Track-inspired Holden LC GTR Torana ‘XU3’

With his time on earth running out, the late Gerrard McCrostie treated himself to the street/race Torana of his dreams

Photographers: Angryman Photography

This feature on Gerrard McCrostie’s Torana first appeared in the April 2021 issue of Street Machine. Gerrard passed away on 23 May. Our thoughts are with his family and we’re gald we were able to showcase his pride and joy. What follows is the magazine story in full:

Ask Gerrard McCrostie what his next project might be and his answer is firm: “None. Life is complete.” Gerry says this not only because he’s thrilled to own and drive this awesome yellow Torana – although he is – but because his doctors have told him his time is almost up: melanoma – cancer.

So, like Gerry has lately, we will try to focus on the good things, namely his wild LC, dubbed the XU-3. And yep, despite the LJ grille and tail-lights, the car is actually a genuine LC GTR – but more on that later.

“I’ve had a passion for cars all my life, and I love my Holdens,” Gerry says. “But I can’t claim too much credit for this one except for hanging a Tassie plate on it. I’ve only owned it four months!

“I’ve always done what I can with my cars all my life. I’ve built a couple. But this one has been built by a perfectionist.”

By perfectionist, Gerry means Victorian-based Doug Kearney, who built the car eight years ago with then-owner Craig Wehner. Doug has worked with V8 Supercars, so high standards of tech and build quality are part of his and Craig’s mojo. The pair met as fellow members of the HSV Owners Club of Victoria.

“In 2004 I bought a Holden LJ Torana hillclimb car, and one of the blokes in the club helped me convert it to a circuit car,” says Craig of his fledgling mateship with Doug. “The car was so much fun, I thought it was a shame that I could only ever drive it on the track.”

That planted the seed of an idea; some years later, Craig decided he wanted to build something of a replica of his track car, but for the street.

“I remembered another Torana that was in the club,” he recalls. “It was another track car, but the bloke had stopped using it; we hadn’t seen him for a while. I rang him up and asked him if he wanted to sell it.”

The answer was a ‘yeah, righto,’ so Craig bought it as the basis for his fun road car project: a well-equipped but stripped-out white Torana. As-bought, the car had little more than a single seat and a bolt-in rollcage, so there has been a swag of changes – and plenty of parts sought and bought – to make it streetable.

Once again, Doug was involved. They took the ex-track Torana back to bare metal, and the body wasn’t too bad Craig wanted the car to be stand-out bright, so Doug suggested the new hue. As Craig later realised, this decision had more than a little to do with the fact that Doug is a yellow-and-black Richmond supporter!

“I much prefer the LJ look, so that is what we went for,” Craig says. “The car is so modified from the original GTR that there was no point not having it the way I wanted. We followed our dream!”

The car was also treated to an L34-style bodykit – including the bobtail rear spoiler, wheelarch flares and chin spoiler, all modified to fit the smaller car. The XU-3 graphics and blackouts were inspired by race Toranas of the era and the fabled XU-2 factory prototype.

The whole effect is that of a road-going sport sedan, and the car has the spice under the bonnet to back up the looks. “The original owner spent a lot of money,” explains Craig. “But I guess it was the ongoing costs and time commitments that meant he didn’t use it much, so it’s quite fresh.”

There are plenty of goodies in the Torana’s driveline. The engine is the work of the well-respected and highly experienced Eddie Woods at Head Stud Automotive in Moorabbin. At 3.3 litres, the mill’s 300hp is largely due to big compression, big camshaft, three dual-throat Weber carbies and careful assembly.

Behind it is Holden’s 1970s performance manual gearbox, the M21 four-speed. It features taller but closer-stacked ratios than the regular shopping-duty four-on-the-floor. No early Torana from the factory had rear discs, nor a Harrop Truetrac-centred diff, but they’re on the list here, installed to the Torana’s stock-type baby rear end, with 3.36 cogs, which Craig admits limits its ability to cope with what it’s being fed.

“Street tyres save it,” he reckons. “They slip a bit instead of hooking up and smashing things!”

According to both former owner Craig and new owner Gerry, the car is a hoot to drive.

“It’s like a complete weapon!” reckons Craig. “It gets up and goes. It has a racy cam in it, so it’s not difficult to break traction in it. It’s not real happy below 2000rpm, and at 3000rpm it gets on with it! Even in a straight line, it’s challenging – but great fun!”

So, when Apple Isle-based Gerry was looking for a car to cheer himself up and saw this one for sale on the mainland, it ticked all the boxes.

“I like the LC/LJ Toranas and I like six-cylinders,” says Gerry. “When I went looking for a toy to buy, this one had all the parts in it that I would have put into my own dream car if I’d had the chance to build it.

“People sometimes ask me why I didn’t buy something like an original Torana XU-1, but I wanted something I could drive. I also wanted something a bit loud and obnoxious!”

While he has the time, Gerry tries to drive his Torana every week.

“I take it for a cruise into Launceston; just into the main streets to do a few laps,” he says of the time-honoured Friday night tradition. “It turns a few heads! The cops pulled me over once; I think it was just so they could have a look at it.

“When I was getting the car delivered, Craig asked me: ‘What do you reckon?’ And I had to respond with: ‘Your pics didn’t do it justice!’ It’s better in real life; better than I expected!”

1971 Holden LC Torana GTR

Paint: Richmond Yellow & Black

Engine: Holden 202ci
Induction: Triple 45mm Weber carbs, Redline manifold
Head: Holden nine-port
Camshaft: Wade 629
Conrods: Holden Starfire
Pistons: ACL Race Series
Crank: Knife-edged and balanced
Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler radiator and thermo fans
Exhaust: Ceramic-coated headers, stainless 3in with XForce Varex controller
Ignition: Blue motor electronic

Gearbox: Holden M21 close-ratio manual
Diff: Holden banjo, Truetrac LSD and 3.36:1 gears

Springs: Kings
Shocks: Koni
Brakes: R32 Skyline discs & calipers (f), VL Commodore discs (r)
Master cylinder: Torana XU-1

Rims: Performance Wheels 16×10 (f & r)
Rubber: Nankang, 245/45 (f & r)

My family: Trudy, Tara and Anne-Maree; Craig Wehner; Doug Kearney; Eddie at Head Stud; Tim at SewFine