(first posted 3/17/2015) The other day I happened upon an HB Holden Torana parked in the street, the first I had seen in many years. I was admiring this attractive little relic when it occurred to me that its significance goes way beyond being Holden’s first small car. Not because it was high tech, or fast, or glamorous in some way, but because it spawned a new genus of nose-heavy mutants that roamed the Galapagos Islands of the car world through the 1970s and 80s – the affordable small car with a lazy Aussie/American-style six cylinder engine.
This topic was touched on not so long ago in an item on the European Chrysler 180, which in Australia found itself lumbered with the local ‘Hemi’ six. Perhaps that piqued your curiosity about this strange little chapter in automotive history. If it did I hope this brief rundown gives you a fair idea of what it was about.
The cars I’m referring to came from the then four local manufacturers: GM-Holden (GMH), Ford, Chrysler and BMC/Leyland Australia. Each car was of English or European origin, but fitted with an engine from a much larger, locally made model. In each case a four cylinder version remained available as well. Later models of GMH’s car were also available with a V8.
Of course, there have been countless examples of large engines stuffed into small cars, but we’re not talking about performance or prestige models here. These cars came about simply because they were cheaper to bring to market, thanks to the import tariffs and local content rules of the time, and they had strong appeal in a land where the six cylinder engine was king. Mostly, they were humble cars – just smaller, cheaper companion models to the larger six cylinder cars the makers would rather you buy.
Let’s start by going back to 1967. GMH has just released its new small car, the Torana. The badges say ‘Holden’, but it’s really a local production Vauxhall Viva, a very small car indeed, with a sub-1.2 litre, four cylinder engine. A low priced car it is, but it contains a high proportion of imported parts, and the import tariff rules of the time favour vehicles with 85% local content. And with that tiny engine, the thing is slow – worse, sales are even slower.
What to do? Simple, shoehorn in a locally made engine – never mind what it is, whatever is lying around will do – and as much other local content as possible. As it happened, Holden didn’t make four cylinder engines, but it did make a six (with a V8 on the way), so that was what went in. The result of some mechanical surgery, along with some new styling, was the LC Torana Six of 1969, a car that was both cheaper to make and easier to sell.
The mechanical transplant called for radical re-engineering, but GMH did a good job. Not only was the Torana Six the first six cylinder/small car to go on sale, it turned out to be the most well engineered as well. By far the biggest seller of the bunch, the LC and its successors went on to become a 70s Australian institution.
There were two ‘generations’ of six cylinder Toranas, the first from 1969 to 1974, the other from 1974 to 1980. The first generation comprised the original LC and the facelifted LJ of 1972. These came as a two or four door, semi-fastback sedan. The LC/LJ Torana sixes had a much longer front than the four cylinder cars, and they had a kind of mini ‘Bunkie Beak’ that was guaranteed to get dented in parking misadventures. The four, which wasn’t as common, was noticeably smaller and had a squared off, flat front end.
The everyday models were accompanied by the sporty ‘GTR’ and the ‘GTR XU1’, which enjoyed much racing success.
The second generation Torana, which debuted in 1974 as the LH model, was larger. These were available with an Opel four, the Holden six or, for the first time, the Holden V8. The revised LX was introduced in 1976. The LX was soon fitted with emission controls and then ‘Radial Tuned Suspension’.
The final Torana, the UC, arrived in 1978. It was not available with a V8.
The second generation Toranas initially came only as a four door, three box sedan, but a two door fastback/liftback joined it with the LX. (A famous liftback is the Absinth Yellow 4.2 driven by the people at the centre of the Azaria Chamberlain case in 1980 – the one in which a dingo took the baby in the photo) The six, V8 and four cylinder cars differed visually only in trim and detailing.
As with the earlier generation, the everyday models were sold alongside sportier models, and there were high performance V8s available for the racers and hoons.
The six cylinder Holden ‘red’ engines used in Toranas came in various displacements and states of tune, depending on the model and year. They ranged from the small bore ‘2250’ (138ci) to the 3.3 litre (202ci) engine found in the typical family HQ Holden Kingswood or early Commodore. The most powerful six was the triple carb 3.3 in the GTR XU1s. The V8s, in the LH and LX only, were of 4.2 litres (253ci) and 5 litres (308ci), with tuned versions of the 5 litre in the high performance models. Note that Torana engine displacements were always listed in metric units.
