* Howard & Marilyn Bell's 1976 LX Torana SLR 8000 *

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Cubic Inches 

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December 2003 05:37:06

 Cruising the local countryside around Canberra

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Probably one of the better known modified Toranas, my SLR/8000 Torana (Litre8) has been around for a long time and in that time won many prestigious awards. The apparent popularity of the car is testament to the fact that people just love high-powered race bred cars in Torana form. The list of awards and achievements that Litre8 has earned over the years is fairly long but here's a recap of some of the more significant ones:-

 Top Engineered Street Machine at Summernats (Twice)

 Judge's Choice at Summernats

 Voted (by Street Machine Magazine) as one of the 20 most influential Australian street machines (1981-2001)

 Top Engineered Street Machine Hot Adelaide show (Twice)

 Top Engineered Melbourne Custom Car Show

 Cover of Street Machine Magazine (Twice)



 Driver training/testing day at Sandown



Anyway, let's review the happenings of Litre8 from inception to present. The first public appearance was at the December 1991 Summernats. This was the usual car project story: finished putting panels back on the car the night before leaving for the Summernats after just over a 21/2 year build. The car had only been driven on and off the trailer at this point so I was fortunate that the only problem suffered when cruising Canberra on Northbourne Ave (back when it was an acceptable pasttime) was a battery charging problem. The charging warning light I had installed for the alternator lacked the resistance to kick in the alternator charging so it was a nightly task to put on the battery charger. All in all the Summernats was fairly painless and the cruising was excellent.

Subsequent changes involved upgrading the brakes to their current hardware, a different grind roller cam (more lift and duration but still milder than the current), curing a mysterious dry sump pump leak by ditching the mechanical fuel pump (the seal had ruptured allowing a small amount of oil to be pumped out onto the dry sump pump, giving the impression that the pump itself was leaking at the section joins!), putting in a full-floater rear end (massive reduction in brake pad knock off after cornering!) and band-aiding the DNE 5 speed to stop it jumping out of 3rd gear under power (back cutting the engagement dogs, this worked for a while.. see the details below..).

Back in '96 Litre8 suffered mechanical failure of the gearbox kind when it's Doug Nash called timeout in a big way (3rd driven gear lost 6 teeth and wasn't happy). This occurred at Phillip Island on a beautiful sunny day on the 3rd lap. I found that it had jumped out of 3rd (again...) but this time there were serious mechanical crys for help coming from the gearbox. I managed to get back to the pits and get it on the trailer. It was only when I got home and drained the oil that some broken off teeth were discovered. Subsequent detailed examination showed that the gearbox main shaft was flexing and, with third gear about mid way between the two support bearings, it was just a question of time. It was clear that the Doug Nash just couldn't cut it so it was pointless to repair it and put it back into this environment. Better to repair it, sell it into a less demanding environment and then seek out a better solution.

Being busy work-wise meant it took some time (and lots of faxes and late night phone calls to the U.S) before a replacement gearbox was sourced. A few gearboxes were considered, including a Holinger, Saenz, T56 and a G-Force but the final choice went to an impressively rugged box; a Magnesium cased Jerico 5 speed, dog-engagement with straight cut gears. Whilst these changes were in progress, the temptation to up the HP ante was just too much so I started thinking that a new set of Edelbrock aluminium heads would be good (they had just been released for Big Blocks). Never one to succumb to the mild (nothing exceeds like excess..) I made sure they got the full port flowbench treatment as well as 2.3" intakes / 1.92" exhausts and chamber work. Now they flow close to Bowtie heads but with much better port velocity. Tom Coad, ex-Les Small and the man responsible for the head work that gave Gricey the goods with the Chikadee Commodore at Bathurst in 1986, was responsible for the significant flow improvement gained with the head work (intake and exhaust picked up 20+% flow over the previous 'C' port heads).

About this time my work got the better of my time and effort (working in Sydney but 'living' in Melbourne for 12 months before relocating fully to Sydney) so Litre8 sat in storage for some time again. Eventually, with a new gearbox and heads (and a new
roller cam to take advantage of the new head potential), it was time to find someone to put the engine together and dyno it. After some calling around I got in touch with Neil Burns (ex- HDT, PERKINS, RED, Team Brock I). Neil agreed to do the job but he was pretty busy with V8 Supercar commitments and speedway work so it wasn't going to happen overnight. With those details sorted out it was also time to get the necessary transmission tunnel modifications done to accept the Jerico gearbox. Luckily the same clutch and bell housing could be used (a definite factor in the box choice...). About that time I noticed that the current headers were cactus so I tracked down Craig (of Pro Pipes & Race Cars) who built a new set of pipes (and upped the primary diameter from 2" to 21/8").

