Chrysler Valiant is First Produced
The Chrysler Valiant was a passenger car introduced by Chrysler Australia in 1962 with production ceasing in 1981.
Initially a rebadged import of the Plymouth Valiant from the U.S. where production ceased in 1976, the Valiant range was sold throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as South Africa. Smaller numbers were exported to the UK and Southeast Asia.
Prelude - Q Series
The first Valiant to arrive in Australia was a single American QX-1 imported for evaluation, but after it was sold it was wrapped around a tree. The main problem with the Q was the difficulty in converting the American version to right-hand drive, because the slant of the engine prohibited a simple steering box move. Soon after, the first locally-assembled Valiant was released — The R Series.
After the Plymouth Valiant turned out to be a success in the United States (starting with its 1959 introduction), Chrysler released Australia's first locally-assembled Valiant, the R-series. It was officially unveiled by South Australia's Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, in January 1962.
The R-series Valiant was an instant success. Not everyone was taken instantly by the car's styling, but the general consensus was that the car had a "modern", almost space age quality about it.
Also notable was the Valiant's performance with 145 brake horsepower (108 kW) from the 225 slant-6 engine. This was a lot of power compared to the competing Holdens and Fords, which offered only 75 bhp (56 kW) and 85 bhp (63 kW) respectively.
Transmission options were a floor-shifted three-speed manual with a non-syncro first gear, or the pushbutton-operated three-speed TorqueFlite automatic. Options included a heater-demister unit, as well as a "Moparmatic" deluxe pushbutton transistor radio.
The R-series Valiant was the first Australian car to come with an alternator instead of a generator, and instead of coil springs, the Valiant came with torsion bar suspension. Brakes were hydraulic 9 in (229 mm) drums front and rear. The R-model had a simulated spare wheel outline on the bootlid, but the spare wheel was actually under the floor of the boot.
The base model sold for £1299.
In March 1962, Chrysler replaced the American 1961-model R Valiant with the American 1962 S-series Valiant. The S used the same body shell as the R series, with cosmetic changes including the deletion of the simulated spare wheel on the bootlid, and round tail lamps replacing the R-model's cat-eye shaped ones. There was a revised radiator grille and new exterior trim.
Mechanical changes included relocation of the manual transmission shifter to the steering column, new ball joints, and a new gear-reduction starter motor.
10,009 'S' Series Valiants were sold, of which 5,496 were automatics and 4,513 were manuals.
On 30 May 1963, Chrysler Australia produced the first fully Australian manufactured Valiant, the AP5. Late the year before, Chrysler Australia had begun work on the new $36 million[vague] Tonsley Park facility in South Australia, where it could boost annual production to 50 thousand cars.
The AP5 ("AP" for Australian Production) was an entirely new design with only the four doors, windscreen, and front guards shared with its U.S. counterpart. The Slant 6 driveline was retained, but the AP5 was considerably more straightforward in styling than its R- and S-model antecedents. With high local content and specifications optimised for local conditions, this new Valiant strengthened the brand's position in the marketplace. In November 1963 an AP5 Safari station wagon was released. An upmarket Regal version was also introduced to the range.
The base model was released with a price of ₤1,220 (₤35 cheaper than the previous 'S' series). There were 49,400 AP5s made.
In March 1965, the AP5 was supplanted by the AP6. The body shell was the same, but there was a new grille on the theme of the US 1964 Plymouth Barracuda, and there was new trim inside and out. The automatic transmission was no longer controlled by pushbuttons, but instead by a conventional shift lever. The AP6 also included other new features such as self-adjusting brakes and acrylic enamel paint, at the time the most advanced auto finish available.
The AP6 brought a number of firsts for both Chrysler and Australian cars. It was the first Australian-built car to offer a V8 engine — the 273 cu in (4.5 L) LA V8, introduced in American Valiants in 1964, and released in Australia in August 1965. The engine developed 180 brake horsepower (130 kW) and pushed the Valiant to a top speed of 109 mph (175 km/h). Besides the V8 engine, another significant addition to the Valiant line with the AP6 model was the release of the Wayfarer utility (ute) in November.