The Torana Six was a success, so naturally it bred its imitators. Ford’s answer, the TC Cortina Six, came in 1972. This was a Mk III Cortina with its four cylinder engine replaced by the familiar (Aussie) Falcon six of 3.3 or 4.1 litres (200/250ci). The TC Cortina Six was distinguished from the four by its quad headlamps.
As with the Torana, there were two generations of Cortina Six. The first generation comprised the TC and the nearly identical (visually) TD of 1974. The larger, second generation Cortina Six comprised the TE (Mk IV in the UK) of 1977 and the facelifted TF (Mk V) models. All were available as a four door sedan or wagon.
The Cortina Sixes weren’t as well engineered as the Torana, and they were known for wayward handling and road manners. They also had a reputation for poor build quality. Despite all that, the Cortina Six was fairly popular, and it was still a common sight long after production ended in 1981 These days the few TC Cortina Sixes one sees are invariably fitted with a V8. wide tyres and a doof doof sound system, and painted the sort of lurid colours so beloved of trainee car body repairers everywhere.
Chrysler’s entrant was the Centura KB, a version of the French Simca/Chrysler 180 (recently mentioned on these pages) with the Australian ‘Hemi’ six of 3.5 or 4.0 litres (215/245ci). The Centura arrived late on the scene, in 1975, and as a four door sedan only. When its facelifted successor, the KC, quietly departed in 1977 Centuras were no more. They were never a common sight, even in their heyday (if they had one). As with the Cortina, the Centura might have been good as a four, but the makers never put in the effort required to handle a big, heavy six.
Last, and assuredly least, we have the fourth example of the Australian affordable six cylinder/small car genre, the unlamented Morris/Leyland Marina 262 Six. Introduced in late 1973, the 262 Six had the 2.6 litre OHC six from the ill-fated Leyland P76 (think Edsel on steroids) up front. Like its four cylinder brethren, it was available as a four door sedan or coupe. (The coupe has strange proportions – did it have the front doors from the sedan?)
As in the case of Ford’s Cortina, and Chrysler with its Centura, BMC/Leyland Australia didn’t do enough to equip the car for the extra power and weight up front, but apparently the Marina 262 Six was in a bad place all its own. Nevertheless, that wasn’t enough to deter at least one brave pair from racing a Marina Six in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 1974. (The race was won by a Falcon GTHO, and also the year before. A Torana GTR XU1 won in 1972, and a V8 Torana won in 1975.)
As far as I know the only way to distinguish the Marina Six from the four cylinder versions is by seeing the ‘262 Six’ badges on the flanks (‘262’ referring to 2.62 litres, not 262 ci). I remember a contemporary newspaper review of the car, the most scathing I have ever seen (so much so that it sticks in the mind 40 years later). Essentially, the reviewer said the people responsible for the Marina Six just didn’t give a shit – and in words barely more restrained than that. I think the market agreed, as I don’t remember seeing very many around. Production of Marinas ended with the P76-led demise of Leyland Australia in 1975, but I am sure leftovers were being sold for years after.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief lesson on a unique class of car. They were a response to the peculiar conditions in the Australian market at the time, and I doubt if anything like it will ever be seen again. Nowadays these cars (maybe except for the doof-doof Cortinas) are usually only seen on sunny Sundays and at car shows, pampered and gently driven. Each a survivor, a burnt orange, lime green, or cacky brown reminder of an Australia long gone.
Sweet looking cars. I’ve always preferred six cylinder engines over the V8 engine. The V8 may produce more power, but I would think the inline six would be simpler to maintain than V configured engine. My favourite Holden cars here are the HB Torana, the LC Torana, and the UC Torana. On the Ford front is the TE Cortina. Forget about the Leyland cars or the Chryslers.
imm .. the (Chrysler) Mopar 225 slant six was and still is a ‘bullet-proof’ engine .. and far more powerful than the grey, red, black, or blue Holden sixes, not to mention the mild Henry sixes of the sixties and seventies .. then you had the larger 245 and 265 Mopar ‘Hemi’ sixes which were even more powerful than the 351Clevo bent eight in their hottest configuration with triple side-drafts and wild valve timing. Those Chrysler sixes rocked!! lol..quite literally they ‘rocked’ at idle due to the wild valve overlap they ran..
Interesting feature, and it always intrigues how the Viva ended up with a six cylinder engine
Yes, the 2 door and 4 door Marinas shared front doors, and I imagine the six cylinder had understeer of epic proportions
Interesting also to see a straight six in a Cortina – in Europe the Cortina had a V6
It took Aussies to get serious about tuning American sixes since they were marketed like penalty engines in the States.
