Strong thought-pro­vok­ing con­tent, myths de­bunked, facts only, no nu­dity. Writ­ten by Ben Ste­wart.

Australian Muscle Car - - R-Rated -

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

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