Rob Biviano knows his local Bridgestone dealer real well. Not surprising the way he burns tyres up. He was just 16 when he fried his first set; it was while driving home after buying his XU-1 Torana and 14 years later he’s still smokin’ ’em up.
First published in the May 2004 issue of Street Machine
“We just killed it all the way home, lit it up at every set of lights,” says the now 30-year-old, with a laugh.
Biviano says it was in pretty rough shape back then, a well-used stocker ’73 XU-1 with rust in all the usual places – the sills, the floorpan, everywhere he looked really – the interior trim was ripped and torn, and the engine bay was a mess, but hey, it was an XU-1! For a teenager with high-octane juice in his veins it didn’t come much better.
He started work on the Torana project as soon as he got it home. An apprentice panel beater at the time, he and brother Anthony stripped it back to a bare shell, and then garnet-blasted it top to bottom, back to front, inside out, to get it to bare metal.
He then took it to the panel shop where he was working at the time, and told his boss, Mario Rezzagati, it would be “finished in six months”. Yeah, right! Rezzagati knew better – he’d seen these sorts of projects before. It took three years!
“I put it in the corner of the shop and worked on it after hours, or when there was no other work,” Biviano said. “I didn’t want to stop, I just started at one end and worked through to the other.”
By the time he was finished he’d got the body lines perfect, and the body gaps as well, because he reckons it’s the details that make a car stand out from the rest.
“It’s important,” he says. “From the factory the gaps and lines weren’t the best, they never were, and they don’t look right. Get them looking right and the car will stand up. It just presents itself, you see it immediately, it’s sharp and has a lot of definition.”
Originally the Torana was Salamanca Red, but that looked “a bit dirty” to Biviano’s eye, so he added some tinters to it until he achieved a more brilliant red which he dubbed ‘Rob’s Red’.
Mario Rezzagati applied the Glasurit, Biviano rubbed it back between coats, and the result has a brilliant gloss and depth that makes you feel like you reach right into it.
With three years invested in the body, even more when you add the months it took to paint it, the rest of the car had to be perfect as well. The interior is stock, right down to the original black vinyl, with the original grain and hood-lining which he found in Queensland. You can’t see it, but he admits to adding some extra padding to the front buckets so they gave a bit more support than they did originally.
Mechanically Biviano has pretty much stuck to the original formula as well. Lakeside Automotive built the new six pack ‘red’ motor, when it grew to 208 cubic inches. It has a Yella Terra head, steel crank, Duralite pistons and a Wade solid cam. Spark is controlled by a Scorcher distributor with 10mm Top Gun leads.
Instead of the original Stromberg carby set-up, Biviano has replaced them with a highly detailed set of 45mm DCOE dual-choke Webers, just like the race team used when it last ran Toranas at Bathurst in 1973. HM Headers rush the exhaust gases away, down a 2½in custom stainless exhaust system. A custom-made three-core radiator and a Davies Craig thermo fan keep things cool.
Biviano hasn’t had it on a dyno, but reckons it has about 200hp – enough, he says, to get it to “step out” when he wants to.
The smoothed and sanitary engine bay is a knockout. Before the engine was built Biviano and his brother smoothed the block until it was flawless, and then painted it the same brilliant red as the body. Braided hoses are used throughout, and most of the hardware is painted, plated or polished.
An auto elec mate, Adrian, sorted the electrics, updating the fuse box to accommodate the electric fuel pump, thermo fan and alarm.
An M21 heavy-duty four-speed fills the trans tunnel, with a stock tail shaft connecting it to the stock 3.55 banjo limited-slip diff. Biviano stuck to the stock route with the suspension and brakes, except for a set of Pedders lowered springs, shocks and Nolathane bushes.
It now rides about an inch lower, and turns a little sharper, than it did with the factory set-up.
Original Globe Sprintmasters fill out the wheel arches just like they did in the old days. The burnables are 205/60×13 Bridgestone Eagers at the front, 215/60×13 at the rear.
Looking at the Torana on show in the Elite Hall at Summernats 17 – where it picked up trophies for Top 20 and Top Tudor – you could be forgiven for thinking Biviano has built a trailer queen that has never seen the black top, but this red beauty still regularly burns rubber: “When I take it out, I take it out, put it that way.”
Melbourne Hot Rod Show 2003:
Top Street Machine Two Door
Grand Champion, Top Engine Bay, Top Engine, Top Two Door, Top Body
Holden vs Ford Melbourne 2003:
Top 10, Bowden’s Best, lots more
Top 10 Judged, Top Paint, Top Tudor
Elite Top 20, Top Tudor, 2nd Top Standard Paint
Melbourne Hot Rod Show 2004:
Top Street Machine Two Door
SOUND OF MUSIC
For some, nothing beats the rumble of a V8, but for Rob Biviano nothing comes close to a hot six on full song belting out a Weber-inspired scream.
“Triple Webers peaking at 6800rpm is all the sound I need,” Biviano says when asked why he doesn’t have a thumping sound system in his XU-1 Torana.
“I love the look (of the XU-1 six) and didn’t want to lose it by modifying it too much. Every second Torana you see has a V8 and tubs in it, nothing wrong with that, it can look grouse, but I wanted the standard look for this one.”
1973 LJ Torana XU-1
|Glasurit ‘Rob’s Red’
|208ci Holden six
|Triple 45 DCOE Webers
|HM Headers, custom 2½in system
|M21 heavy-duty four-speed
|Banjo limited-slip, 3.55:1
|Pedders lowered one inch
|13-inch Globe Sprintmaster alloys
|Bridgestone; 205/60 x 13 (f), 215/60 x 13 (r)
|Stock black vinyl
|Can’t beat triple Webers on full song!