I would think the Buick V6 would’ve been a better fit in these small cars.
True – but then you would have been up against the local content laws again, which is what bred these cars in the first place.
Even the 1.8L powered Marinas were famous for understeer. Add a couple extra cylinders and you must be right – epic understeer..
a simple fix was to fit roll bars front and back of the marina six then the under steer problem was fixed on my marina six that i had kept for ten years with reasonable running costs in comparision to my 2005 subaru out back
An English guy who goes by the name of Hubnut has a Youtube channel where he drives ordinary cars and comments on whether they’re as bad as people say. He drove a Marina Six modified like yours and loved it.
Aussie never had OHC Victors or HB Viva GTs so a local version was all the rage NZ had Victors including a local 3.3 version plus all the Holden range, interesting times Ive been looking for a 3.3 Victor to write up for these pages since its a Kiwi only model with race win history
We had the Brabham Torana, which unfortunately did not live up to its name.
Who remembers the “series 70” engine? Unfortunately for Holden, Victa had just launched a lawnmower with the same name. Comparisons were obvious!
My parents had an FC Victor, bought from an aunt who was moving back to England or something like that. Certainly not a car to my father’s tastes, but it did its job for a little while. Dunno what was under the bonnet but I remember loving its ‘American’ styling.
Took a long time for dad to relinquish control of the Victa Mower; spent many summer days holding on to the green garbage bag waiting for him to empty the catcher.
A rebadged Brabham Viva neither were fast.
..and we even had the odd one or two FB’s running around with the big torquey 2.3 slant four Beddie in them.. a straIght drop-in barring a very small amount of starter motor clearance being made for the transplant ..good days ..no certing needed ..just bang it in ..and offyergo ..main difference was the ability to break traction at the lights with 185’s ..and the ability to ton-up easily!!
I was living in Melbourne at the time all these came out, and I don’t recall ever seeing a Marina Six on the road. Those uglified facelifted Marinas, whether four or six, were a very uncommon sight. I can’t imagine they sold many, as we all knew Leyland was imploding at the time.
A fellow Humber/Hillman club member told me he had one recently and even now could not get rid of it he eventually sold it for very little money, unwanted new and hated ever since be thankfull you never drove one Pete.
I remember walking past a Leyland showroom with a mate and seeing one in the window – a coupe with alloys and stripes. We looked at each other and said something like “They expect us to buy THAT?”
He was from a Holden family (whose first car was an XA Falcon, never found out how that happened!) and he used to give me a lot of ribbing because Dad had a Falcon and my aunts and uncles all drove Leyland products, 1100s and 1500s. In those days especially teenagers could be terrible teases if you favoured an uncool car. Don’t think they care about cars to that degree nowadays.
Too bad that awful Bunkie Beak was inflicted on poor Australians as well. Knudsen should’ve got kickbacks from body shops. According to Wiki, there was a play on a famous Ford quote from insiders regarding his dismissal: “Bunkie is history.”
Now the Pontiac SOHC six is tantalizing to think about here.
I actually don’t mind the mini-beak on those Toranas. Nowhere near as bad as his most prominent nose jobs stateside (’70 T-bird anyone?)
What made those early Torana sixes look odd was that the six inch wheelbase stretch over the four (good engineering, guys!) meant that the hood looked about twice as long than it was wide. And the Bunkie beak exaggerated that. Couple this to the Viva’s cabin width and you had a really strange looking duck, especially in four door form.
They were insanely popular, despite the cramped interior. I will never forget the night seven of us crammed into one coming back from a friend’s farm – two in the front and three across in the back with two girls sitting on our laps.
The crazy things you do in your youth!
I have been fascinated by Australian cars for years but the designations for the different models are bewildering to this American. It almost looks like the names were pulled out of a hat.
That said, ALL these locally produced 6 cylinder models take my fascination to another level. Why Ford didn’t do a better job with it’s offering is puzzling as the (nearly?) identical model in Europe had a 6 cylinder engine, too.
BL’s offering is surprising, I had no idea BL had designed the Marina so that the front doors on the 2 and 4 door body style were interchangeable. Then there’s the engine….was that 2.62 liter OHC 6 cylinder ever used outside of Australia (or New Zealand?)?
If I had been a potential customer for one of these 4 brands, it would have been difficult for the Ford fan in me to go with the Holden but a really good test drive probably would have sold me on the Holden if the styling didn’t.
