RESTRICTED TO OPEN-MINDED READERS ONLY.
Strong thought-provoking content, myths debunked, facts only, no nudity. Written by Ben Stewart.
Ford’s XY Falcon GT-HO Phase III is the king of Australian muscle cars, right? In terms of its outright performance and macho street presence, that may well be the case. But when it comes to bang for your bucks, the Phase III was a fair way down the grid. In offering value for money propositions in the 1970s, GM-H had it all over the performance car competition. The weapons of choice were all from the Torana range of sporty hot rods. All were priced to sell and included a limitedslip differential (LSD) as part of the standard equipment specification.
Holden was deadly serious about bringing performance products at bargain basement prices to market. Initially, six-cylinder vehicles offered the best dash for buyers’ cash, before, from 1974, V8-powered examples took over as the Aussie market’s value for money performers. Starting with the LC GTR XU-1 in August 1970, an unbroken line-up of unbeatable value products continued through the decade up until the A9X Torana was released in September 1977. And it wasn’t the same old product line through these exciting years either. From two-door sedans through four-door sports models to a very stylish three-door hatchback, the availability of a top value ‘bang-for-buck’ product kept potential buyers from straying towards the opposition. If it was performance the buyer wanted and at a low price, then it was impossible to beat what GM-H had on offer.
The first car out of the starting blocks had come about due to a change in company thinking on a number of levels. The Torana GTR XU-1 was devised to enable GM-H to have a competitive product that would continue the huge success of the Holden Monaro GTS. However, the GTR XU-1 had one very important ace up its sleeve. A buyer needed only $3148 (plus the usual on-road costs). For that you got a 186 cubic inch, 160bhp six-cylinder engine in a sporty twodoor sedan that weighed in at 2430 lbs (1102kg).
The performance was startling, as reported in Wheels magazine’s November 1970 test, with 0-90mph (0-145km/h) coming up in 18.4 seconds. While this was down considerably on the top-of-the-line Monaro GTS 350, it also came with a price tag that was $1000 cheaper than its big brother. Ford’s XW GT was also about a grand more expensive, while the GT-HO Phase II, at $4750, was more than 50 per cent more expensive.
Bang-for-buck, the LC Torana GTR XU-1 had no equal. Simple.
LC XU-1 sales reflected the price/performance ratio accordingly.
Even though it was produced in limited numbers – and only at specific times – the company managed to flog off all 1,397* units in super quick time. The demand for the first XU-1 ensured that it would become a regular production model (as opposed to limited run) in the next series.
Indeed, GM-H followed this original Aussie ‘pocket rocket’ with a more refined successor, the LJ GTR XU-1, in late January 1972. A price rise to $3455 (plus on-road costs) balanced with a slight weight reduction to 2417lbs (1096kg) brought greater performance. Featuring a larger (202ci) engine and more power – now 190bhp – the performance figures improved.
Wheels magazine’s April 1972 test of the Strike Me Pink press-test car, PWH-161, produced a quicker 0-90mph (0-145 km/h) time of 17.9 seconds. It went on to record 0-100 mph (0-160 km/h) in 24.6 seconds. Again, no other car near the price could provide this level of performance. None.
During the run of the LJ GTR XU-1, the power output of the engine was increased by way of a range of ‘homologation’ upgrades. Needless to say, the increased performance saw the acceleration times drop further. The proposed 308 V8 engine option would have resulted in a car that had the best ‘bang-for-buck’ value on the planet – not just in Australia! Sadly it never happened. Well, never made it to market at least.
At any rate, a total of 2179* LJ GTR XU-1s found homes.
A V8-powered Torana eventually arrived in early 1974 and at the top-of-the-line was the LH SL/R 5000. The ‘5000’ indicated a 240bhp (179kW) 5.0-litre V8 engine under the hood of a car that weighed in at 2724lbs (1236kg). The car was bigger than the GTR XU-1s and for the first time the GM-H performance preference featured a four-door sedan body. Naturally, it was more expensive, coming in at $4527 (plus on-road
Bang for your Buck