FANG 10

WITH A PUNCHY, MEAN EXTERIOR AND V10 VIPER POWER, KOSTA CON­TIS’S CL VALIANT UTE WILL HAVE YOU KEY LIME GREEN WITH ENVY

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THE ABIL­ITY to think log­i­cally can be a god­send when plan­ning a project. Take Can­berra’s Kosta Con­tis, for ex­am­ple. When look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent to power his CL Valiant ute, he sim­ply turned to a cou­ple of toy Mopars that were sit­ting on his shelf.

“The mod­els were a Dodge Charger and Dodge Chal­lenger, both fit­ted with V10 Viper en­gines, and as they’re built to scale, I fig­ured if a 1:25-scale V10 fit­ted into a 1:25 model en­gine bay, then a real one should fit in my ute,” he ex­plains.

Of course, Kosta’s ex­pe­ri­ence with cars had forewarned him to the likely real­ity of en­gine mount, sump, steer­ing and ex­haust is­sues. But, in fact, the swap was re­mark­ably straight­for­ward. “Sur­pris­ingly the driv­e­train con­ver­sion was the eas­i­est part of the project; it pretty much slot­ted straight in,” he says. “Find­ing peo­ple to carry out other as­pects of the build and ac­tu­ally do a good job – now that was the headache!

The plans for Kosta’s ute weren’t quite so grand when he bought a 318-pow­ered CL nearly a decade ago. As a builder by trade, he was look­ing for a work ute to haul around his tools and equip­ment, and the ol’ Val hap­pily earned its keep fer­ry­ing around loads of any­thing and ev­ery­thing. But the car guy in Kosta wanted to up­grade and cus­tomise it, so it was stripped down in preparation for some lov­ing.

“Af­ter go­ing to a few events, I no­ticed that peo­ple were start­ing to fit the new-gen 392 Hemis, so I wanted my ute to be dif­fer­ent again,” Kosta says. “I wanted to be the first per­son to put a Viper en­gine into a Val and prove that it could be done. I chose the 8.4litre [513ci] V10, as it’s a re­ally well-bal­anced en­gine and has all the power and torque I’d need in a ute.”

Kosta sourced the en­gine and gear­box from x2builders in the US, which spe­cialises in Vipers and Dodge SRT pick-ups amongst other ex­otic mod­els from the Big Three. The com­pany fixed him up with an EX-SRT Viper donk mated to a four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion from an SRT Ram.

“I use a Hal­tech Elite ECU for en­gine man­age­ment,” Kosta says. “How­ever, it doesn’t con­trol the trans­mis­sion, which is why it was con­verted to full man­ual oper­a­tion. It’s al­ready a tough auto in stock form, so is more than up to task.”

The team at Goodyear Tyres in Fysh­wick han­dled any nec­es­sary fab­ri­ca­tion work, which sees the en­gine and trans­mis­sion sit so nicely in its new Aussie home. While they were at it, they fit­ted a Hemi Per­for­mance pow­er­steer­ing rack con­ver­sion and moved the rear leaf springs in­board of the chas­sis rails for added clear­ance.

This, along with de­cent tubs, were nec­es­sary due to Kosta’s plans to run big wheels; the mix of 20x8 and whop­ping 22x12 Amer­i­can Rac­ing Havoc rims de­manded plenty of real es­tate un­der the CL’S flanks when wrapped in 215/30 and 335/25 treads, re­spec­tively.

Squeezed be­tween these rear hoops is a nar­rowed nine-inch diff run­ning 3.5:1 gears, a lim­ited-slip cen­tre and 31-spline axles.

The rolling stock houses a V10-wor­thy brake up­grade com­pris­ing ex­pan­sive Wil­wood discs and calipers, ac­ti­vated by the fac­tory mas­ter cylin­der and booster as­sem­bly.

Cus­tom ex­trac­tors send the spent gasses to the rear of the ve­hi­cle via a twin three-inch ex­haust. Cool­ing-wise, a cus­tom al­loy ra­di­a­tor with twin thermo fans reins in the mega mill and shares space with hefty en­gine oil and trans­mis­sion oil cool­ers.

The pan­els had the usual rust and dings you’d ex­pect from a work­ing-class bodystyle, but the ute of­fered plenty of po­ten­tial.

