Chrysler VE Valiant Wagon 1967-1969 - Buyer's Guide

By: Guy Allen, Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Nathan Jacobs, Coventry Studios

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The VE Valiant was an award-winning series in the sixties and still a great drive today

 

Chrysler VE Valiant Wagon

Chrysler Australia will be remembered for a number of things, among them its ability to stand out a little from the crowd. Its VE series Valiants of the late sixties were proof of that, with simple almost austere lines that made them instantly recognisable. Those straight edges and glasshouse looks still work.

Meanwhile the company had turned the straight six engine into an art form. Modern Motor magazine, back in the day ran a side-by-side test of the Holden 186, Ford 200 and Valiant 225 – all with autos. The Val literally ran away with the performance honours.

Chrysler -valiant -wagon -1As a package, Wheels magazine thought enough of the car to give it the treasured Car of the Year gong for 1967. Editor Bill Tuckey’s wrap-up said, in part, "The VE is Chrysler’s moment of truth in metal. It represents the day the smallest of the big three decided it was time to stop shadow-sparring and went in for some infighting."

The car you see here is a late build for the VE series – 1969 – and comes with a desirable mechanical package: the ‘hi-performance’ version of the 225 (3.7lt) straight six claiming 160hp, tied to the three-speed Torqueflite auto. Apart from the apparently compulsory accessory venetian blinds on the rear glass, it presents as a dead-stock car. That, particularly in wagon form, is a rare thing.

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Owner George Politis explains he spent a considerable amount of time hunting down what he wanted. "I was looking for about two to three years for a sixties Australian classic and I thought, well, my dad had an almost identical car that he bought from Heidelberg Chrysler, Melbourne.

"He bought that new for about $3000 and had it for about 25 years until he found a subframe had rusted and he got rid of it.

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"I thought I might as well look for something that I learned to drive in and that means something to me. I kept finding modified cars but wanted something original. I found one in Brisbane that was a one-owner deceased estate that was originally sold in Ringwood, Melbourne. And the guy had retired to a dairy farm just west of Brisbane. When he died, his three kids got their mechanic to go over the car and get a Queensland roadworthy and put it online. I flew my dad and my brother up and we spent three days driving back.

"My dad thought I’d gone mad and he said, ‘You haven’t given this guy money, have you?’ And I said, ‘Well, generally when you buy a car you have to hand over some money.’ On the plane he was worrying about who’s paying for the plane tickets and then the cab ride there – "I bet you this guy’s taking us the long way round! What happens if the car’s not there, what happens if it’s a rust bucket?’ He was just Mr Negative all the way there.

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"We got there and it was under a cover, he unfurled the car cover and then my dad started tearing up. All the way back (it was a three-day drive), ‘Geez this is a nice car, how reliable is this? And geez it’s a big country.’ He’d never been interstate. He loves it now.

"I reckon wagons are rare, so when you do see one, they get your attention. They’re really really practical. I remember my dad, he used to have a little furniture store in Sydney Road in Brunswick and he’d have a student desk, a three piece lounge suite, a couple of mattresses and a bedhead, all packed up in the back of the Valiant to do his own deliveries.
"Whenever we went to the beach or on holidays, you’d just swing the back door open and stuff everything down the back, it was easy."

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So, any buying advice, George? "If you end up buying a car from interstate, it involves taking a leap of faith. This guy was very forthcoming with loads and loads of photos from every angle, plus a roadworthy certificate meant it had at least some mechanical checks. When we roadworthied it here (Vic), we found a thumb-size patch of rust in a front wheel arch, so I had that repaired in metal – it cost a couple of hundred bucks. But that was it. I suppose the advice is to persist and just keep looking. You know the old story, if you find a good body, that’s far cheaper than finding a wrecked body and a good motor, because the mechanicals are easy to fix."

What’s it like to live with? "It’s easy to drive and almost every driver on the road treats you like an elderly citizen.

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They treat you with respect, they allow you to merge, they’re not impatient with you. They’re not trying to drive over the top of you.

