Chrysler VC Valiant: Buyers' Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Steve Nally

Presented by

Valiant VC Sedan Wagon onroad front side by side Valiant VC Sedan Wagon onroad front side by side
Valiant VC Sedan Wagon onroad rear Valiant VC Sedan Wagon onroad rear
Valiant VC Sedan Regal 002 Valiant VC Sedan Regal 002
Valiant VC Sedan Regal rear angle Valiant VC Sedan Regal rear angle
Valiant VC Sedan Regal c pillar Valiant VC Sedan Regal c pillar
Valiant VC Sedan Regal boot badge Valiant VC Sedan Regal boot badge

Choosing a Valiant over a Ford or a Holden was an individual move back in the day - perhaps it still is

 

Chrysler VC Valiant

Back when Australia had a vibrant and viable car industry, the major players were known collectively as the ‘Big Three’. And big they were. Chrysler went first with a V8 engine for its family-oriented Valiant, followed by Ford in the XR Falcon and finally Holden’s HK. But the Valiant was always perceived as just a bit larger, ‘flasher’ and more powerful than the other two.

The platform for VC Valiants that hit Australian showrooms in 1966 was unchanged from previous models; Chrysler’s slant-six already ranked as most potent engine in its class and adding a V8 only enhanced that perception.

Chrysler described its VC styling as; "A new sleek symmetry of line that is the perfect blending of function, beauty and individuality". People choosing between one of these, an HR Holden or XP Ford probably thought so too.

Valiant -VC-Sedan -Wagon -onroad

In basic form the VC Valiant brought its followers four broad doors with bench seats to match, a 108kW engine and three-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on every forward gear. Upgrades in line with foreshadowed safety regulations included windscreen washers and two-speed wipers, front seat belt mounts and reversing lights. Four door armrests and a vanity mirror on the passenger sun-visor made buyers of basic Valiants feel just a bit special.

Choosing a prestigious Regal added 25 per cent to the price of a basic VC. For the money you got absolutely no extra power. However, Chrysler’s excellent three-speed Torqueflite transmission was included, as were heater/demister with fan, carpets, satin-trimmed dash and courtesy lights including one in the boot.

Topping the range, it was a special car; a model that would rank as Australia’s most flamboyant of domestic products for almost a year until Ford nicked the accolade with its quad-headlight Fairlane ZA.

Valiant -Regal -001

Nevertheless, Chrysler’s VC V8 ended the assumption that locally-built ‘luxury’ cars with V8 engines needed to arrive in boxes from somewhere in the USA. Plenty of VC bits, including its 4.5-litre V8, still needed to be imported but locally-supplied steel pressings, glass, trim materials and electrical components helped boost local content and keep prices down.

The VC V8 made a natural but significant progression from the previous year’s AP6 version. Don’t call it a Regal because the V8 was pitched as a separate and quite exclusive model. Not until the release in 1967 of the VE did Chrysler catch up to Ford by making the V8 optional across its model range. Even then, it would include a VIP model for those still looking for a point of difference.

That is certainly what buyers got when ticking the V8 box on their VC Valiant order form. These cars came with a mandatory vinyl covered roof, separate but non-reclining seats, a centre console and a massive, very American shift lever for the automatic transmission.

Valiant -Regal -rear -right

The big black and white steering wheel was an AP6 carry-over but the dash layout and control knobs were new. The V8 Wagon swapped its bucket seats for a bench with armrest and included remote operation of the tail-gate window.

Anyone needing a lot of load-space and some class to accompany it could hop aboard a Wayfarer utility. The name dated back to Chrysler’s Royal-based utes of the 1950s but the Valiant was roomy and more powerful than a six-cylinder Holden or Ford ute.

At Bathurst in 1966 while the Minis romped away to fill the first eight places in their class and Outright, the screeching sounds emanating from Mt Panorama’s tighter bends must have been extraordinary. In Class D and up against Volvos, a Triumph and Holden X2 were two VC V8s, the quickest of which finished only six laps or about 20 minutes behind the winning Cooper S.

Chrysler -Valiant -Safari -wagon -front -right -2

Lapping at a lumbering 3 minutes 17 seconds in practice, the Valiants still got within five seconds of the quickest Minis but would have lost significant time having the large, flat fuel tank replenished and shredded front rubber replaced.

