Meaning “to fly” in the Aboriginal language, the Holden Torana was produced between 1967 and 1980. The first HB Toranas were based around the old Vauxhall Viva and emulated the four cylinder compact car.
The Torana was always a very angular car, made from folded sheet steel and featuring broad flat fronts, bold chrome grilles, single spot headlights, and indicators inset into the bumper. Originally the bodies were shipped over from the UK, but by 1969 they were all locally made. The body shape of the Torana has a long front end, horizontal grille bars, a sloping windscreen, and a flat roofline leading to a raked rear window and boot.
By 1969 the second generation cars were released that had a remodelled, more aggressive front with a longer bonnet and a distinctive, pointed “nose” grille. The available choices also increased, with two- and four-doors, three trim levels and a two-door GTR sports model.
During the early 1970s there were a number of variations and facelifts, mostly accommodating larger engines and additional features, but the Torana body shape remained very much the same. In 1974, with the release of the third generation cars, the Torana had a shorter wheel base and received a new softer front end, its grille was not as pronounced, and the headlights were square. This is also when body-coloured rubber bumpers and a change to the car’s rear light rig were introduced.
In 1976 with the Sunbird, and again in 1978 with the UC Torana, there were slight changes to the basic body shape that gave the car a more rounded edge. One of the major style changes came with the A9X tourer that came out in 1977, as it featured a large air scoop on the bonnet.
The first Toranas were fitted with the Series 70 engines and CD Stromberg carburettor, which had a power rating of 51Kw and a torque rating of 92.7Nm. Later the Brabham engine, a retuned engine with twin carbs, was installed that was capable of 59Kw of power.
Holden started fitting bigger straight six engines in 1968, which produced 59Kw and 95Nm of torque when hooked up to either a 3- or 4-speed gearbox or the Trimatic 3-speed automatic. Holden also altered the front end and gave it a pointed look to accommodate the larger engine block.
The 1974 Toranas came with shorter wheelbases and fewer engine choices, offering 1.3L and 1.8L engines. This was increased later with the release of the larger LH model, which housed 2.85L, 3.3L, 4.2L, and the massive 5.0L OHV V8 engines used in the sporty SL/R 5000s.
The end of the seventies saw the LX and LX Sunbird come into production, and these were equipped with Radial Tuned Suspension and engines ranging from a 1.9L to the 5.0L model. With the last runs, the UC range once again had a small choice with only 1.9L, 2.85L and the 3.3L engines available.
The sporty SL/R 5000 could accelerate from 0-100Km/h in 8.2 seconds and had a top end of 195Km/h.
The features on the early Torana were pretty sparse. It came with comfortable bucket seats and a large boot space. The safety equipment included dual circuit brakes, energy absorbing steering wheel, double-sided safety rims, and lap belts.
The later UC model from 1978 included a dashboard clock, fuel economy light, tinted windscreen, side and rear windows, intermittent wipers, radio/cassette player, cloth trim, and sports instrument cluster.
There was also a dazzling array of colours to choose from with exotic sounding names such as Madiera Red, Absinth Yellow, Valencia Orange, Papaya, Caribbean Turquoise and Mint Julep.
Although the newer Torana models were heavier and bigger than their predecessors, since they were powered by the V8s used in the full-sized Kingswood and Premier cars, the Torana lived up to its name and flew. They were better-sized family cars and produced a quiet ride.
By the mid-seventies there were a whole host of cars in the same bracket as the Holden Torana, including famous names like the very competitive Ford Falcon, Ford Cortina Ghia, Ford Escort, and the Morris Marina.
The Torana was an Australian-made classic from the seventies and was built to last, despite the older models suffering the age old rust problems that classic car ownership entails. The smaller engines are slightly underpowered for the heavier, later cars, but in general terms the car performs well overall. It’s a good family car, comfortably seating five, with plenty of boot space. As the Torana adverts from 1972 said “It’s the winningest car in the country, when you’re hot, you’re hot!”