Welcome to the all new Holden Heaven
Torana Handling


  Making your Holden Handle

So you want to make your Holden Handle like a race car?
Well if you do then the first thing to do is de-register it and go out and buy some wide wheels and racing slicks along with about 30 other items!

Getting your Holden to handle is always going to be a compromise as you have to consider several important factors, least of all the fact that it is road registered.  When a race car team arrive at a race track they spend hours fine tuning for a bump or a corner then find that it slows them down somewhere else on the track. They alter gearing in the diff and gearbox, adjust suspension, tyre pressures and even tune there engine to suit a particular track, this could include changing the cam etc.  When Holden or any car maker releases any new model it is always a compromise of comfort, handling, power, economy and price. 

Much of this is not suitable for those of you who like that little bit of extra cornering speed or that little bit of extra power or use there road car for circuit racing as well.  Well on this page I will outline a few things that will help your car to handle as good as the race cars of the day but I must stress that if you really want the best set-up for your car you should always consult an expert as these guys usually know a few extra tricks and they will make sure its safe. 

Topics covered here will be as follows:
Ride Height
Shock Absorbers (dampers)
Springs
Sway bars
Bushes
Wheels
Tyres
Wheel Alignment
Understeer
Oversteer
Kits
Recommended alterations
Some names
Towing

Ride Height
This is mostly a cosmetic difference to a street driven vehicle and not a beneficial gain to the driver but a lot of people want to do this so read this carefully. With ride height there are a couple of areas to be careful of and if you want to lower your car more than 3 cm-4 cm then you can cause problems elsewhere. The benefits of lowering are, less wind drag equals more speed and lower centre of gravity equals faster cornering speeds but to most people it isn't worth it.  The problems that can happen if you lower your car too far are often overlooked, your tie-rods are on a greater angle and when going over bumps can cause 'bump steer'.  This happens when the wheel is pushed further up the when going over a bump which causes the wheel to turn slightly, if you drove down a bumpy road the car would duck and dive from side to side while you fight the wheel.  I shouldn't have to mention the obvious about ride height but I will, the Police love to write tickets out for cars that are too low and the amount of speed humps you will hit may get to you.  Even lowering the rear too far can cause the car to become unstable in corners and in some extreme cases can actually cause the wheelbase to shorten on one side and to lengthen on the other side of your car. As you can imagine it could create a terrible combination and would be even worse if you had a few people in the car.  This gets me to another point about ride height, when you are carrying extra weight then your ride height alters once again so keep this in mind if you do lower your car. This is why you must use heavy duty springs and good quality shocks. There are some very good lowering kits available for all the holdens and you should never ever use heat or cut a coil from your springs as this is illegal for good reasons, heat re-tempers the springs and could cause a spring to fail under load. 

LC-LJ Suspension

Top Tip, one of the secrets to make these Toranas handle better was to relocate part of the suspension.

Shock Absorbers
(Dampers)
This is an easy subject to cover.  You need good shocks or to use there proper name dampers to get the best out of your car.  Now for the choice of dampers to use is really upto the size of your wallet and if you want adjustable or not.  You must replace these items if you want your Holden to improve in the handling and apart from tyres are the most important things to improving your handling.  A good set of dampers are a must as when you start to corner hard these little hidden things start to produce heat and the hotter they get the less efficiently they work, the viscocity of the oil changes with heat.  This is why you may have seen offroad race vehicles with 3 units per wheel and huge finned oil reservoirs.  The replacement of these is even more critical if you have upgraded any other suspension components.  You are able to get adjustable shocks which if you go onto the race track and street are well worth the money as you can have the best of both worlds. If you have lowered the springs make sure you get a shock that suits the new maximum travel otherwise you may pop a spring out and I don't have to state the obvious.

Springs
Your springs need to be replaced as the standard units are a balance of comfort, ride height and handling and designed for everyday use by the family.  Once again I will refer to ride height and the problems that can occur if you go to far, please read the ride height segment for more detail.  Heavy duty springs are compulsory to get a better handling car.  A stiffer spring stops some of the transfer of weight from one side of the car to the other side cosiderably and keeps the car sitting more level.  If you stiffen the springs then you should always look at the sway bars.

