THolden fans are going to hate it, but Al McClure is too busy driving the Eight in his stunning Barra-powered LC Torana. Built entirely in a back shed in Serpentine, Western Australia by Al and his two sons Connor and Bailey, this Ford-powered Lion has plenty of potential.
This article was first published in the August 2020 issue. Street Machine
The McClures are a drag racing family, with Al competing for nearly 30 years in a variety of rides from street cars to technical cars. His first car was a Barbados green Tourana with a 179ci six-banger and triple SU carbs, and three decades later, he and his boys have built this LC as a tribute to their first racer.
“The kids did junior dragsters, and about 10 years ago I was looking for a Torana shell so that one day we all had time when we could get together,” explains Al. “I found this broken shell that was good enough for a drag car, and stuck it in the back of the shed.”
Eight years later, Al and the boys decide it’s time to call it quits. “It was good for them,” says Al. “They had to learn how to make four-links, fit tubs, do body and metalwork, make roll cages – all the tricks of the trade of building a car from scratch.
“Since the kids today are into EFI, turbos and radial racing, we decided to go that route. It’s not a direction I would have gone otherwise. We wanted a six-cylinder, because these cars came with a six-pot.” There are, but Toyota 2JZs are too expensive and Nissan RBs are getting rare. We also wanted cubes, and that was what Cab Motors had. And these twelve motors were just that cheap! We got three of them. Bought for $400 just for spare parts, but the plan has always been to build a motor that makes big power.
To help with this, the guys contacted Rob from Monsta Torque, who provided every part of the mix, as well as some rough advice on setting up the car. “Every part of the build has been done in our shed, and Rob’s advice has been killer from day one,” says Al.
The engine was not an easy fit in the Torana. Barra motors are long and tall, and crews also need to make sure it’s easy to work on while they’re racing. “We started by cutting back the firewall and shortening the tunnel about six inches,” explains Al. “We changed the sump to an FG-style one, which has a rear pickup so we can clear the cross member.” Even the inside of the bonnet has been completely trimmed for a little extra clearance.
“There was no conversion kit for this setup,” says Al. “Everything had to be made by us: the engine mounts, the 18 liter header tank inside the front guard, the fuel pump mount, the crank mandrel – the list goes on.”
As the car was to be a racer, it was configured to run on alcohol, which meant a belt-driven 110 Enderle fuel pump and dual 2000cc injectors in each intake runner. “We don’t need that many injectors right now, but we have plans,” laughs Al.
“We’ve done a bit of planning on the motor, and the first stage is now in the car, with the stock crank, H-beam rods, forged pistons and everything upgraded,” he continues. That said, it still runs a stock head with copper head gaskets, fire ring inserts, 9/16-inch head studs, stainless valves and crow valve springs.
“It’s for driving a motor car and for boys to learn to drive,” says Al. “Once they get that under control, we’ll push it with better cranks, cams and some head porting. That’s a plan Rob and I agreed on so we can all learn the ropes.
The engine still runs the factory Ford turbo manifold, which is why the massive GTX45 (80/82) turbo is peeking out of the bonnet. Once the guys got a bit of coin they would build a custom manifold, put the turbo behind the headlight and put everything under the hood.
In terms of exhaust, the car currently has a massive four-inch dump pipe hanging in the air intake, which Al thinks sounds pretty badass when you’re backing into the deep end licking up the alcohol flames. . “All the experts told me that coming out of the bonnet would burn the paint and it would never work,” he says. “I’ve been running headers on nitro cars near the bodywork for years without any damage, and what do you know, we’ve never had a problem.”
The guys decided to run the car on a hub dyno to get a little handle on things before heading to the track. At 29psi, it cranked out 900rwhp.
Backing up the powerhouse is a very serious Powerglide trans with a two-piece red case, manual valve body, Pro Brakes and a 1.8:1 straight cut gear set with a 10 clutch top gear drum. The converter pump is a 5000rpm all-fast item with a ringless input shaft.
Everywhere you look, this car ticks all the boxes. Even the rear end has a nine-inch floater, which started out as a 31-spline but has now been upgraded to a 35-spline after the boys busted the axle. The hub is a twin-ribbed piece with 3.5:1 gears and a full spool.
The vehicle is light, weighing just 2530lb before a guy climbs aboard. However, neither Connor nor Bailey have taken the same weight-saving measures, each adding around 275lb to the package.
It was only natural that Rob from Monsta Torque would tune the car, equipped with a Haltech 2500T ECU. “We went to the track with a 15psi tune and went from there,” says Al. “We uncovered a few bits, found a few weak spots, but ran a bunch of 10s, nines, high eights and a 8.48 @ 160mph on the 275 Radial Pro.
“We’re confident of running a 7.90 with the stock cams, and I see no reason why we won’t end up in the 7.50s as we move to the next phase of engine building.
“Right now we have 36psi of boost in the car, and see the turbo running out of steam at about 42. We only have 28 passes on the car and we had some rear changes we wanted to try, but This COVID-19 thing has put the brakes on us.
“But it was great building a car with the boys,” Al concluded. “I was a painter years ago and used to jam so we could say we built that whole car in our shed.”
Of course, slipping a Ford Dunk into a classic Torana is always going to ruffle a few feathers. “You look around in drag racing and you see Chevs in Capers, Hemis in all different cars, LS motors in everything, but honestly, we put a few pictures of our car on the Torana webpage and we have People are making death threats and telling us. We should kill ourselves!” Al says.
Al has two sons, Connor and Bailey.
“Seriously, it was crazy. People thought we took a flawless car and put a Ford in it. It was complete hysteria on the web pages.”
Well, we think those purists will be eating humble pie when these bara-wielding beasts break down the seven!