The V8 was only available as a model in its own right, the V8 Valiant, which had a vinyl-covered roof, individual bucket seats, floor console mounted automatic shift lever and two-tone steering wheel.
The Slant 6's camshaft was also slightly upgraded for improved torque due to increased duration and a higher lift action.
Chrysler Australia had difficulty meeting demands with the Valiant being built at Tonsley Park at a maximum rate of 200 cars per eight-hour shift. Customers had to wait up to four months to get their hands on a new AP6. Prices now ran from $2,500 to $3,650.
The VC Valiant was introduced in March 1966 and although it was basically the same car as its predecessor the AP6 underneath, the body was extensively restyled with sharp, squared-off edges and corners clearly influenced by Chrysler in the United States. The car looked more modern, as well as longer and lower in appearance when in fact it was the same length as the AP5 and AP6.
The front now had a full-width horizontal grille while the rear was also much squarer with vertical taillights.
The VC had higher standard equipment levels, and new safety features were offered. In late 1966 front disc brakes became optional on V8 models.
The Valiant was again offered as a standard or Regal sedan, a standard or Regal Safari station wagon, and Wayfarer utility versions. The V8 engined cars were named 'Valiant V8/Safari V8'; they were essentially trimmed and optioned per Regal specifications.
From 1966 onwards Chrysler Australia provided right hand drive cars for export. The VC Valiant was the first Australian Valiant to become available in Britain, which was announced at the October 1966 London Motor Show. The models available were given British names (the Australian names are in italics).
Medium Saloon Valiant
Medium Safari Estate Car Valiant Safari station wagon
Regal Highline Saloon Automatic Valiant Regal
Regal Highline Safari Valiant Regal Safari station wagon
Premium V8 Saloon Valiant V8
Premium Safari Estate Car Valiant Safari V8 station wagon
65,634 VC Valiants were built.
The VE Valiant was an all-new design introduced in October 1967. The bonnet and guards were shared with the also-new 1967 U.S. Dodge Dart, and styling cues were taken from other updated U.S. models. The VE was built on the U.S. Valiant's 108 in (2,700 mm) wheelbase. The body was slightly larger and there was more interior space than its VC-model predecessor. The roofline was also flattened out and the rear window was given a concave profile.
Higher levels of standard equipment were included, and there were some power upgrades. The basic Slant Six was retained with its 145 bhp (108.1 kW) rating, but a new 2-barrel carbureted version was released with output of 160 bhp (119.3 kW). The 273 V8 was also improved and made available across the entire Valiant range.
Other upgrades included the introduction of a 64-litre (14 imp gal; 17 US gal) fuel tank, shorter gear lever throw on the manual gearbox, relocation of the dipswitch from under the brake pedal to the high left of the firewall, and the windscreen wiper motor was relocated to the engine side of the firewall — greatly reducing wiper noise. All models benefited from additional safety features such as dual circuit brakes with a tandem master cylinder, double sided safety rims, front seat belts and front power disc brakes on V8 models.
The VE range consisted of Valiant & Valiant Regal sedans, Valiant Safari & Valiant Regal Safari station wagons and Valiant & Valiant Wayfarer utility versions, the latter two body styles lacking from the American Plymouth Valiant range. New for the VE model was the high-specification Valiant V.I.P. in both sedan and Safari wagon versions. It used the same body as the lesser Valiants, but featured a more luxurious interior, 273 V8 engine, and also shared the 3 'sergeant stripes' of the VC V8 on the rear quarter panel.
The biggest accolade awarded to the VE Valiant was 'Wheels Car Of The Year' — the first for Chrysler Australia.
68,688 VE Valiants were built.
