidayed around New Zealand in between going to the
race tracks. I was about six at the time.”
It goes without saying that for David Wall, this car is both part of the family and a part of his childhood. He literally grew up with this car.
“When we did the restoration,” he says, “for me it was a labour of love. As a kid I grew up lying underneath it – not that I knew what I was doing! – just ‘helping’ dad work on it.
“We used to live in Bankstown and we had a little single-car garage, and dad would do all the work on the car himself in there. Whenever he was working on it, I used to lie underneath it with him. Mum used to come down with the customary cup of tea, and she’d open the garage door and out from under the car would come two big legs and two little legs! Whatever dad was doing, I was trying to do the same.
“One day when dad took the car out for private practice, I’d hidden some spanners and sockets in the car, from when I’d been ‘helping’ work on it. After a lap or two he was back in the pits to remove the tools that were flying around inside the car…”
Des stopped racing the LH some time in the late 1980s. But he did not sell it. Instead, he simply ‘retired’ it.
“At the time they were talking about changing the rules in Sports Sedans,” David Wall explains. “They wanted Sports Sedans to change from the box guards of the era and have more rolled guards so they looked more standard, and they asked him to change the guards so he could continue to run it. He refused. He liked the car as it was and wanted to keep it as it was, so it literally got pushed into the corner – and it’s stayed there all that time. Why didn’t Des just sell the Torana? “Mainly, I think, because like all of us, you fall in love with these things,” David says. “They become part of your life. Every weekend you’re either racing or working on them, or you go to work to earn money to put back into them, to try to make it faster. It’s just what you do in motorsport.
“Also, back then, in the ’80s, you didn’t get much for old cars like this, they weren’t seen as valuable. It was just an old race car, and it was probably also a case of him thinking, ‘well, if I’m only going to get that much for it, I might as well keep it’.
“But it very much is a part of the family, and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to put it back to the way that it is. We always spoke about doing this, but things evolved, other cars came into the family, and it got pushed aside a little bit.
“There just wasn’t ever quite enough time to do it, but when dad got sick, I promised him that we’d get the car back together like we always spoke about.
“Unfortunately, he never got to see it, but it sits here today exactly as he and I had always spoken about.”
Between 1990 and 2012, the LH Sports Sedan lay dormant in the back of the workshop. David Wall remembers, as a kid, helping his father strip the car so it could be stored away.
“When we finished, it was literally a chassis with nothing on it. Everything else was in pieces in boxes and on shelves. It all sat there frozen, if you like, for all that time.”
During that time Des and David Wall had many discussions about restoring the LH, and returning it to HDT trim. The period they settled on was 1978, Ron Harrop’s last year with it.
Compared with the Wall family’s earlier restoration of the Jane Monaro, the Torana was relatively straightforward. While the few Sports Sedans which do survive a long period of time normally end up heavily modified and far removed from what they’d been originally (as was the case with the Jane car), remarkably this car remained close to the specs it last ran in HDT colours – which, David Wall says, was also more or less in the form it was when Des raced it, so that made things easier. Of course, a big part of the reason for this is that it’s been locked in a 22-year time warp in the back of the Wall workshop…
“It wasn’t a simple restoration,” David Wall says, “but it was easier than most.
“The engine was probably the most involved part. Everything else was sort of there, and non- butchered, so it was mostly a case of rebuilding and reassembling it.
“There were some minor cracks in the chassis, which we repaired, but as far as, say, pulling it apart and changing it back to the way it was, that didn’t happen, because it still was as it was.
“It only had a fairly short history of racing before we got it, and dad did some selected races, and that was it. By the time dad got the car, the bugs were all ironed out. Apart from servicing it, he ran it basically as he received it.
“It still has the engine that came with it, the gearbox, diff, even the gauges and the gauge panel, everything inside was as it was, so it was just a case of finding someone to do things like service the gauges.
“It had a red SAAS seat, but they no longer exist. The only company who could build us an equivalent seat was Racetech. So it now has a seat especially made by Racetech, to look like an old SAAS seat.”
Originally the car featured a Momo steering wheel. Remarkably, the Momo range still includes the exact same wheel, so they were able to replace the old one with an exact equivalent new item, David tells us.
The things that took the time aren’t the obvious items. There were, David Wall says, a lot of handfabricated parts on the car that were very fiddly to get right.
“The rear taillights, for example, took a full day to make. The standard rear taillight doesn’t fit in the car; it’s just a lens cover with a light behind it, to make it look like an original SL/R 5000 taillight. It’s a hand-bent modified piece. There are a lot of things like that on the car that took a lot of time, that you wouldn’t notice just looking at it.”
