Video: Pro Touring Torana hatch

Our September 2023 cover car scores a Fullboost feature video

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Cristian Brunelli

Update, September 10, 2023: Unless you’ve been living in a cave on Mars, you’ll be aware that Heath van der Waerden’s 80s-inspired, Pro Touring-style Torana hatch is on the cover of the September issue of Street Machine

And the mag is flying off the shelves, we’re quite happy to report. But if you dig Heath’s DIY, drive-it-everywhere vibes and want to see and hear the hatch in action, check out this excellent video by the Fullboost lads here:

Update, May 4 2023: For a purportedly almost-finished project at Street Machine Summernats 34, Heath has poured quite a bit of development into the hatch over the 18 months, from diff hardware, gearbox and oiling system tweaks to reworked bonnet hinges and paint correction. If you can name it, odds are Heath’s pulled it apart and rebuilt it at least twice.

Following a drive up to ‘Nats 35 and a place in the Top 60 hall (and more action including the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car), Heath’s now turned his head to the finer details, including some long-planned aesthetic touches in readiness for the Street Elite class at MotorEx 2023, 6-7 May.

We’re sworn to secrecy when it comes to photos, but the concept image by Ten Tenths Creative might give you some idea! Stay tuned for our event coverage, and finally a full feature on this pro touring hottie!

The story to here

January 19, 2022: At first glance, you might think this LX-converted UC Torana is an immaculately kept, 80s-built weapon, but it’s really an all-new build.

Heath snapped up the Sunbird SL/E in 2013 as a neat, driving example, paying just $8000. “I sold 15 grand of parts off the car,” he recounted when we spoke to him at Street Machine Summernats 34. “So I started off in the black but soon went deep into the red!”

Before long, the Melburnian set about making the blue Torry his own. “I’d always been inspired by cars like LITRE8 with the colour-matched Compomotive wheels, and really blokey stuff like negative camber, full-floater diffs, big brakes and big rubber on all corners,” Heath said. “I love retro shit – just silly, really dated stuff. I think cars today are often taken a bit too seriously in the stylistic department. I wanted it to be high-impact, and I think in the 80s they did that better.”

Though late-80s aesthetics formed a big part of the build, Heath also sank plenty of time and effort into a quality driveline. Inside the contrasting orange engine bay sits a four-bolt-converted Holden 383 stroker, intriguingly fed on LPG via an ITB set-up.

To Heath, the choice of fuel is justifiable: “Barbecue gas is cheap, not unpleasant to smell, clean, the motors last well, and once again it’s different!” The gas cylinder rests inside a faux drop tank and is covered by a false floor. Heath’s confident the donk will make about 500hp with a final tune.

A self-confessed “manual elitist jerk”, Heath bolted a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed ’box to the iron lion. Rounding out the powertrain is a BorgWarner 78 diff, with 3.89:1 gears and a Truetrac centre. Road-handling abilities are bolstered thanks to a custom three-link rear, one-off Shockworks dampers all ’round and plenty of negative camber.

Heath did the vast majority of the work himself, collaborating with veteran restorer Peter Tommasini to cut and install an aluminium sunroof. Heath also took on the job of replacing the UC front and rear ends with LX tinwork. “People say the LX conversion is a big job,” he said, “but that took me like five weeks out of seven years.” Even the Aunger-branded headlight covers are custom-made pieces, with plenty of CAD – both cardboard-aided and actual – featuring around the car.

The hatch rolls on three-piece Panasport wheels, reworked by Barrel Bros for 16×10 and 17×12 sizing. “They’re polarising,” Heath admitted. “They’re a Japanese wheel, which to me is where every good wheel comes from, but they’re totally a rip-off of a Torq Thrust, so they’re amalgamating US muscle with a purposeful race wheel.”

The interior blends striking period touches with some modern conveniences, as Heath plans to rack up plenty of kilometres in the ex-Sunbird. “It’s got USB charge ports everywhere, and it’s a/c ready, so if I ever get a misso who gives a shit, I can put an condenser up the front!” The back seat even folds flat for a mattress-friendly surface. “It’s stuff that nobody would notice, but it makes it practical for me,” he pointed out.

Heath worked like a madman to get the Torana to Summernats, loading it onto his trailer with just 17km on the clock. “I’d wanted to drive it up, but I was too pressed for time – I’d been working on it before and after work for six months,” he said. The car’s not entirely finished and has its share of gremlins to iron out, but Heath’s confident they’ll be gone in short order.

“With two months of tinkering, it’ll be a really well-sorted car, but for now, jumping in and driving to the shops in Canberra is amazing,” he enthused. “The challenges are immense and they hurt your psychology a lot, but to bring it up here is really special.”

Future plans include tweaking the braking and suspension set-ups, adding more orange accents around the car, and, best of all, fishnet headrests!