Chrysler By Chrysler: Buyers' Guide

By: Unique Cars magazine

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Everything you need to know if you're in the market to buy a Chrysler by Chrysler

 

Chrysler by Chrysler

IIt’s incredible this car exists at all. In the late 1960s, when the proposals for the new VH range of Chryslers were being approved by head office back in the USA, just $22 million was put aside to develop the range. We’re talking sedan, wagon, utes in numerous variants, plus a new long-wheelbase (115 inch or 2921mm) pairing of luxury liners in four- and two-door form. It was a big ask. Particularly when you consider $2 million of that got squirelled away for the ‘unofficial’ Charger project.

It wasn’t just the tight budget that makes this car’s existence remarkable. It’s also the fact that it was competing in a small and well-served niche – Aussie luxo liners.

Chrysler’s big challenge was succeeding where it had so far struggled, which was in separating the luxury cars from the run-of-the-mill Valiants in a way that would convince people this was a serious alternative to a Statesman or Fairlane. The stretched VIP sedan from the previous generation was a brave try, but didn’t quite succeed.

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In the end, the firm decided on a multi-pronged approach: make the cars physically bigger than their stablemates, throw every known luxury at them and delete any mention of the brand Valiant. From here on, they were to be known as Chrysler by Chrysler.

For the time, these were truly luxurious pieces of equipment. You scored electric-operated seats, rich interior finish with numerous lamps and extras, additional sound-proofing, thicker paint (it did an extra lap of the booth), a top-line air-conditioning system (an accessory, but nearly everyone ordered it), upmarket radio and power steering.

The stock motor was the 265ci (4.3lt) six mated to a Borg Warner Type 35 three-speed auto. Spend the extra $200 (on a $4895 car) and you’d get the big Canadian 360ci (5.9lt) V8, rated at a lazy 255 horses. Along with the great eight, you scored the upmarket A727 Torqueflite transmission.

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Despite the investment, the Chrysler by Chrysler sedan looked much like the VH Valiant which was struggling in the market. The hardtop meanwhile just wasn’t getting showroom traction. It was actually a decent car and an exceptional cruiser, with good performance and comfort.

The sedan battled on through three series with minor upgrades: CJ, CH (minor changes) and CK (nil changes other than price), with the last one rolling off the production line in 1978.

However the hardtop was killed off early, with the end of the CJ series (March 1973), after a production run of just 484, of which around 380 were V8s. For a time there you couldn’t give them away. Big American-style luxo coupes just weren’t in demand here, but tastes have changed.

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Owner Sean Morgan understands how the big cars would have struggled in the showroom. "The Charger was a really exciting car, well marketed and a huge success," he says, "But Chrysler had two coupes and the long wheelbase coupe was living in the shadow.

"All that expense and cost, such as the tooling for those huge rear quarter panels and the long rear deck, it was a bit of a failure."

What’s the appeal now? "I think the rarity, particularly in the Australian Chrysler fraternity, they like their American cars and these are very much in the image of a big American coupe.

"You just don’t see them in restored condition, most were modified. I think there would be less than 200 V8s left as original."

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Chrysler by Chrysler Market Guide

Given that they never managed to match the success of the Statesman or Fairlane, these monster Valiants survive in quite surprising numbers. Production numbers aren’t available but estimates of fewer than 4000 are probably realistic with sedans outnumbering Hardtops by 4 to 1.

Body panels, especially for the Hardtop, are in many cases unique so only purchase a car that comes with all of its components – especially bumpers – and avoid anything with more than superficial rust or panel damage. Sedans needing a lot of work can be found at under $3000 but even that outlay is difficult to justify when $25,000 still buys a very good four-door though hardtops needed to be viewed on a case-by-case basis.

There were some sedans sold with 4.0-litre. six-cylinder engines but they would have struggled with the weight.

The vast majority of survivors have the V8 and are likely worth 30 per cent more than a six-cylinder car.

Value Range

1972-78 Chrysler

FAIR: $5500 (sedan)
GOOD: $15,000 (sedan)
EXCELLENT: $26,000 (sedan) $50,000 (V8 hardtop)
(Note: concours cars may demand more.)

BUYERS CHECKLIST: 1972-1978 Chrysler by Chrysler

Body & Chassis

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The most vital check a prospective Chrysler owner can make is ensuring all the parts and panels that were unique to these cars (rear sheet metal, the roof, lights, some glass, bumpers and body embellishments) are in place and undamaged. When checking for rust pay special attention to the vinyl roof which was standard on Hardtops, optional on sedans. You are looking for staining along seams. lifting where the material meets the window surrounds, bubbling and bumps from previous repairs. Damaged metal will most likely need to be replaced with hand-made repair sections. That said; if the sale includes a parts car or any spares at all, take them.

Engine & Transmission

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The vast majority of these vast vehicles will be running Chrysler’s small-block 360 cubic-inch (5.9-litre) V8 and that is very good news. These low-stress engines – often used by US police vehicles – just need regular servicing to deliver quite prodigious distances before a rebuild falls due. Even then, costs are minimal, with kits of essential parts at less than $1500. Rebuilt motors begin below $3500 but can run to $15,000+ for a performance ‘stroker’. Listen for timing chain rattles, look for leaks and blue exhaust smoke when backing off after hard acceleration.

Suspension & Brakes

Everything underneath the big Chrysler is pretty standard and replacing worn components should not be difficult. Weight, especially at the front, plays a major role so look for tired torsion bars allowing the nose to droop, splayed wheels with wear to the tyre inner edges, worn, noisy suspension joints and chopped out rubbers. Replacing the torsion bars is a professional task but the rest can be done in the garage at home, just get a wheel alignment after. Disc/drum brakes should stop the car straight and not lock when moderate pedal pressure is applied.

Interior & Electrics

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Lots to look at here so don’t leave the Chrysler cabin without doing plenty of checks. Lights, wipers and the heater fan are a must, followed by power windows, (no shuddering or noises) air-conditioning and electric seat adjusters (where fitted). Make sure in Hardtops that the seat-backs release and fold easily to allow rear cabin access. Material similar to that used by these cars is available but the price of a full retrim including door trims, headlining and instrument refurbishing can hit five figures.

SPECIFICATIONS

Chrysler by Chrysler

NUMBER MADE: N/A
BODY STYLES: Steel integrated body/chassis four-door sedan & two-door hardtop
ENGINE: 4014cc in-line six cylinder, 5900cc V8 with overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 189kW @ 4400rpm, 486Nm @ 2400rpm (V8)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 8.8 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.2 seconds (V8)
TRANSMISSION: Three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: 7.35L x 14 cross-ply

 

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