Turbo Nissan RB30-powered 1973 Holden LJ Torana

Rohan Gordon's Torana is no XU-1 replica - his factory four-cylinder LJ now dances to a Japanese drum

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

FINDING that much-loved and cared-for classic car owned by a little old lady doesn’t happen too often today. You’d be forgiven for thinking all those dry, arrow-straight classics have all been snapped up and turned into GT, XU-1 or R/T replicas. But Rohan Gordon has proved they are still out there and available, if you’re prepared to act lightning-fast and take a punt.

This article was first published in the December 2019 issue of Street Machine

“The 9in has a Strange centre and axles, with 3.7 gears in it. Apparently it would be better if we went 3.9s, so we might change that after we go race it a couple of times,” Rohan says

A mate of Rohan’s discovered a bone-stock four-pot LJ Torana in its delicious original shade of chocolate disco-funk brown, and forwarded the message on to Rohan late one night. “I bought it sight unseen, as my mate said it was too good to pass up,” says Rohan. “I knew how long good Toranas last for sale, so I jumped on it. It was that clean that one guy wanted to put it in his museum!”

“I was going to do it Warrigal Black with a white interior, for a ‘grim reaper’ colour scheme, as that’s what I call the car,” Rohan says. “But the body is straight as a die and it still wears the original paint. I wanted to keep the four-cylinder front, as it was something different and looks like an HG front with that grille. I love how original it is. I don’t get grief from people about it. They think it is a tidy car on Welds; then you pop the bonnet and they can’t believe it”

While some would want to preserve a rare, dead-original four-cylinder LJ, Rohan always had plans for the Torry that involved adding bulk horsepower. “I’ve had tough Chev and Holden V8s, but I always wanted to build something scary and quiet,” he explains. “After I bought the LJ I started planning it all out, but then Dad went into hospital and passed away.

“I built this car as a tribute for my dad, as he had a huge history at Bathurst, he worked for HSV for 21 years, and had GT Falcons, Monaros and all kinds of awesome cars. We talked about the build of the LJ quite a lot, but unfortunately he never got to see the finished product.”

Rohan got the build started with a trip to see the guys at All Race Fabrications to have the spindly stock drivetrain binned and the car readied for something that would chirp second. This included adding a six-point rollcage, mini-tubs, chassis reinforcing, four-link with Strange coil-overs, a shortened nine-inch and parachute.

Up front wasn’t quite so simple, with the short nose of the four-banger LJ providing some real estate issues with Rohan’s plans to slot a turbo inline six-pot in.

“When it came to the front end, apparently Holden just slapped whatever was available sitting around on the floor into the Toranas,” Rohan sighs. “We went to Hopper Stoppers and they put HQ disc brakes on it and I re-bushed the front end and put 90/10 shocks in. Then it went to Full Flight Engineering to put a couple of knuckles in the steering joint to get the geometry right.

“The power is wild,” says Rohan of the force-fed RB six. “It’s so smooth and quiet, but when it hits – compared to an 18°-headed 400 Chev like what I’ve had before, it’s another world.” However, keeping the shorter four-pot nose meant there was less room to fit the RB. “We couldn’t go forwards, so we had to go back,” Rohan explains. “The intercooler is rubbing up against the front grille, and the radiator is bolted right to it. Even the pedals had to be modified because all the floors are different in this car”

“Full Flight also recessed the firewall eight inches to fit the RB, cut the floor out to fit the Powerglide, made the tailshaft, mounted the engine and ’box, and made the custom radiator, front-mounted intercooler and full custom three-inch stainless exhaust.”

That engine is a healthy 3.0-litre Nissan RB30, as found in VL Commodores and R31 Skylines, inflated by a large turbo and given a thorough seeing to internally. That wasn’t what Rohan had originally intended to fit, however.

“I was going to put a Toyota 2JZ in, but that ended up being too dear, so for the budget, I jumped on this RB30 a friend had,” says Rohan.

“I pulled all the interior out before it went to All Race, then modified the carpet to suit the firewall and floor, and bolted the original seats back in,” Rohan explains. “The one-piece JAZ race seat has a custom cover on it, so it looks right at home.” Apart from the B&M shifter, ’chute lever, driver’s seat and rollcage, the only other non-original part found in the cabin is the Monaro steering wheel

He took the complete engine over to Danny Bresciani from Initial D Racing so it could be stripped and given a health check. Danny describes Rohan’s combo as a basic RB30 package. “It is a simple but strong package and it’s good for what it is,” he says. “The single-cam head has valve springs, a hydraulic Camtech cam and Cometic gasket, while the block has a stock crank, H-beam forged rods and CP pistons for 7.5:1 compression. It runs a custom sump and standard oil pump with upgraded gears, and there is also a Plazmaman plenum on standard runners.

“The turbo is a GT42 Garrett, high-mounted on a custom manifold, while the ECU is a MicroTech LT12C,” Danny continues. “It is set up to run pump fuel at the moment, so it has –8 feed and return fuel lines, 880cc Deka injectors and three Bosch 044 pumps down the back with a custom cell.”

That sauce is good enough to make 531rwhp on 21psi, though there is plenty more hiding in the six-pot once Rohan and Danny switch it over to run corn juice. “We’re planning to run E85 and push boost to 40psi,” says Danny.

Behind the angry six is a 4200rpm Dominator converter and transbraked two-speed Powerglide auto, with a built nine-inch packing Strange axles and centre member out back. With HQ Kingswood brakes handling stopping duties, the only visual clue to the heat the LJ packs are the 15×3.5 and 15×8.5 Weld Magnum wheels, with beefy 275/50 M/T Street Radials providing adequate bag out back.

“I’m hanging to race it,” Rohan says. “I did a 10.23 after the trans let go and I got out of it; I would love to see it do an 8.20 on E85. Ultimately I just want to drive it and get a good time out if it.”

And what does Rohan think his dad would make of it?

“I said to my dad I wanted something that looked stock, was quiet, but was the deadliest thing on the street,” Rohan declares. “This car means a lot to me; I’ll die with it!”


Paint: Original brown

Brand: Nissan RB30ET
Inlet: Plazmaman plenum
ECU: MicroTech LT12C
Turbo: Garrett GT42
Head: SOHC RB30, ported
Camshaft: Camtech hydraulic
Conrods: H-beam forged
Pistons: CP forged
Crank: Standard
Fuel system: 880cc Deka injectors, three Bosch 044 pumps, –8 lines
Cooling: Alloy radiator, thermo fan
Exhaust: Custom high-mount manifold, single stainless system
Ignition: MSD 6AL

Gearbox: Two-speed Powerglide, RB30 adapter
Converter: Dominator 4200rpm
Diff: Ford 9in, Mark Williams axles

Front: 90/10 Pedders shocks, custom rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Strange Engineering coil-overs, Enemies Everywhere sway-bar
Brakes: Hoppers Stoppers HQ discs (f), HQ drums (r)
Master cylinder: HQ Kingswood

Rims: Weld Magnum; 15×3.5 (f), 15×8.5 (r)
Rubber: Nankang 165/80/15 (f), Mickey Thompson Street Radial 275/50/15 (r)

All Race Fabrications; Full Flight Engineering; Initial D Racing; Alipower; Dyno
House; my friends Bobi, Ali, Costa and everyone else that I have missed; my loving wife Annabel and my three daughters Camellia, Poppy and Rosie for supporting me throughout this build