After a few hiccups with header fit (the dry sump pan was a work-in-progress and some fitting's locations were changed during the pipes creation), the new dry-sump oil pan was installed and the engine was ready to wrestle the engine dyno. The planned dyno work at MoTeC was delayed as they were about to relocate premises but eventually late last year (2002) it all happened and the
final numbers read 720hp at 6500rpm and 688ft/lb torque at 5150rpm. While the cross-ram manifold may have contributed to a slightly less than anticipated HP number, the abundance of torque produced by the long runners (above 500 ft/lbs from 3300rpm to 7000rpm and more than 600 ft/lbs from 4100rpm to 6300rpm) will ensure some exciting afternoons at Eastern Creek and Wakefield Park. I don't think I will bother taking it off the trailer if it even looks damp.

Interestingly, the actual numbers came up just 25hp and 10ft/lb torque shy of those predicted by the Dyno2000 engine analyzer (and at close to the actual rpm points). Now dyno'd, the new headers have now been HPC coated and the final assembly of engine/gearbox into car has taken place along with the re-plumbing of the dry-sump lines and fuel lines.

Update: 17th July 2003

After a few test laps around the block at AMRaceparts the car was taken down to MoTeC for a lambda check and some data logging. This was delayed by a dud starter drive sprag assembly but we finally managed to do some "interesting" cruises of the local streets with the logging enabled. Apart from the fact that we were unable to get any full throttle under load readings the sampling did show a few overly rich points in the mapping which were addressed. Then it was time for a quick wash (probably the first in 3 or 4 years) and then back on the trailer for the trip home to NSW. A pleasant run back to Sydney ensued and now the car is resting comfortably in the gararge, ready from some intensive cleaning and restoration. The major target is to have everything complete and the toy back to its best for the Torana Nationals in Easter 2004!

See the '1976 to 1978', '1978 to 1988' and '1988 to present' sections later on for a more detailed history.


Current Specifications


Lift "

Intake flow @ 28"

Exhaust flow @ 28"

Exhaust/Intake %


80 / 80




156 / 153




224 / 223




282 / 286




331 / 322




366 / 348




378 / 362




382 / 369



  • Details:





















    Rolling stock:


    Time & Cost:

    Thanks to:

     Taking part in SM Magazine's '25years of Holdens' at Phillip Island, not a great day. The dizzy broke the rotor, allowing it to spin freely on the shaft, putting a halt to the track activities. The upside was that it poured with rain later in the day when Lowndes was doing the laps in each car. He had a few moments and spins so I was almost glad mine was on the trailer. I completed the photo session with SM magazine at that year's Summernats where we went to Canberra's dragstrip to get the 'smokin' photos. The mint XU-1 parked in front was Leon O'Brien's, a brilliant restoration (used a poor man's rotisserie to do the full shell preparation, lead only wiping was used) running a Tate built 202. This car had a few offs during the wet Lowndes session, it really was bucketing down. I think Leon had to change his underwear after those laps.


    Cars I have owned:


    Litre8: The transformation

    April 1976 through mid 1978:

    The car, an LX SLR5000 purchased new in April 1976, lasted in original condition for about 6 months. I started playing with just add-ons like the dual point Scorcher dizzy (magnetic/optical weren't too common back then) and then the Holley. Before I hooked up with Marty Coates for the serious spannerwork I got a few things done at the Gown-Hindhaugh workshop. It was cool back then to see the guys running G-H engines in their L34s (like Charlie O'Brien) hanging around there to pick up or drop off cars/engines. The heads, cam and exhaust work were all done by Marty before he became MBC Automotive (which still survives maybe but not with Marty at the helm).

    The significant changes that took place to the car, in approximate chronological sequence, were:-


    Turbo 6: 1978 through 1988

    The 308 was sold off to part pay for a new project, a turbo 202. Turbo's were the flavour of the month for quite a while in the late '70s with many people doing kits etc (Normalaire-Garret, Kinetics etc). N-G, courtesy of David Inall, had a selection of kits available: Strata 1 though Strata 6 which provided from 50% to 300% horsepower increase. Naturally I went straight to the Strata 6 and this project lasted for about 10 years with the only casualties being some nuked cast pistons in the early days (resulting from running out of water/methanol during a test session - got forged Arias replacements) and a 'red' block starting to come apart in the lifter galley. Updated to a blue block and grabbed the better blue motor fully counterweighted crank at the same time.

