The LJ V8 es­capee

Australian Muscle Car - - Great Escapes -

Van­ished

Noon, June 30 1972: Leo Pruneau, the as­sis­tant to GM-H’s di­rec­tor of styling, is on his way to lunch in the ex­ec­u­tive din­ing room at Fish­er­mans Bend. Be­fore do­ing so he ducks into the styling stu­dio to check on the spe­cial project near­ing com­ple­tion that’s closer to his heart than his stom­ach. It’s prod­uct pro­gramme ‘XW7’ – the To­rana V8 that com­pany in­sid­ers feel con­fi­dent will see Holden vic­to­ri­ous again in the pres­ti­gious Hardie-Ferodo 500 at Bathurst and other races.

All is well, with no ap­par­ent sign of what is about to hap­pen over lunch.

Pruneau takes up the story of what he saw – or more to the point, what he didn’t see – upon leav­ing the din­ing room.

“I wanted an­other look at the cars af­ter lunch, but when I walked in they were all gone,” he ex­plained to AMC. “They had van­ished, along with every­thing else that was in there. I later learned that a direc­tive had been given to make like the pro­gramme never hap­pened, that the cars never ex­isted.”

Ever since that fate­ful day, staff con­nected with th­ese cars have toed the com­pany line as to what hap­pened to them. They were in­formed that the cars were de­stroyed. Gone. They no longer ex­isted. No more ques­tions. End of story.

But this was ac­tu­ally the be­gin­ning of our great es­cape story in­volv­ing the Strike Me Pink pro­to­type bear­ing the Pro­duc­tion Se­rial Num­ber (PSN) L200151. The of­fi­cial line was that this car was de­stroyed along with an­other in the still­born V8 XU-1 pro­gramme af­ter they were put into the crash bar­rier sled at GMH’s Safety De­sign Test Cen­tre at the Lang Lang Prov­ing Ground.

Yet noth­ing could have been fur­ther from the truth. How­ever, the com­pany line has en­dured down through the years. In­deed, AMC is­sue #9 re­ported that the cars re­ceived the ‘Dead Sled’ treat­ment. At that stage there was no ev­i­dence to con­trary. Now there is.

Oddly, one car – the Lone O’Ranger-coloured V8 pro­to­type PSN L199912, pic­tured be­low at Bathurst in 1973 – was reg­is­tered by GM-H on Septem­ber 6, 1972 as LGN-307 in Mel­bourne with the 308 V8 en­gine un­der the hood.

Shrouded in mys­tery and sub­terfuge ever since lunchtime on Fri­day June 30 1972, the great es­cape and sur­vival of the Strike Me Pink LJ GTR To­rana V8 pro­to­type can at last be told.

The Lone O’Ranger V8 LJ To­rana was pho­tographed by Barry Cock­ayne at Bathurst Mo­tors in 1973.

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