For a full two decades, the Valiant was at the top of Chrysler’s offer in Australia. Initially offered as a four-door sedan, it was also very popular in the wagon form, while the Australian department also tried with a coupe-utility layout. Although a pretty impressive car at the time, it was never as popular as models like Holden Kingswood and Ford Falcon.
There were four generations of Chrysler Valiant in Australia. While the first generation was essentially a rebadged Plymouth Valiant for the North American market, later generations were entirely manufactured in Australia. Besides the domestic market, this model was also produced for New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
The First Generation of Chrysler Valiant (1962-1963)
The first generation of this full-size car was short-lived primarily because the production of the North American Plymouth Valiant, from which it was rebadged, was already about to end.
The initial version, called the R Series, debuted in January 1962 but was shortly replaced with the S Series in March. The updated model brought a lot of interesting novelties, the most notable was new styling and mechanical upgrades, including a steering-column-mounted manual transmission that replaced the old-school design without synchro first gear.
The Valiant became popular instantly, and while it wasn't the prettiest car around, it was praised for excellent build quality and quite advanced technical solutions.
For example, it was the first Australian car to feature an alternator instead of a generator. The suspension setup included a torsion bar instead of a classic coil-spring design, which was a pretty refined thing back in the day.
Finally, the first-generation Valiant was equipped with a capable 3.7-litre inline-six engine, with a max output of 108 kW and 292 Nm of max torque. Buyers had a choice between a 3-speed manual and 3-speed automatic transmission.
The Second Generation of Chrysler Valiant (1963-1966)
The second generation of Chrysler Valiant (AP5) was introduced in May 1963. Unlike its predecessor, it was almost entirely manufactured in Australia. Everything but the engine was produced in Australia, and the first thing you’d notice is a more straightforward design. It shared only a few parts with its North American sibling, such as doors and windscreen.
Mechanically, most things remained the same as in the first-generation model, including the wheelbase (2,692mm). The suspension setup was mostly retained, except for slightly softer rear springs that improved overall comfort.
The engine didn’t change, and all models came with a 3.7-litre inline-six (108 kW, 292 Nm). Once again, buyers had a choice between a 3-speed manual and 3-speed automatic transmission.
This was when the company introduced a new range-topping grade called Regal. The Chrysler Valiant Regal was equipped with better interior materials, upgraded seats, white-wall tyres, and standard automatic transmission.
A mid-cycle refresh happened in March 1965. The new model, codenamed AP6, came with many notable updates. Of course, there were some styling changes, such as a new bonnet, new grille, and mudguards.
Far more critical were the mechanical updates that included self-levelling brakes and a new camshaft. Also, the push-button gear selector was replaced with a traditional gear lever in models with automatic transmission. Finally, a new body style was added – a coupe ute.
One of the most significant novelties was the introduction of a new engine option. For the first time in Australia, the Valiant came with a V8 engine – a 4.5-litre V8 unit, with a max output of 134 kW and 352 Nm of torque.
The Third Generation of Chrysler Valiant (1967-1971)
The third generation (VE) debuted in October 1967. Interestingly, it won the “Car of the Year” award the same year, for the first time for Chrysler Australia. The new model brought a lot of important upgrades. First of all, it was based on a new platform, which was more advanced in many ways.
The car was bigger and came with new styling that mirrored many things from the North American Dodge Dart model. It featured a longer wheelbase and bigger overall dimensions, resulting in a more comfortable and more spacious interior. Once again, it was offered in three body styles – sedan, wagon, and coupe ute.
The 3.7-litre inline-six remained on the offer, but we saw its upgraded, 2-barrel carburetted version, with more power and torque (rated at 120 kW instead of 108). The V8 was still available with the same specs.
The manual transmission was also upgraded, with shorter gear lever throws.
In March 1969, we saw the first update of this generation and the introduction of the VF version. The new model came with notable styling changes, such as a horizontally convex grille. Other than the styling, this update brought a new body style – a two-door Valiant hardtop coupe version of the car.
Another upgrade was a new V8 engine with an increased capacity of 5.2 litres (157 kW, 434 Nm).
Finally, we saw the new version called Pacer, an affordable performance variant of the 4-door sedan, with a more capable version of the inline-six and a pretty basic level of standard equipment.
The 1970 update brought two significant changes. The first one was a new styling that included rectangular headlights instead of the traditional round shape.
The second major update was the introduction of a new 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine, known as HEMI-6 (123 kW, 319 Nm in base models). On the other hand, the Valiant Pacer came with upgraded versions of this engine in three output variants – 138kW, 145kW (E34), and 175kW (E35).
The Fourth Generation of Chrysler Valiant (1971-1981)
The fourth generation is important in many ways but primarily because this model wasn't just manufactured in Australia but also completely designed by the Australian department. It brought a lot of novelties, starting from bigger dimensions and a pretty bulky exterior design.
Base models retained the 4.0-litre engine with the same output, but Chrysler also offered a new six-cylinder unit with a capacity of 4.3 litres and a max output of 151 kW. The upgraded version of this engine was used for the Pacer (163 kW, 370 Nm).
However, the Pacer was quickly replaced with the all-new high-performance version called Valiant Charger. This model came as a 2-door coupe with upgraded rear suspension and lots of exclusive styling details. It was offered in four variants - Charger, Charger XL, Charger 770, and Charger R/T.
The base Charger was powered by a 3.5-litre inline-six (max output of 100kW), the XL grade came with a 4.0-litre engine (max output of 120 kW). The 770 was next in the line, with the 4.3-litre engine (max power of 151kW), and in later years, this one was also offered with V8 engines (max output 205kW).
Lastly, the R/T trim was equipped with the 4.3-litre engine, offered in three output versions – with 163, 210 and 225 kW. The latter also featured a 4-speed manual transmission instead of a 3-speed unit.
During the decade-long production cycle, the fourth-generation Valiant received several updates. The first one was in 1973 when we saw round headlights once again. This update also brought disc brakes, electronic ignition, and a few more things. Pacer and Charger grades were dropped from the offer.
Updates in 1975 and 1978 were mostly about cosmetic changes, while the 1976 update also brought the Electronic Lean Burn system. It significantly improved fuel economy and reduced emissions.
The Chrysler Valiant was discontinued in 1981 when Mitsubishi took over Chrysler’s operations in Australia.
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By Nebojsa Grmusa