    During this project we had a lot of advice from Wayne Mahnken who ran a turbo and dyno tune workshop in Moorabbin, Victoria. At the time Wayne was running Ron Harrop's old EH as a sports sedan with a turbo 202. This thing was awesome. At the time I saw it at Sandown in the late 1970's it had grunt to burn. It was running a huge turbo (made my 1.5 a/r exhaust housing job look like a thimble) and was running 30lbs boost. To stop the bottom of the block tearing away it had a full lower girdle tieing together all the main caps to the bottom of the block. It was making 650 hp and had the 5" exhaust exiting midway through the passenger front door which looked real neat when he backed off and the flames licked down the side panels. I seem to recollect it running a 1050 Holley at one stage and to watch the old black EH blow the doors off the Monza's etc up the back straight at Sandown was something I still recall clearly today. Last I heard he still had the motor, having sold off the car many years earlier when he went into semi-retirement from racing. David Inall was also involved in this project, having a wealth of turbo knowledge as well as parts accessability.

    We started out running a 48 side-draught Weber but the thing was basically undriveable below 4000rpm so we swapped to twin 1.75 HIF SU's and the thing was actually driveable though these always seemed very sensitive to fuel pressure and leisurely response even with ATF in the dampers. We then went to a 650cfm Holley Spreadbore d/p on a custom manifold. This gave much better performance and was capable of reasonable cruising economy. Ultimately we went to an 850cfm Holley Spreadbore d/p (and who wouldn't?).

    We did have a few problems with harmonic balancers. The blue motor crank had a slightly heavier balancer than the red crank and we had no issues with that but some guy was doing sleeved L34 type balancers and these were meant to be even friendlier to the crank. Well it just didn't cut it at all, a few serves and the thing was floating around on the crank snout. We solved it all by putting a Pro-Street (B&M) balancer on after cutting a second keyway on the crank, just for security.

    We ran a custom twin plate clutch (wasn't that much off the shelf h/d clutches for a 202 Holden back in late 70's) which held on okay. We had to dowell and use top quality bolts for the flywheel as, even though it was lightened, the engine would to accelerate and decellerate so quickly under boost that it really put a massive strain on this area. When it came on song (3000rpm+) it really was case shifting very quickly for the 1-2 and 2-3 changes as that 8000rpm came around real quick.

    During this phase we went to the L34 bolt-ons, done by Rob Green who used to do the bodywork for the Gown-Hindhaugh team. A very professional job, everything re-seamed and re-sealed, no guard fouling problems to speak of. This was done in the last few weeks of 308 power, we had to subsequently do some creative spring cutting with an angle grinder to get the height right when the turbo six went in. Eventually I went to Lovell's h/d front springs and these did the trick with no cutting, I still run the same springs now with the BB.

    The car was wearing 14"x8" Hotwires back then with 265/60 Bridgestones. These have a rolling diameter even larger than the subsequent 16" and 17" wheels that I ran. This made them a little prone to picking up the leading lower edge of the front bolt-on when going over driveways etc with some steering lock applied. A little later I went to the 16"x9" Simmons B45 with the gold 5 spoke centre. Back in about 1985 this was a pretty radical setup on a Torana although it seems pretty mild these days. I'm not sure if I would venture past the 17" wheels I'm currently running, to me at least 18"+ wheels don't always suit the body style.

    I eventually sold the motor to a guy who had visions of putting it into an LJ sports sedan or the like. Never did hear back on how it all went.

    Below are the details from the old display board when I used to show the car with its turbo 6 heart.

    A little known fact is that the car was featured in this state in the July-Aug 1986 SM magazine.


    Complete Assembly Balanced & Blueprinted













     Stage II of the turbo six, running the twin SU's in place of the Weber, still with the 'small' Strata VI exhaust housing, about late 1978


     The below picture is pretty close to the final Turbo6 form. Running the 800dp s/b Holley, NOS, water/methanol injection , 1.52 a/r exhaust housing. The only subsequent changes to this was the addition of a water cooled centre bearing and a separate filter on the turbo oil line.....I like to think of it as the mother of red motors...well street driven ones anyway!


