Rocky Sarkis’s show & go LH Torana

This perfectly contemporised Top 60 Torana proves just how good a classic muscle car can be in 2023

Rocky Sarkis LH Torana

Back when the term ‘retrotech’ was first coined, it basically meant bolting an injected five-litre and overdrive auto into your Torana and calling it a day. But OEM powertrain tech has evolved tenfold in the years since, and the aftermarket has done a stellar job keeping pace, too.

First published in the July 2023 issue of Street Machine

These days, a street machine built in the retrotech style can boast four-digit horsepower figures, clockwork reliability, impeccable street manners, modern suspension and braking systems, and all the comforts of home. With all that in mind, Rocky Sarkis’s LH Torana stands as a top-shelf example of just how good a modern street car can be.

Powered by a 388ci Dart LS force-fed by a BorgWarner S480 snail, it can be turned up to deliver a projected 1000-plus horses at the treads on pump fuel, or toned down to be a perfectly approachable cruiser.

It has a Rod Shop IFS front end with tubular arms, modern geometry and adjustable coil-over suspension, and it’s a similar story out back. There are sizeable disc brakes all ’round, large-diameter wheels with meaty 285-wide rubber, and when you jump inside, it’s like rocking up to a five-star hotel.

The LH was built in consultation with an engineer, and has been finished to such an exacting standard that it picked up a spot in the Elite Hall and the Judges’ Choice award on debut at Street Machine Summernats 35, if you don’t mind. Such things are possible when you assemble a dream team that includes gurus like ProFlo Performance, Custom Bodyworks and Inside Rides. “They’re all actually mates from when we were young,” says Rocky. “It’s good to know the right people.”

The neatly trimmed luggage compartment is a continuation of Rocky’s brief for the engine bay – everything needed to be hidden. Under the false floor, you’ll find the fuel cell and Aeromotive pumps, the battery and remote brake boosters. “I wanted it neat. I wanted to hide everything, with access hatches to get at it all”

Rocky bought the car back in 2013 from a 90-year-old gentleman in Bathurst, NSW. “It was in mint factory condition and had no rust at all, with a very straight body,” Rocky says. “I left it as a driver with the stock six-cylinder for a while, then decided to pull it apart in 2016. I stripped it, then sent it away to get the fab work done. I wanted to build the nicest LH Torana in Australia.”

The car was on the waitlist at ProFlo, but Rocky had a mate nagging him to get the ball rolling at another fab shop. “I took it there and they started on the engine bay, but they did it a bit half-arsed,” he says. “I took it back out of there and begged Paul at ProFlo to take it on. He fixed up everything I wasn’t happy with and finished the job off properly.”

There’s a good amount of fabrication and chassis work involved in the car, including the mini-tubs and custom four-link rear end with Viking coil-overs; chassis connectors; and stunning engine bay sheet metal. “I wanted nothing in the engine bay except for the engine: no brake booster or master, no power steering pump – nothing,” Rocky explains. “Paul relocated everything.”

The engine itself is loaded with all the good bits, with a Dart LS Next block, Scat crank, Callies Ultra rods and CP forged slugs. Heads are GM Performance LS3 jobbies, and the camshaft is a custom item, ground to spec by Comp Cams. The crowning glory is the beautiful Plazmaman billet intake manifold, and of course the aforementioned BorgWarner S480 spooly-boy is something of a talking point, too.

“It’s yet to be properly tuned, but it should make 1000hp at the tyres,” Rocky says. “The engine is bulletproof and it’s built for 1400 or 1500hp, but if it makes 1000, I’ll be happy. I’m not planning on racing it, after all; it’s just going to be the family cruiser.”

Rounding out the driveline is a Turbo 400 transmission with a 4500rpm converter, backed by a trusty nine-inch diff equipped with a Truetrac centre and 31-spline axles.

Any car that’s allowed through the roller door into the Elite Hall at Summernats needs to be pretty bang-on from a paint and body perspective, and the team at Custom Bodyworks brought their A-game when it came time to squirt the Torana with layer upon layer of PPG Blood Red Candy.

“Choosing the colour was the most difficult thing,” says Rocky. “The car was all repaired and ready for paint, but I couldn’t pick a colour – I did Danny’s head in for months! Originally I wanted it grey, but then I decided it wouldn’t stand out enough. Danny kept showing me colour after colour and I kept saying no, but when I saw that red, I knew it was the one.”

The interior is superb, with a premium, modern feel. There are matching Recaro-style buckets front and rear, split down the middle by a full-length console. LED strip lighting hidden in the roof console means there’s no visible lighting in the interior. “The fabrication side of the interior was done six or seven years ago, and if I was doing it again these days, I’d probably go with more of a factory look, because that’s what’s in at the moment,” Rocky says. “But we kept it all pretty classy; there’s nothing too lairy.”

So it looks great and it judges well, but considering it was built as a street car, the real measure of Rocky’s Torana should be how it drives. Pretty damn well, as it turns out. “It still needs to be properly set up and wheel-aligned, but even so, it drives like a new car,” Rocky says. “Everything underneath is modern and adjustable, and it’s all brand new; there’s nothing on the car that hasn’t been changed, updated or upgraded. It was always meant to be a street car, and it gets driven every weekend.”


Paint:PPG Blood Red Candy
Brand:388ci Dart LS Next
Induction:Plazmaman intake manifold
Turbo:BorgWarner S480
Heads:GM Performance LS3
Camshaft:Comp Cams custom grind
Conrods:Callies Ultra
Oil pump:Melling
Fuel system:Aeromotive pump
Cooling:Shaun’s Custom Alloy radiator
Exhaust:ProFlo Performance custom turbo manifolds and exhaust
Ignition:MSD coils
Gearbox:Turbo 400
Diff:9in, Truetrac, 31-spline axles
Front:Rod Shop front end, Viking coil-overs
Rear:Four-link, Viking coil-overs
Brakes:Wilwood discs and calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood under-dash
Rims: Simmons FR; 20×7 (f), 20×10 (r)Simmons FR; 20×7 (f), 20×10 (r)
Rubber:Kumho; 225/30R20 (f), 285/30R20 (r)

Danny Makdessi at Custom Bodyworks for all his time and hard work, putting up with my shit trying to pick the perfect colour, and taking a so-called street car to another level; Paul Sant at ProFlo Performance; Dennis Makko for the engine build; Matt at Inside Rides; Mark Sant at Ontrak Auto Electrical; Al’s Race Glides