In March 1969, the VE was replaced by the VF model. The new car shared its middle section with the previous VE Valiant, but there was new front and rear styling. The new front end featured a horizontally convex grille, replacing the VE's concave design. The front indicators were placed at the top leading edge of the front guards rather than in a more conventional location in the grille or front bumper. This allowed the VF's front bumper to be thinner and less prominent, which made the single round headlights look larger, and the front end appeared more aggressive as a result.
Valiant and Valiant Regal models were once again available, and the VF range also saw the introduction of the Valiant Regal 770 and an upgraded VIP model. The VF VIP was introduced two months after the Valiant range and was no longer a Valiant V.I.P. but was now marketed as a Chrysler VIP, in sedan form only. It offered a stretched (112 inches/2,800 millimetres) wheelbase, with longer rear doors than the Valiant. As with previous model changes, the VF boasted even more safety features including a padded instrument panel and energy absorbing steering column.
A larger 5.2 L (318 cu in) version of the LA V8 replaced the 273, taking the V8's top speed to 109 mph (175.4 km/h). Transmission options remained the same: three-speed manual or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.
The most significant introduction to the VF range was the all new two-door Valiant Hardtop — a U.S. Dodge Dart coupé with Valiant front sheetmetal and interior trim. At nearly 17 feet (5 m) long, this was the longest two-door ever made in Australia. Released six months after the other VF Valiants in September 1969, it was available in Valiant, Valiant Regal and Valiant Regal 770 models.
In mid 1969, Chrysler released a fast four-door named Valiant Pacer. A low-cost, high-power version of the bread-and-butter Valiant sedan, the Pacer featured a high-performance six-cylinder engine and three-speed manual gearbox with floor shifter.
Despite a lack of exterior chrome, the VF Pacer stood out with its red and black grille, simulated-mag wheel hub caps, special body striping, 'Pacer 225' decals, and choice of "Wild Blue", "Wild Red", or "Wild Yellow" exterior colours.
The sparsely-trimmed interior featured high back bucket seats, and distinctive black on white instrument dials with a dash top mounted tachometer.
Although lacking the V8 grunt of its rivals the Pacer could race to almost 180 km/h (112 mph) and, at $2798, was a lot cheaper — $400 less than — a basic GTS Monaro.
The Pacer was powered by a special version of the trusty 225 slant six. With two-barrel carburettor, high-flow exhaust system, and 9.3:1 compression ratio, it produced 175 bhp (130 kW).
Standard brakes were finned, servo-assisted drum brakes all round, although most buyers opted for the optional front discs.
Underneath was Valiant's basic torsion bar suspension, lowered by 125 mm (5 in) to improve handling and with a front anti-sway bar fitted. A 'Sure-Grip' limited-slip differential with either 3.23:1 or 2.92:1 ratios was optional.
Contemporary road testers were mostly full of praise for the Pacer, noting there were few cars that could match it on a performance for price basis.
Modern Motor (May, 1969) took a VF Pacer sedan to 60 mph (97 km/h) in a respectable 10.5 seconds, the 1⁄4 miles (402 m) in 17.5 seconds and topped out at 111 mph (179 km/h).
In 1969, Chrysler's market share reached 13.7%.
52,944 VF Valiants were built.
August 1970 saw the introduction of another facelifted version of the VE/VF bodystyle in the VG Valiant. The VG's most noticeable difference was the use of rectangular headlamps instead of the traditional round ones (except on VIP models, which used two small round headlamps on each side). The guard-top indicator location was carried over from the VF. The grille was a horizontal, single-plane item, and the taillamps were revised and wrapped around to the body side. Sedan, Wagon, Ute and Hardtop body styles were offered once again as well as the same luxury levels as before.
The biggest announcement to come with the VG Valiant was of the all new Hemi-6 engine, replacing the Slant-6. The Hemi-6 was introduced as a 245 cu in (4 L) unit with quasi-hemispherical combustion chambers.
