1 Of 100 Built: 1977 Holden LX Torana A9X

It wasn’t that long ago we profiled a barn-find Ford Falcon GT that had been languishing in an Australian garage. Well, get ready for some deja vu as this 1977 Holden LX Torana A9X is also a recent discovery after close to thirty years in storage in Sydney. The extremely limited production numbers combined with the racing pedigree the A9X package offers puts this particular Holden in exclusive company. Read about it here on Nine.com.au.
 

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Adam T45 for the find. This particular car started out as a desirable SS hatchback with a 5.0L V8 underhood churning out upwards of 240 b.h.p. The factory, with a similar goal of track success like the developers of limited-production models on the Falcon program, set out to build a car that could compete (and win) at the likes of Bathurst and Australian Touring Car events. Thus, the A9X package was born.

The A9X’s key distinguishing feature was its new ram air intake hood scoop, which was functional and directed cool outside air into the engine bay. Other upgrades were added if the A9X box was checked, including rear disc brakes and an upgraded “10-bolt” differential. This particular car has just under 100,000 KMs and extensive documentation from new and auctioneers expect it to fetch a six-figure price when it goes under the hammer.

Image courtesy of dtopshop.au

Why? Well, nostalgia plays a big role as the Aussies seem to love their hero cars, the ones built specifically for domination on the racing circuit. The A9X was piloted at various times by the likes of Peter Brock and Jim Richards to impressive results at consecutive Bathurst 1000s. Although relatively unknown in the U.S.A., these cars are exceedingly rare today with only 100 hatchbacks believed to exist.

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Comments

  1. bob

    strewth mate, that’s an ocker Aussie hot rod!!

    Like 1
  2. John Newell

    It’s a Vega with some bolt ons. I like the look of it though and unlike North American Vegas, this one stayed together. This is what the Vega should have been. Aussies showed GM how it’s done. Unfortunately GM didn’t listen.

    • Nick

      There is absolutely nothing Vega under this car. There are Opel roots under the skin. The Vega shared nothing with this GM car or any other GM car until it was spun off into the Monza. Word.

      Like 1
      • Adam T45 Staff

        You’re close Nick. The original Torana (the HB, LC, LJ and TA series) were all based on an Opel/Vauxhall base. By the time the LH and then LX derivatives emerged, the Torana was a completely stand-alone Australian designed car.

        Like 1
  3. edh

    Vega with a V8, no big thing.

    • Poppapork

      To me it looks like an opel Manta B with an Opel ascona A front fascia

    • Murray

      edh: Mate, I’ll pay to fly you out on the condition you walk into a country town Pub and say that. It would be worth the money to see how you get on. Probably not too well :-)

      Like 1
      • Pa Tina

        Good on ‘ya mate! I got bounced by the BF wowsers after pointing out to edh the errors of his ways.

  4. Pa Tina

    Try and find a cooler name for a car!

    Like 1
  5. Joseph Wayne Haddock

    Looks like the love child of a late 70’s Nova and a Citation with a kick ass rwd running gear. I’LL TAKE ONE!

  6. Adam T45 Staff

    Before I go any further, I would like to point out that I am a devotee of the blue oval. However, I do hold a great deal of respect for the A9X Torana. It’s record speaks for itself. In Australian motor-sport there is what people would call “the great divide”. You are either a follower of Ford or GM. The A9X was built by Holden as a limited production run designed to dominate the Bathurst 1000 race. For those that think that it’s just a “Vega with a V8”, trust me you couldn’t be more mistaken!

    Australian touring car racing was run (up until the end of 1984) under what was called Group C Modified Production regulations. Basically any car that qualified under world-wide Group 2 regulations was allowed to compete in both the Australian Touring Car Championship and the Bathurst 1000. This allowed such cars as the Z28 Camaro and BMW 635 to compete against the local Ford and Holden products such as the Falcon and Torana.

