Chrysler VG Valiant Pacer Hardtop (1970-71): Buyers' Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Cristian Brunelli/Autopics

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1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer sandown 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer sandown
1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer rear 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer rear
1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer Valiant badge 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer Valiant badge
1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer 245 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer 245
1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer Hemi badge 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer Hemi badge
1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer Hemi 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer Hemi
1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer plate 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG 30 Pacer plate
BRU 70 BRU 70
BRU 62 BRU 62
Valiant Pacer Book Valiant Pacer Book

If you're in the market for a bit of bargain Aussie muscle, there are still some gems out there, if you know what to look for. One example is the VF/VG Valiant Pacer

 

Chrysler VG Valiant Pacer Hardtop (1970-71)

Chrysler was perennially broke yet did much of the local motor industry’s pioneering work. It gave us the first sexy ‘family’ car, the first mainstream V8 and then with the VF Pacer the first local model to specifically target younger drivers.

Although comparing the Holden Torana GTR isn't really a fair comparison with the larger and dearer Pacer, but both do owe their existence to the ‘youth market’ phenomenon.

Pacer -torana -1971-658

At launch in 1970 of the VG range, Chrysler took the Pacer further away in price, equipment and performance from Holden’s Torana. The basic engine became a 4.0-litre, 245 cubic inch ‘six’ with a two-barrel (or 2bbl) carburettor and 138kW. Three-speed transmission was standard (with automatic optional) but four doors weren’t. The Pacer was now available with the two-door, US-sourced Hardtop body that had done very well as part of the VF Valiant series.

Looking to the USA where similar Dodge Darts were sold with 5.9-litre V8s it was obvious what could be done to improve performance. However the Pacer marketing philosophy was very much centred on a six-cylinder design and no one really contemplated the car with a USA-style driveline.

Chrysler -valiant -pacer -front

Pacer Hardtops at $3178 cost $200 more than the sedan but very similar in specification and trim. Colours came with clever code-names like Little Hood Riding Red, Bondi Bleach White and (for whale enthusiasts) Thar She Blue.

Inside, the slightly crazy ‘tombstone’ bucket seats that defined the VF had been swapped for more conventional and comfortable folding-back buckets. The dash was designed to accommodate a tachometer.

The Pacer engine was on its own sufficient reason to buy one. Although the seven bearing in-line six didn’t have actual ‘hemispherical’ combustion chambers it was durable and – as demonstrated by triple-carburettor E38 and E49 versions – able to produce exceptional power. Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes were introduced with the VG range and were standard to the Pacer.

Chrysler -valiant -pacer -interior -658

Three-speed all-synchro transmission with a floor shift was standard and a tallish final drive took manual cars all the way to 182km/h but they cruised happily on unrestricted roads at 140-150km/h. The tall gearing coincidentally helped with fuel economy but the only place this seemed to matter was at the 1970 Bathurst 500 Mile race where the more economical 2bbl sedans finished a lap ahead of the fancied 4bbl.

ON THE ROAD

Had you been in the market for a fairly affordable, Aussie-made performance car and hopped straight from a GTR Torana demonstrator into a Pacer the gulf in design philosophy would be inescapable.

For a start, the Pacer would feel massive, not to mention more luxurious. It would need to be too, because it cost $412 more than the smaller and perhaps sexier Holden.

Plant your foot and the grin would grow wider. That 245 cube motor, even without the race-face four-barrel carburettor, was grunty in any gear and would run to 120km/h in second. With so much available torque you could dawdle behind slow traffic in top then floor the pedal when a passing gap appeared and the Pacer would just go.

Chrysler -valiant -engine -658

Standing-start acceleration was pretty impressive, even when hampered by the dog-leg shift from first to second gear. However it was a rocket in the mid-range; level-pegging the XU-1 Torana’s 80-110km/h time of 4.1 seconds.

Unassisted steering with 4.4 turns lock to lock was intended to make low speed turns almost effortless but relayed minimal information at higher speeds.

Tight, dry bends sent the Pacer into typical and controllable understeer, but throw some water on the surface; loose gravel or corrugations and these cars could get alarmingly sideways. Radial-ply tyres helped but there was only so much they could do to compensate for inadequate design.

Sedans used in Series Production racing featured huge amounts of negative camber that sat the front tyres at peculiar angles to minimise steering inputs and improve mid-corner stability.

1970-Chrysler -Valiant -VG_30-Pacer -Valiant -badge -658

Cars with disc brakes provide more sustained and predictable brake performance but be wary of rear drums that lock when cold. Good idea to warm your brakes for a few hundred metres after leaving home.

BUYING

Reliable sources say that 1162 two-door Pacers were built and they remain reasonably easy to find. Importantly, a lot of these survivors have been kept in close to factory condition.

The informative website devoted to VG Pacers (valiantpacers.com) shows cars ranging from pristine show-stoppers to rusted and crash-damaged shells.

Certainly enough to encourage restorers but not so common that values are likely to pedal their way backwards if the economy tanks.

1970-Chrysler -Valiant -VG_30-Pacer -658

Cheaper two-doors with nasty repaints and/or a V8 engine transplant can cost $15,000, with decent 245-cube manuals sitting on correct wheels and hubcaps between $20,000 and $25,000.

Finding a VG Hardtop in fully restored condition or with the extremely rare E31 Track Pack can escalate value into the $50,000-plus range. However for a roomy, rare Australian car that can still hold its own in everyday traffic that isn’t a huge amount.

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS

These cars have a couple of places where rust can hide and cause serious harm in a crash. The front sub-frame mounting points and chassis rails must be closely examined for rust, misalignment or poor repairs. Also pay attention to the steering box mounting points which crack and rust. The doors often won’t shut without being pushed and lifted and may need new hinges. These are available via Mopar suppliers here and in the USA but cost $140-180 each. Overseas sources quote A$600 for new rear window glass, with freight extra.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

The 245 Hemi engine ranks among the most durable power units ever made in this country. Provided they haven’t been overheated so seriously that rings crack or the cylinder head warps, 300,000 kilometres between rebuilds is possible. Replacement heads are available at less than $1000, with replacement pistons and rings around $500 a set. The manual transmission and standard diff are easily replaced.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

A very simple suspension design that is easily modified to lessen steering effort and improve behaviour on rougher roads. Just $150 spent on quality front-end bushings can make a noticeable difference. Reconditioned steering boxes and complete rack and pinion conversions are available. Brakes that feel wooden or have a ‘mushy’ pedal need the hydraulics investigated.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Make sure that the seat backs latch and unlatch easily and seats move on their runners. Window winders that bind can often be fixed easily but be wary if the glass is scratched and really difficult to move. Very few Valiants of this age have air-conditioning but with lots of glass it’s worth having. Look at side and windscreen seals for signs of water entering the cabin.

SPECIFICATIONS

NUMBER BUILT 1162
BODY unitary 2-door hardtop
ENGINE 3993cc in-line OHV six-cylinder
POWER & TORQUE 138kW @ 5000rpm, 325Nm @ 2000rpm
PERFORMANCE 0-96km/h 8.8s, 0-400 metres: 16.7s
TRANSMISSION 3-speed manual 3-speed automatic
SUSPENSION Front: ind– with torsion bars, tele shocks Rear: live axle with semi-elliptic springs, tele shocks
BRAKES disc/drum
TYRES 735 x 14 cross-ply or 185H14 radial
PRICE RANGE $7500-45,000
CONTACT www.valiantpacers.com

 

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