Most of the work was done by Wall himself and David Fyfe, who helps manage the workshop at Wall Racing. Most of it was done in-house, although the bodywork restorations and paintwork was farmed out to Gas 250 Restorations.
While a specialist was needed to restore the Torana’s exterior, the original Leo Pruneau-
designed bodywork remained more or less unaltered – thanks largely to Des Wall’s refusal to bow to CAMS’ pressure to change the box guards back in the ’80s.
The engine was a challenge. Repco-Holden Formula 5000 engines aren’t exactly thick on the ground these days, and rebuilding this one proved to be a big and, at $60,000, an expensive job.
“We could have put in a Chev with a carby for about ten grand,” David Wall says. “But that’s not what it is. It was all about putting it back, as best we could with the knowledge we could find, to
make it exactly what it was.
“Even the special two-piece pushrods the Repco-Holden uses, it didn’t need to have that, but that’s what it had, so we remade those items. The fuel pressure is 135psi – that’s double what a computerised car would run these days, but that’s what it ran. There’s $20,000 in the fuel system before you even start with the engine.”
Then there was the $5000 it cost just to have the suspension arms and anti-roll bar brackets nickel-plated.
The shiny gold-coloured components look trick, but the electrolysis process used in nickelplating comes at a cost in addition to the 5K, as David Fyfe explains:
“It’s designed for show and it’s not something anyone would do today. They’ve since learned over the years that the acid used to clean the metal, to make the process work properly, can’t be evacuated out of the arm completely. What happens then is that it actually eats the metal. This process used to be common but through time they’ve learned that this is not the best way of doing it.”
However, the car had nickel-plated suspension arms back in the day, and so it would have them again…
Work on the restoration began at the end of 2012. The car was finished two days before the Australian Muscle Car Masters 2013, Father’s Day in September. It wasn’t yet running; it had literally been just bolted together.
“We ran it for the first time at last year’s Muscle Car Masters,” David Wall says. “I was actually quite nervous – this car is really part of the family. I took it very easy over the first few laps, then I gave the engine a bit of a go at the end – and it was sensational!
“I was thinking of dad when I drove it, no doubt, and I definitely had a tear in the eye when I stopped at the end of it. I’m sure he’s around somewhere looking at it.
“Dad and I used to drive home in the Sydney traffic sitting there for two hours talking about what we were going to do with the car. I think it’s come out awesome. I’m sure it’s turned out to be everything we’d spoken about.”
HDT Torana – a factory This is one special
with a F5000 engine; Holden racing machine
by the iconic operation. the fastest car run
Main: All smiles at the 1976 Sydney Motor Show as Colin Bond proudly shows off the shiny new HDT Torana SL/R 5000 Sports Sedan. Top: Build shots show some of the extensive modifications made to the original Torana shell. Note the holed out chassis rails (top right) and specially designed rear end. The engine was moved back and inside the cabin, though not as far as in the old XU-1 Repco V8 (inset left).
Top: George Smith (later to head up V8 Supercar engineering firm, Dencar), learned his craft on the HDT Torana build with Henry Nehrybecki. Above: Two years in the making, the car was ready to go in June, 1976. Below: Official launch of the car in Sydney, accompanied by the HDT rally Gemini and Group C Torana L34.
Above, top: Interior and rear suspension detail showing the unique quick-change CAE diff, inboard brakes and specially anodised suspension arms.
By the time Harrop took over the HDT LH Sports Sedan, it had (along with every other Sports Sedan) been rendered obsolete by Frank Gardner’s Chev Corvair. Below: It says Harrop on the side but in fact it’s Peter Brock. Brock’s one and only start in the car, at Calder, was also the LH’s final race as a HDT car.
Above: Des Wall retired the car from racing in the late ‘80s, with the intention of one day restoring it to its HDT era specifications. Below: Des never got to see the finished article, but the magnificently restored LH is a worthy addition to the Wall Racing stable alongside the Geoghegan Mustang and Jane Monaro.
Main: David Wall proudly shows off the HDT LH Torana, magnificently restored and returned to 1978 specifications. Des Wall passed away before the car could be finished, but he would surely have approved of his son’s efforts. Top left, below: Everything was stripped back to bare metal for the restoration. Note the detail photos (below centre) that Wall’s team referenced during the refit.
Top: The Leo Pruneau-designed front and rear body sections were repaired by Gas 250 Retorations. Left, below: Approaching the finished article. David Wall says that through the car’s racing history the basic structure remained little changed from HDT spec.
Above: David Wall ran a few laps in the car at last year’s Muscle Car Masters event. It was the first time the car had hit a race track since the late 1980s.