ON THE ROAD

Early in 2016 the VC Valiant marked its 50th year of existence yet it still doesn’t look like an old car. The shape is angular but interesting, the interior with its assortment of chromed controls and hard metal surfaces a bit foreboding but the seats are good.

If you choose one of the column-shift, bench seat versions then accommodating six people without squashing any of them is a breeze. In the days preceding compulsory rear belts it wasn’t uncommon to see a fourth occupant squeezed into the back seat of a sedan or seat-down wagons with foam on the floor and infants of all ages sprawled completely unrestrained in the back. How did we ever survive?

Valiant -VC-Sedan -Wagon -onroad .-rear

Unassisted steering with 4.4 turns lock to lock should make low speed turns almost effortless. Thanks to the V8’s hefty front-end weight bias and chunky tyres fitted by concerned owners it takes some effort at low speeds. Once on the move though, the car can be urged through sweeping bends using the throttle and minimal wheel movement. Body roll, unless the springs are shot, is minimal.

Cars with disc brakes are preferable to those with four-drums but very few VCs will have them as original fittings. Stops one and two in a drum-braked car will feel okay but from there on fade sets in. If you’re headed down a winding and steepish section of road, locking in the lowest gear you can is preferable to relying on the brakes.

Telling someone today that your V8-powered prestige sedan will rocket to a 170km/h top speed and crack the quarter mile in 18 seconds would provoke giggles and sympathetic eye rolls. However at a time when almost everything else was wobbling along the highway at 85-90km/h, a car that would double the ‘Prima Facie’ speed limit that applied at the time was seriously quick.

Chrysler -Valiant -Safari -wagon -front -onroad

Making full use of the V8’s power reserves will put a dent in the wallet of course. Even the V8 tank is limited to 65 litres and at the 18L/100km these cars consume when being pushed along you’re going to be stopping for a $100 refill every 350 kilometres.

The wagon will sleep two adults in spacious comfort (do bring a mattress though) or swallow the contents of a small house. The sedan boot, however, is a bit long and shallow to be practical.

These cars make excellent and quite affordable family transport – just remember to follow the example of our V8 Wagon owner and install some seat belts for rear-seat passengers.

BUYING

The VC Valiant was in production for just on 18 months before the line switched to building stocks of the VE model. More than 65,000 VCs were made but it’s likely that less than five per cent were built with V8 engines.

Today’s market is accordingly heavily biased towards the six-cylinder cars and there remains a decent supply in most price segments. The least (seemingly) that you might consider paying for a usable car is $4000, with $10,000 securing a decent but not outstanding six-cylinder Regal.

Valiant -Regal -front -grille 

Excellent six-cylinder cars cost $15-20,000, with Regals no more expensive at present than basic Valiants. Wagons are more difficult to find than sedans and utilities are very scarce but cheaper than passenger versions.

Some years back the VC V8 seemed set for a lunge towards $50,000 but that trend has lost its momentum. The few cars offered each year will typically reach $30,000 however we aren’t seeing the really exceptional and original examples that were around a while back. Safely stored in owner garages awaiting the next price ‘boom’ perhaps?

For parts support and assistance in locating a good car to buy, join your nearest Chrysler club. These organisations are very active with numerous events and Display Days in all regions of the nation. They also hold or know of spare parts sources that contribute to the numbers of 1960s Valiants still enjoying productive lives in the safe hands of enthusiast owners.

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Body & Chassis

Structural weakness in Valiants of this age could see the front sub-frame and engine literally torn off in a heavy impact. Even new cars were susceptible and once rusty the destructive force required is greatly reduced. Doors and wagon tail-gates are prone to rust but Valiant specialists can supply tail-gate skins for wagons and the spare wheel covers for utilities. Solid suspension mounting points are critical to safety and maintaining wheel alignment. Sections of pre-fabricated metal can cost $700-1000 front and rear. Bumpers are shared with the VE and can be found rechromed for $650-800 or used but straight for $250-350 each.

Valiant -VC-Sedan -Regal -c -pillar

Engine & Transmission

Oil leaks from the sump, timing cover, cylinder head/block join and timing cover gasket, cracked exhaust manifolds and clogged radiators are pretty much the only problems you are going to encounter when buying a Slant Six. V8s can suffer more seriously from overheating so budget for a radiator recore and perhaps a thermo-fan. Although these engines are around half a century old, good reconditioned blocks and virtually every part you need to rebuild the original motor are available and affordable.

