The Chrysler Valiant was introduced to the market by Chrysler Australia in 1962. This full-size car remained on the market for the best part of two decades, with production finally ceasing in 1981, and was a popular staple on the roads throughout its time in production. Already in production in the US but not easily converted to right-hand drive, the first in the Australian series was the Valiant R, which was modified specifically as a right-hand drive vehicle for the Australian market and assembled locally. Production of the Valiant S followed shortly thereafter.
Full Australian production began in 1963 with the AP5 (Australian Production 5), with styling that was something of a departure from the American Valiant and which boasted a higher spec in order to underline its more luxury status. There followed the AP6, VC series (also known as AP7), the award-winning VE (voted Wheels Car of the Year), VF (318 and Pacer models), and VG. The VE series had also seen the introduction of the VIP models – the long-wheelbase version that was designed to wrap up the luxury market. The VH, in 1971, marked the beginning of a joint engineering project between the US and Australia, with full interior design taking place here on the ground. It was at this time that overseas exports of the Australian Valiant began. The Charger is one of the best-known of the Valiant models, and arrived with the VH series, while the VJ saw the arrival of the Ranger.
The CL series includes a panel van design plus sports versions of the panel van and ute, while the CM accounts for the last sports model – the Valiant GLX.
Chrysler Valiants have come in a range of formats over the years, with the full model range including a four-door sedan, five-door station wagon, two-door hardtop, two-door coupe, two-door coupe utility and a two-door panel van. Not only was the Valiant extremely successful in Australia, it was also widely exported, in particular to South Africa and New Zealand.
The first Valiant, the R, came packed with a 3.7L slant-six engine, which delivered around twice the power of the most popular full-sized car of the time, the Holden, and was coupled with either an automatic or 3-speed console gearbox. The R was quickly followed by the S, which boasted improvements including a larger fuel tank, improved brakes, and a more user-friendly column manual transmission.
Once Australian production began, the styling of the Valiant changed, and with this change came an increase in its size, heralding a need for a more powerful engine. The AP6 came fitted with the American 273 V-8, delivering an impressive top speed of 107mph. This option was made available across all models, including the station wagon, which had come online in 1965, and the Valiant Utility.
1966 saw the arrival of the VC series, carrying the same impressive 273 engine, and in two new formats – a long wheelbase option, and a “Safari” wagon. The 273 remained the engine of choice until 1969, when it was replaced by the largely similar LA 318, which offered plenty more power, though much of this was offset by the extra weight in the new car design.
By 1971, the VH series was offering a choice of three engines – a 215, 245 and a 265, plus a higher-performance version of the 265 for the popular Pacer.
The E49 Charger, in 1972, was the first to receive a 4-speed manual gearbox, which pushed its 265 engine to the limit, achieving 0-100 km/h in 14.1 seconds – impressive stuff for the time. A high-performance 340 V8 followed. The GLX marked the last of the sports models, boasting a 4.3L Hemi 6-cylinder engine with a high-performance four-speed gearbox.
The Chrysler Valiant was aimed at the upper end of the family market and was trimmed and kitted out to reflect this. If one are in the market for an early Valiant, for instance the VC series, expect to find electric windscreen wipers, a foot-operated washer, driver and passenger sun visors with vanity mirror, coat hooks, lighter, door operated interior light, integrated armrests on every door, indicator lights, reversing lights and seat belts. The upper-end “Regal” models from this period feature an even higher spec, with floor carpeting, door step-plates, whitewall tires, heater, and in the Regal Safari, seat arm rests and rear deflectors. The VIP, at the top of the pile, was the ultimate in passenger luxury.
The CH, CJ, and CK long-wheelbase Valiants are known as the Chrysler by Chrysler series and are packed full of luxury items. The standard LWB versions were available as a four-door sedan, but a two-door hardtop with a huge boot at the rear was also available and has done noticeably well as a collector’s item thanks to its unusual styling.
Most buyers in the market for a Valiant will be looking to buy one for a reason – and that reason will be specifically because it’s a Valiant and not because it gives the best fuel economy, extras package, or long-distance cruising. In its time, it reigned supreme within its niche, stacking up strongly against competitors such as the XA GT Falcon and the Fords, though it eventually lost out to the Commodore and, to some extent, to the XD Falcon. The panel van, meanwhile, competed mostly with the Holden Sandman and the Ford Sundowner.