The "Hemi" name was already legendary in America with Chrysler's use of the Hemi V8s, so it was not hard for Chrysler Australia to market the Hemi-6 as a desirable engine.
The 1-barrel version of the 245 produced 165 bhp (123 kW) and 235 lb·ft (319 N·m).
The sporty Pacer sedan was available again, but whereas the VF Pacer was only offered with the one power output, the new VG Pacer offered 3 different versions of the new 245 Hemi engine, though Chrysler Australia didn't publish any power output figures for the Pacers.
The standard Pacer had a 2-barrel carburettor and produced 185 bhp (138 kW). Option E31 produced 195 bhp (145 kW) and included a 2-barrel carburettor, higher-performance camshaft, smaller fan, and windage tray.
Option E34 produced 235 bhp (175 kW) and included a 4-barrel carburettor, high-performance camshaft, dual-plate clutch, manual choke, modified instrument cluster, torque-limiting engine mount strut, larger radiator, smaller fan, windage tray, premium engine bearings, shot-peened crankshaft and connecting rods, and high-capacity oil pump.
Option E35 included a 4-barrel carburettor, high-performance camshaft, heavy-duty engine bearings, a dual-plate clutch, torque-limiting engine mount strut, and the ordinary Pacer-spec transmission.
The VG series Pacers were also the first and last to be offered in the Hardtop body style, of which three were optioned with the E31 package and three were optioned with E35 package. No VG Pacer Hardtops were available with the E34 option.
Due to Chrysler Australia's policy of using only locally-produced components, and the unavailability of a local four-speed gearbox, the Pacer was offered with only a three-speed floor shift manual transmission.
46,374 VG Valiants were built.
Chrysler released the VH Valiant range in June 1971. The VH was the first fully Australian-designed Valiant and was a major change from the preceding VG range — they were larger cars, styled to look even larger than they were.
The grill treatment on the new VH range was a direct design descendant from the US Mopars with the central recessed area for grille and headlamps, surrounded by uninterrupted trim on the outer leading edge of the whole assembly. The rectangular headlamps were carried over from the VG model.
The Hemi engine was still standard equipment, but a new 265 cu in (4.3 L) version offered 203 bhp (151 kW). The 318 V8 was still optional, and the Chrysler by Chrysler could also be optioned with the 5.9 L (360 cu in) , producing 265 bhp (198 kW).
The Pacer was still available, but only in 4-door sedan form. 1647 Pacers were produced and apart from vivid paint, aggressive bonnet blackouts and striping, the new Pacer featured a higher performance version of the 265 Hemi 6 cylinder, with 218 bhp (163 kW) at 4,800 rpm and 273 lb·ft (370 N·m) at 3,000 rpm. The Pacer could run the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds, get to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 185 km/h.
In fact, at its release, the VH Pacer set the record for being the fastest mass-produced four-door sedan with a six-cylinder engine manufactured in Australia, a record which stood for 17 years.
But the Pacer's days as the VH performance model were numbered, because that same year saw the announcement and introduction of what was to become Chrysler Australia's most recognised new car — The Charger.
The new Charger was unlike anything that had come before and it had the Australian motoring press saying things like "...the most handsome car Chrysler has ever produced, and probably the best looking car ever produced by an Australian manufacturer".
A short-wheelbase, fastback coupe with an aggressive wedge-like stance, the Charger's design gave the effect of speed, even when it was standing still.
Chrysler's TV campaign for the Charger featured the young adults at whom it was targeted, waving at one as it swept by them and shouting "Hey, Charger!" — one of the more memorable TV ads of the time, it created a cliché that haunts today's owners. Charger won Wheels magazine's Car of the Year award for 1971 and was widely acclaimed by others of the motoring press, as well as the public.
This Charger came in four model guises — standard, XL, 770, and R/T. The first of the serious track pack R/T Chargers was the E38. Despite being hampered by a three-speed gearbox, it still drew favourable comments from Wheels magazine: "We achieved a time of 14.8 seconds for the quarter mile — on smoother surfaces the Charger galloped away so easily that a best of 14.5 seconds is within reach" Being a three-speed gearbox, these quarter-mile runs took only one gear change.
