BETTER IN THE 80S
JASON SANDNER’S MINT LX SEDAN HARKS BACK TO A SIMPLER TIME, WITH A KILLER MODERN TWIST
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.