355-cube 1972 Holden LJ Torana

Is there anything quite as Aussie as a Torana powered by a trusty Holden V8?

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Darryn Wishart’s LJ Torana was originally published in the September 2018 issue of Street Machine

WHEN Darryn Wishart first laid eyes on this LJ coupe it was in a sad and sorry state – devoid of motor and ’box and with 80s-spec flared guards, splayed out in the front yard of a house in his native Geelong. But Darryn saw potential in the car, so he knocked on the door of the house and made the owner an offer he couldn’t refuse. The problem was, he did refuse, and it took two months of subsequent negotiations before Darryn was finally able to talk a deal and secure the Torana.

A knockout stance is often all that’s needed to give an early Torana serious street presence, and Darryn’s Torry is a case in point. GTR guard flutes and a 4in reverse-cowl scoop further toughen its appearance, and those with a keen eye will spot that the bumper bar bolts have been dispensed with

It had a few things going for it, like a set of mini-tubs and a chassis kit, and it came with a Holden V8 and Turbo 350 transmission to suit a rebuild. Darryn transferred the car to his dad’s front lawn for 12 months while he stockpiled the cash to give it a birthday, and when the time was right, he got stuck in.

“I decided to paint the car Plum Dinger purple; it needed a huge amount of attention,” he says. “I had a new motor built and the interior done by TLC Motor Trimmers, and along with some help from mates and a lot of late nights we were able to get the car ready for Summernats 26.”

Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived, because an accident that following Australia Day put the car back off the road for the next five years.

“There wasn’t a great deal of damage, but it was bad enough that it had to go to the panel shop, and it’s hard to find a beater that will do old cars in Geelong,” Darryn explains. “Eventually I found Keith Bakker, and when we rubbed the car back we thought we’d put a set of quarters on it to get rid of the flared guards. We had to repaint one side of the car anyway, so instead of doing blends we thought we’d do a full respray.”

Following its first rebuild, Darryn’s LJ was a neat thing, draped in Plum Dinger purple paint. Suffice to say though, the sequel is better than the original!

Then began the car’s second rebuild, one that would eventually culminate in it debuting in the Top 60 Elite Hall at Summernats 31. The story is a familiar one, with Darryn explaining that the build was never meant to be this full-on – it just kind of happened by accident.

The Torana is engineered as it sits, so Darryn doesn’t have to worry about copping any heat from these blokes

The car was taken back to the metal, the damage was ironed out and the engine bay was given a thorough tidy-up. The radiator was shifted forward an inch-and-a-half and recessed under the radiator support, which was then neatly filled and smoothed. The seams on the tops of the chassis rails were also smoothed and welded, and the heater box binned and the holes deleted. The wiper linkages are now accessed from the rear of the plenum chamber through a removable bung behind the instrument cluster – much neater. The wiper motor has also been re-configured so the wiring is routed through the back rather than up from underneath. Darryn’s mate Brad Simpson was responsible for some of the lateral thinking in the engine bay, while Keith carried out the fab and panel work on the car before laying on the DeBeer Hyundai Blue duco to an exacting standard.

Darren is a chippy by trade, and is justifiably proud of his efforts decking out the boot

The car already had a nine-inch and mini-tubs fitted as part of the initial build, but Darryn wanted to be able to fit wider tyres and wheels with more dish. Instead of going to coil-over shocks in the rear, he had Brown’s Springworks custom-make a smaller-diameter coil spring, fitted LJ front shocks to the rear, shortened the nine-inch and relocated the trailing arm mounts on the housing. Beadlock-equipped 15×9 Weld AlumaStars wearing Maxxis 265/50/15 hoops now fit an absolute treat and fill the rear guards to perfection.

Some serious sheet-metal work has gone into neatening this place up. The radiator support, chassis rails and firewall all copped a seeing-to, with the wiper linkages now accessible via a removable panel behind the dash. The 355ci plastic powerplant is worth an ample 550hp

A new 355-cube Holden was assembled by Jai Shanahan, with a Scat crank, ACL slugs and A9L rods. The camshaft is a custom-grind flat-tappet solid, specced by Flowcraft Engines for this application, while Flowcraft was also tasked with porting the cast VN heads and decking them out with oversized Manley valves and Crane springs. Topped with a Torque Power single-plane manifold and 950 Pro Series carby, it’s handy for 550hp at the crank.

The engine is backed by a 5200rpm TCE converter and a fresh Turbo 350, while the aforementioned nine-inch carries a spool, 3.5:1 final-drive gears and 31-spline axles.

Stepping inside, the seats are the only components on the whole car to be carried over from the first build.

“Everything else changed, from the cluster to the door trims and the carpet. In fact, every single nut and bolt was replaced, as were the brake lines, fuel tank, exhaust, extractors and suspension, and everything I could buy new, I did,” Darryn says.

They’re original LJ seats covered in black vinyl with factory-style houndstooth inserts, and they’re the focal point of the OEM-inspired cabin. The door trims, dash, carpet and GTR steering wheel all tie in with the desired factory look, while a GTR cluster was fitted with Auto Meter instruments so Darryn can keep an eye on engine vitals without compromising the original look.

“The goal was always to get it to Summernats 31, and my mate Tassie and I got the car back as a bare painted shell three months out,” Darryn says. “Without a hoist, we got it together in three months. In fact, I bare-metalled the whole floorpan lying on my back with the car on jack stands. I’ve since installed a hoist, though!”

Stock as a rock in here, aside from a few notable additions. Auto Meter gauges have been neatly integrated into a factory GTR cluster, and Dazza grabs gears via a TCI Outlaw shifter

Darryn was suitably stoked just to have got the car to Summernats, but what happened next had him doing cartwheels.

“I lined up for Street-class judging and the judges put me into Elite. I was the happiest bloke at Summernats when it made the Top 60, but in my eyes it’s a street car. I drive it in the rain; I drive it everywhere.

“In the first month I had it on the road, I did 1200km in it. I did a 300km trip straight after Summernats, then I drove it to a mate’s wedding in Maryborough, which was a 400km round trip, and it didn’t miss a beat. I drive it every weekend and a lot of nights. I’ve taken it to the pub and the beach, and I take it to the coffee shop every Sunday. I really need to thank my mate Tassie for making this dream of having an award-winning street car come true.”


Paint: Hyundai Blue

Brand: 355ci Holden V8
Induction: Torque Power single-plane manifold, 950cfm Pro Series carb
Heads: VN heads, ported by Flowcraft, Manley valves
Camshaft: Custom-grind solid
Conrods: A9L

Pistons: ACL Race Series
Crank: Scat 3.48in stroke
Oil pump: Standard
Fuel system: Mallory pump, Aeroflow reg
Cooling: PWR alloy radiator, 16in thermo fan
Exhaust: Custom 1¾in 4-into-1 headers, twin 3in exhaust system
Ignition: MSD 6AL, MSD Blaster 3 coil, MSD distributor

Gearbox: Turbo 350
Converter: TCE 5200rpm
Diff: 9in, spool, 3.5:1 gears, 31-spline axles

Front: Pedders springs and shocks
Rear: Custom-made springs from Brown’s Springsworks, Pedders LJ front shocks
Brakes: 300mm discs, twin-piston PBR calipers (f), drums (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood with Wilwood proportioning valve

Rims: Billet Specialties Comp 5 15×3.5 (f), Weld AlumaStar 15×9 with beadlocks (r)
Rubber: Nankang 145/70/15 (f), Maxxis 265/50/15 (r)