    1988 to present....

    This all started out as a street legal project. The car came off the road with 140,000kms on the clock with the best intentions of returning it to the road in about 12-18 months. It was going to be an iron BB Chev running a 1050 Holley. I purchased a new in-crate LS7 and then planned for the necessary changes (roller cam etc). I was then persuaded by my then engine man, Marty Coates, to go for injection and, really, I didn't need too much convincing. I got hold of a Crower injection manifold which, in hindsight, was a bad decision. With the injector tubes it would have towered over the bonnet and ideally I wanted to keep the hardware out of sight. It was only when I was visiting Richard Bendall (half of MoTeC in those days) that he mentioned the Kinsler manifolds, designed to fit under the bonnet of a 'Vette. They weren't cheap ($A5000 in 1990 from memory) but they keep everything nice and low, looked trick and ultimately it sure gave the engine torque a punch. With this settled I luckily managed to sell back the Crower manifold and moved onto the chassis work.

    The chassis work was done by Mick Zahra (then in Bayswater in Vic, last I heard he had a similar business down past Berwick in SE Victoria) when he was working as 'Vintage Chassis Works'. He seemed to have a good handle on what was required but we thought it better to consult an engineer first (with the street legal requirement still alive). The engineer, when looking at the standard LX Torana cross-member, remarked "What truck did this come from?". His only requirement was that we stitch weld 3mm plate to the front rails. This was with an aluminium block, previous enquiries for an iron block installation required an engine setback of about 8-10" and it seemed much less work to go with the aluminium block and leave it all in the standard location.

    Back then I wouldn't have been able to run the braided brake lines, the brakes and wheel combo wouldn't have got the nod and the avgas diet wouldn't have met with approval either. My mindset back then was that I wanted to do what I wanted to do and I didn't want to compromise my plans just for the sake of legality so the project became that of a toy rather than a street legal car. I maintained the rego for about 10 years while living in Vic as it did enable me to cruise Northbourne Ave in Canberra during the halcyon days (and nights) of the Summernats. Now living in NSW I dropped the rego as I own the plates and street use will be effectively zero these days. 

    I already had the aluminium cage installed so Mick added in the steel extensions in the boot and married this to the original cage at the parcel shelf. Mick also installed 3"x2" box section steel stitch welded in as subframe connectors with a similar sized connection between these, also acting a tailshaft retainer. All this work added considerable strength to the car, it really was like a board now, no flex at all.

    A&K Nankervis at Eppalock got the job of building the first engine and doing the installation with all the ancillaries, a not inconsiderable task. The only mods to the engine bay required to get the engine and exhaust in were trimming the lip of the front rails (done as part of the chassis work) and trimming the lip on the firewall to give distributor clearance (large cap distributors were out of the question).

    It left Eppalock as a shell with an engine that was startable and the drivetrain in place but the hydraulic clutch wasn't plumbed yet so it was a push job onto the trailer. Back then it was running the old MoTeC injection, where the tuning was done with a screwdriver. It was taken back to Mick's place of work to get the new K-MAC bars fitted as well as the air filter assembly fabricated.

    Next it was off to AM Raceparts where the brakes were plumbed and the master cylinders installed, the rear panhard rod fabricated and the air filter assembly was modified to get in under the bonnet. Even with this we needed about 5" added to the bonnet scoop length and the bonnet hole was opened out to the very edge of the scoop. This kept all the hardware out of sight and the stretched bonnet scoop, being black on black, is only really noticeable when the car is parked next to a LX with a standard sized scoop.

    From there it was back home to get all the panels and doors on in time for the impending Summernats. Dave Biscan, who did the engine bay, also did the bonnet work (starting out with a nos bonnet!), leaving it all looking extremely neat and tidy.

    From this first incarnation there have been many hardware upgrades over the years. The brakes (front and rear) have both been updated twice to reach their now 'final' form. After suffering from the disappearing brake pedal too often during my circuit jaunts I also decided it was time to go for the fully floating rearend. With AM Raceparts skills, a heavy duty 9" housing and a Harrop floater kit the end result exceeded expectations.