The most well recognised performance Chargers were the six packs. The term six pack denoted the triple side draught Weber 2BBL carburettors (3 × 2) with which the 265 Hemi produced levels of power unheard of on a naturally aspirated six-cylinder at the time. The three side draught webers also made for a distinctive throaty note when under acceleration.
E38 Charger versions featured a 265 Hemi which produced 280 bhp (209 kW) while the E37 and E48 were the street six packs. E38 was a race-ready Charger with the A84 Track Pack, which included a 35 imperial gallons (159.1 l) fuel tank. The A87 Track Pack included all the race track goodies with the exception of the big tank for endurance racing.
In 1972, the E38 was superseded by the more powerful and greatly refined four-speed E49 Charger. This drew comments from Wheels such as "The raw quivering power is instantaneously on tap and with a ratio for every conceivable situation the Charger just storms through. It would take a Ferrari Daytona with racing driver Jackie Ickx at the wheel to stay with one". All E49s came with the Track Pack, and 21 also had the huge fuel tank in the option list which took up nearly all available boot space.
The E49 six pack engine came with a baffled sump, tuned length headers, special shot-peened crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, rings, cam, valve springs, a twin plate clutch and of course the triple 45 mm dual throat Weber carburetors. Chrysler quoted this engine as producing 302 bhp (225 kW) which, in a 1,372 kg (3,025 lb) car, made for rapid acceleration.
The E49 was the ultimate Charger, with only 149 built the E49s are still widely considered today as one of the greatest Muscle Cars ever produced.
Road tests of the era recorded quarter mile times of between 14.1 and 14.5 seconds. 0 to 100 mph (161 km/h) in 14.1 seconds was the norm. This compares to times of between 15.2 and 15.6 for the next quickest accelerating Australian muscle car, the Ford XY GTHO Falcon.
Although the Six Pack Chargers were the dominant players in the VH Range, there was another Charger, the 275 bhp (205 kW), 340 cu in (5.6 L) V8 powered E55, that came close. The E55 could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.2 seconds and complete the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds — all topped off by a top speed of 122 mph (196 km/h).
67,800 VH Valiants were built.
The VH model range also saw the introduction of the new luxury class vehicles, the CH range. The CH was a further 4 inches (100 mm) longer in the wheelbase than the VH Valiant — 115 in (2,900 mm) — with a total length of 197 in (5,004 mm). It featured quad round headlamps and a different rear end treatment, and had quieter suspension and higher equipment levels.
The CH or Chrysler by Chrysler was a four-door luxury model intended to compete with the Ford Fairlane and Holden's Statesman models in the luxury car market in Australia.
Also released in October 1971 was a two-door version of the CH which was called the Chrysler Hardtop, and shared the same wheelbase as the Chrysler by Chrysler, along with the front and rear end treatment.
May 1973 saw the introduction of the next model in the new All-Australian designed Valiant — The VJ. Although essentially a facelifted version of the VH Valiant before it, the VJ's subtle changes made enough of an impact on the buying public to make it the biggest selling Valiant model of all, with 90,865 units being sold.
Externally the VJ Valiant continued on the with the new body style, though the VJ reverted to single round headlamps. There were slight changes to the front sheetmetal to accommodate the new lights. There was also a new 8-segment grille. The sedans received new horizontal taillights shared with the Charger.
Although the physical changes were few, many other new features were introduced in the VJ Valiant range, such as electronic ignition, rustproofing and floor mounted shifters as standard features.
Chrysler upgraded equipment levels in July 1974 with front disc brakes, door reflectors, lockable glovebox and retractable seatbelts all as standard features.