SUR­PRIS­INGLY THE DRIV­E­TRAIN CON­VER­SION WAS THE EAS­I­EST PART OF THE PROJECT; IT PRETTY MUCH SLOT­TED STRAIGHT IN

Be­fore the eye-catch­ing PPG Key Lime was laid down, Kosta spec­i­fied a few changes to stamp some in­di­vid­u­al­ity on the CL. Like most utes, a Valiant’s in­te­rior space ben­e­fits greatly from ex­tend­ing the rear cabin wall into the tray area. While this was be­ing sorted, Kosta had the rear of the B-pil­lars ex­tended to form sail pan­els.

“That idea spawned from a cou­ple of in­flu­ences,” he says. “It was a nod to an old favourite of mine, Alan Cooper’s in­au­gu­ral Smoty-win­ning BLOBAK 2 Holden ute, and I was also keen to repli­cate the ta­per of a Charger roofline. The tur­ret was fur­ther mod­i­fied by keep­ing the drip rails but sheet­ing over them to make the roof ap­pear wider and smoother, to keep ev­ery­thing in bet­ter pro­por­tion.”

The fuel filler was deleted along with any su­per­flu­ous badg­ing and chrome, while the afore­men­tioned wheel tubs and a slimline re­verse-cowl scoop were added to pro­vide ad­di­tional form and func­tion.

The foun­da­tion body­work and paint were ini­tially en­trusted to one par­tic­u­lar work­shop, but Kosta was less than pleased with the qual­ity of the work and was left with a smoul­der­ing wal­let to boot. Thank­fully the guys at Real Steel Group in Quean­beyan were able to sort all of the prob­lems and treat the CL to the qual­ity panel fin­ish­ing and paint it de­served.

The V10 donk, run­ning gear and cus­tom touches should have you left you suit­ably im­pressed, but the in­te­rior is surely the piece de re­sis­tance. That’s a huge call con­sid­er­ing the in­di­vid­u­al­ity ex­pressed with the rest of the project, but Google a pic of a stan­dard CL Valiant in­te­rior and you’ll see what we mean. By 1977 Chrysler were on the skids in Aus­tralia and the stan­dard in­te­ri­ors were well-dated; they still didn’t fea­ture dash vents! A Charger-in­spired in­te­rior or stan­dard re­work was never go­ing to cut it, es­pe­cially when nes­tled amongst such an in­no­va­tive driv­e­line and cus­tom body­work. Rides By Kam should need no in­tro­duc­tion to

SM read­ers; their in­te­rior work has graced many elite builds fea­tured in the mag. For Kosta’s ute, Kam and his crew com­pletely re­designed the fac­tory Valiant of­fer­ing, replacing the stan­dard bench with Monaro bucket seats and fab­ri­cat­ing a com­plete cus­tom dash as­sem­bly, door trims and cen­tre con­sole.

Vin­tage Air, power windows and cen­tral lock­ing were in­cor­po­rated, along with a key­less push-but­ton start. A Dakota Dig­i­tal dash, Billet Spe­cial­ties steer­ing wheel and B&M shifter per­form the nec­es­sary driver-re­lated func­tions. Black leather was stitched through­out and the over­all pack­age is crisp and mod­ern with­out look­ing out of place.

“The ute is very smooth and easy to drive, and the mod­ern com­forts make it feel like a new car,” Kosta says. “It’s sur­pris­ingly good on fuel, un­less you start get­ting ex­cited on the throt­tle, which is easy to do!

“My wife Amanda loves mod­i­fy­ing cars just as much as me, so she was also stoked to see it score a spot in the Top Five at Chryslers On The Mur­ray, and pick up an Ed­i­tor’s Choice award. Amanda is on the look­out now for a new project for us, most likely a Chrysler By Chrysler sedan or a Valiant wagon; it will be very clean­cut and un­ex­pected. We have four kids, so we need more room; at the mo­ment they duke it out want­ing to go for rides, which opens up a whole new world of pain for mod­i­fied car own­er­ship!”

I NO­TICED THAT PEO­PLE WERE START­ING TO FIT THE NEW-GEN 392 HEMIS, BUT I WANTED TO BE THE FIRST PER­SON TO PUT A VIPER EN­GINE INTO A VAL AND PROVE IT COULD BE DONE

TRAY The rigours of haul­ing heavy tools and equip­ment in its for­mer life as Kosta’s work ute have been traded for gen­tler du­ties. A re­lo­cated bat­tery, fuel cell and neat tubs live in the com­fort­able sur­rounds of­fered up by tai­lored black car­pet

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