our story on the White Knight Chargers we mentioned that Bill Papanicolaou, owner of the red WKS on the cover, had prepared a Valiant InfoBase to help other owners of Australianmade Valiants trace their car’s history.
Initially Bill started this project to find out how many White Knights had survived, and where they were now. Other members of the Chrysler community began to ask if he could extend this concept to all other Valiants produced here.
This he has done and although the database is a work-in-progress it’s already an impressive document, one that we reckon could gain Bill a PhD in statistical analysis one day.
Here’s how it works. Owners of Chrysler Australia cars are invited to fill in a form detailing information such as: proof of ownership, time of ownership and the known history of the car.
“Statistically, it is important that basic information such as the owner’s date of birth is given,” says Bill. “This allows us to see demographically what age groups are driving what models.”
The questions he is often asked by owners are, “Where can I find the original engine?” and “Can you tell me what chassis (car) my engine originally belonged to?”
In most cases he can answer this by crosschecking engine and VIN numbers against his collection of original records. If the owners give permission he can then help connect the original engine to its original chassis.
“It’s like putting a BIG jigsaw together,” he says.
The data base also identifies the current state of cars by classifications such as ‘registered, restored, wrecked, rebirthed or stolen’. He stresses that all details received are held in strict confidence, as specified by the NSW Privacy Act, 1988.
Cars analysed so far include all model Valiants (from the 1962 RV1 sedan to the 1977 CL Panel Van) plus subsections on special purpose vehicles like police cars. He’s found that a total of 4236 of these were produced by Chrysler Australia, spanning VH to CM models, including utes, panel vans and wagons. 1072 Chargers were built for police use. Of these over 95 per cent are listed in the unknown category, 20 have been restored, 19 are registered and 6 have been written off. None were stolen that he knows of.
The InfoBase can be accessed online – see www.valiantinfobase.com – or purchased as a spiral-bound printed document. Details can be found on the website.
* Also in that White Knight story, Bill suggested that without the support of Greeks and Italian buyers, Chrysler Australia would have closed down even sooner than they did.
That’s a claim supported by Italian comedian Vince Sorrenti in the book Wide Open Road, based on the ABC Television series shown in 2011.
Vince says: “It was a huge statement, the car, an extension of who you were. And in those days there weren’t just Ford and Holden men. You had Valiant men too. Us Wogs drove Valiants and that cliché grew out of fact. A lot of people I knew, a lot of Greeks and Italians happened to have Valiants. I don’t know why.”
New South Wales readers will remember that in Sydney the Valiant was known as the Marrickville Mercedes.
Other celebrities who are proud to admit they were Valiant owners include the legendary AFL commentator Dennis Cometti, whose father was Italian. Dennis’ first car was a Charger.