    As part of the GM empire, Holden were not allowed to sponsor motor-sport. But that didn’t stop them building cars fit for purpose. One of the keys to our racing category was the term “Modified Production”. As a result the cars had to utilise a stock body-shell, stock suspension arms and suspension mounting points, standard engine block, cylinder heads (including standard rocker gear), standard brake configuration, and all interior trim (including carpets) had to be intact! Holden chose to stretch these rules to the limit, so they built the A9X Torana. Race teams could change carbs, pistons and conrods, and consistently and reliably extracted 400+ HP from these engines, and at places like the infamous Conrod Straight at Bathurst the cars would easily top 160mph.

    As a production car, so austere was the interior that it did not even include a radio as standard. Very few of the actual production cars were actually converted to race cars however. Holden produced the 100 hatchback A9X road cars, but to assist teams in transforming a road car to a race car they also produced a number of body-shells referred to as “GMPA” shells (General Motors Parts & Accessories). These were standard shells that went down the normal production line. They were only built to “rolling shell” specifications, but had additional nuts, etc strategically welded into the shell for mounting roll cages, etc. These were designed to allow teams to build and paint the cars to their own specifications for colour, etc without having to dismantle an entire production car.

    Were these successful as a race car? Just a bit! The A9X Torana won the 78 Australian Touring Car Championship in the hands of the late (and sadly missed) Peter Brock, and again in 1979 with Bob Morris. At Bathurst in 1978 Peter Brock paired with Jim Richards easily won the 1000km race (the equivalent of the US Daytona 500). In 1979 the Brock/Richards combo didn’t just win, they annihilated and demoralised the opposition. It wasn’t unusual for the winning car at Bathurst in those days to lap the entire field on the way to a win. These guys won the race by 6 laps! And just to under-score their domination, Peter Brock deliberately broke the lap record on the last lap of the race to rub salt into the wound.

    Group C racing was very much a compromise category. To pound a car around one of the toughest race tracks on the planet for 1000km’s meant having to nurse the car to protect its fragile production components like gearboxes and suspensions. The A9X could be driven flat-out all day with total confidence. It was a game-changer.

    Like 2
    • Beatnik Bedouin

      The Torana range was originally Vauxhall/Opel based. Like Adam said, it had nothing to do with the Vega and was, frankly, a much better car.

      You guys, stateside, need to visit Bathurst to see what an amazing track it is. It’s probably one of the greatest road race circuits on the planet (and I’ve been to a lot of ’em)!

      I drove around it back in 1975 in a XA Falcon panelvan (it’s a public road), with a terrified owner’s brother in the passenger’s seat.

      I don’t think he was too impressed when I three-wheeled his brother’s van going flat out, downhill through the Dipper. In fact, methinks he didn’t realise how fast one could drive it around corners…

      …The guy insisted on driving the rest of the day, for some strange reason…

      Adam, on that same visit to your homeland, I offered to buy a mate’s E-49 Charger – he was planning to sell it in a few months for AUD $2500. I told him I’d pay his asking price, with a view to shipping it to SoCal. If I couldn’t get it complied, I’d have set it up for circuit (road) racing.

      He thought I was crazy (which is obviously true), because I could buy a new Camaro, Mustang or Corvette, back home. Compared to the Charger, the smogged pony cars and ‘Vette were nothing.

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Hey Beatnik, there are plenty of clips from Bathurst on YouTube. However (as you will no doubt confirm) none of them give a true impression of how steep the place is and how narrow the track is. The Dipper is amazing, and I’ll tell you mate that it’s a wonder the cops didn’t nab you at The Dipper as the speed limit is 35mph.

        As Beatnik stated, the Bathurst circuit is a public road which is open to traffic for most of the year. It was actually built during the 1930s as a scenic drive to boost employment during The Great Depression. The designer just happened to design a scenic drive with run-off areas and escape roads! The other part of the circuit which gets your attention is a piece called Skyline. It is where cars stop climbing the mountain, and start heading down the other side. Cars arrive at Skyline at approximately 130mph. Sounds easy? Well it’s actually a blind down-hill corner that requires an act of faith as there is only one racing line. Get it wrong and there’s concrete walls just waiting for you with absolutely no run-off area.