The European Ford Cortinas had a 2.8L overhead cam V6, known as the Cologne V6. It had a long career, last seen in Mustangs and Explorers a few years ago.
The Aussie Fords used their locally-produced pushrod straight-six, similar to the engine used in Falcons and early Mustangs. However, the Aussies came up with a better crossflow cylinder head for the engine, which actually produced decent power…
The Köln V6 of that era was pushrod OHV. It was even available in the Pinto, in its later model yrs. I don’t think it was ever adapted to FWD models.
They later produced an OHC version for the Explorer & Land Rover LR3.
Even South African assembled Mazda B series commercials/Ford Courier used these engines as an option,and were sold here in Australia in mid 2000’s.
It is the Falcon/Mustang six Aussie had a 250 cube version which went ok I owned several and the later crossflow and OHC versions are great.
The Cortina/Taunus never got the 2.8L OHV Cologne V6; it was reserved for the Capri/Granada. The biggest Cologne the Euro (and Kiwi) Cortina scored was the 2.3L OHV. The Cortina’s Sierra replacement was available with the 2.3, 2.8 and 2.9 (like my Sierra) Cologne V6s at various stages. Of course the 2.8L (and later 2.9) in carb or fuel-injected form fits under the Cortina bonnet so a number of owner-conversions were done in decades past.
Thanks for a great read,I’m a fan of 6 cylinder cars and I love the parallel universe Aussie cars.
+1 on both points Gem!
The straight-six TE Cortina appears to have a stretch between front axle and firewall. A good looking car. The TC Cortina should have a stretch too, but it’s not obvious from the angle of the photo.
It wasnt stretched the engine hung further forward than was sensible producing interesting cornering and chronic subframe cracking almost from new it might have had the British GT grille but they were far from GTs.
And that subframe cracking was despite considerable upgrades over the fours! I looked at putting a six into my TC four, as a mate had a spare engine, but the body was just too different to make it viable.
Most definitely not a GT, the six was more of a comfortable long-distance touring car – in theory. In practice I don’t know that they ever got the suspension sorted in the sixes; IIRC they neither rode nor handled well.
Seriously, the best way to get a fast Cortina in Australia was to tune the four and do your own suspension work. .
And the Cortina 2 litre OHC four was a very nice powerplant.. i drove a blood red brand new Cortina wagon in ’75 ..4 speed manual ..and it could honk!! The Opel-engined 1.9 LX Torana by comparison was a slow stodgy sort of car that felt solid, but was a sluggard to drive. The Cortina was amazing by comparison. I think the one I had already had a tad of piston slap right from new but it had a lot of power (internal friction reduced..lol??) and was heaps of fun to drive in a spirited fashion ..used to break traction all over the place on the skinny 175’s they put on them . . and the Ford gearbox was a delight to use, light and with perfect slick sycnros, unlike the stiff notchy Torana gearbox by comparison.
In fact the 1975 era manual trans two litre OHC Cortina Wagon remains one of my all time faves as it was well balanced, relatively light, and fun to drive ..and appealing to look at.
My current drive is a Swiss ‘Sportec’ E55 AMG which is just more than a little frightening to drive with the traction control turned-off …OMG!! 🙁
I’ll never forget the time I was taking a work colleague to a country meeting in my Cortina. I wasn’t familiar with the route from his place, and when the road was about to narrow from two lanes to one he said “Get ahead here, if you can.”
Challenge! Down a gear, floored it, shot ahead of the other car easily.
He looked at me and asked “Is this a four or a six?”
I replied “It’s a four, but not as Henry made it!”
The fun of having a stock-appearing but fast Cortina!
I don’t know why Ford didn’t simply domesticate the Cortina instead of design the Pinto, which was about the same overall size & weight. But they were wise in this respect: they didn’t try to reinvent engines their European subsidiaries already had, as GM did, disastrously. All Pinto engines were European, or derived therefrom.
My first car was a ’74 Pinto with the 2.0L and a stick, altho not exactly fast it was a fun car to drive. Little thing loved to rev. Far better engine than the 2.3L Lima 4 cylinder boat anchor. I wonder if the Cortina’s manual transmission was the same as my Pinto’s as it was a slick shifting little gearbox.
