The LJ V8 escapee
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.