Sway Bars
The sway bar or roll bar is extremely important to get a your Holden handling and once again if you go too far you will cause problems.  Your sway bar stops your car from transfering weight from one side of the vehicle to the other and keeps your vehicle on a more level platform under hard cornering.  As you can imagine it is important to match your sway bar with your tyres, wheels, springs and shocks as if you have a very stiff sway bar you may lift the inside wheels of the ground.  If they are too soft the weight transfer becomes greater on the outside wheels and can cause them to let go more easily.  Some Holdens only have a front sway bars so the fitment of a rear is a must on these models. 

Bushes
This is a major fault with many people who modify there holdens suspension.  I have heard of some people going all out and replacing every bush with polyurethane units. I believe this is not the way to go, unless it is solely for the track as it can cause undue harshness being transmitted into the car. The best by far is a comprimise of stock items and polyurethane bushes at the more important areas where you want very little movement in your suspension components.  Too much movement in the suspension areas and your Holden will feel wishy washy under hard cornering and too little movement means that you feel every stone and crack on the road and if you feel it then all the components in your car feels it which can lead to all sorts of uncalculated problems.  Use polyurethane in the lower inner control arms and strut bar bushes in the front. Other than these replace all the rest with the stock units, this should give you very a direct feel without too much harshness in the ride.

Wheels
Wheels are really the individuals choice however you should never go overboard in width.  Some Holdens I have seen running around with the wrong type of mag wheel on there car which always makes me wonder how the hell they ever manage to go over the slightest bump without it rubbing on the guards.  You must always get the right offset mag to suit you model.  Look at the chap down the road with his lovely Commodore and his lovely HQ mags that poke out and rub on his guards everytime he goes over a bump.  Is eight inches enough or will six inches do?  Wheel size depends on several factors with your budget as probably as much to do with it as anything.  The larger the wheel diameter ie:14",  15",  16" or even 17" then the more expensive the tyres are to fit to them, also the lower the profile tyre you can have.  Check out tyres for an explaination on profiles.  The things to remember are how far out you can go before interfering with the guard, how far in you can go without interfering with the wheel wells and how large you can go without interfering with all the above, also where the wheel actually mounts to the studs.

Tyres
The choice is almost endless for tyres so I'm not going to say this brand is better than that one, what I will do is tell you that if you want performance and road hugging tyres then be prepared to pay for them.  Profiles are easy to explain, you must have heard of people talking about there 35 series tyres or 50 series or the old standard of the 80's the 70 series tyres.  70 series tyres are 70% in sidewall height compared to the tread width, 50 series tyres are 50% in sidewall height compared to the tread width, so if you have a 205 x 50 series tyres it is 102mm in sidewall height as the 205 or 235 or 185 is a metric measurement for radial tyres.  The lower the series tyre the better the road holding in corners but the less comfort you have over irregularities in the road so once again you may well go for a compromise in comfort.  Tyres also make a difference to the gearing of your car, when I was racing I used to measure the outside circumference of the tyres I was using  as the gearing made a difference coming out of corners and down the straight.  This will effect you with your speedo not reading true and could cause an expensive lesson in a speeding fine or the other way it may cost more in fuel to travel the same distance. Tyre pressure are very important to the handling of your car as this can correct or add to problems in your handling.  Have you ever been driving with a flat tyre, you would notice the car handles like it is on ice.  At high speeds in corners the same thing can happen, I prefer to run my tyres around 35-36 psi when I travel as it creates very direct steering and instant responsiveness which transmits to precise feeling and total control.  Tyre pressure is even more relevant when you are carrying a load or you are towing.

Wheel Alignment
Wheel Alignment can determine how your car handles at any given part of the road and is the most important factor to a cars handling as it ties all the components together and can create many characteristics.