…i recall a very nice Weber compound carb sitting off the side of the engine ..going from the way the engine performed i suspect the carb must have been set-up to operate both throats simultaneously (rather than in sequence) as was most usual as an economy measure ..certainly the Weber compound carb set-up on the 3 litre Essex V6 worked this way (both throats opening simultaneously) and THAT engine was also a performer for the day (albeit with a dubiously engineered oil pump drive and a very noisy tappets set-up)
The early production TC Cortina’s were designed for the 4cyl. Kent and Pinto engines only, and from around August 1972, Ford Australia re-engineered the car to accept the 3.3/4.1L sixes and also increased local content at this time.
Almost – the firewall that was recessed to allow fitment of the engine.
And the transmission tunnel was hollowed out to fit the gearbox further back. Not quite as much legroom as the original fours, and the consoles are different.
Nice article bootiebike, a good explanation of the situation and evolution. My father would always say a 4-cyl car would last 60,000 miles, a 6 would last 80,000 miles and a V8 100,000 when referring to this era or earlier.
The Cortina didn’t actually have a longer wheelbase or even front panels at least externally, they fit the 6-cyl in by modifying the firewall and moving the radiator forward (and its support panel), which tells you the heavier engine had its CoG further forward.
The same thing affected the Centura, which had a pronounced ‘snout’ to accommodate the engine, and the Marina. The latter was especially bad with poor directional stability under heavy braking being one of its habits reported in tests of the day. Mind you I’ve never driven one, not many still exist!
I’ve commented before that 2-door cars were not popular in Australia, the 4-door HB Torana pictured was actually an Australian development of the 2-door only Viva. HB Toranas are almost extinct too, but the later models are still incredibly popular and can be seen as CCs in daily use.
No its a straight out HB Viva 4 door on the HA was 2 door only the only actual difference is round headlights and badging it has no Australian imput whatsoever
I noticed the Holden “red” engine looks almost exactly like my 250 Chevy “six”, but the other “sixes” from the Aussie Ford and Chrysler offerings are very different looking from the stateside “sixes”.
Similar, but by no means the same- the Chev has an internal oil pump, the Holden external. Started motors are on opposite sides, and the Holden has the
distributor half way along the engine, the Chev is closer to the front.
I suspect only nuts & bolts will interchange.
But you can see common themes in both alright.
All Aussie sixes from XK to XB Falcon apart from some accessories/ancillaries/ engine size are identical to U.S. engines, even XC to XF apart from the cylinder head and wider block they are fairly identical in concept design. Also Ford shifted to a 5 main bearing crankshaft somewhere around 1965, the same time Ford U.S. did as well.
Ford Cortina a.k.a. Ford Taunus a.k.a. Ford P100 truck.
If you did happen to dent the nose of a LC Torana, it was a massive amount of work to put it right again. Most cars that were dented were not repaired. After a few huge quotes from body shops, most owners just kept driving them with an untidy front.
The front was styled like the larger HQ Holdens however unlike the larger cars the front panel is not seperate to the guards and is welded in place on the bigger cars it simply unbolts F body style straightening a Torana is a mission and not cheap.
Great article bootiebike, all cars I remember from my 70s/80s Kiwi childhood!
Good overview, Bootiebike. Interesting thing about the Torana six is that it came about as an attempt to win Bathurst. John Bagshaw, Max Wilson amd Bill Steinhagen sat down over a few cold beers at a bbq and nutted it out – according to author John Wright. They did some production estimates and figured they could make it cheaply enough based on tentative sales projections. The inspiration was the S54 Prince Skyline, which had been modified from the firewall forward with a longer wheelbase to accommodate a six cylinder engine.
That refers to the XU1 only they needed to build 400 to sell for it to qualify for Bathurst.
No it refers to the whole six-cylinder program, which ultimately manifested in the XU-1. The book ‘Heart of the Lion’ by Wright features interview snippets with Bagshaw who makes it clear the 6-cyl Torry was conceived over a few beers primarily for racing. Of course they had to justify it as a sustainable production model and it didn’t serve to admit its true reason for being until much later. So they looked at the S54 Skyline and used the firewall-forward LWB solution to fit the longer donk (the S54 part I’ve read elsewhere).
Was there a system applied to the two letter prefixes on those Holden names? Did they signify model year?, trim level?, performance level?, or were they just random letters to make a distinction between model runs.
They served a purpose similar to model year designations in North America. I thought there was a good explanation of their history in another thread recently, but I can’t seem to find it. Holden started it, but other Australian manufacturers used them as well.
