Holden 355 stroker-powered LX Torana SL/R 5000

Another one of those 'quick tidy-ups' that got more than a little out of hand - and don't we love it!

Photographers: Ben Hosking

IF YOU’RE worried that the youngsters of today aren’t getting into street machining, then this bloke – and this car – should set your mind at ease. At just 26 years old, Paul Camilleri is at least half the age of many of us (me included), but he was brought up right and had the desire to own a Torana from a very young age, purchasing this one five years ago.

First published in the March 2022 issue of Street Machine

“I’ve always been around old cars,” Paul says. “My old man has a genuine Barbados Green LH SL/R 5000, so I’ve just always liked them. I said as a kid I wanted a green Torana, but he beat me to it!

“I bought this one sight-unseen from an auction site based in South Australia,” he continues. “I’ve got another Torana at home – an LH that needs a lot of work – but the LX was in pretty good nick, so I was going to give it a quick closed-door respray, tidy it up, give it a quick retrim and drive it. It already had a 253 V8 in it, and I was keen to put a 308 in it. But you know how it is – one thing leads to another.”

Paul approached Phil Xerri from Phil’s Body Repairs about doing paint and panel on the car and was told there was a year-and-a-half wait. So, being an impatient 21-year-old, he started calling around other panel shops, and in the meantime, the car went to Brad from Ultimate Metalworks to have some rust cut out.

“Luckily enough, I had a call from Phil with a vacant spot, as he had a cancellation,” Paul explains. “So from Ultimate Metalworks it went straight to the panel shop to undergo a full rotisserie restoration. From this point on things got serious. From a tidy paintjob, we decided to go the full mile. The factory heater box was removed, the firewall was smoothed and an under-dash Vintage Air unit was installed.”

There are plenty of cool colours you can paint a Torana straight out of the GM-H catalogue, but since Paul’s dad had already called dibs on Barbados Green, Paul had a decision to make. “The car was originally yellow, and I was going to go back to that, but my wife persuaded me to go orange, and it’s probably the best thing I did to be honest with you,” he says. This particular orange is a custom mix using PPG Deltron products – no pearls or metallics; just a retina-scorching solid colour with a bunch of clear over the top.

Paul was also dead-set on keeping it Holden-powered. Many would argue that it would probably be cheaper to go with an LS or small-block Chev and make more power, but Paul wanted to keep a lot of the original Torana DNA and add a bit more character – and a lot more attitude! “I was going to build a mild 308, but then you start speaking to people and they say do this, do that, and you get excited – and this is what happens.”

The motor is a 304 out of a VN SS, but that’s about where the resemblance to the factory item stops. Thanks to a Scat rotating assembly, the mill now displaces 355 cubic inches. Combined with a Crow solid-roller cam, ported factory heads and killer induction system – which has no problems supplying all the fuel the engine will ever need – there are now 550 rampaging horses trying to escape. As a comparison, the mighty VN SS was rated at just 221hp.

What sets this SL/R 5000 apart from most are those two carbies sitting up high and proud, and although a reverse-cowl never looks out of place on a Torana, Paul decided to he didn’t want to hide anything and neatly modified the bonnet to suit. There were plans to get Lowe Fabrications to build a sheet-metal intake, but facing a looming deadline to get the car ready for his wedding, Paul opted for a Redline tunnel ram that was smoothed and ceramic-coated, topped by a pair of 650cfm Holley HP carbs. The finish on the intake ties in nicely with the CNC-machined rocker covers from Shaun’s Custom Alloy.

The rest of the driveline is just as tough, with a Turbo 400 built by Shift Right Transmissions, Dominator 5000rpm stall converter and a nine-inch filled with 3.9:1 gears.

Something you might not have picked up from a quick glance at the engine bay is that the car is air conditioned. You’ve got to look pretty hard for it, because the compressor is mounted low on the driver’s side of the engine. “We made our own pulley set-up with a serpentine belt for the water pump and alternator. Then we made a template and CNC-machined the bracket for the a/c compressor,” Paul explains. Painting the bracket the same colour as the engine makes it disappear even more.

Most high-end builds are built around a set of wheels, but that wasn’t the case with Paul’s Torana. “We built the car without the wheels; I only bought them about six months before we finished, because I couldn’t decide which wheels I wanted,” he says. “I met the guys from Showwheels at Summernats, so that’s how they came about.

“I get a lot of people asking me if it’s tubbed,” he continues. “It’s not, but you don’t see many Toranas with a 305/25/20 tyre under the rear. I bought a flare kit from Rare Spares and Phil chopped them up into about 10 pieces and re-fibreglassed them to make them come out further past the guards on the rear to fit the tyres. It probably took him about a week to do it. I didn’t want to tub it or move the rails, because I wanted to keep the drop tank underneath it.”

The interior is beautifully finished off using factory SL/R 5000 materials and even has the original radio in the dash, although a more modern unit is hidden in the centre armrest to supply the tunes. The trim work was completed by Dylan Sultana, and he did a stellar job. The only departure from stock is the B&M shifter, which was beautifully worked into the stock console by Phil Xerri.

For now, Paul is happy to just enjoy the car and let the other Torana sit in the shed for a bit longer. But with Paul and wife Brianna recently welcoming a new son into the world, that LH would make a great father-son project if the young fella shows some interest!


Paint: PPG custom orange
Type: Holden 355ci
Inlet: Redline tunnel ram
Carb: Twin 650cfm Holley HP
Heads: Ported cast-iron
Valves: Ferrea 2.02in (in), 1.65in (ex)
Cam: Crow solid-roller
Pistons: CP forged
Crank: Scat 355 stroker
Conrods: Scat forged
Radiator: Aluminium crossflow
Exhaust: Four-into-one headers, 1-7/8in primaries, twin 3in pipes
Ignition: Bosch distributor, MSD ignition
Gearbox: Turbo 400
Converter: Dominator 5000rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 3.9:1 gears
Front end: Standard, lowered 50mm; Pedders springs and shocks
Rear end: Custom trailing arms, lowered 50mm; Pedders springs and shocks
Steering: Rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Wilwood cross-drilled and slotted (f & r)
Rims: American Legend; 19×7 (f), 20×11 (r)
Rubber: Continental SportContact 6 225/35ZR19 (f), Toyo Proxes T1 Sport
305/25ZR20 (r)

Phil Xerri at Phil’s Body Repairs for painting the car and putting it together – he was very much the mastermind behind everything; my wife Brianna for the patience and support; John Koolbanis at Unique Performance for the engine build; Ultimate Metalworks for rust repairs and diff housing; Bruno at Carline Mt Druitt for the exhaust; Shift Right Transmissions; Street Cred Differentials for the diff centre and custom trailing arms; Astor Metal Finishes for the chrome work; Danny for the metal polishing; Daniel Levy at Killer Finish Paint Correction