Club History

The Club was initiated in late 1981 and published its first magazine in May 1982. The beginnings of the club are an interesting reflection on both the excitement and controversy that the launch of this brand-new car had on the Australian market.

The P76 was released in 1973 and won the coveted ‘Wheels Car of the Year Award’ that same year. As mentioned, the P76 was not a new model, it was a brand-new car which had numerous standard features only available as options from the well-established competitors. Consequently, the Big Three competitors (GMH, Ford and Chrysler) spent considerable energy, and money, in anti P76 campaigns because they just could not afford to let people get their bums in them and find out how good the car was.

Of course, as good as the car was, Leyland did not help its own cause either because the release was rushed, and the car was subject to several recalls which promoted a perception of un-reliability in the eyes of many, it certainly provided some fuel for the competition. Ironically and in hindsight, the P76 was not any more afflicted with recalls than GMH was with the first Commodores released a little later, albeit the Commodore was not a brand-new vehicle.

With this as a background, during 1981, some eight years after the cars release, Joe Torony, who was avidly involved in trailable yachts, had done his research on the P76, and was very interested in them, despite not owning one. Joe had a neighbour who also purchased a trailable yacht but was struggling to tow it with the family Corolla. Asking Joe for his thoughts on a suitable towing vehicle, Joe suggested the P76 as a car that could both do the job and was affordable.

The neighbour scoffed at the suggestion, claiming that there were so few P76’s left that it would be a risky purchase. Joe accepted these comments as a challenge and set about trying to gather some P’s to a BBQ/street party event at his house in Carlingford. Joe drafted up a flyer on his Commodore 64 computer, printed 20 odd sheets and set about placing the invitations under the windscreen wipers of P76 cars, as he came across them between home, work, and the local shopping centre.

A couple of weeks on, while he was about to put another flyer under another window wiper, he discovered that it already had one, although it was a different coloured paper to Joe’s. Someone had copied the original flyer and was doing their own distributing. Before the gathering at the Torony household took place, it became obvious that they probably would not be able to accommodate the potential crowd, so the event was relocated to a park in Parramatta.  

On December 6, 1981, the first gathering of what was to become the P76 Owners Club took place, 51 P76’s turned up for that initial meeting in the park. It was an amazing meeting where P76 enthusiasts had suddenly found kindred spirits to share experiences, stories, and tips.

From this first gathering an interim committee was formed.

President: Joe Torony

Vice President: Ron Squire

Secretary: Annette Byrne

Treasurer: Barry Taylor

Technical Officer: Tony De Luca

Publicity Officer: Sean Poole

Editor: Roland Torony

Roland produced the first club newsletter in May 1982, and it was mailed to some 47 members. A suitable meeting venue was sort, and the Pos-Tel Institute Hall in Parramatta was selected, albeit that it had ‘Valiant House’ above the entry door.

About the same time as all this was happening in Sydney, Joe was contacted by Darryl Packham from South Australia, they were also trying to start up a club down there. By the time the second issue of the magazine was distributed we had had enquiries from Hal Molony in the Hunter Valley and Jeff Jagoe formerly of the SA club who had mover to WA and begun a club over that way.

The second magazine July 82 was a national publication, that issue and most of the early issues of the magazines were dominated by technical articles as people that had found solutions to niggly little issues wanted to share them.

The Clubs first Annual General Meeting was held in September 1982 and the first elected committee was as follows.

President: Joe Torony

Vice President: Paul Patten

Secretary: Annette Byrne

Treasurer: Phil Crowther

Technical Officer: Tony De Luca

Publicity Officer: Peter Swinbourne

Editor: Roland Torony

Over the course of the next few years the club grew to be an international organisation and at its peak had 300 odd members. Over time the individual states became more autonomous which was good because by late 1984 the magazine had grown to be an onerous task, imagine 300+ magazines each comprising 25 or more pages which had to be assembled, photocopied (doubled sided – about 7500 sheets of paper and 15000 copies), then collated, stapled and distributed via the post system. Many hours were spent hours doing laps of the table collating, preceding this some of us spent days after hours at work on the photocopier but it was all worth the effort. 

Unfortunately, we have now lost both Joe and Tony but know they still look down with an interest in what we are doing, we have not had any contact with Annette or Peter for many years now, Roland is still about and working I believe, and of course Phil and Paul still have not got over it and are still active members of the club.

Over the years we have had many, national gatherings of the clubs where people can share their experiences with the car which is approaching its 50th anniversary in 2023. I’d like to thank all of the engineers and staff at Leyland Australia for developing what has proven to be a world class vehicle and course a big thank you to Joe for taking exception to his neighbours’ scoffing of such a wonderful car.