Cohort Classic: Holden Torana LX Sunbird 1900 (Starfire Four) – Borrowing A Few Names Along With The Design Cues

(First posted October 22, 2012) Time for a trip down under, where everything looks and sounds (sort-of) familiar until one gets a bit closer. This Holden LX Torana certainly has plenty of GM design-school hallmarks, looking quite a bit like a slightly oversize Opel Ascona/1900. It also has plenty of GM names: Sunbird designated for the four-cylinder model, whose engine was dubbed “Starfire.” Is there a Jetaway transmission in there too? Enough: we should have been so lucky as to have the Torana instead of the Vega.

The Torana was available with a four-cylinder, six-cylinder or even a hot V8 engine, the latter mostly to qualify it for Australian Touring Car series racing and the Bathurst 1000 race. The “1900” script on the deck identifies this one as having the four, specifically the new “Starfire”version that replaced the former high-cam Opel 1900 engine. Essentially, the Starfire was a rather crudely cut-down Holden 173 cu in (2.85-liter) six; maybe they should have borrowed the “Iron Duke” name for it instead, as Starfire is a bit of serious debasement of Oldsmobile’s eponymous, glorious big-V8 coupe.

The Torana also came as a hatchback coupe. Its uncanny resemblance to the Vega reinforces my long-held grudge against the Vega: why didn’t GM also offer it as a proper, upright four-door sedan like the Torana and the Opel Ascona?