        Hmmm….an E49 Charger. Mate, you should’ve grabbed that. Beautiful car and go fast enough to scare most people. From memory, the E49 was the fastest production 6-cylinder passenger car over the standing 1/4 mile in its day. The Australian car industry produced some amazing cars, and for a small market, it punched well above its weight. It’s sad that those days are gone.

        For those who are interested in seeing the A9X in its natural habitat ( a race track), check out the link below for highlights of the 1979 Bathurst 1000.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCRLKBIUkXw

      • Tricky

        Adam T45 that is a good example of Dick Johnson’s ‘win it, or bin it’ philosophy!!

    • Concinnity

      Here’s Brocks own race car in action. In Australia the racetracks can have big elevation changes, they’re not just flat or banked ovals.This actual car is now worth very big money.

      Like 3
      • Adam T45 Staff

        Hey Concinnity, would it be considered to be sad or pathetic if I was to say that I’m pretty sure I know when this pic was taken?

        If I’m right, this picture of the Brock/Richards A9X going through the Dipper was taken on Saturday 29th September 1979 during the Top 10 run-off that used to be called Hardie’s Heroes (in deference to then race sponsor Hardie Ferodo). If you look at the picture the car appears to be wearing aero wheel covers. These were a trick that John Shepherd, the then HDT Manager, adopted for Hardie’s Heroes. It was the only time the car used them at Bathurst. Tragic, or what?

      • Concinnity

        Not sad or pathetic or tragic, something to be proud of. If we can’t celebrate knowledge like that here, we can’t celebrate it anywhere. :-)

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      Adam, you should write for BF’s. Since this is clearly a worldwide site, you could be our Australian connection. They made some cool cars we never saw in the US.

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Rube, I’d love to do it. I’m pretty sure that I have petrol running in my veins. My wife always tells people not to argue with me about cars (especially ones with a motor-sport heritage) because they’ll lose.

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      YES.

      Thanks for posting the history, a great read. I’ve long been a fan of Australian motorsports, such great and unique venues.

      If I ever won the lottery, I’d seek out all the information available on a John Player Special, Corvair-bodied, mid-engined saloon racer, and have one built. Hell Yaz!

  7. Classic Steel

    Now that’s an Ausie car mate !

    One can sit around the Barbie drinking stout and telling tall ones and future road warrior tales🙀🍺🍺🍺🍺

    • TC Oztralia

      Now why in hell would someone want to sit around a Barbie and drink stout while telling tall ones, in Australia it’s either BEER or nothing, stout is only for the Irish imports, (and girls), who haven’t quite got the taste for beer yet but are working on it, we use ‘stubby holders’ on our cans, not to keep the beer cold, it’s to stop your fingers from freezing, you can’t drink warm stout or beer in Oz, it’s got to be close to frozen but not quite crunchy.

      Like 1
  8. Chris Londish Member

    Well actually it’s none of those suggested it was a HQ Holden with 700 pounds trimmed off and marketed as compact to the larger brother with all of the same engine and trans options and no self respecting Aussie would be seen dead sitting around the Barbie drinking stout probably more like a lager or a Bundy rum

  9. Tricky

    Ram air – No!!! It was a reverse facing scoop designed to utilise the cool turbulent air at the base of the windscreen for its induction. It did not add to the output of the engine in any way, shape or form. Simply, it was a way to get cool air into the engine in the most aerodynamic way possible.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      You’re pretty right there Tricky. The traditional way that Group C operators got air to the engine was via the engine bay, resulting in the engine ingesting hot air. Most of those running the A9X utilised an air box to seal against the underside of the bonnet. Air was then sucked into the engine from above the cowl, allowing a cooler and denser charge. It did give a slight boost in power, but it was mainly designed to allow the engine to just breathe better air which helped to improve reliability. The attached photo is from a race A9X and is a pretty typical example of what teams used to do.