Holden had been building Vauxhalls with two and threee letter model prefixes for decades I’d bet they just carried that on, they styled the ancient grey motor after the prewar Vauxhall 6 so the model designations seem another thing borrowed from that division.
Commenter Anthony Grace does a good job of explaining the Holden version of the lettering system here:
Be mindful, though, that this system applied to our ‘fullsize’ cars. For cars such as the smaller Torana, I think the lettering system is a bit more arbitrary.
Always though of these as “banana cars” – destined to be wrapped sideways into trees or posts as their young drivers learn about tricky handling the hard way. Or often the fatal way…
No its a straight out HB Viva 4 door on the HA was 2 door only the only actual difference is round headlights and badging it has no Australian imput whatsoever
Not quite. The Vauxhall version has dash air vents, the Holden doesn’t.
And something that required more engineering input than just deleting the dash vents.
OK, its from Wikipedia, and they claim: “The 4-door saloon was designed and engineered by Holden in Australia who exported it as a kit of parts back to Vauxhall in England”
Rubbish the Vauxhall model predates the Torana where are the other body styles the Viva came in 3 door wagon 3 door van etc Wiki is often wrong and it is this time again.
Not so. From magazine articles back in the day, Holden was quite proud of the fact that they designed and engineered the four door body, and they made sure we Aussies all knew about it.
Also on the NSW Torana Club web page says it was a change brought in with the 1969 Series 2 update (http://www.nswtoranaclub.com/htm/torana_specifications/hb_01.html)
“The four door body was an entirely Australian development and exhibited an increase in overall body strength.”
HB Viva 4doors were being sold in NZ in late 66 early 67 kinda makes those claims just wishfull thinking the original 67 HB Torana was a fourdoor based on the 4 door Viva the 6 cylinder version was engineered in Aussie but only got exported as far as new Zealand they were not sold in the UK.
That Torana SLR 5000 looks like a Buick Apollo!
Great article but I would just like to point out that those photos of the orange Marina 262 are actually taken from my blog Aussie Old Parked Cars.
Attribution has been corrected. Nice site, btw. Love that purple XA 351 Hardtop.
My Dad had an LJ Torana 4-door sedan – silver paint with raspberry red interior! I seem to remember that he sold it due it burning out clutches at regular intervals.
I like the HB Torana, the LC, LJ, and the UC Torana.
My favourite Aussie cars are the Holden HB Torana, the LC Torana, the LJ, and the UC Torana. I also like the Ford Mark IV Cortina. If only our American built compact cars were built like they were.
I liked em too then I bought some HB Vauxhall viva 3 door wagon LJ Torana LH Torana and a UC that cured me. The UC got driven to a wrecking yard the same day I got my 2nd 63 EH sedan registered.
funny enough after the Cortina died Ford Australia didn’t do the mid size 6 cylinder thing till the 1991 third generation Telstar which came with a 2.5L Mazda Sourced V6.that was 10 years later but in the process they learned they didn’t really need a 6 just a well built 4 that it got belatedly with the very first Telstar in 1983.
Was there any relationship between the Chevrolet and Holden Straight-6 engines?
It is a pity that beyond the Chevrolet Straight-6 based Pontiac OHC-6 engines, GM never produced nor developed developed their Straight-6s to the same degree Ford of Australia did with the Ford Straight-Six and later Ford Barra engines.
The same goes for Chrysler’s own Slant-6 and Hemi-6 engines not evolving to become their own equivalent of the Ford Barra, though Chrysler did try to develop the Slant-6 only for its financial problems prevent them from bring those developments to production and the 4.3-litre Hemi-6 did temporarily form the basis for the 280-302 hp Chrysler VH Valiant Charger R/T prior to being neutered altogether.
Not sure if Bootiebike still exists (or has transmogrified into another handle), but this is a sweet summary of all these cars, and, right down to those preferred shades of apprentice panelbeaters and mechs everywhere, dead accurate.
Can I add – dare I add – that all were appalling cars?
Oh, for sure, mostly tough enough and stone-axe reliable, but otherwise, just shocking. The Viva-based Toranas and the Cortinas truly and actually felt like there was a big leaden weight right on the front bumper. The Fords, in particular, were just plain hard to steer at speed round a tight bend.
A bump – and Oz has just a few – changed your direction. Accelerating with any vigour changed your lane. Water changed your religion. Heavy rain meant you met the boss of your new religion immediately.
