Holden Torana Racing History
Peter Brock is one of the most iconic Australian race car drivers of all time. In his younger years he first got enamoured with racing by watching Spencer Martin, who just so happened to win the 1964 Mount Panorama with a Vauxhall Viva which is the car that the original Torana was derived from. The first car that Peter Brock drove in his racing career was the GTR XU-1.
By 1965, the older Vauxhall Viva’s were no longer race legends. As sports cars were becoming more and more performance enhanced, the Viva’s were simply out performed. The GT500s and other cars that were simply faster and safer. As for the Torana’s, from 1965 to 1970 they were not as competitive either until the production of the LC Torana.
The LC Torana was a six-cylinder car with additional modifications for racing performance. Finally, a Ford driver by the name of Dick Johnson utilized a Torana instead of a Mustang or a Falcon on the Touring Car Championship. After this, even other drivers such as Stormin Norm Beechey, 0, and Bob Jane used a Torana car for racing. It was clear by the end of 1970 Holden was finally moving in the right direction.
The Hardie-Ferodo 500 in 1970 was a pivotal race for the Holden Tarano. Although the race was won by a Ford, the XW Falcon GTHO driven by Allan Moffat, the Class C was won by the Holden Torano LC GTR XU-1 and was third place overall. The Torana car beat Valiant Pacers, Escorts and a Cooper S. The GTR XU-1 put on an impressive show and actually took 11 of the top 14 places in the class standings. The car also had some of the fastest laps overall driven by Peter Brock and Colin Bond. The leader board at the 1970 Hardie-Ferodo 500 had Allan Moffat in first place with two other Fords in second and third place. After that there were three GTR XU-1’s that finished in the exact same lap, with Colin Bond in fourth place overall. The XU-1 had a significant impact in this race placing the Torana in great shape for the Bathurst.
Most cars were seeing a performance enhancement in speed at 1970 Bathurst, running faster than ever, with many breaking the lap record. In fact, both Peter Brock and Colin Bond broke the Bathrust track lap record 2.47 seconds. There were more Torana’s running in the Touring Car Championship between 1970 and 1971 with some picking up championship points; including Colin Bond, N. Devine and R. Johnson.
By 1972 a new version of the Torana was released, the LJ GTR XU-1 Torana which allowed Peter Brock to win at Bathurst beating Allan Moffat and others. The LJ beat cars such as the GTHO, Chargers and others. Unfortunately, the closest Torana behind Peter was five laps behind. Either way it was a big win for Brock and Torana.
The LJ Torana was allowing drivers to finish in top spots and faster than ever. The LJ was competing with the best of the performance sports cars such as the Mustang, Camaro and Monaro. A couple of the best Torana drivers were Dick Johnson who finished seventh with 16 total points and Colin Bond who is notable in his own right. About four other Torana’s finished in the top spots. Looking back, it is surprising that the Torana’s made such an impression on lead drivers due to the significant difference in car values between the Torana and other performance cars. Ultimately, the Torana proved itself to be a winner though.
In 1973 it was time again for Peter Brock and Allan Moffat to put on another fine showing of racing. However, this time Allan Moffat came out on top again with Brock in second place. The difference this time is that the Torana LJ was not in the same race class as the Falcon GT that Moffat was racing. This year the race classes were no longer based on price and capacity, but engine capacity alone. However, in 3 litre to 6 litre class it was obvious who had the advantage. A 5.8 litre Ford would clearly win. Nonetheless, changes were coming. Performance cars were becoming more serious and muscle cars became more prominent. Regulations were changing which allowed the improved production of cars and series production of cars to merge and create a new market.
During this timeframe the Torana XU-1 really became a challenger in the performance car market and on the track. In 1973 Peter Brock was able to rack up 57 points during the championship series. Bob Morris and Colin Bond were very strong Torana drivers as well. Out of the entire championship series, 15 of the 48 drivers were Toranas. This was an excellent showing in such a short amount of time.
The lack of distinction in regulation of production cars at this point allowed Holden to modify the XU-1 in more ways than one. The modifications included alloy wheels, new suspension, brake calipers, ventilated disc brakes and others to improve speed and drivability. Each of these modifications had to be approved by the manufacturers prior to implementation.
These modifications allowed for even faster lap times. The new Toranas beat a 2:35 second lap time and had seventeen (17) Toranas on the track. The most up to this point in time and comparably more than the Falcons, which only had five. However, some misguided choices on the track cost the Torana’s some points. Chivas skipped a pit stop for gas and ended up running out of fuel.
