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Cars I have owned:


Litre8: The transformation

April 1976 through mid 1978:

The car, a 1976 Torana LX SLR 5000 purchased new in April 1976, lasted in original condition for about 6 months. I started playing with just add-ons like the dual point Scorcher dizzy (magnetic/optical weren't too common back then) and then the Holley. Before I hooked up with Marty Coates for the serious spanner work I got a few things done at the Gown-Hindhaugh workshop. It was cool back then to see the guys running G-H engines in their L34s (like Charlie O'Brien) hanging around there to pick up or drop off cars/engines. The heads, cam and exhaust work were all done by Marty before he became MBC Automotive (which still survives maybe but not with Marty at the helm).

The significant changes that took place to the car, in approximate chronological sequence, were:-

Turbo 6: 1978 through 1988

The 308 engine was sold off to part pay for a new project, a turbo 202. Turbo's were the flavour of the month for quite a while in the late '70s with many people doing kits etc (Normalaire-Garret, Kinetics etc). N-G, courtesy of David Inall, had a selection of kits available: Strata 1 though Strata 6 which provided from 50% to 300% horsepower increase. Naturally I went straight to the Strata 6 and this project lasted for about 10 years with the only casualties being some nuked cast pistons in the early days (resulting from running out of water/methanol during a test session - got forged Arias replacements) and a 'red' block starting to come apart in the lifter galley. Updated to a blue block and grabbed the better blue motor fully counterweighted crank at the same time.

During this project we had a lot of advice from Wayne Mahnken who ran a turbo and dyno tune workshop in Moorabbin, Victoria. At the time Wayne was running Ron Harrop's old EH as a sports sedan with a turbo 202. This thing was awesome. At the time I saw it at Sandown in the late 1970's it had grunt to burn. It was running a huge turbo (made my 1.5 a/r exhaust housing job look like a thimble) and was running 30lbs boost. To stop the bottom of the block tearing away it had a full lower girdle tying together all the main caps to the bottom of the block. It was making 650 hp and had the 5" exhaust exiting midway through the passenger front door which looked real neat when he backed off and the flames licked down the side panels. I seem to recollect it running a 1050 Holley at one stage and to watch the old black EH blow the doors off the Monza's etc up the back straight at Sandown was something I still recall clearly today. Last I heard he still had the motor, having sold off the car many years earlier when he went into semi-retirement from racing. David Inall was also involved in this project, having a wealth of turbo knowledge as well as parts accessibility.

We started out running a 48 side-draught Weber but the thing was basically undriveable below 4000rpm so we swapped to twin 1.75 HIF SU's and the thing was actually driveable though these always seemed very sensitive to fuel pressure and leisurely response even with ATF in the dampers. We then went to a 650cfm Holley Spreadbore d/p on a custom manifold. This gave much better performance and was capable of reasonable cruising economy. Ultimately we went to an 850cfm Holley Spreadbore d/p (and who wouldn't?).

In 1980 every car owner's worst nightmare was realized, the Torana was smacked hard in the passenger's front by a moronic driver who decided to turn right at set of traffic lights as I was crossing the intersection (at a less than legal speed). The old Austin 1800 was thumped pretty hard too but to my horror it looked like five sumo wrestlers climbing out until I noticed it was bloated grotesque female forms attached to those chubby dimpled biceps. I wasn't game to tackle them but I was not happy at all and I believe I did question their parental heritage as well as which part of their anatomy was responsible for decision making! The impact bent the front passenger side rail and this was subsequently racked straight and then, quite a few years later, rechecked and 3mm plated part of the BB transplant. Luckily the engine was untouched and most of the repair was straight forward panel replacement.

We did have a few problems with harmonic balancers. The blue motor crank had a slightly heavier balancer than the red crank and we had no issues with that but some guy was doing sleeved L34 type balancers and these were meant to be even friendlier to the crank. Well it just didn't cut it at all, a few serves and the thing was floating around on the crank snout. We solved it all by putting a Pro-Street (B&M) balancer on after cutting a second keyway on the crank, just for security.

We ran a custom twin plate clutch (wasn't that much off the shelf h/d clutches for a 202 Holden back in late 70's) which held on okay. We had to dowell and use top quality bolts for the flywheel as, even though it was lightened, the engine would to accelerate and decelerate so quickly under boost that it really put a massive strain on this area. When it came on song (3000rpm+) it really was case shifting very quickly for the 1-2 and 2-3 changes as that 8000rpm came around real quick.