I will allow that I have not driven a Marina six, though few did (above 60kmh, anyway, and may those who did rest in peace). I HAVE driven an Oz-made four, and it was quite bad enough, feeling for some reason just like a ’48 Morrie Minor with a way heavier engine.
I’ll also allow that they’re all generally good lookers, and had I the cash or a license then, I might possibly have been swayed by that. A Renault 16 of the time was immensely better, and as usefully quick, given it had things like Handling, but truthfully, it did look uglier than a hatful of arseholes.
However, in a win for the bogans since this post in 2015, any one of these face-planting Aussies is suddenly worth some dough. They are none of them apprentice money any more. I do wish the nostalgic Gen X-ers and Boomers paying big cash for them lots of luck.
If there is a corner in the road, they’ll need all of it.
Justy, your epic rant could apply to any number of U.S. cars, up to about 1975 or so. Steering through corners had to be anticipated and planned. Just turning the wheel would generate the understeer/tire shriek, at any kind of speed at all. Spontaneous lane changing, anyone, due to wind, a bit of moisture, or a small seam in the pavement? Braking distance? Your Mom had time to pull that stunt reaching over and holding you in the seat with her arm, in all the time she had between slamming on the brakes and actually having the car slow down.
Driving an old car, after not having driven one for a while, is often a real eye-opener. One reason that all sorts of small imports gained sales traction all those decades ago, was because they had various driving qualities utterly lacking in most Detroit offerings.
Well, I might have been extending the truth just a bit for self-amusement, but yes, it wasn’t just these cars. The photographed Torana model and the whole run of the Cortina six were definitely the nadir, though. They just weren’t engineered for these long and heavy motors.
To GM’s credit, after ’77 or so, they introduced Radial Tuned Suspension, one of the very few times in history a marketing tag had a lot of meaning. They put proper work in, moving suspension locations and so on, and right across their models, they became perfectly good handling cars, and it forced the competition to catch up (though in fairness, the local Falcon had a lot less way to come).
These cars hit the market at just the right time.
There was a growing feeling in the community that the regular family sixes had grown too big, and that a return to the much-loved EH Holden’s package size (177″ long, 68″ wide, 106″ wheelbase) was needed. While the original Torana Six was a tight fit inside, the LH/LX/UC models pretty much nailed it for packaging. Unfortunately they were heavy beasts, as the bodyshell was built to take the torque of the V8 that hardly anybody ordered outside the SL/R models. The four was a joke; even the 2850 six never sounded happy. Back in the day I only saw one regular sedan with the V8, despite living in my state’s capital. That extra weight took its toll on performance and economy.
Meanwhile the Japanese offered the Toyota Corona Mark II and Datsun 240K (aka Skyline), both with lovely OHC small sixes, to show how it should be done. The rest is history.
Can’t agree the LH-UC had good packaging: from day one it was wondered why they were 90% the size of a Kingswood (with a likewise 10% smaller interior!) As for seeing only one V8, you must have lived somewhere respectable here, as in my outer-edge wilds the place was thick with the bastards, always hotted-up, usually sideways, and often being extracted from the roadside hazards.
Funny to think of the “big” locals as too big, considering everyone now drives 2.5 ton dual-cabs the length of a bus.
Nothing wrong with the 2850 mate. It was quite adequate for the LH and pretty smooth and well behaved.
And if you think the Mark II Toyota was better….well I’ve owned 2 and the handling is as crap as the six cylinder Centura. Plus uncomfortable seats and low gearing. Agree about the silky Engin though.
Would Holden have been better off building a locally built version of the Chevrolet Straight-6 in place of the Holden Straight-6? Unlike the infamous Holden Six based Starfire 4-cylinder, the Chevy SIx would form the basis of the Chevy 153 that displaced as low as 1797cc in the Argentinian Opel K180 (T-Car) to around 1960-2512cc in various Brazilian and South African GM models.
Or would Holden have been better served developing a more compact 90-degree V6 version of the Holden V8, on the rationale the Holden V8 drew upon the best features of other small-block V8s within GM?
To my mind, it’s bizarre the ’63 six was developed here at all. It’s all but the same as the Chev six of the same time (but not ACTUALLY the same), and, incredibly, Vauxhall in the UK, Opel in Germany also had all-iron, non-crossflow, pushrod straight sixes! I guess you can add the Pontiac OHC six a little later to that, or nearly. Corporate rationalism it wasn’t. Oz had strong local-content rules, but not, as far as I’m aware, on the design part of things.