    The front and rear brake rotors started out as drilled. The problem I had with the drilled rotors was not only were they like cheese cutters on the brake pads but they put temperature differentials all over the rotor surface (hot/cool/hot etc) which led to rotor cracking problems accompanied by warping. We ended up just going to the slotted rotors, these allowed water/dust to be wiped easily from the surface as well as allowing air to escape from between the pad and the rotor surface.

    About 1995 the old exhaust system went pear shaped. It was a dual 3" with crossover pipe running local versions of the box style Flowmaster mufflers. The mufflers didn't rust out, the internal pressure just peeled them open like a can of sardines! I had them patched once, the second time the exhaust died (at Phillip Island funnily enough, everything seemed to happen at Phillip Island!: the exhaust, I kissed the bank in the wet with the rear quarter panel coming over hill (thanks for the paint and panel work Brett!!) and finally the gearbox succumbed there too....) I got Peter Starr (Starr Performance in Mitcham) to make up a new dual 3" system with stainless steel filled straight through mufflers. The was made using a copy of the Dr Gas (U.S) crossover setup where the two pipes curve together, partially merge (siamesed) and then separate (sort of like }{ but there is no actual crossover pipe). Not wanting to be totally deafened we fed the pipes under the axle so they exited near the forward edge of the fuel tank.

    The ECU was updated to the M48 about 1996 along with a cam update. We had to move to the M48 as some dyno work (the new cam went in first) showed that it was running out of fuel at 3500rpm, though it was still making over 300kw at the rear wheels at 5000rpm. The old MoTeC box wouldn't drive the latest hi-flowing injectors so the only option was to upgrade to the M48, which also opened a whole new world of tuning and features. To ensure an adequate fuel supply we went with Bosch 351 injectors.

    This was the state of the car was at that fatal day at Phillip Island when the gearbox went pear shaped. We were just warming things up to see how it went with the new cam and ecu. We did come away with the knowledge that it didn't lack torque! The more recent upgrades have been covered in the introduction earlier.

     The start of the metamorphisis......looking bare after most items removed from the engine bay. Later LX's had a body coloured engine bay but the early ones (mine was Feb '76 build) got the flat black treatment


     The engine bay back to metal, all unwanted holes have been mig'd up.


     This show the tubes welded between the top and bottom of the front rails, tieing them together but still allowing access to the mounts to the cross-member assembly.


     Fresh coat of Mandarin Red, cross-member dressed in subframe black.


     Trial install of the BB Chev with the Kinsler cross-ram manifold sitting in place. Even here it looks obvious that those ram tubes are going to cause grief for any sized bonnet opening.....


      Rear driver floor showing cage mount (6mm plate under floor provides a bit more strength than just bolts through the floor pan) and the subframe connector. Due to the shape of the floor pan, the box subframe connector sits flush with the floor in the front, but sits proud of the floor in the back. This ties the car together from where the front rails turn parallel to the ground through to the lower rear suspension pickup point. There is a welded cross bar between both subframe connectors that incorporates a tailshaft retainer.


     Boot shot showing steel cage extension (joins alloy cage at rear parcel shelf) The cage terminates in the boot with a 15cm 'foot' welded to floor/lip (L shaped). The reverse braced bar meets a box section stitch welded between the wheel wells.


     Another shot of the boot showing the dry sump tank (left) , the oil cooler and the NOS bottle. Behind the oil cooler is a thermo fan which is vented via a mesh screen to beneath the car. The boot is 'sealed' from the passenger compartment and the hot air from the boot exits via the rear door extractor vents (remove the plastic vanes before hitting the circuit to provide max air flow out).


     The Brown Davis alloy cage.


     Not easy to see but this shows the cross subframe connector incorporating a tailshaft retainer.



      Photo from driver's side rear showing Bilstein shock, K-Mac rear mount sway bar and the panhard


    Show Photographs:

     Shots from indoor show at Darling Harbour, Darryl Macbeth's Blue FJ (first generation build of this car) in background


     Shot from indoor car show at Exhibition Buildings, showing the braided dry sump scavenge lines and the front mounted sway bar with drop link. The floor mirrors don't really help much here. Not easily visible (okay, almost impossible) is the A9X brake duct under the sway bar mounting bracket.


     Shot from indoor show at Exhibition Buildings showing rear suspension, Harrop Aluminium Diff centre (reflection) and Brown Davis aluminium tank. Also visible is the notched panel on leading edge of rear guard.


    Additional Information:

     Old NGM Brochure for the Strata IV though VI kits


     Original sales invoice for the car