"You get people, all sorts of ages and socio economic status, giving you the thumbs-up and having a chat to you at the petrol station. Even when I drive it to my work – I’ve got a dental practice – a lot of my patients think it’s really cool that their dentist drives a classic car like that from time to time.

"It’s wonderful."

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VALIANT WAGON MARKET GUIDE

Chrysler pioneered V8 power for ‘family’ cars but the VE was the first Australian-built Valiant to be sold in quantity with a V8 engine.

VE Wagons in decent condition and with six-cylinder engines typically cost $12-16,000 but they are still not easy to find. Hunting down one in Regal trim is even more challenging. However, except for really outstanding examples, Regals seem not to be significantly more costly than a basic Slant Six Safari.

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The ones to find if you are a true Valiant devotee are the 4.6-litre V8 Regal or an extremely rare VIP wagon. The Regal in excellent order is likely to sell for less than $30,000 but a VIP in similar condition could exceed $40,000.

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 parts of the nation. They also hold or know of spare parts sources that contribute to the numbers of 1960s Valiants still enjoying productive lives.

VALUE GUIDE:
Valiant (V8 Regal)
Fair: $6000
Good: $18,000
Excellent: $30,000
(Note: concours cars will demand more)


BUYER'S CHECKLIST - VALIANT WAGON

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BODY & CHASSIS

Valiant wagons seem more prone to rust than sedans, contributing to scarcity of 1960s Safaris. Rust in the front sub-frames and firewall is pretty much terminal and must be checked with an on-hoist inspection. If the underside of your VE is solid that’s a great start but doesn’t mean the rest of the body won’t need work. The turret and window apertures must be solid, so too the inner sills. Check for any moisture under floor coverings, rusty floor pans and wagon tail-gates that are full of filler. Valiant parts specialists can supply replacement tail-gate skins and some rust repair panels.

Re-chromed bumpers cost $800 or used at $250-350 each.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Oil leaks from the sump, timing cover, cylinder head/block join and timing cover gasket, cracked exhaust manifolds and clogged radiators are typical of the problems you will encounter when buying a Slant Six. V8s are more prone than the smaller engines to overheating and buyers are wise to budget for a radiator recore and thermo-fan. Rebuild kits for the Slant Six and V8 remain available – parts for the 225 at under $1500 and similar V8 kits priced at $1600-1800. Reconditioned exchange Torqueflite automatic transmissions cost between $1300 and $3500 depending on intended purpose. These are a really hard tranny to break but be wary of slurred changes and delays of more than two seconds when selecting reverse.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Chrysler stuck doggedly with the same very basic suspension design almost until the end of the Valiant’s life. Body roll, endemic understeer and miserable wet grip are issues that are magnified by worn suspension and steering components. All parts needed for a full suspension rebuild are available and not expensive. Changing to larger diameter wheels and lower profile tyres can make a big difference to grip and steering response. New brake drums cost around $100 each with sets of shoes another $70 per wheel. Fitting larger-diameter rims makes space for a front disc brake conversion which, with labour included, should cost less than $2500.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Everything inside a 1960s Valiant is basic and pretty durable. The seats may still have their original pleated vinyl so can have worn sections replaced and the colour matched by a vehicle trimmer. The vinyl hood lining costs about $300 but you need to be very patient if installing it yourself. Otherwise spend $500 and engage a professional. Replacement door cards are available and while there, have a look for damage to the cargo area floor and inside the tailgate. Virtually everything electrical can still be replaced with new components including the starter, alternator and wiper motor. Halogen headlight inserts make a big difference to night-time vision.

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

1967-1969 Chrysler VE Valiant

NUMBER MADE: 68,688 (all VE)
BODY STYLES: Steel integrated body/chassis four door
station wagon
ENGINE: 3686cc in-line six-cylinder or 4474cc V8 with overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 145kW @ 4400rpm, 359Nm @ 2000rpm (V8)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 10.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.3 seconds (V8)
TRANSMISSION: Three-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: Disc or drum (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: 6.95x14 cross-ply

 

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