During this phase we went to the L34 bolt-ons, done by Rob Green who used to do the bodywork for the Gown-Hindhaugh team. A very professional job, everything re-seamed and re-sealed, no guard fouling problems to speak of. This was done in the last few weeks of 308 power, we had to subsequently do some creative spring cutting with an angle grinder to get the height right when the turbo six went in. Eventually I went to Lovell's h/d front springs and these did the trick with no cutting, I still run the same springs now with the BB as well as Bilstein shocks that were, allegedly, off an ex-A9X race car.

In 1981 I started looking at a brake upgrade. The solid front discs were out to lunch after one or two hard stops so I figured there must be a better solution. I picked up some HQ rotors, calipers and stubs from the wreckers and went about trial fitting them. There was a bit of mucking around but I was aided in getting hold of a set of original (but new!) L34 calipers from a mate who worked at GMH. These had the brake line connection to the caliper more centred on the back of the caliper than the HQ calipers so it solved some dodgy brake plumbing that would have otherwise been required. By chance I also happened to pick up a pair of A9X steering arms from Settlement Road Wreckers in Reservoir, Victoria. This was owned at the time by Warren Cullen, who was a past racer of L34s and A9Xs. The pair of steering arms cost me the princely sum of $50 and eliminated any prospect of bump-steer with the conversion. It was at this time I also went to the Lovells heavy duty springs front and rear.

Around 1982 I spied an ad (in Auto action I think) for a brake place in Glen Waverley (Victoria) (from memory it was called Friction Dynamics run by Warren Mills) that was offering a rear disc brake kit for Toranas at a pretty good price. It comprised blank XE rear discs (subsequently drilled to Torana PCD), the XE rear calipers (mounting holes re-drilled to suit the Torana retainer pattern) and an adjustable proportion valve. It was all basically bolt on except for a bit of welding for the  handbrake cable lever. Even with the HQ front discs you couldn’t run too much bias to the rear at all otherwise you suffered from rear brake lockup.

The car was wearing 14"x8" Hotwires back then with 245/60 Bridgestones. These have a rolling diameter even larger than the subsequent 16" and 17" wheels that I ran. This made them a little prone to picking up the leading lower edge of the front bolt-on when going over driveways etc with some steering lock applied. A little later I went to the 16"x9" Simmons B45 with the gold 5 spoke centre. Back in about 1985 this was a pretty radical set-up on a Torana although it seems pretty mild these days. I'm not sure if I would venture past the 17" wheels I'm currently running, to me at least 18"+ wheels don't always suit the body style.

Anyway, with the 16" Simmons wheels I was then able to look at upgrading the front brakes again. I saw some AP-Lockheed calipers for sale in Auto Action and they turned out to be ex-HDT calipers that had been modified by Harrop's to take a bigger pad as well as reduce pad taper. I took my wheels, calipers and stub axle assemblies to a place called Knoxfield Engineering that, at the time, operated out the same building as Les Small (who prepared Grice's 1986 Bathurst winning Commodore) in Knox, Victoria. They quoted the job at about $1600 but under-estimated the effort required to fabricate the hats and adapt the calipers etc. To their credit they stuck to their quoted price and I ended with aluminium fabricated hats with 121/2" rotors and about a 10mm thick adapter plate for the stub to caliper mount. This was a pretty good brake package (not too many Toranas running big brakes on the street back in 1984) and it persisted until the next major evolutionary step in Litre8's development. There is a picture of this brake set-up here at the 87/88 SummerNats. I still run these hats and slotted rotors today, on the rear of Litre8. I ended up selling the AP-Lockheed calipers to fund (partially!) the subsequent brake upgrades on Litre8.

I eventually sold the motor to a guy who had visions of putting it into an LJ sports sedan or the like. Never did hear back on how it all went.

Below are the details from the old display board when I used to show the car with its turbo 6 heart.

A little known fact is that the car was featured in this state in the July-Aug 1986 SM magazine.













 Stage II of the turbo six, running the twin SU's in place of the Weber, still with the 'small' Strata VI exhaust housing, about late 1978

 The below picture is pretty close to the final Turbo6 form. Running the 800dp s/b Holley, NOS, water/methanol injection , 1.52 a/r exhaust housing. The only subsequent changes to this was the addition of a water cooled centre bearing and a separate filter on the turbo oil line.....For its time I like to think of it as the mother of red motors...well street driven ones anyway!

 Modified dashboard showing boost guage, exhaust temp, water temp, oil pressure and oil temp. Almost visible under the scoop is the fuel pressure guage.

1988 to present....

