BALLS-OUT TORANA STREET CAR
It doesn’t matter at what end of the automotive spectrum your loyalties lie, we’re sure all of us can agree that there are few engines that sound as good as a hot Holden V8 with a minimal number of Flowmaster mufflers. As Rodney Heads manoeuvres this Torana into position for its photo shoot, the fire-andbrimstone exhaust note is overlaid with the harsh mechanical noises of a Jerico dogbox clanking into gear, the whine of its straight-cut gear set, and an unhappy banging and clunking from the Detroit Locker rear end. While the Torana tolerates being driven at a nana’s pace in an urban car park, this is quite obviously a car that was built to be driven at ten-tenths — seemingly at odds with its warrant of fitness, rego, and the fact that it was driven through the city to get here. As Rodney parks it up and lets the shoot get underway, the proprietor of Tauranga-based Heads Racing Supplies explains to us a bit more about how he came to be involved in the build of this road-going race car. One of the most interesting things about family heirlooms is usually the story behind them. This Torana, for instance, which was handed down to its owner by his father, carries a bit of a story with it … but we’re not going to delve into it here, out of respect for the owner’s wish for privacy. That would normally put us in a bit of a situation as far as this article goes — after all, how do you write a story when there isn’t one to tell? Luckily, this particular car speaks for itself — or maybe it’s the work of Rodney and his co-worker Paul from
Heads Racing Supplies that speaks for itself. Whatever, it’s far from your average Torana build. With its iconic aero kit, fat wheels, and lurid colour schemes, ‘understated’ is one of the last words you’d use to describe a Torana SS, but it’s something that this one could easily be termed. It’s got far more firepower stashed away than that vibrant paint, fat rubber, and polished drop tank could ever suggest. “We ended up building it the same way his [the owner’s] dad would have done, if he’d kept it for himself,” Rodney says. “We built it old school, in that traditional style.” What Rodney’s talking about doesn’t cover just the aesthetic side of things but the whole shebang — with its stroked Holden V8 and four-speed manual box, this thing is true-blue Aussie muscle with 21stcentury overkill only where it’s needed. That soundtrack we mentioned earlier comes care of a 355ci Holden V8, built by Regal Automotive, around a cast-iron 304 block. The block is about the only Holden-made part there, though, with a four-bolt mains conversion, C.O.M.E. Racing billet crank, Oliver rods, and JE pistons punching the numbers out. With 10.5:1 compression, its uncivilized low-speed manners are compounded by a hefty top end — C.O.M.E. Racing alloy heads, Harrop high-rise singleplane intake, and 750cfm Holley Double Pumper. Its idle is grumpier than a toddler throwing a wobbly, which is the only way it was ever going to be. Same with the Jerico four-speed dogbox, which brings its mechanical strength to the table, not to mention a raucous whine from its straight-cut gears; the Detroit Locker under the bum isn’t shy of making its presence known, either. The Torana’s nostalgic inspiration meant that compromises had to be engineered in. Sure, the Heads Racing Supplies guys could just as easily have built it to be a face-tearing weapon with everyday drivability, but that sort of thing would have been inconceivable 20-odd years ago, which is why there’s no fuel injection, no power steering — not much of anything, really, just bucketloads of raw, unrefined grunt!
Other than the beefy Wilwood brakes, it’s all Torana underneath. There’s no trick front suspension, no custom three-link rear or Watt’s linkage — just factory-stamped A-arms up front and a standard triangulated four-link rear. King Springs coils and Koni shocks are the fanciest gear keeping it stuck to the road, and, with that chunky rubber around the classic 15x9-inch and 15x10-inch Simmons B45 wheels, we’d guess that the rear end would be just as happy to break free from the tarmac given half a chance. As uncouth as the Torana’s behaviour may be, don’t think it’s been slapped together without regard for anything other than the oily bits. The photos should tell enough of a story about the painting ability of Andrew at HD Refinishers; the two-tone Spies Hecker paint is just as smooth on the outside as it is in the door jambs and engine bay. Speaking of which, Mike at Micam Auto Electrical contributed a fair bit of his handiwork, rewiring the car from front to back, but it’s in the engine bay that his work is most evident, with all wiring neatly tucked out of the way. You can’t tell, but it’s
wired just as well inside, with all the MSD ignition gear stashed under the dash, and those Auto Meter gauges wired into a custom dash cluster. There’s no audio install to be found — pointless with the aggressive V8 and straight-cut gear set — but the carpet and fabric, applied by Reece at Regal Auto Trim, are just perfect. The Torana isn’t what you’d call luxurious, but it’s certainly fit for purpose, straddling that grey area between being a stripped-out street car and a comfortable race car. It’s far more street than race, though. The big Fuel Safe fuel cell and custom surge tank have been sealed off under the boot floor, in a stainless drop tank fabricated by Horne Engineering. It’s even had a filler neck plumbed back into the standard location behind the number plate — no smelly cabin here! Well, not yet, anyway — from what we’ve seen of this mechanical animal, the owner may well shit himself the first time he stomps on the loud pedal!