While the VJ range still offered sedan, wagon, ute, Hardtop and Charger variants, there were no more R/T Chargers or Pacers. The E48 Six Pack Charger was available in 770 trim with four-speed gearbox and limited-slip differential, and as many as 6 VJ E49's did get produced early in the 73 model run. The E55 Chargers were still available.
In August 1974, a special run of 500 Sportsman Chargers were released. They were only available in Vintage Red with a thick white stripe along the lower coachline and the roof was also white. These had the red and white plaid cloth seats and a 265 four-speed powertrain.
The Chrysler by Chrysler was facelifted in May 1973 to become the CJ Series. The two-door hardtop was dropped leaving only the four-door sedan to carry on the fight against its Ford and Statesman luxury competitors. The related Valiant hardtop's production continued.
In October 1975, the VK Valiant was released and it appeared to be a virtual carbon copy of the previous VJ model. However, even though the grille was the same as the VJ, the base model Ranger now had an argent version of the VJ Charger grill, the VK XL Charger had a white version, and the 770 charger has also had the argent version.
The VK Chargers were not called Chrysler Valiant Chargers any longer; the 'Valiant' was dropped to just leave Chrysler Charger.
Ranger, Regal and Charger all now shared the same taillight treatment, similar to the VJ taillights but without the chrome; they had contours to keep air flow away and keep the lenses clean.
The VK Regal also had blinker repeaters housed in a small chrome boxes which sat on top of both front guards. Another unusual option was the Fuel Pacer option from the Chrysler US parts bin which detected low engine vacuum – as under hard acceleration – and illuminated the driver side guardtop blinker repeater to indicate wasteful driving.
Inertia-reel seatbelts and slightly different heater controls were introduced on the VK, as well as a combination control stalk for the lights and wipers from the Mitsubishi Galant. The Ranger also got full-length door trims, and carpet was now standard.
VK six-cylinder series engines were the same as the VJ's, and all 245 Hemi-6s now had a two-barrel carburettor, the same as the 265 Hemis.
The V8s were mainly 318 cu in (5.2 L) units, though the 360 cu in (5.9 L) remained an option across the entire range. It was not very popular as the mid 1970s saw the trend towards smaller cars with smaller motors.
While the "three on the tree" column shift manual gearbox was still available, it was rarely specified (although still popular on Utes) and the three-speed floor change was now gone too. Buyers seeking floor-shift manual could choose the four-speed, which was available on all models but could only be had with a Hemi-6, not with a V8.
Late in the VK model run a limited edition Charger called the White Knight Special (option A50) was offered with a factory-fitted front air dam. The changes were mainly cosmetic with running gear being largely stock. There were 200 White Knight Specials made – 100 Arctic White and 100 Amarante Red. 120 were automatics and 80 were four-speeds.
20,555 VK Valiants were produced and production ceased in June 1976. This was because ADR 27A for exhaust emission control became effective on 1 July 1976, and all the car manufacturers used that date as the introduction of a new model to comply with the new standard.
The Chrysler by Chrysler was facelifted in October 1975 to become the CK series. Production ceased just one year later, in October 1976.
Chrysler CL Charger
Chrysler CL Charger coupe
Midway through 1976, the CL Valiant was introduced. Although it used the same bodyshell as the previous VK range, the front and rear ends were restyled. The front end used horizontally-arrayed quad round headlamps flanking a central grille. The front guards and bonnet were also reworked accordingly. The new bootlid's curved leading edge flowed down to new taillights that sandwiched a simple centre garnish panel. The bumpers, however, were the same units as had been used on the 1969 VF series Valiants.
The Ranger name was dropped; the base model CL was simply called Valiant, and the long-wheelbase "Chrysler by Chrysler" was replaced by the Regal SE. The CL series was the last to include a Charger model, which — like the previous VK model — was badged and sold as a Chrysler, not as a Valiant submodel. The CL Charger was generally available in only one trim level, the Charger 770, though a Charger XL was made available to police departments. The CL series also saw the arrival of the panel van variant to compete with similar offerings from rival makers.
