Blown 383-cube 1973 Holden LJ Torana

With multiple Summernats Top 60 placings, Stephen Sherry's LJ Torana is one tough showstopper

Photographers: Ben Hosking

WE’VE got a strong love for tough little Toranas at Street Machine, and Stephen Sherry’s 1973 LJ GTR is a fine example of the breed. Having owned the car for over 30 years now, Stephen has made a real gem out of what started as a pretty average project.

This article on Stephen’s Torana was first published in the March 2018 issue of Street Machine

The colour is the infamous Sting Red found on many an SS Commodore, slightly tickled by PPG to suit Stephen’s needs and slapped on by his brother Charlton

Stephen’s a retired NSW highway patrol cop, who now spends most of his spare time playing with his toys, including an RB30-powered Datsun 1200 ute and a neat little VW Beetle, but the Torana has always been the constant.

“It’s been with me for longer than any of my five kids; it’s my baby,” he says. “I bought it in 1986 for $250 as a bare shell, and it came with a free rotisserie.”

There’s no doubt the car has come a long way since then, going through several rebuilds to keep in trend with the ever-changing car scene. The LJ’s first incarnation saw it swathed in purple and plastered with detailed airbrush art on just about every panel, with a white interior. The car then moved on to a maroon/beige colour combo, before finally progressing to the stark red XU-1 tribute you see today. But this latest transformation took a lot more than just a rub back and a slather of paint.

While not street-registered, Stephen’s custom GRNADE plates have a long history with him personally, originally having a home on his old VE Commodore show car before making their way onto this fierce little Torry

“When I got the car it had shaved door handles and massively flared wheelarches, so when it came time to take it back to where it is now I had to put new rear quarters on it and dig into the doors to find where the original door handles went,” Stephen says.

The car is a real sight to behold now, finished in a PPG-modified version of Holden’s Sting Red and painted by Stephen’s brother Charlton in their workshop.

Underneath the skin of the Torana is a 350ci small-block Chevy massaged out to 383ci. The 6.3 litres of fury is topped with a GM 6/71 blower, using twin Holley 750 double-pumpers to produce 680hp at 6psi on pump 98. Sitting behind the donk is a Turbo 400 ’box, hiding a Dominator 3500rpm converter sending power through a modified HQ tailshaft to a custom Street Cred nine-inch with tubular arms. Diff gears are 3.9:1s, and 235/50 R15 street tyres are always scrambling for traction.

The braking system is one of the most unusual aspects of the build, with Stephen pouring hours of time into trial-and-error to find the right set-up. What he landed on was a set of HQ disc brakes in the front and VK Commodore discs out back, using two – yep, two – brake boosters that live in the boot to give him the desired brake pressure, with the cranky supercharged small-block making vacuum hard to come by.

“In a little car with big power like this I wanted to make sure it’d stop properly,” he says. While going to all the trouble of creating the custom system, Stephen also fitted a line-lock for good measure.

As mentioned, the interior was once stark white, but for the car’s newest form it has been fully replaced with a factory correct GTR XU-1 black interior, save for the B&M Pistol Grip shifter and a couple of sneaky gauges under the dash.

While the matte-black paint on the 6/71 blower may appear to be any old mix, it’s actually the same formula used on the Batmobile in the modern-day Batman movies. Due to its high heat resistance, durability and unique formula, it costs over $1000 a litre – so you can understand why Stephen only bought a few cans of the stuff when he decided to give his blower the Bruce Wayne treatment. The beautifully crafted headers are from the guys at Windsor Exhaust

The little Torry has been doing the show car rounds on and off for quite a few years now, having quite a bit of success in the process, including a number of appearances in the Meguiar’s Top 60 at Summernats in 1996, 2015, 2016 and 2019. It hasn’t always been drama-free though.

The boot houses a larger capacity XU-1-style fuel tank, and is decked out with Car Builders insulation

“We were out on the burnout pad at Summernats 31 doing the slalom stuff for the Grand Champion comp and I started doing a burnout for the crowd,” Stephen explains. “It was awesome, but she got a little hot and caught fire in the engine bay.”

For this makeover Stephen decided to go back to standard, redoing the whole lot with factory-correct black GTR XU-1 kit, albeit with a B&M shifter and a few extra gauges

Having bent a decent amount of the engine’s internals in the process, Stephen spent the next 12 months thrashing on the LJ to fix the donk and get the bay repainted in time for Summernats 32, where he not only made it but finished in the Meguiar’s Top 60.

“It was a good result overall, to have both the Torana and my Datsun drag ute in the Top 60. I’m still gunning for that Grand Champion win, so hopefully I can get there some day,” Stephen says.

As for now, he plans to do a bit more driving with the car, as he’s barely driven it in any of its build guises. Despite the signature GRNADE plates, the car isn’t actually registered, restricting Stephen to events like Powercruise and Summernats. He still plans on taking it out for a good rip and a powerskid or two, and then in the next couple of years it’ll hit the drag strip.

“I’ll do a few more shows with it first and a couple of Powercruise events, then take it to the drags and see what it can do,” he says.


Paint: PPG Sting Red

Brand: Chevy 383
Induction: GM 6/71 blower
Carbs: Holley Twin 750
Heads: Rams Head Service ported and polished
Camshaft: Custom-grind
Conrods: Scat I-beam
Pistons: Forged
Crank: Scat steel stroker
Oil pump: Billet
Fuel system: Mechanical billet pump
Cooling: VK Commodore five-core radiator
Exhaust: Stainless 3in
Ignition: ICE
Power: 680hp

Gearbox: Turbo 400
Converter: Dominator 3500rpm
Diff: 9in

Front: Monroe heavy-duty springs
Rear: A1 coil-overs
Brakes: HQ discs (f), VK Commodore discs (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood

Rims: Street Pro; 15×4 (f), 15×8 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 145/60R15 (f), Maxxis 235/50R15 (r)

My brother Charlton for the paintwork; Norm Carlton; Rodney Harkins from Protective Coatings Newcastle; Brad Brown for the trim; Johnny from JBK Smash Repairs; Coubanis Race Engines; my little brother Warren; my family; friends; my sons and my dad