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Holden LH Torana | 40 years an icon


And with good reason, because the LH is the second last Holden to be fully conceived, engineered, designed and built in Australia. The VE Commodore was the last. Styled by Leo Pruneau and his team, the mid-sized Torana package appealed to a broad cross section of consumers. It was one of the few cars in the world specifically designed for four, six and eight cylinder motors.

Lowest on the model hierarchy was the four cylinder poverty pack. In the middle were the sixes and a few creature comforts. At the top, more race car than street machine, sat the awesome SLR 5000 with the L34 V8 option pumping out nearly 250kW. That was big power in the mid 1970s.

That Leo Pruneau styled the LH Torana provides a wonderful serendipity. For it was Leo who, ten years earlier, styled the Vauxhall Viva which morphed into Australia's first Torana. Leo spoke to Carsguide about designing the LH. "We got the right shape very early in the program and it was consistent with General Motors design language at the time. If you look at the Chevrolet Vega and Vauxhall Ventora you can see the similarities, particularly around the grille and side view", he says.

Leo also confided that the grille was originally planned to be bigger and bisected by a much thinner chrome bumper bar, similar to the Vega. "We could not achieve that look because the body engineers did not like it, so we compromised with a smaller opening under a wider bumper bar."

The dash board was also a result of corporate consensus. Pruneau's team had styled a sculptured, rounded facia, but Holden was eager to gain exports. That meant the dashboard had to accommodate left and right hand drive configurations. A flat symmetrical facia was the easiest and cheapest to make and that's what went into production.

A station wagon and two door coupe were also planned for the LH range. The wagon never got beyond the prototype stage. The two door was redesigned into a hatchback and made it on to the market in 1976. The LH Torana has an enduring appeal in the classic car market. Entry level examples can be had for under $10,000 while original SLR 5000s go for over $60,000.

In 2004 Holden resurrected the Torana name and dimensions as a four door hatchback concept car. It makes you wonder if instead of spending a billion dollars on developing an upsized, longer, heavier Commodore, they'd spent it on a new mid-sized Torana they might not be downsizing the organisation now.

David Burrell is the editor of www.retroautos.com.au