The A9X story...
Introduced in August 1977 in time for the Sandown 500 endurance race, the A9X Torana was released by G.M.H. without any advertising or promotion of any description. Although never documented or verified by GMH, it appears this was to ensure there was no repeat of the "Supercar Scare" of 1972. The A9X was introduced as a "Performance Equipment Package" option (not a special model) and was available with the LX Torana SS or SL/R with the 5.0 litre, 308 cubic inch V8 engine. In reality, the changes to the A9X were so significant; it really did qualify as a specific model.
Retail prices were $10,600 (plus on-road costs) for the four-door sedans and $10,800 (plus on-road costs) for the two-door hatchbacks. All A9X Toranas were complianced between August 1977 and December 1977, with the exception being one vehicle complianced in January 1978.
Contrary to published editorials, the A9X was a slow seller and the available colours were not particularly desirable. The colours were Palais White, Panama Green, Flamenco Red, Ultra Blue, Jasmine Yellow, Valencia Orange and Dynasty Gold. Further exterior options were then made available including black, and variations in blue, yellow, orange, green, red, and bronze/gold/tan. Contrary to popular belief, not all A9X four-doors had silver around the paint-out on the rear spoiler. Both silver and black were used, depending on the colour of the vehicle.
The birth of the A9X (and the L34 it replaced) came purely as a result of the need to comply with the Group C Touring Car regulations of the time. In those days (1973-1984) touring car racing was far more representative of the cars that manufacturers sold to the public. To comply with Group C rules, car makers were forced to produce sufficient numbers of road legal examples of their competition cars equipped with all the components needed for racing. This process was referred to in the rule book as "homologation".
The A9X evolved as a remedy for the various weaknesses of the previous racing version of the Torana, the L34. Outwardly, the L34 (which refers to the engine code) was an LH SL/R 5000 four-door sedan with bolt-on wheel arch flares, but internally there were some major changes to homologate the cars for competition use.
The L34 engine block was a special Repco casting fitted with special pistons, roller rockers, larger inlet and exhaust valves, exhaust headers, baffled sump, twin-point distributor and other items aimed at making the engine more durable under race conditions. The L34s brakes were also upgraded using the larger HQ Holden front disc and rear drum brake set-up, and the differential was a baffled version of the banjo-style unit. On top of this base L34 option was a $1,500 competition pack available which included an engine oil cooler, solid valve lifters, competition pistons, modified exhaust system, 780cfm Holley carburettor, Crane roller rockers and a special "Bathurst" camshaft. Although the L34 went on to become a Bathurst winner in 1975 and 1976, it suffered as a race car with flimsy rear drum brakes and a fragile differential and transmission.
Enter the A9X. The A9X borrowed a section of the rear floorpan from the new UC Torana to allow the vastly improved Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) geometry and fitment of the much stronger Salisbury rear axle assembly complete with disc brakes. This made the A9X the first Holden ever to be fitted standard with rear discs, and the Salisbury differential also meant the extra tall 2.60:1 ratio could be used.
Up front, braking was similar to that of the L34, but now featured alloy callipers and a brake proportioning valve in a new dual-tandem master cylinder. RTS ensured the complete revision of the front end as well, with new upper control arms, steering arms, shock absorbers, disc brakes and suspension mounting points. The steering rack was now solidly mounted to the crossmember, rather than the rubber mountings found in previous Toranas. Aerodynamic additions included a front spoiler with cold-air ducting to cool the front brakes.
Due to the new exhaust emission control laws and design rule ADR27A, the A9X missed out on the L34 engine option. All A9X Toranas left the factory fitted with the stock L31 5.0 litre V8, although the race cars could still use the L34 as it had previously been homologated. The only engine-related modifications in the A9X were the replacement of the belt-driven engine cooling fan with a single thermostatic electric unit, the inclusion of a coolant recovery system, and a heavy duty radiator. It should be noted the A9X only had a single thermal fan and not two, although some cars fitted with dealer-optioned air did have twin electric fans.
The most noticeable addition to the engine ancillaries was a new rear-facing, bonnet-mounted carburettor induction scoop. This was designed to take advantage of the excellent breathing capabilities provided by the low air pressure zone at the base of the windscreen, and also allowed race teams to fit a cold-air box to further reduce inlet temperatures.
All A9X Toranas rolled off the assembly line in the same basic specification, and whilst race fans will remember the A9X with L34 engine, T10 gearbox, roll cage, wide wheels and long-range fuel tanks, no A9X ever left the factory like that. They didnít even come with a radio, although customers could get further options fitted by the dealer, including air-conditioning, sunroof, window demister, etc.
Only 405 A9X Toranas were produced for sale to the public and these consisted of 305 four-door sedans and 100 two-door hatches. There were an additional 52 GMP&A (General Motors Parts and Accessories) body shells specifically produced for competition made up of 11 sedans and 41 hatches. These came purely as a body shell with no engine and no gearbox, there wasnít even a hole cut in the floor for the gearshift. Modifications were required to the floorpan to mount the T10 gearbox and a special "blister" patch was made available to race teams for this purpose.
The A9X was built to win races. It achieved this by taking out the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1978 and 1979. It was the Sandown 500 winner in 1977, 1978 and 1979, and Bathurst 1000 winner in 1978 and 1979. No one will forget the last win at Mount Panorama in 1979 when Peter Brock and Jim Richards drove the car to a crushing six-lap victory, with Peter Brock claiming a new lap record on the final lap. The A9X was dominant and claimed the first 8 finishing positions that year.
The A9X Torana went on to become the most successful Australian Touring Car ever to be released by G.M.H. Its achievements, in particular the 1978 year, have been unmatched or equalled by any other Australian Motor Car. By the end of 1979, the A9X Torana became unbeatable on the Touring Car scene. It created history as the first truly homologated design car built purposely for motor racing, and was by far the most successful.
It is important that owners understand that they possess a piece of Australian history which will never be repeated.