A very special LJ XU-1 Torana

DSC_0063Last year Any Given Reason visited the workshop of well known Adelaide race car builder Garry Kirk to take a closer look at a Dakar car he was preparing for a customer. We noticed another interesting shape sitting under a car cover in the corner which was Garry’s next customer project – a 1972 LJ XU-1 Torana tarmac rally car. Now that the Torana is nearing completion, Garry invited AGR back to take a closer look at it. I’m not usually a big one for the Torana, but this example is a little different.

DSC_0074Anything with that number of Weber carburettors simply has to be a good thing, you just know it. But the thing that makes this engine really special is the custom head, made by J.Zed. It’s essentially a copy of the Duggan and Irving heads from back in the day, and features a down port inlet and redesigned valves and combustion chambers for increased flow. And the results speak for themselves – this engine recently produced 327hp on the engine dyno. When you take into consideration that the stock car makes 200ish on a good day, and that Brocky’s Bathurst winning car never had any more than about 250, that’s a pretty impressive figure. And a final kerb weight of less than 1000kg makes for an entertaining drive.

DSC_0054That power is sent through to a Tex Racing 101 4 speed Nascar straight cut dog box. With a magnesium casing and small size its extremely light, and given that these boxes are designed to take 750+hp of Nascar V8, it should prove almost indestructible in the Torana. A custom bell housing was needed to mate it to the straight 6 motor.

DSC_0113The new shifter pops up through a specially cut hole in the floorpan. A cover and shift knob will be fabricated once the driver is available to test fit the car to make sure it is in the exact right location.

DSC_0005The front brakes are AP Racing 4 pot calipers, chosen by Garry because they’re the biggest brakes that would still fit inside the historic regulation 13″ wheels.

DSC_0031Now the front suspension is where it starts to get real tricky. The old pressed tin suspension arms are long gone, replaced with top and bottom wishbones, castor arms and an adjustable sway bar, all hand fabricated by Garry. The rubber bushings have been replaced by spherical bearings, and dampers are now 3 way adjustable remote canister items from rally specialists MCA. This setup enables complete adjustability.

DSC_0050The rear diff housing is a shortened Borg Warner unit from a VN Commodore with a clutch type LSD. The rear suspension follows the same basic concept as the stock Torana, but with a few significant changes…

DSC_0044Garry designed a threaded bottom spring seat which allows full adjustability of rear ride height. That nut under the pressed tin arm can be turned with a socket which then raises or lowers the height of the spring seat, and a bearing at the top stops the spring from binding. It sounds and looks like a really simple concept, but the devil is in the details.

DSC_0060In addition to adding an adjustable panhard rod, Garry has also installed a full length top link, similar to the 4 link system used in V8 Supercars. This required significant fabrication work to the chassis, but the quality of work is so high it looks factory. The stock trailing arms have been lightened and strengthened.

DSC_0048The rear also uses the MCA dampers, except this time the canisters have been moved inside the boot. Just look at the grommets Garry made to ensure it was neat…

DSC_0122… and as you would expect, all hand fabricated.

DSC_0023The Torana utilises Race Products full floater rear axles. There’s not a chance of breaking this driveline.

DSC_0073The detailing and attention to detail is second to none. The engine builder even went to the trouble of milling ‘XU-1’ into the cam cover.

DSC_0035DSC_0081The exhaust system was handmade here in Adelaide, and is a work of art. I shudder to think how many hours were put into making the extractor.

DSC_0115The cockpit is pretty much what you’d expect from a car like this – nothing unnecessary or showy, with everything there for a reason. But that doesn’t make it basic, as a lot of time will be spent on ergonomics, making sure the driving position is absolutely perfect for the lucky driver and co-driver.

DSC_0101The Torana was originally being built to be shipped to Europe to compete in the 2013 Historic Monte Carlo rally. However, the deadline was missed for that event and it never made it to slide around the ice and snow covered roads. It’s now looking forward to a life of club sprints and tarmac rally, so with a bit of luck we’ll be able to hear this beast roaring through the Adelaide Hills on full song soon.

DSC_0020Thanks to Garry Kirk for taking the time to show Any Given Reason around the car.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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  1. Brett Youlden June 27, 2013 Reply

    As usual Garry,
    Fantastic job, I need to get you over to Melbourne to help us out !
    This car reminds me of my Roots, going back to Circuit Racing circa 1982.
    An LJ was my first foray into the Sport.
    Your friendly TCM No 56 Competitor !

    • Brett Youlden June 27, 2013 Reply

      Hi Garry,
      Give us a call when you have a chance.

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