As for the 153 and derivatives, I don’t understand it to be much of a motor itself: the specs are certainly no more distinguished than the dreaded Backfire.
Again, to my mind, I don’t know why the Holden V8 was developed, fine engine though it was. The Chev small block was hardly a dud! I do know that it was anticipated that by the early/mid ’70’s, the majority of sales would be V8’s – alas, the fuel crisis was unforseeable – so there had to be local manufacture for it, but that hardly justifies the cost of unique design. One possible caveat on that: I don’t know how small the Chev can be made. The Holden was originally supposed to start at just 237ci., as fuel was never too cheap here and the cars generally a lot smaller than their US cousins.
Perhaps just çoz they could!
GMH had to import the Chevy smallblock engines thats why they went against GM policy and developed their own the 253 V8 uses the same pistons as the 186-202 six another saving, the 350 smallblock was still optional untill the end of the HQ model probably because the Statesman 350 was being built in OZ by GMH for the SouthAfrican and New Zealand markets.
Have heard the Holden Six was actually a pre-war design by Chevrolet (or Buick), before one 195-Y-15 prototype was pensioned off to Australia to become basis of the Holden 48/215.
No clue really how small the Chevy Small Block V8 can be made, however was under the impression the former and the Chevy 153 / Straight-6 (3rd gen) share much with each other in terms of components to open up the possibly of the smallest V8 being a 3.6-litres or essentially a doubled-up 1797cc Opel K180 engine (not to mention a 2.7-litre version of the V8-based GM 90-degree V6).
The 153 was said to be very reliable at least in South Africa and Brazil, etc, the following article brings up the possibility of it being easy to tune had like the likes of Blydenstein gotten involved as with the smaller Kadett/Viva OHV that itself shares enough features to be considered a “Small Block” to the 153’s “Big Block” (with the Kadett/Viva OHV having unrealised potential as GM’s equivalent of the Kent/Crossflow had GM approved the South African proposal for the OHV to be stroked to 1500 or so maintaining the 81mm bore but at the same time moving to 5 mains and lifting the deck height some 20mm to keep the rod/stroke ratio intact).
Basically the Chevy 153 / Straight-Six could have become GM’s equivalent of the B-Series (whose roots can be distantly traced back to the 2nd gen Stovebolt) that has received another generation’s or so worth of development, have actually read of figures claiming the 153 to be lighter than the B-Series in fact. Maybe also attributed to the 153 / Straight-6 being a possible beneficiary of thin-wall cast-iron technique perhaps?
Which makes one wonder what it could have become had it received the developments of the related Pontiac OHC, together with other updates inspired by the B-Series engine’s descendants (that were capable of up to 275 hp in M/T-Series Turbo form) and what rivals Ford did with their own Straight-6 in Australia for it to eventually become the Barra.
The Holden six in the Toranas was the ‘red’ engine, the second generation Holden six. It was similar in design to the Chev 194/230/250.
The Ford Barra was a ‘grandfathers axe’ design – with a direct link back to the original 144ci Falcon engine. It was just developed and developed until Ford stopped making it in 2016.
The Centuras were highly prized by the Mopar faithful for swapping in the bigger 265 six which Chrysler thought was a bit too much engine for the car, and V8s have been done as well for when too much is perfectly ok.
The Centura was designed around the 2 litre four from Simca. It was an excellent engine. Smooth, unstressed and flexible. It performed easily as well as the 3.5 liter six that Chrysler Australia shoved into the car. The four and the two sixes were available for Centura but the handling was destroyed by the sixes.
I had a 245 4 speed manual Centura and if you werent scared of it the handling wasnt really that bad yes it was very light in the tail and would smoke the tyres and go sideways at any speed if you stood on the gas too savagely but other than that perfectly manageable, the difference could be I grew up driving on twisty often gravel roads too fast so learned car control a lot of people didnt. Oh and the Mark2 Corona I had was fine in twisty Tasmanian terrain 65 aspect tyres fixed it right up.
The following link on page 4 mentions Holden actually looked at converting a 3.05 / 186 Holden Red Straight-6 engine to diesel, have to wonder if they also looked at turbocharged variants.
The link also mentions of a highly secret project at the GM technical center in Detroit to make an experimental Diesel version of the 3.8 Buick V6, which if true would have made for an interesting alternative to the 4.3 Oldsmobile V6 diesel (or at least a cause of slightly more optimism on the basis of how well the petrol version of the Buick V6 took to turbocharging and supercharging).