Interiors carried over largely unchanged from the VK range, though the Regal SE offered luxurious buttoned-leather seating as an option. Base Valiants continued with the previous Ranger style strip speedometer, while the Regal dash featured recessed circular gauges and clock with a woodgrain finish. The Charger 770 dash was similar to the that of the Regal, except it was finished in black and had a tachometer instead of a clock.
The 3.5 L (215 cu in) Hemi-6 and 5.9 L (360 cu in) V8 were dropped, and the only engine options were low- and high-compression versions of the 4 L (245 cu in) Hemi-6 and the 5.2 L (318 cu in) V8. The CL's introduction had closely coincided with that of the strict exhaust emission regulations contained in ADR 27A. With the 318 engine, a new emissions control system was introduced: Electronic Lean Burn, which was reported[who?] to give better drive-ability with 25-30% better fuel economy than competitive emission control systems.
Transmission options were 3-speed manual with floor or column shift, four-speed manual with floor shift, and three-speed Torqueflite automatic with floor or column shift. The automatic was standard equipment with the 318 V8, and optional with a 6 cylinder. The 4 speed was optional for six- and eight-cylinder models. The floor shift auto option was fitted to most Regals and all Regal SE's.
In 1978 Chrysler released a limited edition run of 400 special Regal Le Baron models (option A17). The Le Baron was available only in Silver, with red or blue interiors. The 265 Hemi was standard, and the 318 V8 was optional.
Valiant and Regal sedans also benefited from the 1978 introduction of Radial Tuned Suspension (code-named ME II[who?]) in response to Holden's having marketed their suspension as particularly suited to radial tyres. RTS improved the car's handling and roadholding significantly, and "Modern Motor" magazine proclaimed that the Valiant offered a better drive than the Holden.
The last special option in the CL range was the $816 Drifter package, available on the Charger and the panel van. The Drifter package included Impact Orange, Sundance Yellow, Spinnaker White or Harvest Gold body paint, and large side and rear stripes. Drifters in white had additional "strobe stripes" on the bootlid. Engine options were again the 265 six or 318 V8, but the 4 speed manual was the only transmission option.
36,672 CL Valiants — including the last-ever Chargers — were built.
The CM was released in November 1978, and was little changed bodywise from the CL model. Only sedan and wagon models were produced, and by the time of release it was heavily dated. For example, all models used rear drum brakes and still featured torsion-bar front suspension.
A sports sedan called the GLX (option A16) was released as a half measure fill-in for the missing Charger, which featured the Charger grille, Charger dash, special cloth trim, Cheviot Hotwire mag wheels and door frame black outs among other things. The GLX could be optioned with a 4.3 L (265 cu in) Hemi-6 or 5.2 L (318 cu in) V8.
The computer-controlled Electronic Lean Burn system continued giving favourable fuel economy; when Wheels Magazine performed an economy test in 1979, they found the ELB-equipped Valiant 4 L (245 cu in) used less fuel than a 2.0 L (~122 cu in) Ford Cortina. A Valiant achieved over 30 miles per imperial gallon in the Total Oil Economy Run.
Production of this car continued after Mitsubishi's takeover of Chrysler's Australian operations. Mitsubishi could build the car profitably - even in small numbers - due to its high 97% level of local Australian content amortised tooling. However, the car was still known as "Chrysler Valiant" - not "Mitsubishi Valiant". The profit from the sale of one Valiant was equal to the profit from 3 Chrysler Sigmas- by this time the Company's main seller.
Valiant production ended for all time in August 1981 with production of the CM reaching 16,005 units out of 565,338 units of all models. Australia would not see another full-size Chrysler until the 2005 release of the Chrysler 300C.
