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My 1978 Torana SLR LX

Ralph Mastroianni, 44, remembers the illegal racing in Monavale Rd, Manly, where the V8 Toranas would smoke up the tyres and roar through the streets.

"I'm a Holden man through and through," he says. "I just always was. I had cousins who had Toranas when I was young and most of the guys around here had Holdens.

"We used to go to Monavale Rd ... but that hasn't been happening there for a good 15 or 20 years." Mastroianni joined the Red team at the age of 19 when he bought a 1978 Torana SLR LX for $2500.

"It had been modified with a Chevy 327cu (5345cc) small-block V8 motor and two-speed Powerglide," he says. "It was in fair condition and I bought it because of the engine.

"I did it up about a year after I bought it but it slowly started deteriorating a bit as I did use it as an every day car at one stage." Then Mastroianni noticed similar Toranas were starting to fetch big money so he began to research the market.

"They were going for $30,000 and up depending on the condition," he says. "But the ones that were getting the best money were those in original condition. So I decided to strip it to the bear shell and I replaced every nut and bolt with stainless steel and polished it up.

"The first time I spent about $20,000 and this last rebuild cost me $13,000. In the last rebuild three years ago I put in an original 4.2-litre Holden engine and four-speed manual because I saw how much money they were fetching. That's what's on the compliance plates and I wanted to get it pretty much back to original condition. I got offered $50,000 and I have it insured for $40,000.

"But I don't want to sell. My son (Adam, 8), has claimed it now and I can't get my other son (Jake, 15 months) out of it. It's sort of an investment now if I ever get into any financial trouble and need the money."

Mastroianni says his Torana is in "mint condition". "The engine number is the only thing that doesn't match. The compliance plate and shell match and are original," he says. "I did all the work myself and have a cousin who's a panelbeater and spray painter. There's no bog or filler anywhere in it.

"It's schmick." The main non-original component is the Cheviot hot-wire wheels (13 x 10 at the rear and 13 x 8 at the front).

"They're not factory, but they are pretty much what the guys used to put on them," he says. From 1974, Holden made the SLR 5000 with a five-litre V8 engine. The only change for the '76-'78 LX was the trim on the seats and round headlights replacing the square models. Holden also produced six-cylinder models.

Mastroianni says the 4.2-litre V8 goes well, but he can't use all of its power. "You can't give it heaps on the road any more. Twenty years ago you could have a go, but not any more," he says. "I use it as a cruiser. It's too good to take it racing. I just take it out once every four weeks around the local area."

He's not into the street racing scene these days and can't understand young enthusiasts' fascination with turbo fours. "They're driving all these little buzz boxes now. I'm not really into them," he says. "They might go all right but I don't like the style of new cars.

"I love pre-80s cars and I prefer the sound and rumble of a V8." The Torana has more than 260,000km on the odo, but doesn't get much work these days.

"It's locked away in the back and takes me 20 minutes to get it out 'cause I have to move the dog, the garbage bins, the swing set and the other car."

Torana SLR LX
Year: 1978
Price New: $4500
Price Now: from $30,000
Engine: 189kW, 4.2L OHV V8
Transmission: 4 speed manual
Did you know:  Holden produced 65,977 LX Toranas in hatchback and sedan body styles. Torana is an Aboriginal word meaning "to fly".

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