THERE’S A LOT MORE TO IT THAN JUST THE CARS!
FOR THOSE of you who are wondering, this is the first of three very special editions, marking the end of local manufacturing for the once mighty Holden. Sure there will still be local skills employed and the brand won’t disappear, but it will not be the same.
So, this issue we’re talking Torana, next we mess around with Monaros and then, in issue 406, we pull together the grand finale.
For this mag, we got together a dozen Toranas, representing everything from the first-gen Vauxhall Viva-based car, through the hero GTRs and SL/Rs, right up to the last relatively tame sixpot sedans. It’s not until you put a gathering like this together (and our eternal thanks to Sharon Chapman for her generous assistance) that you start to understand the sheer scale of the market niches covered by that one nameplate – Torana.
It started with nimble little runabouts, and anyone out there with an exotic Brabham HB should be pretty damned pleased with themselves. I was really taken with the SL that turned up. Really light, really simple, with enough poke to make it a ball to drive.
Then you walk through the long-nosed LC and LJs with their optional straight sixes. To me, these are hugely attractive packages. Compact and narrow little cars with powerplants designed to haul full-size family trucksters. Perfect.
And the mighty eights? Truly impressive pieces of machinery. I’ve been in Uncle Phil’s A9X tribute recently, and it’s a really ‘together’ performance car. Plenty of muscle in a package that’s designed to be thrown around with confidence.
The machinery is a lot of fun, but it’s the owners that really got my attention. There was an undeniable pride in their locally-made product, even though they acknowledged these weren’t perfect cars.
Somehow they still formed connections across the generations. Stories of two generations being involved in the same car were not uncommon. Others were literally buying back their childhood, remembering cars their parents had. Some had the kids in tow, who were clearly engaged with the whole thing.
It’s something that’s easy to forget with all the discussions of production histor y, specifications and bigger pistons: that there is a whole tribal aspect to ownership of these old cars. People’s memories and family history become entwined with them. Others see the vehicle, and even restoring it, as a journey that introduced them to a whole new subculture and the friends who come with it.
You’ll see some of those tales unwrapped in this issue. Rather than cover histories of all the cars, we’ve restricted that to the hero models. After all, much of it is territor y we’ve comprehensively covered before. Instead we’ve sat back a little and got owners to talk about what their toys mean to them. That, for many is the real story. So, which tribe do you belong to?