How to build a crack­ing lit­tle six-pot To­rana, a thou­sand miles from any­where


IT’S THE phone call some of us have re­ceived, and all of us dread: “Mate, why don’t you take it straight to the tip!” That’s what Peter Hon­dow told Rick Pos­trak af­ter a me­dia-blast re­vealed a holy his­tory of rust in Rick’s LJ To­rana. Dur­ing our pho­to­shoot, Rick and Pete showed us a scrap­book of ‘be­fore’ pics, and the ex­tent of the rust – and the prior bodges to ‘fix’ it – was as­ton­ish­ing. Real spaghetti-strainer, teabag and Swiss cheese stuff. It’s prob­a­bly more as­ton­ish­ing that the lads got this To­rana back on the road again, let alone as this tro­phy­wor­thy toughie!

“There were a lot of times when I thought about pulling out of the build,” says Rick, who bought the car nearly eight years ago. “The bad con­di­tion meant it was go­ing to take longer to do. Of course there’s money; was it gonna be worth it? Maybe not, but th­ese cars are get­ting scarce.”

“I sug­gested he go down south and get an­other one,” Pete re­calls. “But Rick said: ‘That’s the one we’ve got, so that’s the one we’re build­ing!’”

An­other twist in the tale is where the build took place: out­back North­ern Ter­ri­tory. Rick, a land­scaper/nurs­ery-man, lives in Ten­nant Creek, and Peter – who did much of the work on the Torry un­der his Cus­tom Au­to­mo­tive ban­ner – lives and works in Alice Springs. Not only are both towns a fair way from each other, they’re a long way from the con­ve­nience of lo­cal shops, sup­pli­ers and sub­ur­ban wreck­ing yards many of us take for granted when screw­ing to­gether a project car.

“I think I spent 400 hours just on the body,” Peter says. “The car had big flares on it and there was about an inch of bog; it needed lots of dolly work all over it. To get the guards back to the orig­i­nal shape wasn’t re­ally vi­able – we had to weld in other sec­tions.

“The doors were bug­gered,” he con­tin­ues. “Rick bought a door out of Syd­ney that had been re­skinned, but it was a new skin on a stuffed frame, so we took the skin off that one and put it on an­other. Front guards – you can buy re­pro­duc­tions now, but when we started build­ing this there wasn’t much avail­able. We made all the rear floors, we had to do ex­ten­sive work on the front guards, the rear quar­ters – it was all re­made to about half­way up the wind­screen pil­lars!”

There was one shin­ing light: “There was a new rear apron on the car when we be­gan,” Pete says. “So that’s ob­vi­ously some­thing that was avail­able [as a re­place­ment] and we didn’t need to make that from scratch!”

Sourc­ing parts was a prob­lem, and iso­la­tion means ex­pense. “Freight is such a big cost,” Rick says. “Some­times you’ll be sent the wrong part and some­times it’s sim­ply not worth send­ing back for a re­fund due to the freight costs.” Ouch!

To add to the melee was the fact that owner Rick, like many of us, changed his ideas part-way through the build.

“It was never go­ing to be this good,” Pete says. “It was sim­ply go­ing to be a tidy old-school streeter. Even­tu­ally – and af­ter I’d started paint­ing the car – Rick said he wanted to build some­thing ‘showy’!”

Rick’s new plan in­cluded larger rear wheels – and tubs – and a lot more de­tail on the un­der­side and in the in­te­rior, plus a colour change from the planned red to Jet Black, laid on by Pete us­ing PPG gear.

“Yeah, we went over plenty of the same ground,” says Pete with a laugh. “It’s al­ways good to have a plan – and stick to it!”

Although V8-trans­plant To­ranas are pop­u­lar, Rick stuck to a hot­tie six, with sid­e­draught We­bers as a nod to the To­rana’s Bathurst-win­ning her­itage. The en­gine is a triple-carb 3.3-litre six packed full of good bits. Rick or­gan­ised it and Peter made it fit.

“I had to take an inch out of the fire­wall to fit that rocker cover,” says Pete. “And the Gilmer drive meant we had to move the ra­di­a­tor for­ward and make up dif­fer­ent brack­etry, plus ma­chine

EN­GINE: The donk is a 3.3L six wear­ing a blue/black-spec 12-port head fed from three gor­geous twin-throat 45mm We­bers on a pol­ished Red­line man­i­fold. With a bal­anced crank, Starfire rods, flat-top pis­tons, ported head and an all-crow val­ve­train, it should boo­gie good when Rick be­gins cruis­ing it IN­TE­RIOR: Pete made all the pol­ished de­tails for the door trims. Un­der the leather, the front seats are mod­i­fied orig­i­nals but the rear seat was a chal­lenge: Pete made the re-con­toured frame by hog­ging down an HT Holden frame. It took a cou­ple of goes to get it right be­fore the stitch­ing was laid on DASH: “We wanted to keep the To­rana ap­pear­ance but up­date things a bit,” says Pete. The dash is in fact hand-fabbed, and the stan­dard switch-panel has been con­signed to his­tory. The wheel and re­lo­cated ad­justable col­umn are both Bil­let Spe­cial­i­ties items, while the clocks are Auto Me­ters EN­GINE BAY: The bay has been smoothed and the ma­jor sur­faces – such as the in­ner skirt where the bat­tery was orig­i­nally lo­cated – were lev­elled. The ra­di­a­tor is a PWR shuf­fled for­ward to al­low space for the cogged-belt ac­ces­sory drive and the twin fans. CAE ex­trac­tors run to a split 2.5in ex­haust sys­tem

15mm from the face of the cogs. In some ways, it’s more dif­fi­cult do­ing all this with a six than a V8, as the six is longer. It was a bit of a headache mak­ing it all look pretty. But hey – it’s all in there!”

The trans is a Tri­matic. Not known for its per­for­mance her­itage, this one ticks the box by be­ing man­u­alised and tough­ened for use be­hind the lusty six. The axle is a nar­rowed nine-inch with 3.5:1 gears.

For now, the wheels are Cen­ter Line Convo Pros with 185/60 and 245/50 tyres, those rears cre­at­ing a bit of a headache due to the un­usual size. Rick paid a grand for them and the lads haven’t seen the same size since. Ex­pect a new set of wheels and a more com­mon rub­ber size for next time. Brakes are HQ Holden-spec front and rear, with the old hot rod­ders’ trick of Ley­land front ro­tors, which nar­rows the track a lit­tle for tyre clear­ance.

The in­te­rior, too, has plenty of tricks and tweaks in it, such as the al­loy high­lights, af­ter Rick, Peter and the trim­mer – lo­cal lad Hamish Mc­gauchie of Spectrim – col­lab­o­rated on a theme based around mod­i­fied To­rana front buck­ets and bucket-style rear seats. The dash is to­tally scratch-built, as is the rear seat frame.

For now, Rick’s To­rana is en­joy­ing a salu­bri­ous, re­lax­ing life of not ac­tu­ally be­ing driven. He par­tic­u­larly en­joyed show­ing it at Red Cen­tre­nats in Alice Springs (only 500km down the road!) and plans a trek south to show it at Sum­mer­nats next year, too.

“Even­tu­ally one day I’ll en­joy it – I’ll get out and smoke some rub­ber, cruise and have some fun in it,” says Rick. “But for now I’m happy show­ing it – and ex­plain­ing that we started with some­thing that was s fit for the tip!”


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