This all started out as a street legal project. The car came off the road with 140,000kms on the clock with the best intentions of returning it to the road in about 12-18 months. It was going to be an iron BB Chev running a 1050 Holley. I purchased a new in-crate LS7 and then planned for the necessary changes (roller cam etc). I was then persuaded by my then engine man, Marty Coates, to go for injection and, really, I didn't need too much convincing. I got hold of a Crower injection manifold which, in hindsight, was a bad decision. With the injector tubes it would have towered over the bonnet and ideally I wanted to keep the hardware out of sight. It was only when I was visiting Richard Bendall (half of MoTeC in those days) that he mentioned the Kinsler manifolds, designed to fit under the bonnet of a 'Vette. They weren't cheap ($A5000 in 1990 from memory) but they keep everything nice and low, looked trick and ultimately it sure gave the engine torque a punch. With this settled I luckily managed to sell back the Crower manifold and moved onto the chassis work.

The chassis work was done by Mick Zahra (then in Bayswater in Vic, last I heard he had a similar business down past Berwick in SE Victoria) when he was working as 'Vintage Chassis Works'. He seemed to have a good handle on what was required but we thought it better to consult an engineer first (with the street legal requirement still alive). The engineer, when looking at the standard LX Torana cross-member, remarked "What truck did this come from?". His only requirement was that we stitch weld 3mm plate to the front rails. This was with an aluminium block, previous enquiries for an iron block installation required an engine setback of about 8-10" and it seemed much less work to go with the aluminium block and leave it all in the standard location.

Back then I wouldn't have been able to run the braided brake lines, the brakes and wheel combo wouldn't have got the nod and the avgas diet wouldn't have met with approval either. My mindset back then was that I didn't want to compromise my automotive vision just for the sake of legality so the project became that of a toy rather than a street legal car. I maintained the rego for about 10 years while living in Vic as it did enable me to cruise Northbourne Ave in Canberra during the halcyon days (and nights) of the Summernats. Now living in NSW I dropped the annual donation to the Victorian RTA as I do own the plates and street use will be effectively zero these days.  

I already had the aluminium cage installed so Mick added in the steel extensions in the boot and married this to the original cage at the parcel shelf. Mick also installed 3"x2" box section steel stitch welded in as subframe connectors, tieing the front rails to the rear suspension pickup points. Additionally a similar sized connection was added between these, also acting a tailshaft retainer. All this work added considerable strength to the car, it really was like a board now, no flex at all.

A&K Nankervis at Eppalock (Vic) got the job of building the first engine and doing the installation with all the ancillaries, a not inconsiderable task. The only mods to the engine bay required to get the engine and exhaust in were trimming the lip of the front rails (done as part of the chassis work) and trimming the lip on the firewall to give distributor clearance (large cap distributors were out of the question).

It left Eppalock as a shell with an engine that was startable and the drivetrain in place but the hydraulic clutch wasn't plumbed yet so it was a push job onto the trailer. Back then it was running the old MoTeC injection, where the tuning was done with a screwdriver. It was taken back to Mick's place of work to get the new K-MAC bars fitted as well as the air filter assembly fabricated.

Next it was off to AM Raceparts where the brakes were plumbed and the master cylinders installed, the rear panhard rod fabricated and the air filter assembly was modified to get in under the bonnet. Even with this we needed about 5" added to the bonnet scoop length and the bonnet hole was opened out to the very edge of the scoop. This kept all the hardware out of sight and the stretched bonnet scoop, being black on black, is only really noticeable when the car is parked next to a LX with a standard sized scoop.

From there it was back home to get all the panels and doors on in time for the impending Summernats. Dave Biscan, who did the engine bay, also did the bonnet work (starting out with a nos bonnet!), leaving it all looking extremely neat and tidy.

From this first incarnation there have been many hardware upgrades over the years. The brakes (front and rear) have both been updated twice to reach their now 'final' form. 

The front and rear brake rotors started out as drilled. The problem I had with the drilled rotors was not only were they like cheese cutters on the brake pads but they put temperature differentials all over the rotor surface (hot/cool/hot etc) which led to rotor cracking problems accompanied by warping. We ended up just going to the slotted rotors, these allowed water/dust to be wiped easily from the surface as well as allowing air to escape from between the pad and the rotor surface.

It had been suggested by those in the know that the AP-Lockheed calipers I was still running were probably a bit small for the new 131/2" (343mm) slotted rotors I was contemplating. I saw some Brembo 4 piston calipers advertised in WA for a reasonable price so I purchased these. It turned out that these too were at their limit with the 131/2" rotors and, in hindsight, probably a bit light for the weight of the car (they were really intended for Indy cars). Regardless I ran them for a few years before the opportunity to purchase a set of ex-TWR IMSA Jaguar billet calipers arose. These were from the US and at the end of each year the TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) team would sell off the current year's hardware and make or buy new for the coming years racing. I was lucky enough to know an ex-mechanic/crew manager (Bruce Tyson) who had just returned to Australia and he had bought in a matching set of front and rear calipers. Though probably heavy by today's standards these have staggered titanium pistons, titanium pad wear plates, take a good sized pad and are very strong (no flexing). I picked up 4 (2 front , 2 rear - rears have smaller pistons) for $2500. Being radial mount calipers, alumimium doglegs had to be fabricated as well as new hats for the 131/2" rotors etc. All this work was carried out by AM Raceparts to their usual high standards.        

