In some circles the term ‘hot hatch’ refers to small front-wheel drive–powered cars of European decent, modified generally with an outrageous excess of fibreglass bodykit, oversized wheels, a few tonne of audio gear, neon lights and TV screens. Thankfully Shane and John Poulton’s idea of a hot hatch is somewhat different.
Having both always been fans of the Torana hatches because of their light weight, racing pedigree, and rarity, when the father and son team found a decent starting point on Trade Me they jumped at the chance to own it. Unlike their Camaro (see last issue), with the Torana they knew exactly what they were getting and how much work would need to be done to get the car looking and running as it should. It wasn’t a small job, but they went into the build with a solid plan. Little did they know, that plan would be refashioned along the way and would snowball, and what was to have been completed as a cool streeter would end up enhanced even further to the stunner you see here.
The first step was to sort out the powerplant. Sure, they could have changed the engine for a small block Chev, or even a late-model injected motor, but that wasn’t what this build was about. This build was to improve on what the factory offered, rather than create something fully custom. As such they had George at Ezygee Performance build up a tough 308 using a four-bolt mains block and early high-flowing 308 heads. A C.O.M.E. Racing stroker kit has bumped capacity out to 355ci and a bunch of ARP fasteners hold the whole combination together. The early heads were chosen for their higher flow rates, although now they’re flowing even more than when they left the factory thanks to extensive porting and the use of oversized valves.
The valvetrain was one area where Shane and John knew they could get a whole lot more power, so they didn’t hold back when it came to sourcing the best available parts. Included in that list are titanium retainers, Crane valve springs, Crane pushrods, Yella Terra roller rockers, and a high-lift solid camshaft. The idle is angry, but not over the top, yet the performance is enough to match the car’s tough looks.
The fuel and ignition setups are equally as impressive: the former starting with a massive alloy drop tank and Carter lift pump. A high-flow mechanical pump keeps the 750cfm Quick Fuel carb running while a Quick Fuel pressure regulator controls the flow.
Ignition is taken care of by an MSD 6AL-2, MSD Blaster 2 coil, and MSD Street Fire leads together with a Mallory electronic distributor. All wiring apart from the leads has been hidden under the dashboard in a very tidy fashion. A set of Auto Meter gauges has also been wired in to keep an eye on the combination.
Adding to the clean look of the engine bay, all holes have been filled, and the Edelbrock Torker manifold and Pacemaker headers have been HPC coated, and Speedflow fittings and braided lines have been used throughout the engine bay — including for the hydraulic Tilton clutch release.
The clutch itself is an Exedy item, which is mated to a T5 manual gearbox and lightened chromoly flywheel. From here a custom three-inch driveshaft sends power to the Ford nine-inch diff, which has been fitted with 28-spline axles and a Truetrac diff head. Those who know Shane know he’s not afraid of pushing cars hard, so while it may seem like the driveline is overkill, we can assure you it’s not.
Due to the car’s light weight, the guys saw no need to mess with the adequate factory brake setup, although they did modify the suspension as you’d expect. Those modifications include fitting King springs and Koni shocks all round, as well as a bunch of new bushes. Originally the decision was made to leave the car sitting at the height it should be to keep its classic appeal — rather than sitting it super-low as per their Camaro. But it didn’t take long before Shane got the bug to improve the car even further, and that’s when the 18×9 and 18×11-inch Intro rims were sourced. With the new rollers, the car just didn’t sit right, so it was lowered further, and, as you can see, the look is perfect.
It was a similar case with the exterior. Originally the guys had the car resprayed in the factory yellow, only for the look to not be up to their impeccable standards — and so a complete respray was commissioned. As with their Camaro, Jason from Auto Colour Matrix was given the job of changing the colour.
The result of the 18-month-long build is a great all-round package, and one that’s remarkably easy to drive. With 385 dyno-proven horsepower at the rear wheels and a manual box, there’s plenty of fun to be had in it. While they’re not overly rough with the car, it’s understandably not as precious an item as the Camaro is, so at this stage it has been out and about a bit more, and, as you’d imagine, gets plenty of admirers.
It’s a great package, small, lightweight and with performance beyond most cars on the road — exactly what a hot hatch should be. No massive stereos, no oversized bodykit, just a whole lot of fun.
1977 Holden Torana – Specifications
Engine: 355ci Holden, 308 block, 4-bolt mains, C.O.M.E. Racing stroker crank, Eagle rods, Probe forged pistons, ACL bearings, ARP fasteners, ARP main stud kit, ARP rod bolts, ARP head stud kit, Romac Harmonic Balancer, modified high-flow oil pump, JP Performance double-row timing chain set, ported and polished heads, oversized valves, titanium retainers, Crane valve springs, Crane pushrods, Yella Terra roller rockers, solid camshaft, solid lifters, high-flow mechanical fuel pump, Carter electronic lift pump, Quick Fuel 750cfm double pumper carburettor, Quick Fuel fuel pressure regulator, Gilmer belt drive, HPC-coated Edelbrock Torker intake manifold, HPC-coated modified Pacemaker headers, custom twin 2.5-inch exhaust, alloy radiator, electric fan, Speedflow -20 braided radiator lines, MSD 6AL-2 ignition, MSD Blaster 2 coil, MSD Street Fire leads, Mallory electronic distributor
Drivetrain: Chev T5 gearbox, custom lightened chromoly flywheel, Exedy sports clutch kit, custom 3-inch chromoly driveshaft, 9-inch diff, Truetrac LSD centre, 28-spline axles, hydraulic Tilton clutch setup
Suspension: Koni shocks, King springs
Wheels/Tyres: 18×9 and 18×11-inch Intro rims, 225/40R18 and 265/35R18 Achilles tyres
Exterior: PPG silver paint, custom drop tank
Interior: Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges, custom retrim
Performance: 385hp at rear wheels
Shane and John Poulton – Driver Profile
Age: 28, 57
Occupation: JP Cartage owners
Previously owned cars: HT Monaro, 2x 1948 Ford Bonus, VL V8 Calais, VK Brock Commodore
Dream car: 1969 Camaro
Why the Torana?: Caught our eye on Trade Me, and had always wanted one as they are getting rare
Length of ownership: 18 months
John and Shane thank: Ezygee Performance, Auto Colour Matrix, Auto Safe and Sound, North Shore Mag and Turbo
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 85. Get your copy here.
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