BET­TER IN THE 80S

JA­SON SAND­NER’S MINT LX SEDAN HARKS BACK TO A SIM­PLER TIME, WITH A KILLER MOD­ERN TWIST

Street Machine - - Contents - Story BEN NIGHTIN­GALE Pho­tos BEN HOSKING

Ja­son Sand­ner’s killer To­rana rocks a clas­sic theme with a mod­ern mo­tor­sport twist

MULLETS. Acid-washed denim. Shoul­der pads. Flu­oro. All things that we’re very glad didn’t make it past the end of the 80s. But fat-tyred, flared and drop-tanked To­ranas? Thank­fully, they’ll never go out of style.

“I al­ways liked the way, to this day, To­ranas were done in the 1980s,” says Ja­son Sand­ner, owner of this tough LX sedan. “You know – the half-’cage, the Recaro-type seats, the Sim­mons rims and all that. I just thought that it’s a look doesn’t age, so we took it and put a mod­ern twist on it.”

When you take in this Opa­line Blue beauty, it’s clear that there’s plenty of old-school rac­ing in­flu­ence, with many nods to moder­nity. If it’s giv­ing you Group C vibes, that’s no co­in­ci­dence. “I al­ways loved Group C tour­ing cars, and that was the whole in­spi­ra­tion around the build: to get the car as close as pos­si­ble to a Group C car in road-go­ing form, but with a mod­ern look.”

The in­spi­ra­tion for the paint colour comes from an old Street Ma­chine fea­ture car – Warren White’s LX hatch, WW192, a star of the show scene back in the day. The car fea­tured in SM in the early 90s. “Warren is a good friend of mine; our fa­thers raced speed­way with each other,” Ja­son says. “I was do­ing a bit of work on Warren’s car, and the colour just suited the car so much. I never saw that colour on an­other To­rana, but I al­ways thought that if I were to build my own car, I’d do it in Opa­line Blue. It’s not a pop­u­lar colour, but it works.”

There’d be few ar­gu­ments with that. Be­ing a spray painter by trade, Ja­son did the work him­self in-house at Abel’s Smash Re­pairs in Quean­beyan, NSW. “The car was re­ally straight when we got it. It had come out of a de­ceased es­tate, and I don’t reckon it’d left Sydney in its life,” Ja­son says. “We mea­sured it up, and it was all per­fectly square. Never taken a hit in its life, so it was a good start­ing point.”

With the look and feel of the build sorted, and old-school rac­ing in­flu­ence the key fac­tor, the car needed to have a se­ri­ous pow­er­plant. But pop­ping the bon­net re­veals not your usual late-model LS con­ver­sion, or even a tried-and-true Holden stro­ker. This Torry is pack­ing small-block Chev power – an alu­minium Dono­van, no less. Ja­son ex­plains: “I talked to Rus­sell Sten­house at Race­craft Spe­cial­i­ties about which way I should go. I was think­ing about putting a 308 in it. He sug­gested build­ing the Chev, as you can build a bet­ter mo­tor for less money.

“A cou­ple of weeks later he comes back to me to tell me he’d been hav­ing a clean-out and had come across the Dono­van alu­minium

I LIKED THE WAY TO­RANAS WERE DONE IN THE 1980S: THE HALF’CAGE, THE RECARO SEATS, THE SIM­MONS RIMS AND ALL THAT

THE WHOLE IN­SPI­RA­TION AROUND THE BUILD WAS TO GET IT AS CLOSE AS POS­SI­BLE TO A GROUP C CAR IN ROAD-GO­ING FORM, BUT WITH A MOD­ERN LOOK

block! We used to race sprint cars, so when he of­fered me the Dono­van I knew it would be awe­some, as I knew what those mo­tors were like in­ter­nally, strength-wise with the gir­dle for the crank and all that.”

The 378-cube mill fea­tures some se­ri­ously top­notch in­ter­nals, with a COLA steel crank, Man­ley forged pis­tons and Ea­gle six-inch H-beam rods. It’s also got a nasty roller camshaft, an 830cfm Mighty De­mon carb, Dom­i­na­tor man­i­fold and big-flow­ing Brown­field (now AFR) al­loy heads.

While it hasn’t hit the dyno yet, Rus­sell at Race­craft, who’s got a long his­tory of build­ing mo­tors for com­pe­ti­tion, has built plenty of com­bos sim­i­lar and reck­ons it’s mak­ing big mumbo.

“Rus­sell ran a very sim­i­lar com­bi­na­tion in his Sports Sedan, just with a solid flat-tap­pet camshaft, and he was mak­ing about 600hp,” Ja­son says. “With the roller camshaft in this en­gine, he ex­pects it’s mak­ing around 630640hp. It’s got no prob­lems fry­ing those 10-inch tyres, that’s for sure!”

With a stout Chev, the driv­e­train needed to match, and Ja­son spared no ex­pense. It’s got a Transgo-equipped Turbo 350 fit­ted with a 3200rpm Sling­shot con­verter send­ing the power to a Rich­mond-geared, Strange-cased, Moser-axled nine-inch rear end. A 3.5:1 fi­nal drive keeps the car high­way-friendly.

The out­lay on top-qual­ity parts con­tin­ues through the sus­pen­sion and braking sys­tems. The car is held up by Vik­ing coil-over shocks, while race-spec ad­justable tubu­lar up­per and lower arms are joined by a K-MAC ad­justable sway-bars, Har­rop steer­ing arms and shot­peened A9X stub axles. Brakes are by Har­rop, with four-pis­ton calipers bit­ing 365mm ro­tors up front and 335mm ro­tors at the rear.

AF­TER THE TO­RANA NA­TION­ALS, I’M PULLING THE MO­TOR OUT OF IT AND WE’RE GO­ING TO DRY-SUMP IT. I SHOULD HAVE DONE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE

Those colour-coded FR18 Sim­mons wheels mea­sure in at eight inches wide up front and a beefy 10 inches in the rear, with both ends wrapped in sticky Pirelli P-zero rub­ber.

The race theme con­tin­ues big-time into the in­te­rior of the car, with lash­ings of car­bon­fi­bre through­out. The al­loy half-’cage is an­other throw­back to the 80s, when a tough street car wasn’t com­plete with­out one.

While it’s racy, there’s plenty of show go­ing on too. False floors, Mercedes car­pets, suede rooflining, bil­let high­lights and a cus­tom re­trim by Robert at Pegg’s Auto Trim mean it’s got oo­dles of class.

Given the qual­ity of the build, it hap­pened rea­son­ably quickly. “We pur­chased the car in 2010, com­menced the build at the be­gin­ning of 2011 and it was un­veiled at Sum­mer­nats 26 in 2013,” Ja­son says. “We made the Top 20 there.”

Since then, it’s won a swag of tro­phies, but its show days may soon be end­ing. “It is a show car, but I cer­tainly have no fear of driving it,” Ja­son says. “I’m not scared of get­ting stone chips or what­ever. You can only show them for so many years be­fore that side of things ex­pires, any­way.”

There’s more to come, too. “They’re never re­ally fin­ished, are they?” Ja­son laughs. “There’s al­ways rooms for im­prove­ment, and it’s kind of on­go­ing.

“Af­ter the To­rana Na­tion­als, I’m pulling the mo­tor out of it and we’re go­ing to dry-sump it. I should have done it when we built it in the first place.”

Built with a goal and a vi­sion, Ja­son has cre­ated his dream car, a spec­tac­u­lar To­rana that ticks all his boxes. Stayed tuned, ’cos it’s only get­ting bet­ter.

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