After suffering from the disappearing brake pedal too often during my circuit jaunts I also decided it was time to go for the fully floating rearend. With AM Raceparts skills, a heavy duty 9" housing and a Harrop floater kit the end result exceeded expectations.

About 1995 the old exhaust system went pear shaped. It was a dual 3" with crossover pipe running local versions of the box style Flowmaster mufflers. The mufflers didn't rust out, the internal pressure just peeled them open like a can of sardines! I had them patched once, the second time the exhaust died (at Phillip Island funnily enough, everything seemed to happen at Phillip Island!: the exhaust, I kissed the bank in the wet with the rear quarter panel coming over hill (thanks for the paint and panel work Brett!!) and finally the gearbox succumbed there too....) I got Peter Starr (Starr Performance in Mitcham) to make up a new dual 3" system with stainless steel filled straight through mufflers. The was made using a copy of the Dr Gas (US) crossover set-up where the two pipes curve together, partially merge (siamesed) and then separate (sort of like }{ but there is no actual crossover pipe). Not wanting to be totally deafened we fed the pipes under the axle so they exited near the forward edge of the fuel tank.

The ECU was updated to the M48 about 1996 along with a cam update. We had to move to the M48 as some dyno work (the new cam went in first) showed that it was running out of fuel at 3500rpm, though it was still making over 300kw at the rear wheels at 5000rpm. The old MoTeC box wouldn't drive the latest hi-flowing injectors so the only option was to upgrade to the M48, which also opened a whole new world of tuning and features. To ensure an adequate fuel supply we went with Bosch 351 injectors.

This was the state of the car was at that fatal day at Phillip Island when the gearbox went pear shaped. We were just warming things up to see how it went with the new cam and ecu. We did come away with the knowledge that it didn't lack torque! The more recent upgrades have been covered in the introduction earlier.

 The start of the metamorphisis......looking bare after most items removed from the engine bay. Later LX's had a body coloured engine bay but the early ones (mine was Feb '76 build) got the flat black treatment

 The engine bay back to metal, all unwanted holes have been mig'd up.

 This shows the tubes welded between the top and bottom of the front rails, tying them together but still allowing access to the mounts to the cross-member assembly.

 Fresh coat of Mandarin Red, cross-member dressed in subframe black.

 Trial install of the BB Chev with the Kinsler cross-ram manifold sitting in place. Even here it looks obvious that those ram tubes are going to cause grief for any sized bonnet opening.....

  Rear driver floor showing cage mount (6mm plate under floor provides a bit more strength than just bolts through the floor pan) and the subframe connector. Due to the shape of the floor pan, the box subframe connector sits flush with the floor in the front, but sits proud of the floor in the back. This ties the car together from where the front rails turn parallel to the ground through to the lower rear suspension pickup point. There is a welded cross bar between both subframe connectors that incorporates a tailshaft retainer.

 Boot shot showing steel cage extension (joins alloy cage at rear parcel shelf) The cage terminates in the boot with a 15cm 'foot' welded to floor/lip (L shaped). The reverse braced bar meets a box section stitch welded between the wheel wells.

 Another shot of the boot showing the dry sump tank (left) , the oil cooler and the NOS bottle. Behind the oil cooler is a thermo fan which is vented via a mesh screen to beneath the car. The boot is 'sealed' from the passenger compartment and the hot air from the boot exits via the rear door extractor vents (remove the plastic vanes before hitting the circuit to provide max air flow out).

 The Brown Davis alloy cage.

 Not easy to see but this shows the cross subframe connector incorporating a tailshaft retainer.


 Photo from driver's side rear showing Bilstein shock, K-Mac rear mount sway bar and the panhard

  Underneath shot showing the new pipes, front mounted sway bar, dry sump pump and associated plumbing. Missing from here are the A9X brake ducts (yet to be re-installed) but the brackets are visible near the steering rack boot.

  The Jerico gearbox and the Lakewood scattershield with the exhaust collectors running along side.

  The Harrop aluminium 9" centre, also visible the panhard rod, sway bar and the temperature sensor for the differential.

Finally, after a prolonged rebuild, Litre8 is back on the move, albeit on a trailer on its way to Sydney.

© Litre8 Productions 2021