Cars we see round here – Holden Torana XU1

June 1st, 2021

Auction price shocks have become an almost daily occurrence, but one which left jaded observers amazed was the $324,000 paid during a recent sale for a superb but relatively unremarkable example of the Holden Torana GTR XU1.

Yes, higher prices have been paid in the past for LJ Toranas but those were cars with extensive race history, including the model’s only Bathurst 500 motor racing victory.

The subject of the most recent sale was in standard, road-going specification; perfectly preserved and displaying exceptionally low mileage. But it was still a bog-stock Torana that not many years ago would have generated a tenth of its new-found value.

Holden’s XU1 was without doubt an important model in the brief but spectacular history of 1970s Australian ‘muscle’ cars. Its success at the highest levels of circuit race and rally competition would also refute the long-held motor sporting adage that ‘a good big one will always beat a good little one’.

During 1969 when Holden stretched the platform of an English Vauxhall Viva to accommodate a six-cylinder motor, the immediate temptation was to build one into a race car.

The original LC Torana series already included a sporty GTR model with 2.6 litres, disc brakes up front, a sports instrument pack and body stripes. A year later and under the eagle eye of former Ford competition guru, Harry Firth, a special version code-named ‘XU1’ was up and running.

Key to the XU1’s success was a new induction system with three SU carburettors. In addition, the suspension was stiffened and the brakes uprated. At the back and clinging tenuously to the bootlid was the now-famous XU1 ‘duck-tail’ rear spoiler.

This item’s purpose was to improve stability, especially under braking, but cars tested with and without the additional chunk of fibreglass reportedly displayed minimal differences in performance. As a marketing device, though, it could have been hewn from pure gold.

Bathurst in 1970s proved to be an inauspicious debut for the XU1, with Ford’s more powerful GTHO edging out the more economical but slower Toranas. 1971 was equally disappointing but the following year bought a new model and renewed hope for Holden.

The LJ version of the XU1 appeared early in 1972 with a new plastic grille and even brighter range of colours. Under the skin was revised suspension which addressed the early cars’ tendency to bounce occupants into the roof unless seat belts (not yet compulsory) were securely fastened.

The bigger 3.3-litre engine retained its triple carburettors and in standard form gained 12kW over the LC with 3.0 litres. However, in race trim the difference was more pronounced and while the XU1 still couldn’t match a GTHO Falcon in outright pace, it was quick enough to maximise the benefits of nimble handling and longer lasting brakes.

Away from the bitumen and in the hands of drivers such as Colin Bond and Canberran Peter Lang, XU1s also dominated local rallying for several seasons. Between 1971 and 1975 Bond took three Australian Rally Championships and Lang one.

As road cars, the XU1 was regarded as good fun and, for many years, an affordable way to participate in car club sporting events. Today, of course, the sight of a genuine car being seriously campaigned on track or in the forests would be rare indeed.

With around 3300 XU1s built between 1970 and 1973, genuine cars do still exist in reasonable numbers. However, they rarely reach the open market and buying one unless you personally know the current owner is difficult.

In addition, there are ‘tribute’ or ‘replica’ vehicles based on basic two-door Toranas but decked out to resemble the faster versions. These are cheaper than genuine cars but no easier to acquire.

Insuring a Torana for the right value and level of use is where Enthusiast Insurance’s expertise becomes invaluable.

Enthusiast with its Drive Less…Spend Less cover will tailor a policy and premium to the way your car is used and arrange immediate cover with fee-free monthly payments.

When determining an appropriate value, whether the car is a documented XU1 or standard version, original or modified, our detailed value listings and highly experienced Consultants will be of great assistance.

To obtain a quote any time of the day or night, visit the website www.enthusiast.com.au  or during business hours talk to an Enthusiast Customer Service team member on 1800 10 10 44.

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