How does a bloke from Melbourne shopping for a VK Commodore end up with an LH Torana – from Perth? It wasn’t part of the plan, but it certainly was a silver lining for Slav Todic, who had no intention of ending up with such a tough-looking Torana streeter.
“The VK that I wanted, I’d had my heart set on for a while,” Slav says. “Once I got all the money sorted and everything ready to go buy the VK, it was gone.”
First published in the October 2022 issue of Street Machine
Happily, Slav now does have a VK build in the works (see more below), but before that, he needed something special to distract him for a while. “I was looking for a VK for ages. I saw a few blue ones with LS2s in them and some others, but I love silver; I pretty much only have silver or white cars,” he says. “Then I’ve seen this silver Torana – my mate Pazzo [Daniel Nunziante of PSIDUP Fabrications] sent me the link to it. I didn’t like the wheels, but the colour was spot-on and we thought the car had potential; we could make a good-looking, tough car out of it.”
Perhaps wary of missing yet another project car, Slav bought the Torana sight-unseen and had it shipped across to Melbourne. It had a 355ci Holden in it, which he says was “nothing special”, and despite a clean body without any add-ons, it was also running an SL/R 5000 bonnet scoop. “We knew we were going to build an engine for it, so I pretty much bought it for the body and the interior.”
The custom silver paintwork and smooth body was in little need of any work, and even the wraparound graphic from the LH’s nose to the window surrounds was exactly the kind of style Slav liked. The badges were removed and the grille and light surrounds were blacked out.
The very first thing Slav did was order the Weld Racing wheels the car now proudly rolls on. “I’d bought the car in November, so I was just going to cruise around with the new wheels on for summer and pull it apart later, but things didn’t end up like that – it ended up being pulled apart straight away.”
After putting the Welds on, a road test changed the game. “We had an oil leak – I think it might’ve been a rear main starting to come through the first couple of times I drove it,” Slav says. “So I sent it to Pazzo to cut the front guards out to suit the 17-inch Weld wheels, and he took it for a drive and it dropped the engine on him. From that, I just got a message from him: ‘The engine’s coming out!’”
A broken crank meant the 355 – and summer – was gone, and attempts at salvaging parts from it only proved the old Holden engine was beyond help. Yet Slav’s luck was about to change a little.
“At that time, Con from Pro Race Engines knew someone that was selling a killer bottom end,” Slav says. “So I got that off him, and then it was one thing after another: I went and bought Higgins Race heads, this and that – I was like ‘get this’; ‘get what’s better’; I’ve already started eating shit, so just keep eating shit!”
The bargain bottom end gave Slav the head-start he needed: a 304 block from a VT Commodore with a COME Racing steel crank, Compstar conrods and CP custom pistons. The top end was where the magic would need to happen. “Whatever Con wanted to put in it, I told him just do whatever needs to be done, just make it a killer engine.”
With the engine out, Slav took full advantage to repaint the engine bay from black to silver, working with Pazzo on the package that would host the new Holden powerhouse.
The interior, too, underwent subtle changes, with the SL/R-themed cabin cleaned up and left relatively factory-looking, apart from some drag-focused mods. “There are just a few gauges in there, and transbrake buttons on the shifter and the steering wheel so I can use either one, but that’s pretty much it – no stereo, no nothing, keeping it all as original as I could,” Slav says.
“Some people told me to put a digital dash or something in, but for an old car like this, I think more muscle deserves Auto Meter gauges.”
Slav wanted the SL/R scoop to go – and the 383 with its 950cfm carb atop the Torque Power manifold meant it simply couldn’t stay anyway. A new fibreglass bonnet was made with a reverse cowl, but even it wasn’t quite enough, needing a cut-out to pack everything in.
The 383 stroker was joined by a rebuilt Powerglide with transbrake, sending power through to a nine-inch and 255 Mickey Thompson rubber. The package was good enough for 707hp on pump fuel, and squeezed out 713hp on race juice and a 9.73@137mph pass at Heathcote.
“It’s the quickest I’ve been in a car – my old VL probably would’ve run a 12-second pass, but that’s fast going back 15 years,” Slav says. “The Torana was a very smooth drive [on track], the way it was set up at PSIDUP – it drove perfectly smooth, didn’t move.
I let go of the transbrake, just held the steering wheel and it did what it was meant to do every pass. It didn’t wiggle or anything, even with the set-up being exactly as I drive it on the street!”
Despite that nine-second timeslip, Slav’s Torana is now a pure streeter. It’s a gold-standard weekend warrior that has hooked Slav back into the scene so much so that he finally bought that much-longed-for VK!
At last, Slav has the VK Commodore he’d been searching for when the LH came along. In December last year, a 1984 VK SL in Asteroid Silver, no less, was parked alongside the Torana in the garage. Work has already begun: “I was gonna build a blown engine, but we’re building another NA engine for now – I don’t want to have too much cop bait driving down the road with a Big & Ugly thing hanging out the bonnet,” Slav says. “I like doing the Friday night, Saturday night thing driving on the streets, so I think it’s probably a bit much for that.”
1974 HOLDEN LH TORANA
|Custom Silver by Daniel Fox at Avondale
|Holden 383ci by Pro Race Engines and PSIDUP Fabrications
|APD 950cfm carburettor
|Higgins Race Series VN
|Victory, with Isky valve springs
|Custom CP with Total Seal rings
|COME Racing, steel
|Holden V8 three-core radiator, twin AU Falcon thermo fans
|Custom tri-Y, 3.5in dual exhaust
|MSD Digital 6-Plus
|MDT Powerglide with transbrake
|SDE custom 8in, 6800rpm stall
|GJ Drivelines chrome-moly 3in
|9in, 4.5:1 nodular centre, 35-spline billet axles
|Pedders shocks and springs
|Pedders shocks and springs
|Wilwood (f & r)
|Weld Racing V-Series; 17×4 (f), 15×9 (r)
|Mickey Thompson Sportsman SR 26×6 R17 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street R
Daniel ‘Pazzo’ Nunziante and the guys at PSIDUP; Con Sagiaris at Pro Race Engines for building a killer NA Holden; Chris at Race Wires Auto Electrics for rewiring the whole car; Daniel Fox and Daniel Howe at Avondale Motors for helping out all the way; Peter (Eggy) at SDE Torque Converters; Matt at MDT for the Powerglide; Chris’s Differential Services for the diff centre; Andy at Extracted Performance Exhausts for the tri-Y pipes