Clint Kelly’s incredible Holden LJ Torana is back with a bent-eight beneath the bonnet
This article on Clint’s LJ Torana was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Street Machine
YEP, you’ve almost certainly seen this gorgeous LJ Torana GTR XU-1 tribute before. It’s been doing the rounds for about five years now, and we featured it back in our May 2013 issue bearing the number plates CRAZY6. Those plates might be the only outward change since then, but beneath the skin, Clint Kelly’s Torry is now a whole different breed of beast.
The GTR XU-1 blackouts, bobtail and decals are a winner, and the stance is absolutely spot-on
He’s managed to marmalade one of those new fandangled LS engines into the stunning little coupe, and he’s done such a ripper job of it that we figured the car was worth a second look.
The original Torana shell was in very good nick as far as Toranas go, requiring a replacement front guard and little else. Clint placed the body on a rotisserie and hammered it straight before it was coated in Sikkens custom orange
For those who might have missed it the last time it was featured, the car was running a nutso little Holden six with a J.ZED head and a trio of 45mm Dellorto carbs. Clint had Nc touring car racer and Holden six guru Vince Macri do some subsequent development with the engine, and with the switch to a roller camshaft, 50mm Weber carbs and a set of larger, 17/8-inch primary headers, he managed to coax monster grunt out of the little six-pot. We’re talking a V8-shaming 412hp at the flywheel, or 300hp at the wheels.
Those are serious numbers for a naturally aspirated red motor, but Clint is a bit of a tinkerer who is always looking for an excuse to pull something apart, improve it, and put it back together. After all, when the car was first built, he was the bloke who did the tub work, built and installed the four-link, took care of all the bodywork and handled the assembly process from start to finish, all in the same backyard shed you see here. Not bad for a concreter.
“I’d never owned a V8 before, and the six was virtually on the limit,” he says. “It was like a race car to drive, which was great, but it would sometimes get hot in traffic and my missus struggled to drive it with the paddle clutch I had fitted. I’d been thinking about putting a side-mount blower on it, but when I found out that the laws had been relaxed and it was possible to fit an LS, I thought that might be the go.”
Clint sourced a low-kay six-litre L98 V8 through fellow Torana tragic John Spinks, sold off his mental little six-pot to Vince, and struck up a deal to have him extract some more power out of this new engine. Vince duly fettled the heads to flow more air, fitting Manley valves and springs. He also installed a COMP Cams Mutha Thumpr camshaft and lifters, and a Melling oil pump to ensure adequate blood pressure.
Clint’s Torana is a shining example of how an engine conversion should be performed. The 6.0-litre V8 sits beautifully in the engine bay, which itself has been detailed to absolute perfection
In the meantime, Clint set about researching the best way to shoehorn the big alloy bent-eight into the Torana’s compact engine bay. He opted for engine and transmission mounts from Tuff Mounts, along with an alloy sump and transmission crossmember from The Rod Shop. Like all V8-into-LC/LJ conversions, the steering had to be relocated. Clint nudged the base of the column across, then notched the front crossmember to get the lower LH/LX-style steering shaft knuckle as low as possible to create the most amount of real estate for header clearance.
Parts like the airbox and intake piping are well thought-out and exquisitely crafted, and the cam-and-heads L98 provides ample shove while also displaying impeccable road manners
Speaking of the headers, Clint built them himself, and it was a mission. “They’re 17/8-inch headers, and I bought the mandrel bends and built them in the car; that was the worst part of the whole build,” he says. “I’d tape up the pipes, mark them up, cut and tack them, then take them to a mate to fully TIG-weld them. Then I’d clean up the welds to make it all look like one piece. I made every runner separately, and made my own collectors. The headers owe me over $1000 in materials and I don’t know how many hours. It’s no wonder shops charge so much to do that kind of work.”
Clint had to modify the tunnel to allow access to the bellhousing bolts and provide sufficient clearance for the Hughes Turbo 350 transmission, which, incidentally, is fitted with a 3200rpm TCI converter. He elected to stick with the same 28-spline, 10-bolt Salisbury rear end the car had when it was a six, and is yet to encounter any issues, with plenty of kays travelled and no shortage of spirited driving thus far.
Retaining the factory pick-up points, Clint made his own rose-jointed adjustable four-link bars, and set the rear end up with QA1 coil-overs and brackets from McDonald Bros. He also mini-tubbed the car himself, and made the car’s chassis kit, which neatly follows the profile of the floor, from 125mm RHS. The third member is a shortened 10-bolt Salisbury, fitted with 3.36:1 gears and an LSD centre
The engine has been so skilfully introduced to the car that it looks like it’s meant to be there, and, most importantly, everything works. A custom crossflow radiator from PWR teamed with a 2000cfm Davies Craig thermo fan keeps the engine at perfect operating temperature, even on hot days. The factory six-gauge XU-1 cluster works a treat with the more modern engine; even the tacho communicates harmoniously with the LS’s multi-coil ignition system thanks to a modification by Classic Gauge Restoration. EFI and a custom-tuned Adaptronic ECU means the car starts, runs and drives like a stocker, but when you prod the loud pedal, all hell breaks loose.
It’s all ridgy-didge XU-1-spec stuff in here, save for the Precision Performance Kwik-Shift II shifter. Dale at DJ Trimco is responsible for the OEM-style black vinyl interior fit-out
“I’m happy as Larry!” Clint enthuses. “It’s absolutely brilliant to drive, and when you put the boot in it just fries the tyres and goes sideways. The grunt is instant and the power-to-weight ratio is insane. I’m really happy with the car exactly as is; you can just jump in, hit the key and cruise. If I do anything further it’ll be with another car.”
A set of factory XU-1 gauges have been restored and made to work with the modern engine by Classic Gauge Restoration
Well there you have it, readers – a Street Machine feature car that is truly and definitively ‘finished’. There really is a first time for everything!
1973 HOLDEN LJ TORANA
Colour: Sikkens custom orange
Brand: GM L98 6L V8
Induction: LS3 intake manifold, 102mm throttlebody, custom airbox
Heads: Ported, Manley valves & springs
Camshaft: COMP Cams 227/241 Mutha Thumpr
Oil pump: Melling high-volume
Sump: CRS alloy pan
Fuel system: Carter lift pump, surge tank, Bosch 044 pump
Cooling: Custom PWR radiator, Davies Craig 2000cfm fan
Exhaust: Custom 17/8in extractors, twin 3in system, Hi-Tech mufflers
Ignition: ICE 10mm leads
Gearbox: Hughes Performance Turbo 350, shift kit
Converter: TCI 3200rpm
Diff: 10-bolt Salisbury, 3.36:1 gears, LSD centre, 28-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: King Springs (f), QA1 coil-overs (r)
Shocks: Monroe (f), QA1 coil-overs (r)
Brakes: Commodore discs with Wilwood calipers (f), HQ discs with Wilwood calipers (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
wheels & tyres
Rims: Intro V-Rod; 17×7 (f), 18×10 (r)
Rubber: Nankang; 205/40/17 (f), 255/45/18 (r)