Chargers were raced in the Hardie Ferodo 500 at Bathurst in 1971 and 1972 with factory support. They gained the respect of their competitors with a best placing of third outright and second in class in 1972. Chrysler's policy was to race "Australian made" product, which meant the race cars ran 4.3 L (265 cu in) six cylinder engines equipped with triple Weber carburettors and 3 speed gearboxes. Even skilled driving and good engineering could not defeat Ford's legendary Falcon GTHO Phase III with its 5.8 L (~354 cu in) V8. In New Zealand, however, the Chryslers proved to be virtually unbeatable from 1971–1979 at the famous B&H 500 mile (later 1000 km) series at Pukekohe Park Raceway. The most successful drivers were Leo Leonard and Jim Little, who still races his Valiants (mostly pre-65 class).
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the Australian muscle car wars were as hard fought and as intense as anything in America. The big three manufacturers – Holden, Ford and Chrysler – were locked into competition on race tracks as well as at quarter-mile drag strips, where their increasingly modified hot rods raced against the stopwatches. Every split-second advantage helped showroom sales.
Ford is credited with producing the first Australian muscle car in 1967 with the launch of its XR Falcon, powered by a 287ci Windsor V8 engine. This evolved into the Falcon GTHO Phase III by 1971, featuring a modified 351 Cleveland V8. GM’s Holden introduced the Monaro, initially with a 307ci V8, and then four variations of high-performance Toranas.
But the fastest car of the lot when it came to the all-important quarter-mile drag was this 1972 Chrysler Valiant Charger R/T E49 265, which went through the traps in 14.4 seconds, just .05 seconds ahead of the Holden Special Vehicles GTS-R. That’s more surprising when you consider the Charger is powered by the rather prosaic Valiant slant-six engine.
The recent Octane mission to the Classic Adelaide rally (see Octane Cars page 124) afforded the opportunity to hop onto Richard Branson’s Virgin Blue (at just £92!) to Sydney. There, located on the Pacific Highway, is one of the most impressive and largest classic car emporia in the Southern Hemisphere, the Classic Throttle Shop. Proprietor Rory Johnston was given little warning of our impending arrival but he managed to source this freshly restored Charger from Octane reader Edward Singleton.
Singleton is not what you would expect of a muscle car owner. He has raced various classics and he enjoys Porsches, Aston Martins and Jaguars. An Octane reader, he arrived in a beautifully cut Prince of Wales suit and sporting a stainless Rolex Daytona. And there’s the rub: muscle cars in Australia are now being collected by serious aficionados as important pieces of local automotive history. This Chrysler Charger R/T E49, one of only 149 constructed, is valued at AU0,000 (about £137,000), which puts it firmly at the top end of the Australian collector car tree.
This Valiant Charger was built specifically to compete in the great Australian races at Bathurst from 1971. Whilst it was a contender, it could never quite match the Holdens. Ironically it was in New Zealand where the Charger dominated. On the shorter and tighter New Zealand circuits, local hero Leo Leonard won many races against the bigger and more powerful Holdens and this was apparently down to the Charger’s superior handing, thanks to its lighter engine and decent suspension set-up.
Sitting under the railway arches in Sydney, this Charger looks immaculate if somewhat brutal in its bright orange hue. The Charger is based on the two-door Valiant and is a useful 130kg lighter than the
four-door sedan. And in R/T, E49, 265ci trim, this example is the ultimate expression of the Aussie muscle car. The 4.3-litre slant six features an effective hemi head and breathes through three twin-choke 45 Weber ‘six pack’ carburettors, which seem very exotic for such a machine. The engine was credited with being the most powerful straight six around at the time, pushing out 302bhp and powering the Charger to 60mph in 6.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 132mph. This made it the most accelerative Australian muscle car of the period.
In this ultimate spec the Charger features a four-speed manual ’box (previously a three-speed) with a long top gear, six inch rims shod with modest 205/70/14 tyres, front anti-roll bar, ventilated discs at the front with finned drums at the rear, different rear axle ratio options and a 35-gallon Bathurst tank shoved into the boot. Of course, there are all those important stripes and decals to make it look the part.