Mark Sanders’s ground-breaking LH Torana

First white, then blue, Mark Sanders’ lightweight road warrior LH came back dressed to kill

Mark Sanders Torana LH
Photographers: Peter Bateman

Sometimes, when you’re trying to make a statement, the best way to make the point is to repeat the message with a different twist. Take Mark Sanders’s LH Torana, for instance. When we first featured the car in December 1990, we reckoned it was a top example of coming up trumps against the odds – odds like the South Australian rego boys, a tight budget and limited time. And while Mark certainly made a point back then, this second version of the Leyland-powered T’rana hammers the message home with a winning punch.

First published in Street Machine, April/May 1991

Yep, it’s still SA street-legal, the dollars involved numbered about the same as the original and the rebuild took less than five months from strip-down to Summernats. And just to prove that persistence pays, this neat little crow-eater took home the Top Pro-Street and Top Pro-Street Engineered trophies at Summernats 4. End of argument. So, how do you massage a well-thought-out, innovative car into something capable of taking home the tin from Australia’s top street meet? You’d be forgiven for thinking all that’s really changed is the paint and interior trim. Forgiven – but very, very wrong.

After a long chat with good mate and champion show car builder Howard Astill, Mark decided the original concept of light weight and good handling was still the way to go – but with a full strip-down and detailing job.

Once the car was reduced to the sum of its parts, the stock Leyland V8 copped a balanced bottom-end, a 20-thou overbore and a set of ex-Holden 173ci pistons.

A set of Buick 300 heads that had been sitting on the garage shelf were sent to the Head Stud in Melbourne for some expert surgery and a set of stainless valves with Crane springs.

A Buick 4bbl manifold was reworked via a spacer plate to mate to the lower profile Leyland block and a Holley 600 double-pumper replaced the Strommie. Investigations into the ideal cam profile – both here and in the States – pointed to a Heatseeker with 0.435 lift and a 280-degree duration. Speed-Pro hydraulic lifters operate the valves via standard pushrods and Yella Terra roller rockers complete the top end.

The oil pump proved to be the biggest headache in rebuilding this li’l alloy eight. With no high-vol units on the market and new parts impossible to find, careful selection of second-hand bits was the only way to go. No such problem with the fuel pump, though – a Mallory competition unit does the trick. Ignition is by Bosch electronic dizzy mated to a Mallory Promaster coil.

As expected, there aren’t too many off-the-shelf exhaust systems around for P76-powered Toranas. Now the owner-built headers carry 1½-inch primaries and 17/8-inch secondaries. This home-grown theme is carried through to the electricals, too, with the complete wiring harness made by the multi-talented Mr Sanders.

Clutch and gearbox are the Ford items from the first build, as is the modified BorgWarner rear axle. Alterations to the rear suspension were kept to minor tweaks for the sake of even better handling, although the car now sits on a full-length chassis. Mark’s a chassis builder by trade , so the front end is now fully fabricated and carries owner-built control arms and crossmember – held in suspension by Spax coil-overs. Like the rear end, the critical angles and mounting points remain pretty much the same, with a few minor revisions for improved handling.

Bodywork, while appearing unchanged, involved new doors, hand-built bonnet and a UC Torana dash (which involved a fair amount of torch wielding to install). The brake and clutch master cylinders are now carried in a fabricated pedal box and are mounted inside the car, under the dash. The concealed wiper motor is now hidden in the plenum chamber.

The Berger acrylic top-coat – dubbed Performance Blue – is a custom tint Mark mixed himself. After a lot of thought he ended up with a choice of orange or blue. To make the final call, Mark painted one side orange, said “yuck”, then did it blue.

Mark Sanders
LH Torana sedan

Featured:September 1991
Cool info:Mark built this Torana light and nimble with extensive lightening of the body and an all-alloy Leyland V8. Originally white, Mark then rebuilt the car to a higher standard and repainted it blue
Paint:Dulux custom blue
Engine:Leyland P76 4.4-litre V8
Gearbox:Ford four-speed manual
Diff:Narrowed Borg Warner
Interior:Moo-covered masterpiece