      Like 1
      • Beatnik Bedouin

        To me, this was the Golden Age of Australian motorsport; imho, today’s Aussie Supercars pales in comparison.

        Australia did build some amazing performance cars, and I have had the pleasure of driving a few over the decades. A friend of mine in NZ has a late model Ford Falcon that’s his daily driver and can comfortably run 10s in the quarter in road trim.

        Adam, the reason I didn’t buy the E-49 is that the owner (a well-known hot rodder from Newcastle, NSW) didn’t believe that I was serious, even after my sending him repeated letters following up on when he planned to sell the car.

        Like 1
      • alan

        hi adam I went to the local 1/4 miles today.i am a ford fan,there was a 507 kw holden there,very impressive. you guys made some very good hp cars

        Like 1
  10. Tim

    I grew up near Bathurst and have fond memories of going to the drive in movies that at the track , the entrance was half way down Con Rod straight , I had a 77 Falcon ute with a hot 351 Cleveland top loader & 9 inch , after the movies we would always do a hot lap of the circuit being sure to leave via a back road before the cops arrived , great memories !!!

  11. Rube Goldberg Member

    This is a bitcxxin’ car. You know, we in the US were so sheltered, we thought we were the king of speed, and in many ways, we were, but we rarely, if ever, heard of Australia’s shenanigan’s with fast cars, seemingly until now. ( for me, anyway, never heard of it)This a cool ride, bet it’s a blast. I agree, it has many Opel 1900 features with a Vega roof and the V8 sweetens the deal. A V8 in a 1900? Might be enough to scare me.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      Rube, we were producing some amazing cars here until less than 6 months ago when the local industry shut its doors. If you want a taste of the sorts of cars that we produced, it’s worth googling Holden Special Vehicles (or HSV). HDT Special Vehicles was the business that was started by Peter Brock in 1980 and ran until 1987 when he had a falling out with Holden, so that’s worth Googling as well. For the blue oval you could Google Ford Performance Vehicles.

      To give you an idea of what we’ve lost with local shut-down, can you imagine any manufacturer in the US being able to sell a 5-seat family sedan which produced a genuine 577bhp? The Gen-F GTS produced by Holden Special Vehicles was such a car.

      • Concinnity

        Welll……700bhp. The Charger Hellcat. But you’re partly right, I don’t think FCA would have done this without the numerous Australian precedents.

      • Rube Goldberg Member

        May as well get used to it.The world is a changin’. I read, Australia changed their Top Fuel dragster distance to 1000′. They were a long time holdout for the 1/4 mile, and many teams, fed up with the NHRA baloney, raced in Australia ( though, we rarely heard of them).

  12. John Taylor

    The A9X also had a slightly different floor pan than other hatchback Torana’s. Man they were a thing to be reckoned with, I have a mate who had a genuine A9X but sold it after he and his cook split the sheets. I can see that topping the 6 figures alright.

  13. Peter

    Not to forget GM Holden exported their Commodores to the US and was badged as Pontiacs

    Like 1
    • Pa Tina

      And the greatest car that too few in America appreciated- The Chevrolet SS. The No.1 car on my short list of “Retirement Rides” Six-speed only.

      Like 2
      • Alan (Michigan) Member

        Preceded by the Pontiac G8. I saw a GXP version Friday night in Ohio. Dang, what a cool car, although I didn’t appreciate the aftermarket tail lenses….

        Like 1
  14. TC Oztralia

    Didn’t Holden in South Australia produce the US LHD Chevy Police cars for some time before they closed the plant in Adelaide, I think the local Chevrolet Performance Association car club still has one as a promo vehicle with all the cop goodies in it, unless GM took it back when they closed the doors ?

    Like 1

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