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Strong thought-provoking content, myths debunked, facts only, no nudity. Written by Gavin Farmer.
It’s amazing what’s still coming out of the woodwork from Chrysler Australia’s heyday. While we were researching AMC #80’s story on the V8 Pacer racer, we came across some images that were superfluous for that story but would be of interest to AMC readers in another context.
While many Chrysler enthusiasts will know that the Charger program was outside the scope of the original VH program – as signed off by Chrysler Australia Limited’s head honcho David Brown and the Chrysler hierarchy in Highland Park, Michigan – the fact that it was an unplanned addition has become part of the folklore surrounding the coupe. It was very much an off-the-reservation project conducted in secrecy at Tonsley Park.
As local styling chief Brian Smyth said, “It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we stylists dream about. It was undoubtedly the highlight of my automotive career!”
Like all fairytales, it had an ununusual gestation and surprisingly some of Smyth’s original sletches have survived against all the odds. I say surprisingly, because so much of Chrysler Australia’s history in the photographic sense was tossed into the rubbish bin by so-called managers who really should have known better.
When I viewed them I immediately thought of the XB Ford Falcon, because from the rear the sketches have a slightly Falcon appearance. And the way the taillights were angled in shape was reminiscent of the 1966 Dodge Monaco, the styling of which happened to be a Smyth favourite. But as Smyth said, “Those sketches represented our initial ideas of what could be possible, they were never definitive.”
Indeed, what Smyth and his small team of nine collaborators were trying to achieve with these ideas was only to look at what kind of packaging could be possible. After all, the decision had been made by David Brown, Walt McPherson and Roy Rainsford to shorten the car’s wheelbase from 111- to 105-inches, a reduction of 6-inches which would have had a significant effect on the interior’s roominess.
The most amazing part of this whole project was that it took around three months from go to whoa! The closest to this remarkable achievement was that of Mike Simcoe and the last Holden Monaro.
Late one Thursday afternoon in November 1969, Roy Rainsford wheeled into Smyth’s studio a sectioned body of a prototype VH sedan, and the doors and roof panel from the Chrysler by Chrysler hardtop, the design of which had already been signed-off. Smyth remembered it thus, “We worked almost non-stop until the following Tuesday and in that time I completed a series of sketches and the modellers completed mocking up in clay a new rear end based on my sketches. Can you imagine that happening today? I don’t think so!”
At first they tried to model it using the roof pressing from the CH hardtop, but Smyth (centre of group photo) remembered that its proportions were all wrong and so in the end only the doors were used, at least initially. Having now built a full-sized mockup of the Rebel, as it was called at the time, the team completed a comprehensive portfolio of the secret car in preparation for Brown, McPherson and Rainsford travelling to Honolulu where they were to meet up with colleagues from Chrysler International. The key