Valiant ef­fort for 50 years

It’s 50 years since Chrysler sold its first Valiant in Australia, re­ports DAVID BUR­RELL

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

BASED on the Amer­i­can Ply­mouth, the Valiant went into the mar­ket­place with bold styling and big power from its six-cylin­der en­gine.

The styling of the Valiant was the work of Chrysler’s head of de­sign, Vir­gil Exner. He was de­ter­mined to cre­ate some­thing which stood out in the “small” (for the US) car class. And he suc­ceeded. Con­tem­po­rary mo­tor­ing mag­a­zine re­ports usu­ally de­scribed it as “Euro­pean”.

Exner even ap­plied for, and was granted, a US patent for the styling of the Valiant. It is de­sign num­ber 190,533 and dated July 5, 1961, if you are in­ter­ested.

For Aus­tralian car buy­ers the styling was only one dis­tinc­tive as­pect of the car.

It of­fered au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, with gears se­lected via space age-look­ing push buttons lo­cated on the right-hand side of the in­stru­ment clus­ter. Those with ex­tra cash could or­der a heart, with its press but­ton con­trols on the left side.

And to make it com­plete, the ra­dio was a push but­ton “Mopar­matic Deluxe”, slot­ted into the cen­tre of the dash­board. Mer­cury as­tro­nauts had less buttons to push than the driver of a 1962 Valiant.

The front sus­pen­sion was by tor­sion bars and it gave the Valiant a big Amer­i­can car ride, so the ad­ver­tise­ments claimed.

But it was the 3.7-litre mo­tor, pump­ing out 108kw, com­pared to Holden anaemic 60kw, which re­ally cap­tured ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion.

Back in the day, the Valiant was one fast car. It had a top speed of nearly 160km/h and did the 400m in a lit­tle more than 19 sec­onds.

Just as im­por­tantly, the ex­tra power and torque of the en­gine meant you could now eas­ily tow a boat or car­a­van with the lo­cally built car, rather than hav­ing to buy a very much more ex­pen­sive Chevro­let, Chrysler Royal or Ford Fair­lane.

By the end of the first year, Chrysler has sold more than 11,000 Valiants, win­ning sales mostly from Holden.

The early Valiants are sought-af­ter clas­sics to­day, though in the early 1970s they could be had for as lit­tle as $250. I know, be­cause I al­most bought one as my first car. I pur­chased a 1961 Vaux­hall Cresta in­stead for $200.

These days a good-qual­ity Valiant can be had for $12,000 to $15,000, while ones need­ing a lit­tle TLC go for be­tween $5000 and $7000.

As a first-time clas­sic car, these Valiants are ideal, be­cause the mo­tor and gear­box are just about un­break­able and body, trim and in­te­rior parts are easy to come by in Australia and the US. >> David Bur­rell is the ed­i­tor of Retroau­tos.

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