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Motoring: Chrysler Valiant Charger - 1971

In 1962 Australia, the Valiant name stood for performance. By 1971, it had become a conservative, staid family sedan. Just as the American 340 Duster's superb performance failed to impress Americans, the performance of the 265 Pacer failed to impress Australians. Enter the Charger. The 1971 Charger was based on the Valiant VH, but was a short-wheelbase 2-door version. It could be equipped with a slant six, small V8, or the "ordinary" 265 Hemi, an engine originally created for trucks, but abandoned in the US and developed to its full potential in Australia. The "ordinary" version had 203 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, making it competitive with V-8s. The high-performance version was reserved for the Pacer - for now.\Charger won Wheels magazine's Car of the Year award for 1971 and was widely acclaimed by others of the motoring press, as well as the public. Australian Motoring News described it as "...the most handsome car Chrysler has ever produced, and probably the best looking car ever produced by an Australian manufacturer".

This style-setting 70s icon came in four model guises - standard, XL, 770, or the R/T, and the E38. The R/T had a 3.23 differential rather than the 2.92 standard in other Chargers; six-inch rims; a front anti-roll bar; a tach; and an oil pressure gauge. Stock, it could run a 15.7 second quarter mile. Optional was the "six-pack" package, using three two-barrel Webers to put the 265 up to 248 hp (30 hp more than the standard R/T 265). The final option was the E38 engine, with a higher compression ratio, different gear ratios, and 280 hp (gross). The E38 was a race ready Charger with the A84 "TrackPack", which included a 35 gallon fuel tank. Despite being hampered by a three speed gearbox, the E38 still drew comments from "Wheels" magazine like, "we achieved a time of 14.8 seconds for the quarter mile - on smoother surfaces the Charger galloped away so easily that a best of 14.5 seconds is with in reach".

In 1972 the E38 was superseded by the more powerful and greatly refined 4-speed E-49 Charger. This drew comments from Wheels such as "The raw quivering power is instantaneously on tap and with a ratio for every conceivable situation the Charger just storms through. It would take a Ferrari Daytona with racing driver Jackie Ickx at the wheel to stay with one". All E-49's came with the "TrackPack", and 21 also had the huge fuel tank in the option list which took up nearly all available boot space.

R/T chargers are arguably the most Australian-built examples of all Aussie muscle cars, the only foreign sourced component being the exotic Weber carburettors from Italy. A car was actually shipped from Australia to Italy, for development and testing of the triple Webers, where they covered thousands of miles around Italy before deciding on the final specs. The "Sure Grip" diff' was made here but based on a US design. The six cylinder HEMI engines were first designed in the US as a truck engine, but this design was greatly improved upon here in Australia. The engines were completely Australian, unlike the V8 Cleveland and Windsor engines used by Ford in its Falcon GT, or the Chevrolet engines used by Holden in the Monaro GTS.

The VJ Charger was released in 1973, but the range was reduced to three models; Std, XL or 770 (even though a few six-packs still managed to hit the market). The VJ brought higher equipment levels, round headlights, a new grille and new tail lights. However, the R/T was gone forever. The E49 was the ultimate Charger, with only 149 built. The 770 Charger became a bit more luxurious in the VJ range and was the choice pick, especially the E55 option which gave you the famous 340 V8 (though even this had been watered down when compared to the VH model).

The Charger followed the normal course of slight exterior and interior changes that came as the model series progressed through to CM, but with the demise of the R/T the car had lost most of its appeal and sales suffered as a result. The Charger was discontinued in 1978, and took with it much of the Valiant's sales. Mitsubishi took over Chrysler's Australian operations. When the CL series Charger disappeared, the last sports model Valiant was the CM series Valiant GLX. The name "GLX" is still used by Mitsubishi Australia, who by 1978 were the owners of the Valiant factory, and Valiant under bonnet compliance plates were starting to have "Mitsubishi" printed on them, and referring to the "Chrysler" name as being used "under license from Chrysler America." As is often the case when a manufacturer builds a car that breaks the mould, Valiant Chargers today are highly prized by collectors. Based on 1972 road tests, the Valiant E49 Charger is still the fastest production car ever made in Australia. It recorded 0 to 100 kph in 6.1 seconds and a standing quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds. Below:

The last Charger, the 1978 Chrysler Charger CL

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