Take a look at Peter Brocks Commodore and notice the drivers side tyre with only an inch or so touching the road.  You will notice all race cars are set up this way because they are cornering at the maximum all the time as opposed to a mass production family car which is driven much more sedately.  Now think how a race car sits going through a corner and how the tyre takes the incredible force thats produced by the corner speed, the outside tyre actually sits flat on track and so provides the car with maximum traction.  So you think thats what I want for my street rocket, well stop thinking that way as I mentioned at the beginning if you want race car handling then rip your plates.  You have to compromise with every aspect of handling to suit the street and this part of the handling package is best done by an expert who has all the best equipment.

Understeer and Oversteer
Understeer causes the car to take a wider line in a corner and requires the driver turn the steering wheel further than normal or to apply mild braking to correct it.
Oversteer is when the car becomes tail happy and the driver is required to opposite lock the steering wheel to correct it.
Car makers tend towards understeer as this is safer than oversteer and can be corrected more easily by the general public where as most racing drivers prefer a slight oversteer.

Kits
Kits are the absolute best way to improve a cars handling package as long as they are from reputable companies.  They have developed there kits for the need of motoring enthusiasts over many years and a full kit would include all the components that is needed for you if you have the skills to perform the operation yourself. I would like any manufacturers or suppliers of these kits to get in touch with me so I can include your name and address here!

Recomended Modifications
Ok so we jumped straight to this heading didn't we?  Well if you did then I really would suggest go back to the start and read carefully as it may be in your safety interests to do so.  Where shall I start, springs must be heavy duty but dont lower more than 3 cm.  Shocks must be good quality and if you have lowered your car more than 3 cm you may have to get shorter units.  Sway bars should be no more than 24 mm front and 18 mm rear even less for a six cylinder.  Bushes should be standard everywhere except on the front struts and the lower inner control arms. Wheels should be at least 15" mags with a 50 series quality tyre.  When all this has been done a good computerised wheel alignment shop that works with race cars is recommended so he can fine tune you new rocket ship.   Well I hope I get some feed-back about this page and I look forward to writing some of your comments at the bottom of this page.

Some Names
Some of the Makes of suspension components that I can remember are listed just to give you an idea of the choice and the reason I would like you to refer to an expert for advice.  I would welcome anyone who is connected with a suspension company to offer there services here and maybe a quoted price would be of interest to the readers out there.
These are listed in alphabetical order and not in preference order.
Armstrong
Bilstein
Gabriel
Gerrard
Koni
KYB
Lovells
Monroe
Old Man Emu
Pedders
Sachs
Selbys
Spax
Tokico

Towing
I have done quite a lot of towing with some very heavy loads at times including when I was racing a speedway car with all the spares and a double axled trailer with disc brakes that came to an all up moving weight of over 4 tonnes and never had a problem at any speed.  I'll just run through the weights so you can't think I'm telling a yarn, Commodore VB - 1400kg, tandem axled trailer 900kg (it was made for towing behind a bus!), race car HT 253 Streetstock 1400 kg (full bars for contact racing) - 5 spare wheels plus tools and spares (this could include gearbox, diff etc if going to another track), and of course myself.
Some things to remember when towing are, make your towing car heavier than the trailer and to have the load of the trailer mostly towards the front of the trailer.  It is not funny when I see people towing a car trailer and they turn the car around to face backwards on the trailer so that it wont sink the back end down, all this does is cause flex in the pivot centre and creates wobble at almost any speed. Braking causes more problems when you are towing as the heat build up in your brakes becomes excessive until they will eventually fade away and you dont get a second chance as any grave yard can show. There are many deaths every year from this cause as they career down a hill or ram into someone else without brakes. Always have a safety chain connected, I can tell you from experience they can be a life saver.
DON'T have more weight over the back of the trailer than the front. 
DON'T have the same weight over the back of the trailer as the front.
HAVE more weight over the drawbar so your car has more stability.
TRY to make you car heavier than the trailer.
MAKE sure the trailer is braked if carrying large heavy loads.