Chrysler -Valiant -Safari -wagon -engine -bay

Suspension & Brakes

Very basic suspension components were under the pump even when new and must be kept in good condition or the car becomes an untidy, unguided missile. Even with all new components, the VC’s steering isn’t totally precise, however a car that won’t track straight on a normal road and sets its tyres squealing with just a little lock applied has some serious problems. Suspension parts needed for a full rebuild are available and not expensive. New brake drums cost around $100 each with sets of shoes another $70 per wheel so it could pay to investigate the cost of a front disc conversion before embarking on a big brake overhaul.

Valiant -Regal -wheel

Interior & Electrics

Everything inside a 1960s Valiant is fairly basic and also pretty durable. The seats in many cars still have their original pleated vinyl and worn sections present no challenge to a competent vehicle trimmer. The vinyl hood lining is likely to be dirty and perhaps torn but replacement material costs about $200. Engaging a professional to do the fitting will save frustration. Replacement door cards are also available. Virtually everything electrical can be replaced with new components including the starter, alternator and wiper motor.

Valiant -Regal -interior -front


THE OWNERS

MEGAN RUITER - VC V8 SEDAN

"Wow, look at all that chrome. It looks so big and flashy," was VC V8 owner Megan’s first reaction to the car that has played a huge role in her life since 1980.

Megan needed sufficient power and bulk to tow a horse-float and the Valiant with its rumbling 273 offered affordable grunt. "It was a bit daunting at first and I was concerned that I might stall it until told it was almost impossible to stall an automatic," she recalled.

Life wasn't easy for the VC during those early years criss-crossing Victoria dragging a heavy load, but it never let Megan down. When it was time for some rest and restoration the VC had one important task to perform before it was entrusted to a restorer. It provided a comfortable final ride home from hospital for Megan’s terminally ill mum.

Husband Jim says that period-correct Tasman wheels shod with modern tyres make a huge difference to grip and steering response. The disc front brakes (apparently original) provide reliable stopping too, even when towing a heavy trailer.

Valiant -Regal -Megan -Ruiter

"I think it was always a family car," Megan said. "When we pulled everything out we found kids’ toys behind the back seat".

The rust found was minimal and now with a new coat of shiny white paint, this 50 year-old Valiant is ready for anything except being put out to pasture.

BRENDAN RUITER - VC SAFARI WAGON

For Brendan Ruiter, his scarce VC Safari is the jewel in a string of various Valiants that stretches half way across his family.

"I’ve got about a dozen Valiants so I’ll never run out of parts and a few years ago when I went looking for a car for my dad I managed to unearth a one-owner VC Regal that had been parked in a shed for over 20 years and was still in excellent order."

Brendan’s wagon also came out of a shed and with some quite remarkable history. It had been bought virtually new and only driven 30,000 miles (48,000km) in around 20 years before being put away but never de-registered.

Chrysler -Valiant -Safari -wagon -Brendan -Ruiter

All that sitting didn’t do a lot for the engine which "always had a bit of a knock". However it held together until last year when it had its first and probably only rebuild.

The original brakes are drum all round but Brendan sees no reason to change them for discs. The wheels have been replaced, simply because the originals disappeared while the car was doing its two decades of block sitting, and the windows have been tinted.

"It’s easy to drive on the highway and the Torqueflite was one of the best transmissions ever made," Brendan said. "There’s a few parts becoming hard to get and expensive but that isn’t a big problem for me."

SPECIFICATIONS

1966-67 Chrysler VC Valiant

NUMBER BUILT: 65.634 (all VC)
BODY steel monocoque 4-door sedan, wagon & 2-door utility
ENGINE in-line OHV 3686cc L6 or 4474cc V8 s with single carburettor
POWER & TORQUE 134kW @ 4200rpm, 352Nm @ 1600rpm (V8)
PERFORMANCE 0-97km/h 10.5 sec 0-400 metres 17.5 sec(V8)
TRANSMISSION 3-speed all-synchro man. or 3-speed auto
SUSPENSION Front – double-wishbone with torsion bars, and tele shock absorbers Rear – live axle with semi-elliptic springs and tele shock absorbers
BRAKES drum/drum or disc/drum, some with power assistance
PRICE RANGE $2000-35,000
CONTACT chrysler.com.au/clubs-and-associations

 

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