By 1974 the Torana’s were a dominate force in the Championship. Allan Grice was one of the first drivers to race the new SLR 5000s. The SLR 5000s were astonishingly quicker than the Monaro’s and Falcon’s. However, the GTR XU-1 was still a favourite among Peter Brock and other drivers. In fact, Brock qualified to race in both the GTR XU-1 and the new SLR 5000s at the Surfers. He decided to race in the 5000 and won. That race was dominated by Torana’s with Bob Morris coming in second, Allan Moffat with a Ford in third place, and other Torana’s right behind. Plenty of Torana racers racked up points in this season’s championship.
The 1975 L34 Torana did not impressed as much as hoped. At the Mount Panorama, after coming off of an incredibly practice time, Peter Brock blew a piston and had to pull out of the race. However, other drivers were able to at least pick up a few minor spots. By 1976 though, the L34 was a dominate machine and Peter Brock came away victories in the car with Brian Sampson. By this time the Falcons were no longer finishing in the top of the class and all Class D cars were Holden’s. In fact, of the top 10 cars at Mount Panorama, the top seven cars to finish were Torana L34s and then two GTR XU-1s followed right behind. Quite the accomplishment for the Torana.
At the Australian Touring Car Championship that year the L34 was a dominate beast. Colin Bond drove home with 60 points racing with the L34, while Alan Grice earned 39 points. Murray Carter placed second overall with 44 points in a Falcon. However, every single race in the series was won by a Torana driver. The most notable piece of information here is that Murray never won a race, but still placed second overall. That says a lot about his ability to place high in every race.
In the 1976 the Australian Touring Car Championship, Alan Moffat earned 85 points and Colin Bond earned 72 points. The top seven cars in the results at Bathurst that year were L34s. Most of the Torana’s managed at least 160 laps or close to. While everyone else was under 157 laps.
Unfortunately, by 1977 the L34 was on its way out with a newer performance car called the A9X on its way in. In fact, this would be the last year that anyone would drive the GTR XU-1 in a race. The Torana drivers were racking up more points than ever this year. However, Alan Moffat had a new co-driver in Colin Bond. Moffat was already becoming a professional monster on the track. That year he earned an impressive 108 points, with his new teammate Colin Bond right behind, but with only 74 points. Peter Brock followed with 65 points. The Moffat and Bond team was one of the biggest highlights of 1977 with the debut of the A9X. Lap times were even faster with Peter Brock hitting a time of 2:24 seconds.
In 1978 the Torana’s were back on top at the Bathurst and in the points in the Australian Touring Car Championship. Peter Brock sat on top with 55 points, with Bob Morris in second with 53 points, and the Ford Falcons in fourth and fifth place (Alan Moffat earned 31 points and Colin Bond only 25 points). This was a defining year for the Falcons, because after this year the Falcon XC hardtops no longer raced. The Torana’s simply dominated in 1979 with everyone driving an A9X. The car was fast and durable. Every race in the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1979 was won by a Torana A9X car.
Unfortunately, by the end of 1979 and as the 1970’s came to an end the days of the Torana were quickly wrapping up as well. The new Commodore was becoming popular. Peter Brock and other racers were quickly turning to it as the new race king. It was time to retire the Torana and move forward. By the end of 1980 the Torana era was over.
Torana First Places At Bathurst
- 1972, Peter Brock, LJ Torana GTR XU-1
- 1975, Peter Brock & Brian Sampson, LH Torana SL/R 5000 L34
- 1976, Bob Morris & John Fitzpatrick, LH Torana SL/R 5000 L34
- 1978, Peter Brock & Jim Richards, LX Torana A9X SS Hatchback
- 1979, Peter Brock & Jim Richards, LX Torana A9X SS Hatchback
1972 HARDIE-FERODO 500 Peter Brock’s First Win at Bathurst
A classic from the Colin Bond Collection, produced by Channel 7 for Castrol Oils. Re-live the first victory for Peter Brock at the mountain. Enjoy this classic footage.
1978 SANDOWN HANG TEN 400 Highlights A9X Torana
Step back to Sandown 1978 where the A9X Torana was king. It really was a great era for V8 Touring Car racing. All credit ABC Sport.
1974 MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP L34 Torana, Colin Bond, Peter Brock
This film, introduced by Colin Bond was produced by the Holden Dealers in 1974 detailing the introduction of the Torana SLR 5000 L34 after the success of the amazing Torana XU1 featuring Colin Bond, Peter Brock, Harry Firth, Allan Moffat & Murray Carter. Some great old footage
The Melbourne Age Newspaper after the 1973 Sandown Race, One of the Three LJ GTR V8 Prototypes owned by GMH Port Melbourne was there on Display, the report says they were 240HP 308 V8’s but in fact they were 300HP 308 V8’s
1976 GM-H Print Media Advert; Holden LX Torana, The Magnificent Seven
See more Torana history here.