Turbo LS1-powered Holden LX Torana hatch

Marc Palmer might have been a bit late to the LS party, but he's made a classy entrance with his angry turbocharged Torana hatch

Photographers: Ellen Dewar

This article on Marc’s Torana was originally published in issue no.7 of Street Machine’s LSX Tuner magazine, 2018

IT’S pretty amazing the effect a distant memory can have on someone’s adult life. Marc Palmer reckons he was about four years old when he first saw a black and white SL/R 5000 parked across the road from where he lived. At 31 years old, he’s of a younger generation than most people that are into 70s muscle cars.

Marc’s Torana has awesome presence thanks to him not adding A9X flares or going for a pro street wheel-and-tyre combo. The hatch’s smooth lines work perfectly with the Weld 17in and 15in wheels for a modern, classy look

“I grew up in that in-between era – when all the Skylines and all that sort of stuff started coming in, I was in high school,” Marc says. “I picked up a Street Machine magazine when I was 15 and that got me hooked. Craig Thompson’s little orange LJ was in there [it was SM, Nov ’01 if you want to go looking]. There’s just something about the old cars, and I’ve always liked the Toranas. They’re not huge like an HQ; you can put a pretty wild combo in them and you’ve got yourself a pretty fast car.”

The LX you see here isn’t Marc’s first car; that was, in fact, another LX Torana, a bright green four-door. A pretty cool car for a P-plater if you ask us, but not quite cool enough: “I always wanted a hatchback,” Marc says. “Dad worked at the Holden plant in Adelaide back in 2004. He got home from work one day and said a bloke he worked with moved into a house and the landlord had a two-door Torana in his backyard he had to get rid of. Straight away I was keen to see it and find out what it was.

“I spoke with the guy on the phone, but he didn’t know too much about it, so we went to have a look, opened up the roller door and there was an LX hatchback covered in dust, just a complete roller, no motor or ’box. I asked him how much, and he said: ‘Make an offer.’ So being a broke-arse 18-year-old first-year apprentice, I threw an offer of $500. He looked at the car and turned back to me and said: ‘Yeah, I guess we could do that. I need it gone.’” Marc reckons the car’s been keeping him broke ever since!

You’d be hard-pressed to tell there’s a turbo set-up hiding under the bonnet. An intercooler was modified to fit tight behind the grille and the intercooler piping has been kept out of sight as much as possible. A coat of satin black helps hide it all

Part of the reason is that, in Marc’s words, the hatch “has always been a stubborn bitch”. At one point he ran a 355 stroker with a COME twin-throttlebody intake. A leaky injector caused a big fire and melted a bunch of wiring. Even after repairing it all, the engine never ran right again. It was around this time that Marc and his family moved up to Queensland.

The Nightmist Blue paint is actually a 60s Mustang colour, but it works just as well on the decade-newer Torana hatch shape. Marc has also gone for 17×4.5 Weld Full Throttle wheels up front for a more up-to-date look. The rears are 15×8 Weld V-Series with 255/60 rubber

“Everyone I met in the car scene there was running carbs. I got fed up with electrical problems, so sold off the manifold and ripped the EFI out,” he says. “Best thing I did was put a high-rise and 750HP on. It was a new car, and it ran an 11.1@121mph first outing.”

At this point, Marc was still bagging the whole #lstheworld movement, but all it took was one drive in his mate Sam’s twin-turbo LS-powered, 1000hp Torana and the spanners came out.

“Within two weeks I had my Holden 355ci out and sold, ready to fund the next chapter. I picked up a low-kilometre VZ 5.7-litre that I upgraded the oil pump and timing chain on for insurance. I got a Proboost GT42 turbo and my mate Dave Mott and I spent two solid days and nights making up the turbo kit, radiator and fan shroud exactly how I wanted it.”

Exactly how Marc wanted it is pretty obvious: nice enough to eat off.

“I was over chrome and polishing, so I decided to go with a satin black and gunmetal grey look,” Marc says. The factory intake and turbo housing were smoothed before copping the gloss gunmetal, while the rest of the engine and pipework is satin black

“Most of the LS swaps I’ve seen around and online look like they’ve just dropped it in straight out of the wrecking yard! It had to look perfect.”

Marc’s whole motto for the build was pretty straightforward: “Keep it simple, simple works.”

So that’s what he’s done in the engine bay. The coil packs, ECU and wiper motor are tucked behind the dash and the stock intake and turbo housing have been smoothed off and given a coat of gunmetal grey metallic. The rest of the engine, turbo piping, radiator and intercooler all got a coat of satin black. While it’s a great look, the painted engine is more about maintenance than setting trends.

“I was over chrome and polishing,” Marc says. “I wanted something I could just wipe clean with a cloth.”

A Carter lift pump feeds a surge tank that runs into twin Bosch 044 pumps with E85-compatible braided hoses. A Holley rising-rate fuel regulator makes sure the flow to the 1000cc injectors is spot-on

The rest of the driveline is just as simple. A Protrans Pro Glide 2 is fitted with a 3500rpm Converter Shop converter, while the narrowed nine-inch rocks 3.55:1 gears and a set of Altra 9 axles. It’s still running the stock rear suspension, and the tubs have been massaged using the FBH technique – that’s F***ing Big Hammer for those that want to get technical – and allows Marc to run a 255/60 tyre on a 15×8 Weld V-Series rim with a three-inch backspace. Up front are 17×4.5 Weld Full Throttle front-runners, which give the car a more updated look while keeping that ‘big and little’ Pro Street attitude intact.

While he hasn’t hit the track yet, Marc knows he’s going to smash his previous times, and not by a little bit.

“My mate Jason has almost the same combo in his UC hatch. That went 9.1 first pass off the trailer, dropping a lead off number seven coil at half-track,” he says. “If it runs around that time or better I’ll be happy. I’m not chasing numbers. For now, I’m just enjoying jumping in and driving the wheels off it.”


Ford Nightmist Blue

Type: LS1
ECU: Retuned GM
Inlet: Stock
Throttlebody: Stock
Injectors: Bosch 1000cc
Turbo: Proboost GT42
Heads: 241 alloy
Cam: Custom
Pistons: Stock
Crank: Stock
Conrods: Stock
Radiator: Custom-built with 14in Zirgo fan
Exhaust: Single 3.5in with Hooker Aero Chamber
Ignition: VZ coils, MSD leads
Power: 650rwhp

Box: Protrans Pro Glide 2 with transbrake
Converter: Converter Shop 3500rpm stall
Diff: 9in, Truetrac, 3.5 gears, Altra 9 axles

Front suspension: Pedders 90/10 shocks, Pedders springs
Rear suspension: Pedders Comfort Gas shocks, Makita custom springs
Brakes: Wilwood three-piece (f), HQ drums (r)

Rims: Weld Full Throttle 17×4.5 (f), Weld V-Series 15×8 (r)
Rubber: M&H Racemaster 185/55/17 (f), Sonar 255/60/15 (r)