Chev 350-powered genuine Holden Torana SS hatch

Paul Barbara likes showing his genuine Holden LX SS but he loves driving it more

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

Paul Barbara likes showing his genuine Holden LX SS but he loves driving it more

This article on Paul’s Torana SS was originally published in the November 2010 issue of Street Machine

PAUL Barbara prides himself on the fact that, neat as it may be, his LX Torana hatch is a real driver. “It’s 100 per cent engineered, legal, reliable and roadworthy, which is what I wanted,” he says. “It’s a genuine ‘jump in and drive it anywhere’ street car.”

The LX SS didn’t come from the factory with flares bolted on but Paul’s example had a full A9X-style kit fitted early in its life and he couldn’t source a modern repro kit to match it for quality and fit

You’ve got to respect that, considering it’s a genuine SS, most of which are kept in mothballs. Purists might be upset to see a Chev between the rails but a weekend in the shed is all it’d take to replace it with the original 308, which he has safely tucked away.

Paul insists that the car has been modified in a way that’s sensitive to its proud muscle car heritage.

“It’s the wrong car to chop up because it’s a matching numbers car. I could have done an LS1, billets and a custom interior but I think you have to follow a theme. Maybe if I did another one I’d go for big power and tubs but not this car; it’s the real deal.”

How he came to own the car is an interesting story. After a long and fruitless search, he found his dream hatch right under his nose after a casual chat with an employee at his family’s food processing business.

“She said her uncle in Cootamundra had a couple of Toranas in the shed. One of them turned out to be this yellow hatchback, a genuine SS and a factory V8.”

With only 120,000km on the dial, the hatch had been sitting for 11 years and was something of a barn find. All original, with faded paint, a straight body and a genuine flare kit, the car still started and ran, and the owner was understandably reluctant to let her go.

The 350ci GM Performance crate small-block is 400hp in a box. It’s backed by a Tremec TKO manual ’box which slotted straight into the tunnel and was bolted up using a Mal Wood 360-degree bellhousing

“I assured him it was going to a good home,” Paul grins. To give you an idea of how well it’d been looked after, the seats, scuff plates, steering wheel, door trims and interior chrome here are original and unrestored. They’ve had little more than a clean since the day Paul laid eyes on the car.

Straight off the bat, Paul’s plan was to restore the car to original specifications, but when he found that the 308 had a leaking rear main seal, that all changed. He started pulling it down and decided to tidy a few things up while he was at it. One thing led to another, and before he knew it he was taking delivery of a brand new 400hp alloy-headed GM Performance Parts crate 350.

“I bought the motor off Eagle and it came assembled but I got Bill at BK Race Engines to dial in the cam and dyno the engine,” he says. “We put a different manifold and carb on it — it’s perfect for the street. It’s just a nice motor that makes 410hp and plenty of torque.”

Backing the 350 is a Tremec TKO five-speed manual with a Mal Wood hydraulic clutch, heavy duty tailshaft and a seriously tough nine-inch rear boasting 31-spline Moser axles and a 3.7:1-geared Truetrac centre. With a bulletproof driveline, chassis connectors throughout, Koni adjustable shocks, tubular control arms and Commodore front and Falcon rear disc brakes, the car’s over-engineered for the current engine, and should be capable of wearing anything up to 700hp should Paul decide to up the ante.

When it came time for paint, he was keen to get a local panel shop to squirt it with solid yellow and traditional blackouts but Andrew Ash at AA Panelcraft got wind of that, and suggested grander plans.

He’s painted plenty of elite show cars, including Joe Lore’s XY, Pete Elliot’s ’37 and Mick Fabar’s RAWR, and was already dealing with Paul’s brother Adam’s LJ project. He took a shine to the LX and convinced Paul that a funkier exterior hue would be much more fitting. HOK Lime Gold Kandy was the suggestion, and it works a treat, setting it apart from the pack without compromising the old-school Torana hatch theme.

Particular attention has been paid to the engine bay, with polished rocker covers, a billet master cylinder, air cleaner and engine pullies, and stacks of braid and chrome prettying the place up. Matt Simms at Hi Tech Modifications and Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe at Lowe Fabrications can take much of the credit here.

“I met those fellas through Brent at Auto Parts World. They were a big influence in really getting stuck into the engine bay.”

The interior is comparatively stock, partly because the standard issue trim was in such good nick and partly because that’s how Paul wanted it. Limited enhancements in the name of practicality include a VK Commodore indicator stalk, mild stereo, a selection of Auto Meter instruments and a Hurst shifter.

The car has earned a swag of accolades, the big one being Car Of The Day from a massive field at All Holden Day 2010. But while Paul enjoys the show scene, his real passion is driving the car.

The centre switch is the electric demister, fitted to register the car without a heater box. Other tricks include a flip-down panel underneath the glovebox that houses relays and fuses along with the MSD ignition module

“I’d love to build another hatch using state of the art technology but it would have to be practical and street-registered,” he says. “I’ve been driving the car quite a bit because that’s what I built it for.

“It’s been a three-year labour of love to get the car here but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”


Colour: HOK Lime Gold Kandy

Brand: Chevrolet GMPP 350ci
Induction: Edelbrock Performer manifold, Holley Avenger 680cfm carb
Heads: GM Performance alloy
Sump: Russel
Preferred fuel: 98 octane PULP
Fuel system: 115gph mechanical fuel pump
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust: Four-into-one headers, 1.75in primaries
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet Dizzy, Master Blaster Coil, MSD 6AL

Gearbox: Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual
Bellhousing: Mal Wood
Diff: Nine-inch, 3.77:1 gears, Truetrac centre, 31-spline Moser axles

Springs: Kings Springs (f&r)
Shocks: Koni adjustable (f&r)
Brakes: Hopper Stoppers 300mm VT discs (f), EL Falcon 270mm discs (r)

Rims: Simmons OM 17×8 (f), 17×10 (r)
Rubber: Ventus 235/40 (f), 275/40 (r)